Favorite F&SF Reads of 2019

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but includes many of my favorite longer reads from the past year in the field of fantasy and science fiction. It was, overall, a splendid year for the genre.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. The success of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy has led to quite a few other “college for mages” books. This was my favorite of this year’s batch, although I did also enjoy Sarah Gailey’s Magic for Liars.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi is a young adult novel that is just extraordinary and beautiful and astounding. I’m about to ship it off to my godkid as well as the next book.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez is another young adult novel, this time much more humorous than Pet, but with its sadnesses as well. The voice is funny and delightful while still full of all of the insecurities of high school.

The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey has a gorgeous, depressing texture, an interesting storyline, and an evocatively detailed world that had its Kafka-esque moments. This is very different than Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books — while they’re fun reads, this feels like a much more serious book without being ponderous.

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher is a spin-off from Arthur Machen’s horror work The White Ones and it is, like all of her books, crazy good. It’s weird to me, however, that in 2019, she’s got a hoarder grandmother story, I’ve got a hoarder grandmother story, and Ellen Klages has a hoarder mother story in Uncanny Magazine that I enjoyed as well. Something in the zeitgeist?

The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie. It took me a little while to settle into the voice of this book, but once I got with the groove I was totally hooked. Leckie’s a master of storytelling. There’s a lot that’s hopepunk-y about this book, including the casual community-based heroism of the protagonist as well as the insistence on the power and mutability of stories and language.

The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFall is actually a book that I edited, so I have a horse in this race, but it is terrific. This reads like a feminist reworking of Beagle’s A Fine and Private Place, and it is a fine and splendid work.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire is a complicated and interesting book delivered with McGuire’s usual smooth prose and engaging characters. I don’t want to say too much about it for fear of spoilers.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is like Mervyn Peake’s Gorgmenghast in space with lesbian necromancers. This was a terrific read and (IMO) well worth all the hype. I don’t even know how to describe it but I loved the slow burn of relationship building and the atmosphere and the overall bizarreness of the world. So delightful.

A Song For a New Day by Sarah Pinsker is near-future SF reminisencent of a mash-up of Marge Piercy and Joni Mitchell. This is definitely one of 2019’s hopepunk standouts.

A Choir of Lies by Alexandra Rowland is the follow-up to her amazing A Conspiracy of Truths and it deepens the understanding of the first book in a way that had me going back to read it again. When people are building lists of hopepunk, this and its predecessor definitely should always be included.

Today I am Carey by Martin Shoemaker is a lovely expansion on the award winning story. I really love this piece and it’s very timely.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (novella) is a fabulous example of how stories can shift forms. Based on a Daveed Diggs song by the same name, this is an intense and beautiful translation of the song.

The Fall by Tracy Townsend is the sequel to a book I loved, The Nine, and it was a great continuation of the series, reminiscent of one of my favorite writers, P.C. Hodgell.

The Lesson by Cadwall Turnbull is a fascinating, tightly drawn novel in which humans are forced to co-exist with super-advanced and mostly benevolent aliens, set on the Virgin Islands after the killing of one of the locals by an alien.

If you’d like to check out something I wrote in 2019, please take a look at my modern day fantasy novelette Carpe Glitter! You can find a list of my other 2019 writings here.

World Fantasy and Nebula-nominated speculative fiction writer/editor. I read and write a lot.

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