My picks from the 2018 Locus Recommended Reading List

The Locus 2018 Recommended Reading List. is the basis for voting on Locus awards in thirteen categories.

I’ve read four of the books on the list and have seven more in my TBR pile so I’m using those as my personal take on the list, focusing on five categories: Novels – Science Fiction, Novels – Fantasy and First Novels.

NOVELS – SCIENCE FICTION

I’ve read two of the books on the list. I gave both of them five stars but that’s about the only thing they have in common. “Space Opera” is a wonderful comedy but not actually a Space Opera. “Embers Of War” is an excellent example of what a Space Opera should be.

 “Space Opera”  by Catherynne Valente is a brilliantly conceived and executed take on what would happen if the fate of the Earth depended on how well we did in an intergalactic version of the Eurovision Song Contest.

“Space Opera” was a mind-expanding, chortle-making, thought-provoking, memory-stirring, joy-producing experience from beginning to end.

It’s packed with wit, pyrotechnic sentences, infinite imagination, seasoned with potential genocide and diabolically devious competition and held together by compassion and empathy and a little hope. It’s kept human and relevant by focuses on some broken-but-not-yet-destroyed musicians and all the magic that music works for us.


“Embers Of War” is a perfectly executed Space Opera, on the kind of scale I normally see from Iain M Banks or Alister Reynolds.

It’s gritty and fast and has a colourful cast of characters: the AI of a Carnivore class warship who has developed a conscience and gone into the rescue business, two spies on opposite sides of a crappy war who end up working together, a war criminal turned poet, an aging captain who is not sure she can live up to her grandmother’s reputation as a pioneer in saving lives. Each of them, by a variety of indirect means, end up snared by a puzzle at the centre of a planet that has been carved into the shape of a brain and that may change everything.


I have two books in this category on my TBR pile, both of which are there because they each have an intriguing premise:



Chercher La Femme, by L. Timmel Duchamp hooked me because it sound like the sort of Science Fiction As Sociology / Anthropology that I enjoyed in the 80s/90s. Here’s part of the publisher’s summary

They named the planet La Femme and called it a paradise and refused to leave it. Now Julia 9561 is heading up the mission to retrieve the errant crew and establish meaningful Contact with the inhabitants. Are the inhabitants really all female, as the first crew claimed? Why don’t the men want to return to Earth? What happened to the women on the crew? And why did Paul 22423 warn the First Council to send only male crew members?

”Chercher La Femme, which unfolds in a strange, complex, alien future, effectively explores several themes: of personal identity and how it holds itself together but is also porous to experience; of communication with alien life forms and how amorphous and challenging that might be; and of the visceral power of alien forms of beauty and art, giving the story compelling depths. The tense stretch between the Pax and the Outsiders offers an interesting representation of the real-world tension we now live with, between low-tech societies and those racing to colonize outer (and inner, personal) space in all sorts of ways.


Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman has a title I can’t walk away from, Bonobo apes, a dystopian future and a female lead. Here’s part of the publisher’s summary:

A new world, no longer brave.

It’s the near future, a time of new technologies – “bodyware” implants having replaced most past means of communication – but also of climate change and dwindling resources.

Francine is a luminary in her field of evolutionary science. She joins the Foundation to study a colony of bonobo apes: remarkable animals, and the perfect creatures to certify her revolutionary feminist theory of reproduction. 

When the terrible, dry winds rise up and cut off the Foundation, silencing all the devices and endangering the survival of animals and humans alike, Francine and the man she has grown to love make a decision that may determine the possibility of a premature ending or a chance to start life over. 


NOVELS – FANTASY

The only book on the Fantasy list that I’ve read is “Lies Sleeping – Rivers Of London #7” by Ben Aaronovitch.

This one of my favourites series. “Lies Sleeping” was another amusing and intriguing episode, this time showing us how Peter Grant has matured.


By Locus’ definition, I don’t seem to read a lot of fantasy (it seems Urban Fantasy isn’t included) but one of the books on the list is on my TBE pile.

“The Mere Wife” by Maria Danvana Headley has been calling to me for a while.

I was won over by the first sentence in the publisher’s summary:

+Two mothers—a suburban housewife and a battle-hardened veteran—struggle to protect those they love in this modern retelling of Beowulf.+


FIRST NOVELS

2018 was a great year for new talent in Science Fiction and Fantasy so I’ve already picked up five of the books on this list.

“Trail Of Lightning” by Rebecca Roanhorse is one of the best Science Fiction novels I’ve read in a long time.

Rebecca Roanhorse’s Sixth World concept is a potent mix of post-apocalyptic devastation and Navajo-based Urban Fantasy with a monster-slaying female lead who sees herself not as a hero but as a monster in waiting, someone contaminated and abandoned who knows only how to kill and yet dreds becoming nothing more than a killer.

I eo impressed by “Trail Of Lightning” that I’ve already read the second book, “Storm Of Locusts” which is even better.


I have four First Novels in my TBR pile

“Semiosis” by Sue Burke appeals to me because it explore how alien sentience can be and how we can find common ground with those who think very differently from us.

The publisher’s summary says:

In this character driven novel of first contact by debut author Sue Burke, human survival hinges on an bizarre alliance.

Only mutual communication can forge an alliance with the planet’s sentient species and prove that mammals are more than tools.


“Mirage” by Somaiya Daud is in my TBR because it’s been reviewed as a feminist YA Fantasy that looks at agency, colonisation and dislike of one’s own culture. It also has a strong female lead, a young woman being forced to be the body double for a hated pricncess. It ticks my “try something different” box.


“Severance” by Ling Ma is part of my search for good satire. I’m hoping a story about a millennial so caught up in office routine that they fail to notice the zombie apocalypse might do it for me.


At 184 pages, “MEM” by Bethany C. Morrow is a first novella rather than a first novel.

I picked it because it’s an alternative history in which a method of extract memories and having them installed in clones is invented in the early twentieth century.

I’m intrigued by what the mores of the time would do with that technology.

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