And here we have the Novella finalists!
Fire Ant by Jonathan P. Brazee (Semper Fi) 3 out of 5
This was a somewhat middle of the road story for me. I enjoyed the world building of it, but the style didn’t exactly have the flavor I was looking for and left me rather disappointed. I think Brazee does an excellent job with pacing and action, but some of the extra details feel pointless, such as our heroine’s height and a few others, but that would be too nit-picky.
Otherwise, this is a great pulpy sci-fi adventure that seems intent and leading to more expansive stories.
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com Publishing) 4 out of 5
This was a fun little book. I haven’t read a lot of steampunk or even a lot of Caribbean fiction, but this was a super fun romp through an alt-New Orleans. My only true critique is that the ending is pretty rote with a neat bow tied almost too well at the end. I am happy that both Creeper and the Captain were able to have completed arcs by the end.
For sure going to keep an eye on Clark moving forward and I may even hunt for some of his short fiction.
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean) 4 out of 5
This was a well put together sleuth plot, of course set in a rather fantastic setting. The characters bounce off one another quite well and the resolution was fantastic because as all mysteries go, it’s not some much about the actual case as it is about the individuals attempting to solve the case. Bodard does an excellent job with the world building, though I understand this is part of a larger universe she has created and continues to write in.
All around a solid novella!
Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
Could not get my hands on a copy of this! Sorry, everyone!
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Tor.com Publishing) 3 out of 5
This was a really different read and one that takes a lot of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoy Robson’s style, but the pacing of this novella felt slightly off and the burn towards the end, didn’t feel as realized as it could have been.
The idea of radical body mids, real-time health monitoring, and habs are all fun tech, even if I don’t enjoy time travel as a trope in sci-fi, Robson does a fantastic job burying it in office/business politics.
Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing) 3 out of 5
Wells does it again! Murderbot is so much fun, but this one seemed to take some time going. And there were some themes that I missed from the first that was either untouched or underdeveloped. Murderbot’s awareness of their lack of humanity takes center stage, but her apparent clear human-like behaviors go unnoticed.
I plan on reading the rest of the novella series to see how she finishes it. There were some real jewels in this that made me chuckle. The conversations between Art and Murderbot were the best bits. Can’t wait to read the next one!