Part 1 of hopefully several. (Everyone loves novels!) Keep sending in those recommendations, especially for Best Novel, but all categories are great!
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
Concluding volume of Ann Leckie’s “Imperial Radch” trilogy, an absolutely classic space opera, and a convincing finale to a great story.
The Capital of Latecomers by Nina Nenova and Vladimir Poleganov
Bulgarian slipstream novel dealing with a psychologically crippled artist recuperating at a luxury resort which may (or may not) be haunted by the ghosts of an extinct civilization. Devious, complex and unsettling.
The Chimes by Anna Smaill
Man Booker-nominated fantasy set in a near-future England devastated by catastrophe, where memory is impossible and writing has been replaced by music.
Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman
Thoughtful novel about an expedition to an alien planet, where different ways of seeing things – both literally and metaphorically – become vitally important.
Thunderingly enormous Germanic epic concerning Mandred Torgridson, a human nobleman in a quasi-mediaeval setting, who is caught up in a war between the elves and an ancient adversary. (First published in German in 2004, this English translation 2015.)
The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin
First volume of a planned trilogy set in a world beset by natural disasters. Complicated, thoughtful, and beautifully written.
The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord
Sequel to “The Best of All Possible Worlds”: Rafi Delarua leaves his home planet to train for a complex game, and finds it’s played for higher stakes than he first thought.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Beyond a finely crafted story and relatable characters, what really lifts this book up above the rest is the format. Illuminae is told in a “found format” of chat logs between the two teens, computer logs, memos, and the like.
Inish Carraig by Joe Zebedee
High quality self-published YA novel concerning the aftermath of an alien invasion of Earth, where a Belfast teenager is caught up in a conflict between two alien races.
The Just City by Jo Walton
An attempt to implement Plato’s philosophical Republic is granted phenomenal, ideal conditions, but skirts ever-closer to dystopia. But it’s not just a dystopia story – it’s a story about different people, in extraordinary circumstances, each trying in their own way to be good; to do good; to build a society that they can be proud of.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Fantasy novel with a contemporary setting, centred around a library containing absolutely everything, the man who built it, and the librarians he’s recruited to work in it. Inventive and often graphically gory.
Planetfall by Emma Newman
Emma Newman’s story about a reclusive 3d printer engineer on an extrasolar colony world, hiding a grim secret from the rest of the colonists.
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Widescreen baroque alternative-universe SF about a film-maker who disappears mysteriously when making a documentary about Venus. Exotic and inventive, with deliciously pyrotechnic prose.
Something Coming Through by Paul McAuley
Two investigators solve a mystery in a setting where benevolent aliens have given humanity access to a number of new worlds – though the worlds are not without their dangers.
The Traitor [Baru Cormorant] by Seth Dickinson
(Variant titles in US and UK: the UK one is just “The Traitor”.) Follows the eponymous Baru Cormorant, a child of a newly assimilated province of a subtly colonizing empire, as she becomes an official of that empire while secretly despising it. Fascinating, but very grim.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Fantasy tale in a quasi-mediaeval-Polish setting, complete with ambiguous sorcerers, sinister woods, and a seriously dangerous villain. Initial fairytale ambience develops into high-stakes drama and adventure.