Monday, January 11, 2021

24 Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2021

I'd like to take a moment to talk a little bit about some books I'm looking forward to maybe reading in 2021. 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 2022 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. Remote Control, by Nnedi Okorafor (Jan, Publishing)
: I've been anticipating Remote Control for long enough that I've almost forgotten the reason why, except that anything written by Nnedi Okorafor should be considered essential reading. But then, the idea of "the adopted daughter of Death" is incredibly compelling on its own. I can't wait to read how Okorafor handles it.

2. The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey (Feb, Tor): It's interesting that most of the comparisons for The Echo Wife have been television shows: Killing Eve, Orphan Black, Westworld, Big Little Lies. I'm familiar enough with the concepts of those shows, but I don't have the working knowledge of having watched any of them for the comps to do much to help. What does help is that the more I've read from Gailey the more I want to read. Most recently, Magic for Liars was exceptional (a non magical adult at a magic school investigating a crime) and the idea about clones cleaning up after the murder of the original's spouse (by them? By someone else?) is a heck of an idea in Gailey's hands.

3. Calculated Risks, by Seanan McGuire (Feb, DAW): Out of all the places I might have expected one of McGuire's Incryptid novels to end, another dimension is not one of them. But, that's exactly where the previous book, Imaginary Numbers, ended up with Sarah Zellaby and others (limited spoilers here) stuck in another freaking dimension. I'm not saying the Incryptid novels were fully grounded, but they made the supernatural part of the natural world. This pushes the bounds of that idea, but I'm here for anywhere Seanan McGuire wants to take me. Like last year, I have made the choice to not include every Seanan McGuire novel on a list of twenty four, but there's a forthcoming October Daye (When Sorrows Came), a Wayward Children novella (Across the Green Grass Fields), and the Ghost Roads novel I'll write about in just a bit.

4. Out Past the Stars, by K.B. Wagers (Feb, Orbit)
: Hail Bristol has been through quite a bit, but one way or the other this will all end. Out Past the Stars is the concluding volume of the Farian War trilogy and the sixth book of the story began with Behind the Throne. Hail's story is not an easy one, being pulled from her life in exile to claim the throne of her family's empire after the rest of her family is murdered. Collectively, this is one wild ride. Often intense, but always compelling. I've enjoyed almost every moment I've spent with Hail (Down Among the Dead was a fairly tough read and Hail was in a very bad place - not *The* Bad Place, that's a different story, but a bad place indeed). I am thrilled to see what Wagers has in store for us (and for Hail). It's sure to be wonderful, though not completely pleasant.

5. Soulstar, by C.L. Polk (Feb, Publishing)
: Stormsong was so much better than I could have hoped it would be. I adored that novel and I am all the more excited for Soulstar than I would have been before Stormsong. This is an absolutely lovely series. It appears Polk is switching up protagonists again with Soulstar, so I'll be interested to see how I engage with Robin Thorpe compared to Grace Hensley.

6. A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine (Mar, Tor)
: I am reading A Desolation Called Peace at the same time I'm writing this article. Not at the exact same time, that would be a bit awkward and I'm not nearly as good at multitasking as I think I am.

7. Victories Greater Than Death, by Charlie Jane Anders (Apr, Tor Teen)
: I was sold from this: "A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who". The two previous novels from Anders have been excellent and her most recent, The City in the Middle of the Night was a major step up and a novel that should be talked about for years. I am here for whatever Anders does next, and this one sounds like a blast.

8. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers (Apr, Harper Voyager)
: Frankly, it's a new Wayfarers novel from Becky Chambers and that's generally good enough for me. Each of the three previous novels in the series were absolute delights of positive science fiction (starting with A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet) and that's something to appreciate and anticipate.

9. Hummingbird Salamander, by Jeff VanderMeer (Apr, FSG)
: Perhaps moreso than any other writer, I have no idea what I am getting into when I start a Jeff VanderMeer novel. Some of them hit perfectly with me (Finch, Annihilation), others are a greater challenge, but all of them are like nothing I've read before and attempting to figure out what is going on and how it all works together is part of the fun.

10. Angel of the Overpass, by Seanan McGuire (May, DAW): My second novel from Seanan McGuire on this list. It's difficult to limit myself to only two, so I like to have one of them be a bit different than her two mainline series (Incryptid and October Daye), though this does tie in to her Incryptid novels. Angel of the Overpass is the third Ghost Roads novel. This is the continuing story of Rose Marshall, long dead ghost, and her battle with Bobby Cross. I can't wait.

11. We Are Satellites, by Sarah Pinsker (May, Berkley): Pinsker's prescience with A Song for a New Day was disturbing, though the novel was exceptional. We Are Satellites looks at the future of technology, the impact on one family, and how society deals with the changes brought with an ever-present tech. It's a Sarah Pinsker novel, which means it's going to be thoughtful, smart, and likely to be one of my favorite books of the year.

12. Sorrowland, by Rivers Solomon (May, MCD): The two previous books from Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghosts and The Deep, were incredible and powerful and punched you right through the gut. Sorrowland is likely to be a breakout novel outside of science fiction and fantasy, though this works very much around the traditions of the field. The book description noting that "here, monsters are not just individuals, but entire nations" tells the reader that this is a novel to pay attention to. Solomon's track record says this will be excellent. The description suggests Sorrowland will also be important.

13. The Witness for the Dead, by Katherine Addison (May, Tor)
: The Goblin Emperor was a spectacular novel and, in some ways even more remarkable in that it was a single volume stand alone fantasy. There's not nearly as many of those as there should be. The Goblin Emperor is still a standalone, it's just not standing as alone as it was before because The Witness for the Dead is set in the same world, featuring at least one of the same characters (Maia is not the lead here) - but will still tell a distinct and mostly separate story. There were always more stories to tell in this world and I'm quite glad that Addison is returning to tell one of them.

14. The Return of the Sorceress, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Jun, Subterranean): Silvia Moreno-Garcia doesn't miss, so frankly all I need to know is that this is her new novella. The rest will take care of itself. Throw in a deposed "Supreme Mistress of the Guild of Sorcerers" and some classic sword and sorcery as told by Moreno-Garcia and I'm all in.

15. The Spare Man, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Jul, Tor): One of my favorite ongoing series right now is Mary Robinette Kowal's Lady Astronaut series. The Spare Man looks to be somewhat different, it's a murder mystery on a cruise liner - but the cruise is between Earth and Mars. With Kowal's flair for storytelling, I have high expectations.

16. The Last Graduate, by Naomi Novik (Jul, Del Rey): We're a little behind in getting to the first Scholomance novel, A Deadly Education - but Novik's track record is stellar and her two previous novels (Uprooted and Spinning Silver) were a significant leveling up - so my plan for this year is to read A Deadly Education, love it as much as I expect to, and then move right into The Last Graduate.

17. A Psalm for the Wild-Built, by Becky Chambers (Jul, Publishing)
: This is the story of a monk and a robot. It's a new series from Becky Chambers and since this year has the bonus excitement of another Wayfarers novel it's going to be a good year. This is hopeful science fiction and that's exactly what I'm looking for.

18. She Who Became the Sun, by Shella Parker Chan (Jul, Tor): I'm into the idea of a retelling of the founding of the Ming Dynasty. I can't say that I know anything about the founding of the Ming Dynasty, but it's also not the same story that I've seen so many times and the base of a woman escaping death by taking on her dead's brother identity to eventually rise to greatness, well - that's a story I want to read.

19. Invisible Sun, by Charles Stross (Sep, Tor): It's been three years since the publication of Dark State, the second book in the Empire Games trilogy which itself was the follow up series to The Merchant Princes. I have a perpetual case of mixed feelings about the series (and an every-other volume theory of its relative quality), but I just love the ideas that Stross works without across this parallel-dimensional story. As far as I know (and as far as Stross has said publically), this is going to be it for the Merchant Princes universe and I really want to see how it ends.

20. The Wisdom of Crowds, by Joe Abercrombie (Sep, Orbit): I'm one book behind on my Abercrombie, but this new trilogy in the world of the First Law is as good as Abercrombie has ever been. A Little Hatred was one of the best fantasies of 2019 and as challenging of a world the First Law is, it's fascinating to see how Abercrombie is showing his world developing through changing technology. The fighting can still get down in the mud, but this isn't the same world as the Bloody Nine fought even though it's not too far away from it.

21. Jade Legacy, by Fonda Lee (Sep, Orbit)
: Without being trite about it, the Green Bone Saga is sort of what you might get if you took The Godfather, added magic and a whole lot of heart. Jade City and Jade War were two of the finest novels of their respective publication years and I have been eagerly awaiting Jade Legacy from the final page of Jade War. Now it's almost here and I am ready.

22. Leviathan Falls, by James S.A. Corey (Oct, Orbit): The time jump in The Expanse after book 6 was a bold storytelling choice, but it worked to reset the universe and give everything (and everyone) a chance to breathe. It also allowed James S.A. Corey to set the deck in a way that wouldn't have worked by pushing the timeline just a few months (or even a few years). James S.A. Corey is at the top of their game and with Leviathan Falls, we've come to the end of The Expanse. These nine volumes are collectively as good as it gets in space opera. 

23. Space Oddity, by Catherynne M. Valente (???, Saga): Speaking of Space Opera, I'm not quite sure if we'll see this in 2021 but Space Oddity is the sequel to Valente's sensational Space Opera. That was a Eurovision romp of galactic musical theater and I am here for another book. 

24. Losing Gravity, by Kameron Hurley (???, Saga): Kameron Hurley pitched Losing Gravity as "Killing Eve meets Die Hard, in space". I've long enjoyed Hurley's novels, but she leveled up quite a bit with The Stars Are Legion and then again in The Light Brigade. Hurley's fantasy has kicked ass, but her science fiction is next level.

So, that's it. 24 books I'm looking forward to in 2021. 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 2021" 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 Fugitive Telemetry (Martha Wells), Across the Green Grass Fields (Seanan McGuire), The Hidden Palace (Helene Wecker), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), Chaos on Catnet (Naomi Kritzer), On Fragile Waves (E. Lily Yu), and Machinehood (S.B. Divya) and any number of other novels that are likely to be my new favorites.

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. I'm pretty sure Alecto the Ninth (Tamsyn Muir) will push to 2022. Leigh Bardugo is likely to have a follow up to Ninth House, but I'm not sure if there is a publication date. I'm also hesitant to put novels like Sleight of Shadows (Kat Howard) or The Thorn of Emberlain (Scott Lynch) on my list simply because I've included them years before and this time I'd like something more locked in than in previous years.

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, 4x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him.