We at Tentacle HQ are very, very sad that we didn’t get to run the award last year – I mean, there are upsides, like not having to explain to house/office-mates that the 200ish books that one has built furniture from are going to be around, yes, dear, another six months at least.
But the downside was that there were some amazing books out in 2016. I mean, some really stunning things. I asked several past Kitschies judges to talk about some of the brilliant things that were progressive, intelligent, and entertaining and we’re going to put them up here.
I get to go first because, well, I do most things around here. In no particular order, my personal Kitschies fakelist for 2017:
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai) shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention: maths (for the non-mathematical) geeks grapple with empire and gender and culture and race and war. I don’t re-read a lot of books but re-read it after 6 months and not only remembered so much but was completely enthralled, again, with not only the worldbuilding, but the craft of the book: it’s very difficult to drop someone into the middle of a space battle where the rules of reality are rewritten based on a mathematical calendar of belief but Lee does it. Not only that, the hero/villain is stunning and the hero/victim makes you want someone to just… be nice to her. It’s rightly on the Clarke, the Hugo, the Nebula… and I’d be arguing it onto the Kitschies shortlist at the very least.
The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemisin (@nkjemisin) is definitely worth a think about – to be honest, it might not make it to the shortlist because series books are a very, very difficult sell, but it’s made it onto the Nebula and Hugo shortlist in any case. Jemisin’s taken the world she’s built in the Red Tentacle shortlisted The Fifth Season and turned up the heat on the characters – literally and figuratively. It’s in some ways a more conventional story and it’s setting up the final book well, and our understanding from our spies in Elsinore that the third book is locked up tighter than The Winds of Winter, except that it exists.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-García is a vampire book that’s actually worth reading. Seriously. Even if you were a goth in the 90s with a severe vampire fetish and you could quote The Crow and now you’re so over it (ahem). Moreno-García takes us to Mexico DF, cutting from the poorest residents to the richest, from old money to new, and lets us examine our own power struggles and our own attempts to grow up. It’s an excellent read, and it should really be on more shortlists.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. We loved reading A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet two years ago, which was a small story about big things – and this book shows how Chambers has developed her craft. It’s a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt like a total and complete outcast and who’s managed to find another outcast friend. The thing that Chambers does is take something that’s tropey as hell – you could almost imagine Heathers or Mean Girls rewritten with Blue and Pepper as the nerds telling their side of the story, but then she uses those tropes to tell something deeper. She deserves every fan she’s got.
Those are my four – keep in mind that I haven’t read nearly as widely as a judge – I didn’t get tipper truck loads of books dropped at my offices this year. We’ll have more from Cat Webb and Adam Roberts in just a few days.