LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Diversity and Quality | 2015 Nebula Award Nominations

NebulacolorSince 1966, the Nebula Awards have recognized the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). This week the organization announced its nominees for the 50th Annual Nebula Awards, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

Unlike last year’s controversial Hugo nominations, the selections this year pleased critics and fans. Blogger Andrew Liptak on io9.gizmodo.com praised the diversity of the list. “What jumps out right away is that this is a strong, diverse list of works and authors. After last year’s problems with the Hugo Awards, it’s great to see that such a narrow-minded view of speculative fiction isn’t shared by the professional community as a whole.”

Librarians Megan McArdle and Kristi Chadwick, co-columnists for LJ‘s sf/fantasy column, were thrilled that Fran Wilde’s Updraft, which Megan starred, received double nods in the adult and YA categories. But Kristi was surprised that Naomi Novak’s coming-of-age fairy tale Entangled didn’t get a cross-nomination.

The awards will be presented in Chicago at the SFWA Nebula Conference at the Palmer House Hotel, with comedian John Hodgman hosting the ceremony on May 14.

Below are LJ‘s reviews (where available) of the major nominations. For the full list, go to the the SFWA’s website. For School Library Journal’s reviews of the nominated YA titles, see  http://www.slj.com/2016/02/industry-news/andre-norton-award-nominees-for-outstanding-speculative-fiction-announced/.

 

NOVEL

Raising Caine, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)

9780316229296[1]redstarThe Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
In a world plagued by cataclysmic tectonic activity, the only way to survive is to constantly prepare for the next fifth season. But no one is ready for the scope of the disaster that strikes when the capital city of a continent-wide empire is subsumed in a massive rift that spreads hundreds of miles. Using alternating points of view, Jemisin explores the lives of several characters in the years leading up to the cataclysmic disaster. ­VERDICT Multiaward winner Jemisin breaks uncharted ground with this long-awaited title that introduces a fresh world and trilogy, creating a completely realized society inhabited by three varieties of humans and a nonhuman species that lives inside the earth. With Jemisin’s record of prestigious literary honors, plus her strong following, this is a must-buy for all speculative fiction collections and an excellent recommendation for fans of Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn” trilogy. (LJ 6/15/15)—Jessica Moyer, Univ. of Illinois Lib., Champaign 

51NmhDOOkQL[1]Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
Fleet Captain Breq, once ancillary to the Justice of Toren and last seen in Ancillary Sword, is still on Atheok station. She’s trying to improve life for the residents of the Undergarden, but the brewing conflict between rival aspects of Anaander Mianaai finally arrives on her doorstep. Breq’s desire for revenge against Mianaai burns as bright as ever, but her plan to oppose the Lord of the Radch will change not only the political landscape but all human and AI relations. While not quite as compelling as the two books in Leckie’s award-winning “Imperial Radach” series, this is still highly impressive sf. We not only get more time with the fascinating characters of Breq and her troubled lieutenant Seivarden, who started this journey together, but Leckie introduces a representative from the Presger empire to knock everything a little off balance. Breq is the ultimate agent of change, upsetting a status quo that stood for millennia and advocating for a revolution in determining who is considered a person in a post–AI world. VERDICT This trilogy will stand as a classic of sf for the ages, although it’s difficult not to want more stories set in this captivating universe. (LJ 9/15/15)—MM

51HkXVbUAbL[1]The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu (Saga)
Not many generations after one of the kings of Dara rose and united all the kingdoms under his own imperial flag, others plot to destroy the Imperium and restore the old realms. Two men who grew up under imperial rule are fun-loving, easygoing Kuni Garu and the noble scion and fierce warrior Mata Zyndu. Both find their purpose in the wars against the Imperium, but when that enemy is vanquished, their differing natures set them on an inevitable path to conflict. VERDICT A long-awaited debut novel from award-winning short story writer Liu, this is the first volume of what looks to be a chewy epic fantasy series. The plot builds slowly, but the author is clearly planning for the long haul. Rather than drawing on a medieval Europe influence for his world, Liu has pulled in Asian cultural touches, which make for a nice change. (LJ 3/15/15)—MM

uprooted52015redstarUprooted, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
Agnieszka has no plans to leave her village on the edge of the forest until she is unexpectedly chosen to serve the local wizard, a mysterious man known as the Dragon. Agnieszka’s exploration of her new life coincides with an attack from the deadly sentient forest, a kissing queen, and a prince on a quest. Novik’s newest is a departure from her previous military-influenced Napoleonic dragon fantasies (most recently seen in Blood of Tyrants), so much so that readers can’t be blamed for thinking it’s a completely different writer. Drawing on her Polish heritage and fairy-tale tropes, the author has penned an original and fully realized fantastical place guaranteed to enthrall her longtime fans and attract new readers. VERDICT This exceptional fantasy for adult and teen readers should appeal to those who love fairy tale–influenced stories such as Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End. (LJ 4/15/15)—JM

91VUYTvyFOL[1]Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen (Tor)
In the future, humans have vanished; what remains are the anthropomorphic animals from the former Earth, who have spread throughout the universe bringing with them their own cultures and prejudices. The exiled Fants (elephants) on Barsk are even more separated than the other animal species. Their only contact is through the trade of koph, a special plant that gives certain creatures the ability to speak with the dead. It is this plant that is at the heart of the conflict that will test the resolve of two Fants as they uncover a shameful truth that the most powerful in the universe will do anything to keep secret. VERDICT Readers who like their sf to extensively delve into philosophical subjects will love this book. Schoen’s (Calendrical Regression) quiet read muses on a variety of subjects, including memory, history, and sacrifice. The characters and world are so well drawn that it doesn’t take long to understand the universe the author has crafted. There is plenty of crossover appeal in terms of ages and genres. (LJ 11/15/15)—Laura Hiatt-Smith, Conifer, CO

updraft7615redstarUpdraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)
On the eve of the wing test that will finally allow her to take her place alongside her mother as a trader between the towers, Kirit Densira breaks tower law and attracts a skymouth. In a panic, she finds an unexpected skill: her voice can control the invisible predators that roam the skies around the towers. This talent brings her to the attention of the Singers, those in charge of enforcing tower laws and protecting the people. Forced to train with the Singers, Kirit soon uncovers secrets about her own family and about the Singers that could endanger the towers at risk. VERDICT The world of the towers grown from bone, where residents strap on wings and soar the air currents, is captivating. As a coming-of-age story, Kirit’s journey to find her place is satisfying, but the real draw is a world that readers will be anxious to revisit in future volumes of this exciting new series. (LJ 7/15)—MM

Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation

Ex Machina, Written by Alex Garland
A best DVD of 2015. (LJ 1/16)
Inside Out, Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley; Original Story by Pete Docter & Ronnie del Carmen
Jessica Jones: AKA Smile, Teleplay by Scott Reynolds & Melissa Rosenberg; Story by Jamie King & Scott Reynolds
Mad Max: Fury Road, Written by George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, & Nick Lathouris
The Martian, Screenplay by Drew Goddard
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, & Michael Arndt

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy

Seriously Wicked, Tina Connolly (Tor Teen)
Court of Fives, Kate Elliott (Little, Brown)
Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK 5/14; Amulet)
Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace (Big Mouth House)
Zeroboxer, Fonda Lee (Flux)
Shadowshaper, Daniel José Older (Levine)
Bone Gap, Laura Ruby (Balzer + Bray)
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
Updraft, Fran Wilde (Tor)

 

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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.