The State of SFF – November 2020

I can’t believe it’s already November! This year, man. It has lasted at least two decades and at the same time, it feels like it was only last month that the world went into (first) lockdown…

It’s important to remember the good things though, especially in trying times, so let’s all look forward to great new releases together, and see what’s happening in the world of SFF awards and adaptations. 

Quickie News

  • The inaugural IGNYTE Awards have been announced. Congratulations to Silvia Moreno Garcia who won Best Adult Novel for Gods of Jade and Shadow as well as all the other winners! I’m a little sad that The Deep didn’t win Best Novella but the entire list of nominees and winners is a great source for recommendations!
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  • Also, the World Fantasy Awards have been announced. Best Novel went to Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (my review). Congratulations for a well-deserved win! I’ll be reading the other nominees as well because it’s a great ballot altogether.
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  • In case you missed it: my very favorite author of all time, Catherynne M. Valente, has been performing her duology The Orphan’s Tales on Instagram/Youtube as a sort of treat during the pandemic. 1000 pages later, it’s all done and I wasn’t the only one who got emotional. Start with Night One here. After the reading, she always answers audience questions so it’s well worth watching even if you’re already familiar with the books.

Time’s 100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time

Look, any Best Of list will always have entries that we agree or disagree on and that’s fine. But TIME published a list of the 100 Best Fantasy Novels of all Time and it’s… somewhat strange and inconsistent. A panel of judges, consisting of amazing fantasy writers, was put together to create this list from pre-selected nominees and while I may not agree with some of their choices, there are a few things that just don’t make sense about this list.

The Lord of the Rings was put onto this list as three volumes. Sure, it was originally published that way, but Tolkien himself wanted people to know that it was one book. Why use three spots on this list of 100 when one would work just as well, especially when it’s for a book that doesn’t exactly need a signal boost. Those two other spots could have been used to showcase more of what fantasy has to offer! The Once and Future King on the other hand was placed as a single book although it actually consists of several bound-up volumes…
The other odd thing is that several instalments from the same series are on this list  – for multiple series. I’m not saying that the first book is always the strongest in a series (in many cases it isn’t) but again, it feels like a waste of precious slots on this list to put both of Tomi Adeyemi’s books and two Harry Potter volumes on this list. Why not let one volume (doesn’t have to be the first) represent the series?
Which leads to the third problem I have with the list. Almost every one of the judges has at least one, usually more, of their own books on the list. Now, from what I gathered, they couldn’t vote for their own books but of course the other panelists wouldn’t leave off their colleague’s works. That would just be rude. Which would also still be fine if this didn’t pretend to be a list of the BEST fantasy novels of all time but rather a somewhat random recommendation list.
And that “of all time” thing is also misleading because the list may have some classic entries but it leans heavily on recent publications. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of most of those, especially because recent times have highlighted more diverse voices than we used to get in the 20th century but I don’t think this list does what it sets out to do. Where’s Robin Hobb and Octavia Butler? Where’s Joe Abercrombie and Gene Wolfe? Where’s Gormenghast and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? China Miéville, anyone? Patricia McKillip? And I’m sure there are many more I’m forgetting at the moment that should be on a list of the BEST fantasy novels (a list which would be much longer than 100 entries, by the way).

As happy as I am to see more diverse voices on a big list of recommendations, I don’t really see the purpose of this particular list. If it’s supposed to show the most important and influential books of the genre, I’m afraid it left too many big ones out. If it wants to recommend diverse voices, it wasted a lot of space by using two books from the same series when that second spot could have gone to another author/book that deserves to be more well-known. I see it mostly as a list where the panelists recommended each other’s books and added a few classics and big recent publications. To what purpose? I don’t know.

Dune to release in October 2021

I’m sure many of you are just as excited for the new Dune adaptation by Denis Villeneuve as I am and while we thought we only had to wait until December to see it, its release date has now been pushed back to October 2021.
I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the book (mostly because I didn’t like the writing style) but it is without a doubt an important work of science fiction with many great ideas and space politics. And the trailer looked absolutely brilliant, so even though we now have to wait almost another year, I’ll be looking forward to seeing it in a theater.

Get Another Look at Zendaya's Dune Character in New Photo – /Film

Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland Retelling

Come Away - Wikipedia

I stumbled across this trailer for the upcoming movie Come Away and it looks so good that I have to share it with you guys. Peter and Alice are siblings who couldn’t be more different. Peter doesn’t want to grow up while Alice can’t grow up fast enough.
This looks to be a sort of prequel to Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and while it first appears to take place firmly in the real world, the trailer does promise a bit of magic. Will it be the kind of magic we know from Pan’s Labyrinth or a more obvious sort? I don’t know but I’m definitely excited to find out!

 

Clear your Sh*t Readathon

It so happens that I stumbled across a readathon that runs November through December and is meant to help us clear our shelves of all the books we already own. You know… to make space for all the new ones we’re inevitably going to buy next year.

The Clear Ur Shit Readathon is hosted by Mouse Reads and her helper, the Narrator. 🙂
There are quests and character cards, there will be boss battles (!) and there’s a list of prompts. I’m especially taken with the assortment of weapons that can be used during the readathon:

I have no shortage of books on my TBR and they need to be read but I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll join. But if this sounds like something you might like you can get all the info, prompts, graphics and what have you on the readathon’s blog page.

Exciting NovemberPublications

JAIDA JONES & DANIELLE BENNETT – MASTER OF ONE

This sadly underknown author duo has produced one of my favorite fantasy of manners with their novel Havemercy. It looks like it’s about mechanical dragons, but it’s really about complicated relationships, a beautiful gay romance, and amazing characters. I’m expecting nothing less from their new novel. It’s about fae!!!

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Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.

Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.

But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…

With the heist and intrigue of Six of Crows and the dark fairy tale feel of The Cruel Prince, this young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.


FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

I haven’t read the first Star Wars anthology but Catherynne M. Valente is in this one and it’s themed after the best Star Wars movie, so of course I need it!

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From a Certain Point of View strikes back! Celebrate the legacy of the groundbreaking Star Wars sequel with this exciting reimagining of the timeless film.

On May 21, 1980, Star Wars became a true saga with the release of The Empire Strikes Back. In honor of the fortieth anniversary, forty storytellers recreate an iconic scene from The Empire Strikes Back, through the eyes of a supporting character, from heroes and villains to droids and creatures. From a Certain Point of View features contributions by bestselling authors and trendsetting artists.


R. F. KUANG – THE BURNING GOD

Nobody needs me to remind them that this book is coming out. The internet is aflame with early rave reviews, people posting sob emojis and making gorgeous fanart. I have yet to read the second book in this trilogy but that doesn’t mean I can’t be excited for this final volume already.

45857086. sy475 The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?


TOCHI ONYEBUCHI – REBEL SISTERS

The second War Girls novel is coming out! I only read the first book (War Girls) recently and while it was really tough to read, it was also an excellent novel about child soldiers, civil war, sisterhood and survival. I look forward to continuing the series.

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In the epic, action-packed sequel to the brilliant novel War Girls, the battles are over, but the fight for justice has just begun.

It’s been five years since the Biafran War ended. Ify is now nineteen and living where she’s always dreamed–the Space Colonies. She is a respected, high-ranking medical officer and has dedicated her life to helping refugees like herself rebuild in the Colonies.

Back in the still devastated Nigeria, Uzo, a young synth, is helping an aid worker, Xifeng, recover images and details of the war held in the technology of destroyed androids. Uzo, Xifeng, and the rest of their team are working to preserve memories of the many lives lost, despite the government’s best efforts to eradicate any signs that the war ever happened.

Though they are working toward common goals of helping those who suffered, Ify and Uzo are worlds apart. But when a mysterious virus breaks out among the children in the Space Colonies, their paths collide. Ify makes it her mission to figure out what’s causing the deadly disease. And doing so means going back to the corrupt homeland she thought she’d left behind forever.


HOLLY BLACK – HOW THE KING OF ELFHAME LEARNED TO HATE STORIES

I am an unabashed fan of Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy (especially The Wicked King) so there’s no question whether I’ll read this sequel. And it’s illustrated!

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An illustrated addition to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince, from award-winning author Holly Black.
An irresistible return to the captivating world of Elfhame.
Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone. #1 New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old.


JULIA EMBER – RUINSONG

This is the November book I’m unsure about. I’ve read one book by Ember (The Seafarer’s Kiss) and it was okay but the more I think about it, the more flaws I discover. However, LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy and musical magic sounds too good to miss, so I’ll probably give it a try.

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In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.


BRANDON SANDERSON – RHYTHM O WAR

Here it is. The Big One. It needs neither introduction nor description. I mean… it’s the next Stormlight Archive book.

17250966. sy475 After forming a coalition of human resistance against the enemy invasion, Dalinar Kholin and his Knights Radiant have spent a year fighting a protracted, brutal war. Neither side has gained an advantage.

Now, as new technological discoveries begin to change the face of the war, the enemy prepares a bold and dangerous operation. The arms race that follows will challenge the very core of the Radiant ideals, and potentially reveal the secrets of the ancient tower that was once the heart of their strength.

At the same time that Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with his changing role within the Knights Radiant, his Windrunners face their own problem: As more and more deadly enemy Fused awaken to wage war, no more honorspren are willing to bond with humans to increase the number of Radiants. Adolin and Shallan must lead the coalition’s envoy to the honorspren stronghold of Lasting Integrity and either convince the spren to join the cause against the evil god Odium, or personally face the storm of failure. 


MARISSA MEYER – INSTANT KARMA

I’m cheating a bit here because this isn’t standard SFF, it’s a contemporary romance with a slight fantastical twist. And it’s written by Marissa Meyer whose Lunar Chronicles are a favorite guilty pleasure of mine. So although it doesn’t really sound like something I would normally read, I’ll probably cave and pick it up when I need something to get me in a good mood.

53568395. sx318 In this young adult contemporary romance, a girl is suddenly gifted with the ability to cast instant karma on those around her—both good and bad.

Chronic overachiever Prudence Daniels is always quick to cast judgment on the lazy, rude, and arrogant residents of her coastal town. Her dreams of karmic justice are fulfilled when, after a night out with her friends, she wakes up with the sudden ability to cast instant karma on those around her. Pru giddily makes use of the power, punishing everyone from public vandals to karaoke hecklers, but there is one person on whom her powers consistently backfire: Quint Erickson, her slacker of a lab partner and all-around mortal enemy. Soon, Pru begins to uncover truths about Quint, her peers, and even herself that reveal how thin the line is between virtue and vanity, generosity and greed . . . love and hate.


News from the blog

October has been good to me, reading-wise. I picked up some spooky books for the season, I finally read Dracula, and I caught up on some new publications. 2020 is one hell of a year for many reasons – most of them bad – but one of the good ones is that SFF publishing is on fire! All the 2020 publications I read in October were standout books that I’ll happily recommend. For my thoughts on each book, there’s a review hidden under the link.

What I read in October:

  • Susanna Clarke – Network Effect
    Murderbot – friendship – sci-fi thriller – emotions – perfect ending
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi
    eerie – atmospheric – riddle – twist
  • Bram Stoker – Dracula
    epistolary – journal entries – spooky – a bit too long
  • Evan Winter – The Rage of Dragons
    good beginning – repetitive – battles upon battles – revenge story  – no depth – no women
  • Alexis Henderson – The Year of the Witching
    atmospheric – dark and spooky – great protagonist – lots of blood – witchy mythology
  • P. Djèlí Clark – Ring Shout
    mindblowingly good – monster hunting – racism – dealing with grief – perfect pacing
  • Raymond E. Feist – Magician
    80ies tropey fantasy – comfortingly predictable – pacing issues – almost no female characters
  • Rivers Solomon – An Unkindness of Ghosts
    generation ship – class differences – great, diverse cast – amazingly written – new favorite
  • Leigh Bardugo – The Lives of Saints
    nice addition to the Grishaverse – stories not that special – very pretty illustrations
  • Andrzej Sapkowski – Blood of Elves
    quick read – complicated characters – mostly introductions – doesn’t stand on its own

Currently reading:

  • Diana Wynne Jones – Castle in the Air
  • Alix E. Harrow – The Once and Future Witches
  • Robin Hobb – Fool’s Fate

For November, I’ve decided to take it easy and just mood read. My current reads are all very promising and – as far as I can tell – will end up getting pretty high ratings. I guess The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will make it onto my November TBR (reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so far) and I’m glad I finally picked up the last book in the Tawny Man Trilogy, so I can return to Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and catch up on those last seven books…

Until next month: Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

2 thoughts on “The State of SFF – November 2020

  1. mphtheatregirl says:

    I guess your’e right- that a series should just one on the list- they are an entire story by the way.

    Due to my space on the shelf, my parents tried to convince me to want a kindle. I actually decided that is something I want- much easier to travel with and read in more than just my bedroom.

    Getting rid of books can be a real struggle

    Like

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