Monday, January 13, 2020

24 Books I'm Looking Forward to In 2020

I'd like to take a moment to talk a little bit about some books I'm looking forward to maybe reading in 2020. This is a much higher level look at the year than what we do in the New Books Spotlight each month. It's an opportunity to begin the year with our excited faces firmly on and in place about so much of the goodness that is coming our way.

As with any list, this is incomplete. Any number of stellar novels and collections have not been announced yet and will slot into place at some point this year. Some books on this list scheduled for later in the year may be pushed back into 2021 for any number of reasons. Some books are left off this list because they are the third or fourth book in a series I've never read. Some books are left off because they are not to my taste and thus, I'm not actually looking forward to them. Some books are left off this list because I haven't heard of them yet, even though they've been announced. Some books are left off this list because, sadly, I completely forgot about it even though I've tried to do as much research as possible. Finally, some books are left off this list because I had to draw the line somewhere and 24 seemed like it might be enough for one man's survey.

After all, we do still have the New Books Spotlight to look forward to each month. I'm sure in many cases there will be some overlap, but discussing and arguing is half the fun, isn't it?

1. The Best of Elizabeth Bear, by Elizabeth Bear (Jan, Subterranean): Most well known for her novels, Elizabeth Bear is an accomplished writer of short fiction. She has twice won the Hugo Award for her short fiction (“Tideline” and “Shoggoths in Bloom”, both collected here). Bear has long been one of my favorite novelists, and in any given year when I’m actually reading enough short fiction Bear’s stories are invariably among my favorites of any given year. Many of those are also collected here. What better time to revisit Elizabeth Bear’s short fiction than this career spanning collection?

2. The Broken Heavens, by Kameron Hurley (Jan, Angry Robot):  The Broken Heavens, by Kameron Hurley (Jan, Angry Robot): Hurley stepped away from her Worldbreaker series to write and publish both The Stars Are Legion and The Light Brigade. Both are among the best novels of the last ten years and have served to whet the appetite for The Broken Heavens – though I’ll need a small refresher of what came before in the previous two books. This is Hurley’s return to straight up epic fantasy, though nothing Kameron Hurley does is straight up. The first two books were absolutely top notch and we can’t wait to see how Hurley concludes the series.

3. Sword of Fire, by Katharine Kerr (Feb, DAW): The 16th Deverry novel and the first to be published in 11 years. I’m not sure where and how this fits into the timeline and the braided narrative of the first fifteen books of a series most thought was already complete. I’m only halfway through my first read through of the series (check out my Deverry Read: Part One, Part Two) and I am certainly not going to catch up before Sword of Fire is published, but this is a fantastic series and I am so glad there is going to be at least one more. I just need to confirm if there is a barrier to entry or if I am safe to pick up here while I continue with the series. Either way, major fantasy release right here!

4. Imaginary Numbers, by Seanan McGuire (Feb, DAW) I have made a deliberate choice to not make this the All Seanan McGuire All the Time list, but suffice it to say that I am looking forward to everything Seanan McGuire is publishing this year - which includes a Wayward Children novella, an October Daye novel, an side novel from Middlegame, and this, the 9th Incryptid novel. Imaginary Numbers focuses on Sarah Zellaby (the Price cousin and cuckoo / parasitic wasp) and that's a story I've been waiting for.

5. Deathless Divide, by Justina Ireland (Feb, Balzer + Bray): Dread Nation exceeded my already high expectations for a novel doing as much work as it was. Dread Nation was “a post apocalyptic zombie novel that deals with race, gender, class, and I have no idea what else. There is action, ass kicking, violence as near ballet, violence as dehumanizing brutality, a clear recognition that slavery isn’t dead but just going by a different name, surprising allies, expected enemies, continued legal oppression, and a searing rage permeating the novel.” It was among the best novels of 2018 and I am near breathless for Ireland’s continuation of the story in Deathless Divide.

6. Upright Women Wanted, by Sarah Gailey (Feb, Pub): Charles Stross described the novella as “Gunslinger librarians of the apocalypse are on a mission to spread public health, decency, and the revolution” and really, that’s all that I need to know. Gailey’s two American Hippo novellas were fantastic and had such a searing sense of place and personality that I’m here for whatever else they write.

7. A Pale Light in the Black, by K.B. Wagers (Mar, Harper Voyager): Wagers has quickly become one of my favorite writers with her Hail Bristol novels of the Indranan War and the Farian War. A Pale Light in the Black is a brand new series, completely unrelated and it looks like an absolute blast – which is exactly what I’ve come to expect from K.B. Wagers.

8. The City We Became, by N.K. Jemisin (Mar, Orbit): Coming off of the absolutely brilliant Broken Earth trilogy, the level of expectation for The City We Became could not be higher unless this was the secret fourth Broken Earth novel. It’s not. This is something completely different. The City We Became is an expansion of the idea first introduced in Jemisin’s Hugo Award finalist short story “The City Born Great”, which itself was an excellent story. In a year filled with significant novels, The City We Became is a must read.

9. Vagabonds, by Hao Jiangfan (Apr, Saga): Folding Beijing”, Jiangfan’s Hugo Award winning novelette, was an outstanding story and an announcement of a major new voice within the genre. I’ve been excited to see what else she had in store for us, though a little bit of research tells me that I’ve missed two other stories in anthologies edited by Ken Liu and another story published in Clarkesworld – so I have some catching up to do while I wait for Vagabonds. I’m interested to see where this story of intrasolar war and an attempt to reconcile Earth and Mars will go.

10. The Last Emperox, by John Scalzi (Apr, Tor): New John Scalzi. More specifically, the third and concluding volume to his Interdependency trilogy. I've been delighted by The Collapsing Empire and The Consuming Fire and I expect to be delighted by The Last Emperox. New Scalzi is a treat.

11. Network Effect, by Martha Wells (May, Pub): If you've at all been paying attention to science fiction and fantasy the last couple of years you're aware of Murderbot. All Systems Red won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards and was a finalist for several more, Artificial Condition was also a Hugo Award winner. The four Murderbot novellas were fantastic. Network Effect is the first full length Murderbot novel. That's a must read for sure.

12. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins (May, Scholastic): Listen. It's The Hunger Games. Or, at least - it's The Hunger Games prequel. Set during the 10th Hunger Games (64 years before Katniss is on the scene) - and it almost doesn't matter what it's about. It's another Hunger Games novel and that's something we didn't think we'd get. I'm very interested in what story Suzanne Collins has to tell.

13. Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Jun, Pub): Gideon the Ninth announced itself like an explosion in science fiction and fantasy last year, a filthy and glorious explosion of violence and personality and was like nothing I've read. The ending of Gideon the Ninth did nothing more than whet my appetite for more. I don't know where Tamsyn Muir is going with Harrow the Ninth, but I'm sure here for the ride. It'll be a wild one.

14. The Angel of the Crows, by Katherine Addison (Jun, Tor): Following The Goblin Emperor (one of our best books of the last decade), Katherine Addison has returned with this alternate history of 1880's London where Jack the Ripper stalks the streets. but so do vampires, werewolves, and fallen angels. We're here for whatever story Katherine Addison has to tell us.

15. The Empire of Gold, by S.A. Chakraborty (Jun, Harper Voyager): When I read The City of Brass last year I wondered to myself why everyone didn’t tell me how good The City of Brass was, which was my way to let myself off the hook because everyone told me how good it was and I just didn’t listen for more than a year. The Empire of Gold is the third novel in the Daevabad sequence – so this also works well as a reminder that I should also go read The Kingdom of Copper as quickly as I can so that I’m ready for The Empire of Gold.
16. Sleight of Shadows, by Kat Howard (Jun, Saga): I had Sleight of Shadows on my list last year and, sadly, it pushed to 2020. But! Now that we’re so much closer to Kat Howard’s new novel, I have renewed my excitement for this follow up to 2017’s An Unkindness of Magicians. Howard is a beautiful writer, a fantastic storyteller, and I’m here for everything she writes.

17. Unconquerable Sun, by Kate Elliott (Jul, Tor): Describing Unconquerable Sun as "gender swapped Alexander the Great in space" is one heck of a selling point, as much so as the "Lesbian Necromancers in Space" was for Gideon the Ninth - but what's really selling me here is "New Kate Elliott". That's enough.

18. The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Jul, Tor): I absolutely adored The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky. I could not get enough of those two novels, my favorites of 2018. Mary Robinette Kowal brought the magic of the space program and the magic of spaceflight alive in these alternate histories and I feel absolutely fortunate that I get the opportunity to read more. In another year of excellent releases, this is at the top of my list.

19. Savage Legion, by Matt Wallace (Jul, Saga): I loved Matt Wallace’s Sin du Jour novellas so very, very, very much. I’ll attempt to restrain myself from too many food puns (one is not too many), but they were perfect sized bites of gonzo perfection. So when I heard that Wallace was going epic with his next fantasy, the only question I had was when would I get to read this surely amazingly brutal piece of writing? The answer is: this year. I get Savage Legion this year and this is perhaps my second most anticipated novel of 2020 (behind only The Relentless Moon). It’s time. It’s time.

20. The Thorn of Emberlain, by Scott Lynch (Sep, Orion): It’s been a while since Republic of Thieves, almost seven years. I devoured The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, and then with the longer wait for the third book I just never read it (though I do own a copy). The thing is, I LOVED those first two and I think 2020 is just about the right time to dive back into this world of thievery because Scott Lynch’s writing is a damned delight and I am absolutely thrilled that it looks like this is the year of The Thorn of Emberlain.

21. The Hinder Stars II, by CJ Cherryh and Jane Fancher (Sep, DAW): The return of Cherryh and Fancher to the Alliance / Union universe was a treat. I’ve read perhaps a third of the novels in that universe, most tighter to the time of The Company Wars and Cyteen – so the earlier set Alliance Rising is exactly what I was looking for (besides a sequel to Regenesis). I am so here for the continuation of the story of building the Merchanter’s Alliance.

22. The Burning God, by R.F. Kuang (Nov, Harper Voyager): The Poppy War was a searing debut and my second favorite novel of 2018. The only reason I haven’t read The Dragon Republic yet is that my library has a fairly long hold list for it, proving that people in my area have fantastic taste in books because R.F. Kuang is the real deal and by the time The Burning God is published I will be caught up and ready. The Poppy War was a can’t miss fantasy, brutal and amazing. Given how epic the series opener was, I can only imagine how big Kuang will go with the conclusion.
23. Between Earth and Sky, by Rebecca Roanhorse (TBA, Saga) : Rebecca Roanhorse needs little introduction at this point. With her first story she won both the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell (now Astounding) Award for Best New Writer. Her debut novel, Trail of Lightning, lived up to impossible hype and acclaim. She’s since written a Star Wars novel and Between Earth and Sky is “the first in an Anasazi-inspired epic fantasy series in which the great matriarchal clans of a prosperous cliff-city vie for power against a backdrop of political intrigue, celestial prophecies, rising rebellion, and dark magic”. Yeah, I’m here for that.

24. Jade Legacy, by Fonda Lee (TBA, Orbit): Jade City and Jade War were soooooooo good. Jade City made our Best of the Decade list. This description is starting to feel trite, but a good elevator pitch for the series could be “The Godfather, but with magic”. It still fits because this is a story of family and rival crime families, of business and of war, of looking inward as a culture and looking outward as a nation. And the first two books were two of the best books I’ve read in their respective years. I can’t wait for the third.

So, that's it. 24 books I'm looking forward to in 2020. Except, of course, I'm really looking forward to all the books. I've had to fight myself to not make this the "36 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2020" and if you're reading this as is, it means that I didn't make a last hour dash to expand the list in despair at leaving anything off.

There are so many exciting books coming out this year. I didn't mention A.K. Larkwood's Unspoken Name or The Fires of Vengeance from Evan Winter. Brandon Sanderson is publishing his mostly untitled fourth Stormlight novel, which remind me that I need to read Oathbringer this year. There's a new Stephen King (If It Bleeds), Helene Wecker is finally publishing The Iron Season (the follow up to her excellent The Golem and the Jinni), and Seanan McGuire has a side novel to her excellent Middlegame (The Angel of the Overpass).

And all of that doesn't even take into consideration the question marks of whether we will see The Winds of Winter from George R.R. Martin this year. We may have a series conclusion of The Expanse from James S.A. Corey, and I've seen some lists suggesting there will be two novels from Katherine Addison this year - which seems far too good to be true

So many books. So little time.

I know I say this pretty much all the time, but this should be another awesome year for science fiction and fantasy. What are you looking forward to?

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 3x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.