Top 10 Noteworthy 2019 Speculative Fiction Books Part 2

A continuation of our favorite speculative fiction works this year! So far…

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. Annalee Newitz just won a Hugo Award for the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast with their partner Charlie Jane Anders and is a writer of both science and science fiction. TFOAT is a fiercely feminist queer punk rock time travel novel that follows Tess, a time traveling geologist and her cohort of time travelers who are orchestrating a fine-tuned fight against a group of men hell-bent on stopping women’s rights from ever advancing. It’s the kind of science fiction that reminds us about how the future is happening right now and it’s up to us to collectively work towards better futures.

The Need by Helen Phillips. If you like your literary fiction unsettling, then this is for you. If you like reading about the beauty, joy, mess and terror of raising small children, this is also for you. If you like reading books that mess with your head or make you wonder about the wellness of the main character, this is for you. I am not entirely sure how well it worked for me in the end or what I thought of the conclusion, but I was drawn into this mother’s paranoid recitations of her time alone with her children while her husband is away, a possible intruder, the horror of seeing your own reflection/true self, and, again, the micro-moments of warmth interspersed with the micro-moments of slog and clean-up coupled with the fear that being responsible for the physical and mental well-bring of two humans engenders. This is essentially literary horror with Science Fiction elements that reminded me a bit of the repulsive discomfort of Kang Han’s The Vegetarian.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. Portal fantasy is my catnip. I just adore stories that take you from our world into others. Another reviewer noted that fans of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children books will enjoy this, and they are right. It is not nearly as dark overall as some of those stories, but the stories and storytelling here of the various Doors and January who slowly learns of these passages and of the Society who is trying to close them is just as lovely and beguiling.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. Gideon the Ninth is a buzzy debut and deserves the buzz. It is being hailed as “lesbian necromancers in space,” which it is ostensibly, but it deliver more on the horror, gore, and pure peculiarity of its dark world than on any of the titillation such a hook-line implies. Gideon is a wonderful main protagonist, with a mysterious backstory and a stubborn, snarky internal and external monologue. She is in servitude to Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Drearburh, and their mutual hate and verbal sparring are the central appeal of the book. When Gideon is called to be Harrowhark’s cavalier, a role she takes on only under duress, in order to compete against the other 8 houses for a Lyctorship position in service to the Undead Emperor, the storyline unfolds into a series of tests and a whodunit. This is a delightfully weird but full on splattercore horror space opera mystery novel with some wonderfully villainous characters.

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull. Cadwell Turnbull’s debut science fiction novel is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands that explores first contact, colonialism and oppression. Aliens arrive and park their ship over Water Island while they start to integrate themselves into the communities below. The Ynaa are not an entirely peac-loving people, and while they offer technology it seems to come with strings. What do the Ynaa want? Turnbull slowly unfolds how life changes for the people of the island, and how human dramas continue even amidst catastrophic change.

Missed the first five? Check out Part 1!

~posted by Misha S.

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