The 2019 Nebula Awards will be announced at the SFWA Nebula Conference in Los Angeles, CA, on (or around) May 18th. Over the past few months, I’ve been working to read and review all of the nominees in the Best Novel category. As theVerge.com describes:
The Nebula Awards are issued annually by SFWA to the best works in genre novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories published in the last year, alongside the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation. The Nebulas are a sort of industry award, determined by professional authors.
Over the coming months, I will be reviewing each finalist in the Best Novel category and linking those reviews here. As I have in years past, I will circle back to this post once the Nebula Award winners are announced in May to record the winner.
Be sure to follow this page for the latest updates to this review series, and as always don’t hesitate to read along with me and let me know what you think of these nominees (or the Nebula Awards) in the comments!
The Calculating Stars (Winner, Best Novel)
Known as “A Lady Astronaut Novel”, Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars broke onto the scifi scene last summer to immediate acclaim. This series explores an alternate history shaken by disaster and saved by enterprise, hope, and (as one reviewer put it) “a version of history where men eventually, finally, listen to women”. The stars of this story are women scientists with incredible spirit, and an alternate history that simultaneously inspires and devastates.
You can read my review of The Calculating Stars here.
The Poppy War
R.F. Kuang’s stunning debut, The Poppy War, is simultaneously an epic tale of an empire on the verge of war and a very personal tale of self-discovery and the struggle to make your dreams reality. Kuang’s story explores a world with a rich history, complex magic and politics, and a nation in denial about the war on the horizon.
I will not be posting a review of The Poppy War per my policy, as I did not enjoy it enough to finish. Instead, you may read Byron’s review from November 2018 here.
Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City has been hailed as startlingly unique and “remarkably urgent”. In a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by climate wars, floating cities house what is left of civilization. When a new disease joins the crime and corruption and wealth inequality ravaging one of these cities in the Arctic Circle, the city’s survival is threatened. Just when things look truly bleak, the city is visited by an “orcamancer”, a woman with a pet polar bear riding an orca, and are transfixed. This strange woman brings together various characters and begins a rebellion that might just be this city’s last hope for survival.
You can read my review of Blackfish City soon.
Naomi Novik became known for her brilliant narration, gorgeous world, complex characters, and vibrant magical stories long ago, but 2015’s Uprootedcemented her name on the list of great modern fantasy authors. Spinning Silver proves that this was no fluke, and explores a vital, vast tale that is part fantasy, part fairy tale, and all magic.
You can read my review of Spinning Silver here.
In C.L. Polk’s debut fantasy, Witchmark, magical families dictate the fate of nations from the shadows, spending lives and livelihoods of everyday people like nothing. Magic doesn’t play favorites, however, and graces the rich and the poor alike, though it does not save the poor from suffering, nor change the fate of those whose destiny laid them low. Perhaps the gift of magic is no grace at all.
I will not be posting a review of Witchmark per my policy, as I did not enjoy it enough to finish.
Trail of Lightning
A firm entry in NPR’s “2018 Great Reads” list, Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning tells a breathtaking story of a “badass indigenous monster-hunter and her silver-tongued sidekick” (quote from this book’s New York Times review). Despite being a huge story of a post-apocalyptic United States, Trail of Lightning had been lauded as a deeply personal tale, setting a unique heroine and her journey against a backdrop of frighteningly realistic global devastation and wickedly supernatural new dangers.
You can read my review of Trail of Lightning soon.