The State of SFF – December 2021

The end of the year approaches and that means, for the very first time, it’s Hugo Awards season in winter.

Some quick life news because Covid is hitting hard again this winter (mostly unvaccinated folks), I got my booster shot and my partner is getting his in early December. Austria is currently dealing with the most cases per capita in the world, hospitals are starting triage because there is no more space for all the patients and even fucking cancer operations had to be postponed to accomodate unvaccinated Covid-patients. 😦

If you’re reading this and haven’t been vaccinated yet, please, please do so. Nobody is going to be angry with you for changing your mind, nobody is going to look down on you! Please make sure to protect yourself and others from this deadly disease and, by extension, from dying from other, preventable causes. (/end covid talk)

Quickie News

  • The second season of The Witcher is coming to Netflix on December 17th and I’m preparing all the coins to toss at my TV.
  • Holy shit, episode 4 of The Wheel of Time kicked ass! This isn’t news, I just needed to express my love for the episode somewhere. Goosebumps, I tell you.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles are being adapted by Disney+ so we have yet another SFF series to look forward to. Bring them on, I say!
  • And there is talk that Amazon wants to make a Mass Effect TV show. If that happens, it will be a while, what with the Wheel of Time ongoing and Lord of the Rings coming next year. But it’s always good to have something to look forward to.

The World Fantasy Awards Have Been Announced

I am so happy that Alaya Dawn Johnson has won the award for Best Novel! Congratulations to all the winners in the various categories. Here are some of them:

  • Best Novel: Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • Best Novella: Tochi Onyebuchi – Riot Baby
  • Best Short Fiction: Celeste Rita Baker – “Glass Bottle Dancer”
  • Best Artist: Rovina Cai
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm and Howard Waldrop

I have read quite a few Robin Hobb books and she remains one of my favorite fantasy authors to this day so I’m thrilled her work was honored this way. I have enjoyed Rovina Cai‘s covers and illustrations whenever I came across them (and I adore her style), I read Riot Baby and I have read Alaya Dawn Johnson before, although Trouble the Saints is still on my TBR. In fact, it’s on my still-to-read-in-2021 list. I had planned to read it during the Magical Readathon but you know how these things go. Now I’m all the more excited to dive into the book!


The Hugo Awards Ceremony Is Coming

I think this might be the most exciting year of Hugo Awards for me ever. Not only did I vote (again) but my favorite categories are particularly strong this year. It’s almost a guarantee that I’ll be happy with the winners because all of the finalists are so good! Additionally, with the Hugos having been pushed to December instead of August, there was a lot more time to read all those finalists.

It’s all going to happen on December 18th, at 8pm EST (that’s 2am for me) and if there is a livestream I will watch it as it happens and cheer on my favorites with as much enthusiasn as I can muster at that time of night.

It may not be the same as being in the same room with the finalists but, hey, at least I can wear pyjamas and nobody will judge me for it. 🙂


NaNoWriMo Is Over, Long Live NaNoWriMo

You guys, I did it! I participated in NaNoWriMo. Sat down on November 1st with a blank page and an equally blank mind and just started writing whatever the hell came to my mind. What I ended up with is an absolute mess with no structure, barely any plot, and a lot of notes to “add this later” but I have to admit, the experience was fun!

Don’t expect the Next Great Novel (or indeed any novel) from me, but despite it being super annoying at times, this experience was also quite rewarding. And who knows, maybe when I come back to this jumble of words I’ve created, I’ll actually be able to add a plot and then it might just grow up to be a proper book.


Exciting December Publications

I’m really glad publishing slows down in December and we have a bit of time to catch up on all those books we bought throughout the year.

KEN LIU – THE VEILED THRONE (December 7th)

Lalala, I’m not reading the synopsis because this is book 3 in the Dandelion Dynasty series by Ken Liu and I haven’t even started reading that one yet. But fans can rejoce, because this book is about 1000 pages thick.

With the invasion of Dara complete, and the Wall of Storms breached, the world has opened to new possibilities for the gods and peoples of both empires as the sweeping saga of the award-winning Dandelion Dynasty continues in this third book of the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR).

Princess Théra, once known as Empress Üna of Dara, entrusted the throne to her younger brother in order to journey to Ukyu-Gondé to war with the Lyucu. She has crossed the fabled Wall of Storms with a fleet of advanced warships and ten thousand people. Beset by adversity, Théra and her most trusted companions attempt to overcome every challenge by doing the most interesting thing. But is not letting the past dictate the present always possible or even desirable?

In Dara, the Lyucu leadership as well as the surviving Dandelion Court bristle with rivalries as currents of power surge and ebb and perspectives spin and shift. Here, parents and children, teachers and students, Empress and Pékyu, all nurture the seeds of plans that will take years to bloom. Will tradition yield to new justifications for power?

Everywhere, the spirit of innovation dances like dandelion seeds on the wind, and the commoners, the forgotten, the ignored begin to engineer new solutions for a new age.

Ken Liu returns to the series that draws from a tradition of the great epics of our history from the Aeneid to the Romance on the Three Kingdoms and builds a new tale unsurpassed in its scope and ambition


FEMI FADUGBA – THE UPPER WORLD (December 7th)

I stumbled across this striking cover, read the description and am now intrigued. Time travel, hard sci-fi and lots of physics? Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Plus, a Netflix adaptation already appears to be in the works.

If you had the chance to change your future, would you take it?

Perfect for fans of Neal Shusterman and Jason Reynolds, this powerhouse, mind-bending YA debut follows two teens, a generation apart, whose fates collide across time–and outside of it.

Today

During arguably the worst week of Esso’s life, an accident knocks him into an incredible world–a place beyond space or time, where he can see glimpses of the past and future. But if what he sees there is true, he might not have much longer to live, unless he can use his new gift to change the course of history.

Tomorrow

Rhia’s past is filled with questions, none of which she expects a new physics tutor to answer. But Dr. Esso’s not here to help Rhia. He’s here because he needs her help–to unravel a tragedy that happened fifteen years ago. One that holds the key not only to Rhia’s past, but to a future worth fighting for.

Soon to be a major Netflix movie starring Oscar-nominated Daniel Kaluuya!


M. A. CARRICK – THE LIAR’S KNOT (December 9th)

Another sequel to a book I haen’t read yet but am super excited for. I am determined to read The Mask of Mirrors, the first book in the Rook & Rose series, next year. It sounds like excellent fun.

Trust is the thread that binds us . . . and the rope that hangs us.

In Nadezra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look.

Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He’ll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he’s built.

Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give.

And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of corruption that traps her city.

But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than knives to cut themselves free…


BRANDON SANDERSON and JANCI PATTERSON – EVERSHORE (December 28th)

This is the third of Sanderson’s Skyward novellas which he co-wrote with Janci Patterson. The first two are supposed to be read before and this third one after Cytonic, the third full novel in Sanderson’s YA series. I’m saving them all up and shall read them in the author’s suggested order but probably only next year.

From #1 bestselling author Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson comes the final of three Skyward series novellas, each told from the perspective of a different member of the team back on Detritus. Listen to Jorgen’s story along with Cytonic.

With the government of Detritus in disarray because of Superiority treachery, and with Spensa still away on her mission in the Nowhere, Jorgen must work together with the alien Alanik to pick up the pieces. They intercept a strange transmission from the planet Evershore and its Kitsen inhabitants, who say they have some of Jorgen’s people and want to return them—but can the Kitsen be trusted? And can Jorgen learn to master his increasingly erratic cytonic powers before they spiral out of control and destroy all hope of forming an alliance against the Superiority?


News from the blog

I was so productive in November! Seriously, I have to pat myself on the back here because usually, when I start a project or set myself a goal, I tend to aim too high, lose steam and eventually it all just fizzles out. Not so this November. I participated in NaNoWriMo and actually sat down to write on most days, I continued my running training which means going for a run 3-4 times a week, regardless of the weather and my mood (spoiler: my mood always imrpoves dramatically after I went for a run). I got my Covid booster and a flu shot. And I kept reading through my planned TBR, albeit a bit more slowly than I had hoped.
As for this blog, thank the blogging gods for pre-scheduled posts because that’s the one aspect where I didn’t do much. But with my ARC reviews and Reading the Hugos posts already planned, I hope you didn’t notice my absence. You can find those here:

I’ll post one more Reading the Hugos post in December (Best Series is coming!) but then I’m calling it quits for the year. I had planned to read the Astounding finalists as well but I just don’t have the energy anymore. I’d like to spend the rest of the year reading without pressure, picking up whatever I feel like without thinking about awards or lists. And then in January, I can go into full list-making mode with fresh energy and motivation.

What I read last month:

I read a lot of BIG books in November and for a while it felt like I didn’t get on with my TBR at all. If you have only books between 600 and 1200 pages each on your currently reading pile, progress can feel slow and motivation can droop a bit. Especially when the latest Stormlight book doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Currently reading:

  • Brandon Sanderson – Rhythm of War
  • R. F. Kuang – The Burning God
  • Robert Jordan – The Dragon Reborn
  • Margaret Owen – Little Thieves
  • Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races (re-read)

The big books won’t leave me alone, it appears. I’m getting close to the end of Rhythm of War and while it’s good (it’s Sanderson, after all), I’m nowhere near as into it as I was with the first Stormlight books. I’m drawing out The Burning God because I know it will break my heart and I’m scared.
The third Wheel of Time book offers an interesting start but my motivation mostly stems from the TV show and the way it depicts the characters much more interestingly. I’m still planning to continue reading the books.
Margaret Owen’s Little Thieves is the slightly less big (still 500+ pages) balm that my soul was yearning for. It’s fun and quirky, the protagonist is morally gray but sympathetic and the world feels rich and original without losing its fairy tale inspiration. A third of the way through, I am loving it!
Another comfort read, or in this case, comfort listen, is Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races which I’ve been wanting to revisit ever since I read it a few years ago. It’s wonderful to be back with those killer horses on the island of Thisby.

Until next year (!): Stay safe, stay kind, and keep reading. 🙂

The State of SFF – August 2021

The second half of 2021 is moving just as fast as the first and there are many things to look forward to. Adaptations, new books, awards, and hopefully a return to something resembling normal.

Quickie News

  • Good Omens is getting a second season on Amazon Prime and we can all look forward to more of our favorite angel and demon combo as David Tennant and Michael Sheen are reprising their roles as Crowley and Aziraphale. And Neil Gaiman will be co-writing the season, so we’re definitely in for a treat. What more is there to say than YAY?
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  • The Wheel of Time TV show has a publication date. Well, publication month. The first season of the long awaited show is set to air in November 2021 on Amazon Prime. The series has already been renewed for a second season.
    To prepare, I have finally started reading the first book. I would like to experience this huge epic story in book format first before I dive into the TV show.
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  • A new Dune trailer is out and it looks pretty damn great. I am excited, everyone is excited. That’s all there is to say.

Scott Lynch and a Thorn of Emberlain Update (Sort Of)

Scott Lynch has always been transparent about his battle with depression and the resulting delay in publishing further books in the Gentleman Bastard series. When The Republich of Thieves came out years after the previous volume, me and the other Locke Lamora fans were happy and excited and hopeful that the series would continue soon. In 2019, Lynch mentioned that the next instalment, The Thorn of Emberlain, was as good as finished. It had a cover and everything. But as of 2021, the book hasn’t been published yet.
Scott has recently posted an update about his struggle with anxiety and his difficulties letting go of his work (handing it in to the publisher, making posts public, etc.). I found the post both brave and educating. I am no stranger to anxiety but it can take so many shapes and forms and not all of them are well-known. Scott is now taking medication to help him and as far as comments on the internet go, I think we all agree that we wish him the best! Whether the next book comes out soon or not isn’t even a point of discussion. We just want Scott to be okay.

In a time when fans can be very demanding, even going so far as to harrass authors whose work they feel they are entitled to (spoiler: we’re not!), I find it heartening that an author opening up about why he’s not publishing more works or not publishing faster can lead to such positive reactions.
Scott is one of the few authors I’ve actually met at a convention and we had a lovely chat in which he apologized for killing some of my favorite characters 🙂 . I wish him all the best so that he can continue to write stories and kill off characters to his heart’s desire.


The World Fantasy Award Finalists Have Been Announced

And much like all other SFF award finalists this year, they look amazing! There is some overlap with other awards but there are also books here that didn’t make other awards list (some to great bafflement). I am particularly happy to see Alaya Dawn Johnson on this list as well as Mexican Gothic which I loved and The Only Good Indians which has been on my TBR forever. I think October will be just right to pick up this hopefully creepy horror novel.

  • Silvia Moreno Garcia – Mexican Gothic
  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – Trouble the Saints
  • C. L. Polk – The Midnight Bargain
  • Stephen Graham Jones – The Only Good Indians
  • Susanna Clarke – Piranesi

Congratulations to the amazing finalists!!!


Exciting August Publications

August for the win! Okay, so there may not be a ton of publications that I am hyped for but the ones that are coming out in August are suuuuper exciting.

JORDAN IFUEKO – REDEMPTOR (August 17th)

IT’S FINALLY COMING!!! The second and final part in the Raybearer Duology will arrive in August and I am stoked! Raybearer was such a surprise for me, a debut I unabashadely loved with characters that defy all YA tropes and world building that would work just as well in an adult Epic Fantasy. Plus, Jordan Ifueko is the most adorable person on Instagram and I want to be best friends with her.

The hotly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestselling YA fantasy about Tarisai’s quest to change her fate

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.


LINDEN A. LEWIS – THE SECOND REBEL (August 24th)

And here’s another sequel I am excited about. The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis sure had its flaws but it’s a space opera that has stuck with me since I read it. Sadly, it went a little under the radar and I didn’t see many reviews. Hopefully, I can nudge some of you to try the first book. 🙂
I highly recommend going with the audiobook version in which the nonbinary protagonsit (one of three) is actually read by a nonbinary narrator.

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Linden A. Lewis returns with this next installment of The First Sister Trilogy, perfect for fans of Red RisingThe Handmaid’s Tale, and The Expanse.

Astrid has reclaimed her name and her voice, and now seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within. Throwing herself into the lioness’ den, Astrid must confront and challenge the Aunts who run the Gean religious institution, but she quickly discovers that the business of politics is far deadlier than she ever expected.

Meanwhile, on an outlaw colony station deep in space, Hiro val Akira seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion. Whispers of a digital woman fuel Hiro’s search, but they are not the only person looking for this link to the mysterious race of Synthetics.

Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as a lead revolutionary and is tasked with rescuing an Aster operative from deep within an Icarii prison. With danger around every corner, Lito, his partner Ofiera, and the newly freed operative must flee in order to keep dangerous secrets out of enemy hands.

Back on Venus, Lito’s sister Lucinia must carry on after her brother’s disappearance and accusation of treason by Icarii authorities. Despite being under the thumb of Souji val Akira, Lucinia manages to keep her nose clean…that is until an Aster revolutionary shows up with news about her brother’s fate, and an opportunity to join the fight.

This captivating, spellbinding second installment to The First Sister series picks up right where The First Sister left off and is a must-read for science fiction fans everywhere.


TORI BOVALINO – THE DEVIL MAKES THREE (August 10th)

This is my wild card pick for the month. This is a debut novel whose cover normally wouldn’t speak to me. But it’s about libraries and evil books and two people who have to team up unwillingly (do I see bickering coming my way? I think I do!), so it simply has too many buzzwords for me to ignore. Dark Academia, here I come.

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Tess Matheson only wants three things: time to practice her cello, for her sister to be happy, and for everyone else to leave her alone.

Instead, Tess finds herself working all summer at her boarding school library, shelving books and dealing with the intolerable patrons. The worst of them is Eliot Birch: snide, privileged, and constantly requesting forbidden grimoires. After a bargain with Eliot leads to the discovery of an ancient book in the library’s grimoire collection, the pair accidentally unleash a book-bound demon.

The demon will stop at nothing to stay free, manipulating ink to threaten those Tess loves and dismantling Eliot’s strange magic. Tess is plagued by terrible dreams of the devil and haunting memories of a boy who wears Eliot’s face. All she knows is to stay free, the demon needs her… and he’ll have her, dead or alive.


SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA – VELVET WAS THE NIGHT (August 17th)

Ever since Mexican Gothic I have jumped on the Silvia Moreno-Garcia hype train with the rest of you. Looking at that cover and reading that synopsis makes this book a no-brainer. Of course I’m going to buy it. How could I not?

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.


ELAYNE AUDREY BECKER – FORESTBORN (August 31st)

I’m not sure about this one. Magical illness, shapeshifter with a dark past that has to do with the forest? Okay, why not. But “obstinate prince” is what did it for me. Even if the rest of the book isn’t that good, if it has a good bickering couple, I’m sold.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.


News from the blog

I managed to read much more in July than I had thought. With the Hugo nominated graphic novels, my numbers look kind of inflated, but I had a few big prose novels in there as well. Also, the fact that I’m listening to shorter audiobooks again helps a lot.

What I read:

  • Rebecca Roanhorse – Black Sun
    epic fantasy set in the pre-Columbian Americas – great characters – interesting world but could use more depth – unsatisfying ending – great series-starter – will definitely read the sequel
  • Seanan McGuire – An Artifical Night
    October Day #3 – about the Wild Hunt – slow beginning, action-packed rest –
  • Brandon Sanderson – Oathbringer
    re-read – it really is the weakest of the first three books – still super epic and exciting – I’m ready for Rhythm of War now
  • Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa – Ghost-Spider Vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over
    fun comic book – snappy dialogue – introduction to Gwen from a parallel universe – lots of set-up, no finished story arc – good but didn’t make me want to continue the series
  • Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans – Die Vol. 2: Split the Party
    cool artwork – should have read the first book again – still very dark – it’s got the Bronte siblings! – missing that spark (maybe if I’d read both volumes in one go I would have liked it more?)
  • Tamsyn Muir – Harrow the Ninth
    absolutely batshit crazy – nothing makes sense for most of the book – then almost everything makes sense – difficult read but I really liked it
  • Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy – Parable of the Sower: The Graphic Novel Adaptation
    amazing adaptation – art is not pretty but striking – as dark as the novel – recommended
  • G. Willow Wilson, Christian Ward – Invisible Kingdom #1-2
    re-read the first, red the second – space opera meets religion – cool art – fighting against big corporations – great characters – LGBTQIA rep
  • Rivers Solomon – Sorrowland
    tough to read – explores gender and sexuality – religious cult – body horror – personal but science-fictiony at the same time
  • John Crowley – Little, Big
    I finally finished this – very little plot – beautifully written – atmospheric, dense, mysterious – little plot pay-off – probably brilliant but I think I need to re-read this when I’m older
  • Ava Reid – The Wolf and the Woodsman
    messy plot – great folklore and mythology – slow-burn romance – debut mistakes – showing, then telling

Currently reading:

  • Robert Jordan – The Eye of the World
  • P. Djèlí Clark – A Master of Djinn
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – The Fated Sky

I’m doing it! I’m reading the freaking Wheel of Time!! And it’s just as much of a Tolkien knock-off as everyone said. I’m not letting that keep me from it, however. I’m determined to give the first three books a shot and if, by then, I don’t feel the series is interesting enough or has its own story to tell, I’ll drop it. So far, I’m having fun although the Lord of the Rings parallels are truly ridiculous, the characters are pretty bland, and the plot is dragging. But in between sloggy bits are glimpses of cool world building and ideas tha I want to learn more about. I hope the characters and plot will improve in the second book. We’ll see how it goes.
Clark’s first full-length djinn novel is delightful, although it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to do plot-wise. And Mary Robinette Kowal managed to suck me in super fast into the Lady Astronaut’s second book. I’m glad the Hugos made me pick this up because as much as I hate the sexism, racism, and many other -isms that protagonist Elma is confronted with, these books are also just really, really good!

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