Welcome to Smugglivus 2017! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2017, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2018, and more.
We reach the end of this year’s Smugglivus with the now traditional LAST SMUGGLIVUS post from Lady Business and Fangirl Happy Hour’s Renay <3
My Favorite Books From Previous Years: 2017 Edition
End of year book lists are in full swing (see, Smugglivus. You are here.) and my TBR list is no longer only a list. It’s a Instapaper folder full of links I need to go through and sort, because I’m adding every book that sounds good from all the lists I read. That’s pretty much 95% of them. I’m doomed. But I also love my TBR these days, which I do use at my library (what books should I check out?) and bookstores (what books could I buy that my library doesn’t have yet?). So many great choices!
But that means that there are a lot of lists out talking about quality books published this year, 2017. Which is great! Hooray for 2017 books. Good job, authors of those books. You did it! But I thought it would be nice to make a list that featured older books I loved and spread the bookish joy around a bit to books that have fallen from the spotlight. (Also, I would love it if you joined me and shared a list and told me about it! MORE LISTS.)
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
The Killing Moon was the first novel by Jemisin I read. It’s the first in a duology and tells the story of Gujaareh and the Gatherers, priests of a goddess of dreams who have the power to harvest power from the minds of the city’s sleeping citizens. They can also see the truth of the person’s deeds—and cast permanent justice. It’s political and stuffed full of fascinating characters and world building and I love it dearly.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Zinzi December lives on the edge of poverty as part of a criminal class created by a cultural event that gave specific criminals animal companions. With her sloth and her special skill of finding lost items, she’s pulled into a conspiracy that may cost her everything. I loved the metatext of this novel and the way it plays with expectations. It’s a mix of science fiction, urban fantasy, and noir, and Zinzi December is the kind of protagonist I love to see.
Court of Fives by Kate Elliott
Jessamy is caught between two worlds: the one as part of the colonizer class with her father as the head of the family and an influential military leader, and the one as a secret Fives competitor, the athletic contest popular in her country. When a powerful politician ruthlessly rips Jessamy’s family apart, she has to put her skills in the Fives to work—both on the court and in her life—to rescue her mother and sisters. For so long I’ve recced Cold Magic as a good place to start in on Elliott’s immense and entertaining backlist, but with Court of Fives she’s really created a wonderful world that’s even more accessible to readers who don’t normally read epic fantasy. I loved Jessamy’s story, the world building, the the complicated relationships she comes to have with her love of the Fives, her place in the culture, and the talented prince—who also competes against her in the games.
Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Cas Russell is good at math, which makes her the exact opposite of me. But her story is a great; it’s a riveting speculative fiction thriller. If you watched Lucy and wanted less of whatever that was and more awesome lady hero, then may I suggest Cas’s story as she falls down into a conspiracy centered around someone else with a superpower…one that allows them to control minds. All minds—even Cas’s.
The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
There’s a secret girl in a garden with stories tattooed on her eyelids. She shares them with a boy, the stories folding into each other to reveal her own personal story. I picked this book up on a whim, and even though I’m picky with fairytales, the wonderful nested nature of the stories in this book enchanted me the entire way through. This first book has really stuck with me throughout the years. The second book in the duology, In the Cities of Coin and Spice, is equally rich and intensely readable.
The Girl-Thing That Went Out For Sushi by Pat Cadigan
At Jupiter in the Milky Way, formerly human workers (genetically modified for the harsh conditions) and their human, Fry, do manual labor in zero gravity. They call themselves “sushi”. As the story begins Fry gets hurt and Arkae and the rest of Fry’s crew have to deal with the fallout and weird events surrounding Fry’s situation. This story is incredibly creative and it appropriately won a Hugo award, but the only place I can seem to find it to have people read it is in the anthology Edge of Infinity. Does anyone know any great small publishers who could do a paperback version?
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
England’s magical stocks are drying up and Zacharias Wythe, former slave and current Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, is on the case. But the case also contains one Prunella Gentleman, an incredibly powerful woman with a mysterious past. Their adventures together lead them on a hunt that changes everything about the society of magic in London and does it with flair. Prunella is still a character I think about often—she’s opinionated, confident, and unafraid to own her accomplishments. This book is such fun.
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
Moon, living in disguise among humans for most of his life, is actually a shapeshifter. But because his other form looks too much like evil monsters that patrol his world, he has to keep it a secret—until he’s discovered by the humans but also manages to discover someone like him, who opens up an entirely new culture of his people he had no clue existed before. I still think of The Cloud Roads as an SF biological thriller, because so much of the story is rooted in biology of Moon and the other Raksura he meets as he navigates an entirely new society. This is the start to a series, so if you like it there are several more books and short fiction collections, too.
vN by Madeline Ashby
We meet Amy shortly before she eats her grandmother. Amy is a von Neumann machine: a humanoid robot who can self-replicate. As part of family with her “mother” and human father, she is young at the start of the novel, on a restricted diet program to grow up “regularly” like human children do. But after consuming her grandmother after said grandmother (also a robot) attacks her school, her growth spirals out of control and she ages up—fast. She also ends up on the run with another robot, Javier, while struggling with the realization that the failsafe that stops her specific group of robots from harming humans, has failed. I’m a sucker for a good robot story, and this one delivers. It’s byzantine and weird and sometimes incomprehensible, but in the way that sentient machines and their thought process/memories like this might be to soft, organic humans. It’s also about Amy discovering her personal autonomy and strength as who she truly is, but also retaining her humanity and empathy.
The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
Jo, oldest of her eleven sisters, acts as a go-between between herself and her siblings and their emotionally distant, casually cruel father. Little does he know that Jo takes herself and her sisters out at night to dance, enjoying themselves in the ways they can until he starts marrying them off. When their carefree dancing plans are finally disturbed by a raid, everything spirals out of Jo’s careful control. This was based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses, and although I am picky with fairytales, this adaptation, set in 1920s Manhattan, knocks it out of the park. It has strong sister relationships, a difficult and bittersweet romance, and the story of twelve young women all finally finding their way in the world.