Diversity Reigns | 2017 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) recently announced the nominees for the 52nd Annual Nebula Awards and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book. These prizes honor the best in sf and fantasy—novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories—published during the prior calendar year.

From a historical fantasy inspired by Weimar Republic Berlin to a thought-provoking sf debut that tackles artificial intelligence and the pharmaceutical industry, the Best Novel nominees represent a wide range of voices, styles, and subject matter. “I think that the membership worked hard this year to ensure that the nomination list was diverse and to show how broad and varied science fiction and fantasy writing really is.” This year, YA author Fonda Lee scores a double header, earning a nod in the Best Novel category with her adult debut Jade City, while also receiving a Andre Norton Award nomination for Exo. Another nominated debut, Annalee Nowitz’s Autonomous, was one of LJ‘s Top SF/Fantasy Books of 2017, with Nowitz being one of five rising authors of speculative fiction to offer insights into writing in this genre at LJ‘s Day of Dialog 2017.

Below are LJ and SLJ reviews for the nominated titles in the Best Novel and Andre Norton Award categories. For a complete list of nominees, including the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Presentation, go to the SFWA’s website. The winners will be announced on the evening of May 19, at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center.

BEST NOVEL

starred review starAmberlough. Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor)
The Federated States of Gedda is a loosely connected group of four nation-states, but the tide is turning politically. The socially conservative One State Party, also known as the Ospies, is creeping its way into power. In a still-resistant Amberlough City (think Weimar Republic Berlin), Cyril DePaul works as a spy. But when he is outed during a mission against the Ospies, he either must collaborate with them or face execution. His decision to construct an elaborate deception endangers Aristide Makricossta, Cyril’s outspoken lover and the flamboyant emcee of the Bumble Bee Cabaret, who is also a successful smuggler. Thrown into the mix is Cordelia Lehane, a dancer at the Bumble Bee and Ari’s runner. The three risk being taken down by the corrupt police, the crooked government, or their own actions. VERDICT Donnelly’s striking debut brings a complex world of politics, espionage, and cabaret life to full vision. The emotional journeys of the characters as they struggle to survive in a society under siege by dark forces will strike a chord with readers as they race to the story’s conclusion. (LJ 2/15/17)—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter. Theodora Goss (Saga: S. & S)
After her mother’s death, Mary Jekyll is penniless. Her father had died not long before, and in searching through her mother’s few papers, Mary finds a reference to payments to a person named “Hyde.” Mary remembers her father’s disturbing associate, Edward Hyde, who disappeared after murdering a man. If she can collect the reward for information about Hyde’s whereabouts, she may be able to stay afloat. Yet the slim clue leads not to Edward, but to his illegitimate daughter Diana, and Mary turns to renowned detective Sherlock Holmes for help. Not only do Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson’s characters get an outing, but we dip into Frankenstein, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Nathaniel ­Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” for a cast of women who join Mary’s adventure and constantly interrupt the story more in the manner of a peanut gallery than a Greek chorus. veRDICT World Fantasy Award winner Goss (In the Forest of Forgetting) takes us on a delightful romp through Victorian gothic literature, with a decidedly feminist slant. (LJ 5/15/17)—Megan McCardle, Lib. of Congress, National Lib. Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Spoonbenders. Daryl Gregory (Knopf)
Behold the Amazing Telemachus family: mother, father, and three children (Frankie, Irene, and Buddy), and their varied powers make up a phenomenal traveling show. Alas, the Telemachuses’ fame fades into oblivion after they are discredited on live television. Patriarch Teddy, a talented con man, pretends to be a soothsayer to take on anyone he can squeeze money out of—including the Chicago Mafia. Beautiful Maureen, an honest-to-goodness psychic with a heart of gold, worked for the CIA during the Cold War. After her death, the children, now motherless, inherit strange but powerful abilities—and their genetically inherited talents continue down the line to Irene’s son, Matt. All of the characters, gifted in some way, are also cursed by their powers. Multiple members of the lovably flawed Telemachus family narrate this complex but highly relatable tale, which spans several decades. Gregory takes his time developing the story, but readers are rewarded when everything coalesces beautifully at the end. VERDICT This raucous, mind-bending, time-jumping tale is hilarious and occasionally touching and will appeal to teens who appreciate quirky family characters like those in Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest. (Adult Books 4 Teens, SLJ 12/17)—Tara Kehoe, formerly at the New Jersey State Lib. Talking Book and Braille Ctr., Trenton

The Stone Sky. N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US)
Essun is now the planet’s most powerful orogene, a human in full possession of the elemental powers. Having unleashed the power of the Gate, destroyed the community that took her in, and killed Alabaster Tenring, she now suffers the same effects that Alabaster was succumbing to. Before she completely turns into stone (the result of wielding her full orogene powers), Essun has two goals: catch the Moon and save the human race, and find her daughter, Nassun. Nassun is on her own quest. She travels with the damaged guardian Schaffa to the other side of the world, where Nassun believes she can find the root of the power she feels. The anger and hatred toward her own kind, until now, has shown her life’s darker side. For Nassun, sometimes the only way to fix something is to destroy it. VERDICT The powerful conclusion to the “Broken Earth” trilogy (The Fifth Season; The Obelisk Gate) will please the author’s many fans with its fully developed world, detailed settings, and complex characters. (LJ 7/17)—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

starred review starSix Wakes. Mur Lafferty (Orbit US)
Waking up on a spaceship in gravity failure surrounded by dead bodies, the six crew members climb out of their cloning chambers, baffled by what might have caused the carnage. While they can see that their former bodies were attacked, none of them have any memories of the events. In fact, they have no recollection of the past 20-odd years they have apparently been aboard the Dormire. In all their other lives, the clones were brought back to life using stored mind maps that allowed them to keep a continuity with their earlier selves. But now the six survivors must figure out who killed their previous bodies and why. VERDICT Lafferty (Bookburners) delivers the ultimate locked-room mystery combined with top-notch sf worldbuilding. The puzzle of who is responsible for the devastation on the ship keeps the pages turning. (LJ 12/16)—Megan McCardle, Lib. of Congress, National Lib. Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

starred review starJade City. Fonda Lee (Orbit US)
For centuries, the Green Bone warriors defended the island of Kekon from foreign invasion by using jade to enhance their physical and mental abilities. But now the peace is disintegrating as rival families compete to control Janloon, the capital city. Heading the No Peak clan are the Kauls. Eldest son Lan leads as Pillar, but he struggles with health issues and his grandfather’s efforts to seize control; sister Shae gave up her jade when she chose another path, but she has reluctantly been brought back into the family; youngest brother Hilo wields power as the Horn but is burdened by family issues. Yet as the Mountain clan, led by the notorious Ayt family, moves onto No Peak’s territory, and the Kauls try to stop their inevitable slide into clan war, the siblings discover much more is wrong beneath the surface tensions. VERDICT Making her adult fiction debut, YA author Lee (Zeroboxer) draws on her Chinese heritage, passion for gangster stories, and strong writing to launch a Godfather-inspired fantasy series that mixes bold martial-arts action and vivid worldbuilding. The result is terrific. (LJ 10/15/17)—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

starred review starAutonomous. Annalee Newitz (Tor)
Judith “Jack” Chen is a pharmaceutical pirate: by reverse-engineering prohibitively expensive drugs, she can make antivirals and other therapies available to the poor. Unfortunately, one of the drugs she duplicates is resulting in a series of lethal overdoses, and now she has to fix it and expose the truth about the corporation that created the original. Tracking down Jack is ­Paladin, a military-issue robot from the African Federation, and his human partner, Eliasz. Paladin’s first mission starts his countdown clock—ten (or so) years of indentured servitude for his robot body and bio brain, both belonging to the Federation. As Jack and Paladin’s paths bring them closer together, the black-and-white truths of the corporate and military worlds begin to bleed into gray. The cofounder of the sf website io9.com takes some of today’s key social and technical issues (the nature of artificial intelligence, the notion of property and ownership) and wraps them in a compelling, original story line acted out by memorable characters. VERDICT Lovers of original, thought-provoking sf should not miss this one. (LJ 7/17)—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton

The Andre  Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

Exo. Fonda Lee (Scholastic)
For 7 Up—After becoming a colony of an alien race, Earth has seen peace for 100 years. When certain children reach age five or six, they receive an exocel, or hard alien skeleton fused into their bodies. Donovan, 17, is an exo, and his erze marking designates him as an enhanced human soldier, indoctrinated since age 12 into training for SecPac, the colony’s security force. His human father is Prime Liaison, the  lead diplomat between the human government and erze oversight in West America. A human revolutionary group called Sapience instigates hatred toward SecPac by encouraging people to kill anyone who is erze-marked. During a shoot-out with suspected Sapience members, Donovan is captured by the group. After being tortured, he expects to be executed, but he becomes Sapience’s bargaining chip after they learn who his father is. Even as he realizes that his father is not willing to negotiate for his release, he falls for a young Sapience member, Anya. The fate of Earth rests on his survival because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another intergalactic war. Donovan discovers how his choices and actions can have devastating results, and his loyalties are torn among SecPac, his warring estranged parents, Sapience, and Anya. This action-packed novel asks readers to consider alien technology, what it means to be human or nonhuman, and the gray areas in war, where neither side is completely good or evil. VERDICT Ethical questions add complex layers to this exciting sci-fi offering. For large YA collections. (SLJ 12/1/16)—Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton

starred review starWeave a Circle Round. Kari Maaren (Tor)
Gr 7–10—Fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time will devour this debut author’s adventurous new fantasy. Afraid of being called “weird,” Freddy Duchamp tries to be invisible at school, but her brilliant little sister Mel and deaf stepbrother Roland often draw too much attention to her. Making matters worse are the new next-door neighbors and quirky Josiah, a boy her age, who follows her to every class. Freddy senses something strange is going on with the newcomers, and soon she’s swept away with Josiah on an epic quest through time. Mingling with Vikings, warriors, mythical figures, and futuristic races, her journey becomes one of self-discovery as well as one of self-preservation. Even Roland, her clumsy, annoying stepbrother, doesn’t seem so bad with centuries keeping them apart. Yet Josiah seems to be harboring a secret, and Freddy must find the courage to seek the answers if she ever wants to return to her family. This is one of those rare books that surprises readers at every turn because Maaren’s deft writing keeps the story impossible to predict. Although the cast of characters is big and the science mind-bending, readers will relate to awkward Freddy’s desire to fit in and the coming-of-age lessons she learns from each character on her path. Ultimately, the theme of being true to yourself and yet still kind to others will resonate with young people. VERDICT This wildly imaginative book deserves to be on every YA fantasy shelf (SLJ 12/17)—Sandi Jones, Wynne High School, AR

The Art of Starving. Sam J. Miller (HarperTeen)
Gr 10 Up—The less Matt eats, the more control he has over his body. The more control he has, the stronger his powers get. And he needs his powers strong if he’s going to find out what the bullies did to make his sister run away. And punish them. This is a compellingly narrated magical realism exploration of eating disorders, isolation, and desire. The first half makes for compulsive reading as teens watch Matt’s war with his own body and the mysterious unfurling of his abilities. There are some well-crafted dives into how eating disorders are experienced by young men, and young gay men in particular. Unfortunately, the book’s denouement falls largely flat, with pat resolutions and didactic twists, although it avoids the simple recovery trajectory trope. VERDICT A serviceable title for readers seeking an unconventional look at eating disorders and complicated gay romance. (SLJ 4/1/7)—L. Lee Butler, Hart Middle School, Washington, DC

Want. Cindy Pon (Simon Pulse)
Gr 9 Up–Jason Zhou and his friends are determined to change the world for the better. They live in an alternate future in smog-filled Taipei, where prolonged exposure to pollution can be fatal. The Jin Corporation holds a monopoly on manufacturing suits to protect citizens from the toxic air. Yet a rigid class structure divides those who can afford suits (yous) from those who cannot (meis). When it becomes clear to Jason and his friends that Jin, the CEO of Jin Corp, is driving profits by intentionally harming the environment and infecting citizens with a powerful strain of the flu, they decide to infiltrate and destroy the corporation. The success of this plan depends on Jason, who intends to pose as a you and gain intel by befriending Jin’s daughter. However, his developing feelings for Daiyu threaten to thwart the scheme. This fully realized futuristic city is complete with descriptions of airpeds, bots, and colorful nightlife. While the technological advancements are alluring, Pon reminds readers of the devastating effects of pollution by depicting the dull and damaged landscape of Taiwan. The plot moves along at a fast pace. There is plenty of romance to appeal to wistful readers, but this won’t deter fans who prefer action. A supporting cast of diverse and intelligent characters with relationships rooted in loyalty round out the book. VERDICT A strong sci-fi novel that will entice an array of readers. A solid addition to any library. (SLJ 4/1/17)—Amy Reddy, Lewiston High School, ME

 

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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.

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