A Long Year’s Dreaming: The Novels that Remain

Once I’ve finished reviewing the Hugo finalists for WWAC, I’m hopinh to crack on with A Long Year’s Dreaming: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror in 2020. Because I’ve decided to delay the project past its original deadline of December, I’ve got space to cover a few more books. But not much time: the Splatterpunk Award finalists will presumably be announced in February, after which I’ll be going back to my annual tradition of reviewing those. So, I’ve got about three months to write more work for A Long Year’s Dreaming.

I’d be very interested in hearing recommendations: can you think of any SF/F/H novels from 2020 that warrent coverage?

For my part, I’ve been looking at awards for ideas. I’ve covered the Hugos, so allow me to look further afield. First, the Nebulas:

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • Winner: Network Effect by Martha Wells

Once we’ve discounted the books that were also Hugo finalists, we’re left with Mexican Gothic (which I’m definitely going to try and squeeze in0 and The Midnight Bargain (which I might take a look at).

Now, the World Fantasy Awards:

  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke
  • Trouble the Saints, Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones
  • Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The Midnight Bargain, C.L. Polk

I’m definitely covering The Only Good Indians, and Trouble the Saints looks interesting. Next, the Arthur C. Clarke awards:

  • The Infinite by Patience Agbabi
  • The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
  • Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu
  • Edge of Heaven by R.B. Kelly
  • The Animals in that Country by Laura Jean McKay
  • Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

This is where my reading list starts to bulge. Six whole novels, none of which I’ve read. I doubt I’ll have time to cover them all, so any specific recommendations?

Incidentally, the awards I’ve looked at so far also include all of the novels that were up for this year’s Ignyte Awards. So, I’ll skip on to the Bram Stoker Award:

  • Jones, Stephen Graham – The Only Good Indians
  • Katsu, Alma – The Deep
  • Keisling, Todd – Devil’s Creek
  • Malerman, Josh – Malorie
  • Moreno-Garcia, Silvia – Mexican Gothic

Three more books for the “possible” list. My one issue here is that the book’s already got a pretty good helping of horror novels — I’d rather dig out fantasy and SF.

Now, let us move on to the collosal ballot that is the Dragon Awards. I should mention that the Dragons have a weird eligibility period, and I’ve had to strike some of these out for the simple reason that they weren’t published in 2020.

1. Best Science Fiction Novel

  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
  • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow
  • Machine by Elizabeth Bear
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine

I’ve got a pencilled-in idea to cover Ready Player 2 alongside Bill and Ted Face the Music as an essay on 80s nostalgia. I’d be up for covering the other three, too.

2. Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • Dead Lies Dreaming by Charles Stross
  • Battle Ground by Jim Butcher
  • Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
  • Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

I’m too far behind on Stormlight Archive, Laundry Files and Dresden Files to cover the latest additions to any series, so that narrows the list down to two novels: Once and Future Witches and Addie LaRue.

3. Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • The Tinderbox: Soldier of Indira by Lou Diamond Phillips
  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • A Peculiar Peril by Jeff VanderMeer
  • The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke

I was tempted to skip this whole category… but a couple of these actually look interesting. Hmm.

4. Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • Orders of Battle by Marko Kloos
  • Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio
  • Sentenced to War by J.N. Chaney, Jonathan Brazee
  • Direct Fire by Rick Partlow
  • Fleet Elements by Walter Jon Williams
  • Gun Runner by Larry Correia, John D. Brown

All of the eligable books are entries in series I’ve either never read, or started but didn’t stick with. No way do I have the time to catch up.

5. Best Alternate History Novel

  • The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Daggers in Darkness by S.M. Stirling
  • 1637: No Peace Beyond The Line by Eric Flint, Charles Gannon
  • A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
  • Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis
  • The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris

Once we’ve deducted the already-covered/ineligible books, we’re left with two titles, one of which (1637) is the sequel to a long-running series I’ve not read. Certainly narrows it down.

6. Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • MacGyver: Meltdown by Eric Kelley, Lee Zlotoff
  • Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy by Timothy Zahn
  • Shadows Rising World of Warcraft: Shadowlands by Madeleine Roux
  • Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule
  • Firefly: Generations by Tim Lebbon
  • Penitent by Dan Abnett

Think I’ll pass on all of these. I’m not familiar enough with World of Warcraft, Firefly or MacGyver to be interested in coverng their tie-ins, and while I’ve chosen a Star Wars book to cover, it isn’t that one.

7. Best Horror Novel

  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  • The Taxidermist’s Lover by Polly Hall
  • True Story: A Novel by Kate Reed Perry
  • The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay
  • Synchronicity by Michaelbrent Collings

I’m definitely covering The Taxidermist’s Lover (already written the review) and the others are all tempting. My one concern is, once again, tipping the scales too far towards horror.

Next, the Goodreads Choice Awards. Since I’m typing out these lists by hand, I’m not going to bother striking anything out — I’m just going to skip anything I’ve eitehr already covered, or is a sequel to something I’ve not read.


  • Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune
  • The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence
  • Bone Shard Daughter by Andrewa Stewar

Wow, deducting the series novels really didn’t leave me with much. I should be able to squeeze in at least one of these.

Science fiction:

  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
  • The Space Between Worlds by Miciah Johnson
  • The New Wilderness by Diane Cook
  • Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez
  • The Book of Koli by M. R. Carey
  • Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
  • The Mother Code by Carole Stivers
  • Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick by David Wong
  • The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis

Okay, I’ll admit, the title alone makes me interested in covering Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick. Beyond that, I’ve got plenty of SF recommendations to choose from…


  • Devolution by Max Brooks
  • Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
  • Malorie by Josh Malerman
  • Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica
  • The Hollow Ones by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  • Bright Lands by John Fram
  • The Loop by Jeremy Robert Thompson
  • The Ghost Tree by Christina Henry
  • Secret Santa by Andrew Shaffer
  • World Departed by Sarah Lyons Fleming
  • Houndings of Hell by Hunter Holmes

Once again, I’m leery about overdoing horror — although covering Secret Santa alongside my already-written review of The Taxidermist’s Lover might make for an interesting “scary Christmas” chapter.

Finally, we have the Wonderland Awards, for bizarro. The preliminary ballot is huge, but includes a lot of small-press goodness — something I’d very much like to include alongside the heavy-hitters.

2 thoughts on “A Long Year’s Dreaming: The Novels that Remain”

  1. *cackles and rubs hands*

    Heh. You left yourself open for this one.

    Drawing from those already listed:

    The Vanished Birds: I didn’t care for it all that much, but it is the definition of a literary SF novel. On that basis, you might want to try it.

    The Space Between Worlds: A good, if flawed, debut, with some interesting characters and examinations of identity and survivors’ guilt. What fell flat for me is the worldbuilding.

    The Hollow Places and A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking: I am biased on these, because I love Kingfisher’s work. I didn’t think The Hollow Places quite lived up to her previous horror novel, The Twisted Ones, which is a mini masterpiece; but I think it’s worth checking out. And I unreservedly love Wizard’s Guide. It’s wry and funny and has a young heroine wise beyond her years, who knows she shouldn’t have to be the one to save her city (instead of the adults), but steps up and does it anyway.

    Elatsoe: I guess this is the epitome of an “ownvoices” book, a Lipan Apache author writing about a Lipan Apache protagonist, culture and myth. It also has some lovely illustrations by Rovina Cai.

    I’ll second The Once and Future Witches; it was one of my favorite 2020 books. There are so many good things about it: the beautiful prose, the author’s usual theme of the power of stories; but I think this one’s characters and their individual arcs are outstanding.

    Machine: It’s part of her White Space space opera series and shares some characters with the first book, but it can be read as a standalone. It has a fascinating setting–a moon-sized multispecies hospital–and tackles ethical dilemmas, belief, and crises of faith (not religious faith, but faith in one’s world and values).

    Others from 2020: You know you pretty much have to tackle Harrow the Ninth, right? I was disappointed with it, but others have raved.

    Hella, by David Gerrold: This book flew under the radar, but I thought it was interesting, even if it couldn’t quite make up its mind whether it wanted to be an alien travelogue or a political thriller.


    1. Thanks for the commentary — I’m going to cover Harrow as part of my Hugo reviews at WWAC, but I decided against including my review in this book because, as the middle-volume of a trilogy, the book’s a bit awkward to discuss on its own. I’m planning to talk about the trilogy of a whole in the horror-specific essay collection I’m working on, though, assuming that the final volume will have come out by then.


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