This week the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have released the names of the books nominated for this year’s Nebula awards. The awards themselves will be voted on by members of the association and the winners announced in May (watch this space!), but in the meantime, why not take a look at the nominees, many of which are available here at the Field Library, to get an idea of what the best in speculative fiction was this past year?
All the Birds in the Sky, by Jane Anders, is a unique take on the end of the world, involving magic and cutting edge science and two people who are fated to be together, whether to save the world or usher in a new dark age. As you can see from that short description, there’s a lot going on in this book. Patricia Delfine was six years old when she followed a bird into a magic forest and asked a question of the Great Tree which changed her life forever. At the same time, when Laurence Armstead was in elementary school, he invented a small device that would allow people to jump two seconds into the future. The two of them kept running into each other thereafter, as Patricia moved deeper into the study of magic and Laurence became more involved with other scientists and inventors. Finally they reunited in San Francisco as the world began to fall apart, and they came to realize that something bigger than both of them is drawing them together, but for what purpose?
Some of us encountered Borderline, by Mishell Baker, as part of last year’s Reading Challenge (specifically, in the category of “read a book with a main character who has a mental illness”), but it’s worth revisiting now that it’s been nominated for a Nebula. Millie, the main character, is paraplegic, and also suffers from borderline personality disorder. Her life is kind of messed up, so she’s a little surprised when she’s recruited for a top secret agency which works to oversee deals between Hollywood hotshots and the fairy world (what are her qualifications? What could they possibly want with her, of all people?), but she gamely takes on the task, even when it turns out to be much more complicated and dangerous than she ever could have anticipated.
I’ve already written about Everfair by Nisi Shawl (https://fieldlibraryadults.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/everfair-the-other-side-of-heart-of-darkness/), so all I’m going to add is that this is an alternate history novel that looks at the European genocide in the Congo in a very different way from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and it’s exciting to see the book being recognized by the Nebula nominating committee.
If you prefer space opera to other kinds of speculative fiction, you’re in luck here, because another of the nominees is Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee, is a book about interstellar war, whose protagonist, Captain Kel Cheris, is given the nearly impossible task of taking back a star fortress recently captured by heretics. More than just her career and reputation are at stake, but the only way she can imagine winning this is by enlisting the help of an undead military genius, Shuos Jedeo, who never lost a battle. Unfortunately Jedeo also went mad toward the end of his life, resulting in the slaughter of two armies, one of which was the one he was leading, and Cheris has some concerns that she might not be able to trust Jedeo, and that she might be his next victim.
N. K. Jemisin is no stranger to awards; her last book, The Fifth Season, won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the sequel to that book, The Obelisk Gate, is in the running for a 2017 Nebula award as well. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Fifth Season, then you’ve probably already got The Obelisk Gate on hold, and if you haven’t, this is a middle book so you would do well to start at the beginning of the series. Basically, the books take place on an earth where apocalyptic near destructions of the planet occur frequently, and there are people who have the power to move the tectonic plates, who are hated and feared by the rest of the population. The world building has been highly praised, and while it’s a middle book of a trilogy and therefore leaves certain things hanging, it’s still an impressive novel and carries on the amazing story from the first book.