This is going to be immeasurably easier than last year because of the large number of bookish posts I’ve done over the year. So firstly let’s just get with the Christmas spirit of internet list articles and just rehash those:
Here is the shortlist for the Clarke Award in which I show myself absolutely off the mark as the book I didn’t really get on with (Station Eleven) was the one that won. However, all good books, so check out The Girl with all the Gifts (Carey), The Book of Strange New Things (Faber), Europe in Autumn (Hutchinson), Memory of Water (Itaranta), Station Eleven (Mandel) and my personal favourite, by a whisker, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (North).
Here is my post lauding City of Stairs (Bennett), Breed (Davies), The Incorruptibles (Jacobs) and The Glorious Angels (Robson)
Here is my take on Age of Scorpio (Smith), Prospect of War (Sales), Europe at Midnight (that busy fellow Hutchinson again), House of Shattered Wings (Bodard), Space Hostages (MacDougall), The Raven’s Banquet (Beal) and The Lie Tree (Hardinge).
And here is the shortlist for the BFS Holdstock award which was won, delightfully, by Frances Hardinge’s Cuckoo Song, and also touches on Breed and City of Stairs from the above link as well as The Relic Guild (Cox), The Moon King (Williamson) and A Man Lies Dreaming (Tidhar).
That is a cracking reading list right there, but I’m going to throw some science fiction into the mix that I’ve recently devoured – hence I can also heartily recommend Ian Whates’ Pelquin’s Comet, which is an extremely fast-paced and readable space opera, taking a crew of rogues and treasure hunters into forbidden space searching for elder technology, complete with dark pasts and perhaps the genre’s only kick-ass banker. This has a real Firefly feel to it, the characters are interesting and likeable, the pace rattles along and there’s a race of spider aliens who aren’t outright bad guys.
Next up, and I’m rather late to the table for this one, Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, which is an alien first contact scenario where the aliens, instead of turning up in New York like the films, make their appearance in Lagos, Nigeria, initially grabbing a mismatched handful of people and spitting them out, but then snowballing their interaction with humanity, clashing with the military, the religious and the political. This is a book with a whole load of layers and a lot going on, and to go into much detail would be to spoil it – the alien first contact is by no means the be-all and end-all of the beautiful weirdness – but it’s a powerfully thought-provoking read.
Finally, Emma Newman’s Planetfall has been released very recently, and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from Emma. This is another deeply thoughtful book – a human colony on a forbidding alien planet next to its one major landmark – a huge alien… structure? Habitat? Lifeform? The humans have been guided there by a prophet whose purported divine message was apparently bang on the money, but now she’s disappeared and the colonists live on in the shadow of their past choices. One of the book’s great strengths is the narrator, Renata, who provides the colony with everything it needs via the 3D printers they rely on, but whose own shadow is not the alien edifice but her own inner demons. Renata is one of the most fascinating and well-drawn pieces of characterisation I’ve read in a long time.
And I have now earned, I think, the chance to blow a little involuntary on my own trumpet. Guns of the Dawn and Children of Time have had some cracking reviews, and I’m very much hoping they will be a bit of a springboard for phase 2 of Tchaikovsky: the Author Years, so any nice reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, forums etc are always appreciated, and here’s to February 2016, and the release of The Tiger and the Wolf, when we’ll see what the world makes of that…