Top Ten Tuesday: 2020 SF debuts

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s all about books, lists and sharing the love we have of both with our bookish friends. This week, I’m going rogue for SciFiMonth to celebrate 2020 SF debuts.

2020 has been a helluva year to release a new book. No in-person launch events, no signing tours, no conventions. Limited footfall into physical bookshops, so fewer eyeballs snagging on artfully arranged ‘recent release’ displays or ‘staff recommendation’ notes. If big name authors get more support from publishing and PR teams at the best of times, this is doubly the case when those teams are doing their best to improvise from home.

While there’s been exciting developments in terms of digital events – from one-off mini-panels and ‘authors in conversation’ events to fully-blown digital conventions (all hail FIYAHcon for showing just how brilliant these can be) – it remains a hard truth that generating buzz around book launches has been an uphill battle.

It’s far too easy for a debut to slide down the 2020 timeline with barely a ripple. SO: grab a glass, settle in and let’s look back at some of the SF debuts so far.

The Vanished Birds – Simon Jimenez | Titan Books

A ship’s captain cut off from the world by relativity. A young man with a much-prized power. A scientist determined to help humanity take its next step. This book has been described as beautiful and haunting – one for readers looking for slower-paced, introspective SF that stirs your sense of wonder.

Hench – Natalie Zina Walschots | William Morrow

Fast, furious and here for your spreadsheets – when Anna’s life is ruined by a superhero, she goes to work for the other side. What’s the difference between good and evil except a good marketing department? Expect: data science, office politics, body horror and plenty of snark.

The Space Between Worlds – Micaiah Johnson | Hodder & Stoughton

The gates of the multiverse are open – so long as you’re already dead in the reality you want to visit. Cara is dead in all but 8, which makes her awfully nervous. On her home world, she’s on a safe path to citizenship; on the world her latest counterpart died on, she holds the keys to the future of the multiverse itself…

Repo Virtual – Corey J White | Tor

A virtual repoman and meatspace thief finds his life gets complicated when he steals the world’s first sentient AI. I loved Corey J White’s fierce, violent Voidwitch novellas – his debut novel is a cyberpunk heist that crewmate JonBob says ‘drags the genre kicking and screaming into 2020’.

Beneath the Rising – Premee Mohamed | Solaris

Premee Mohamed is coming for your genre boundaries, and she’s brought tentacles. Expect cosmic horror and teenage genius (these two may be connected) in an alternate now where the price of saving the world is… the world. Look, it’s on offer this week, what more do you want?

The Sentient – Nadia Afifi | Flame Tree Press

Afifi’s debut promises to be a sci-fi noir delivering on action and world-building. Amira Valdez just wants to put her religious past behind her and escape to space. A brilliant neuroscientist, she’s assigned instead to a controversial cloning project that threatens to keep her grounded – if it doesn’t get her killed.

Architects of Memory – Karen Osborne | Tor

The future is owned by the corporations. Your only hope is to earn corporate citizenship by selling them your labour. A terminally ill salvage pilot seeks to buy her life by stealing an alien weapon from a dead starship, only to find herself in the middle of a conspiracy that’s way above her pay grade…

Liquid Crystal Nightingale – Eeleen Lee | Rebellion

Humanity has made it to the outer reaches of the solar system, but the further we go, the less human we become. Expect body mods, murder, conspiracy and corruption as a young woman finds herself framed for the death of her wealthy classmate.

The Wall – Gautam Bhatia | HarperCollins

If you’re looking to read SF from around the world, Gautam Bhatia is here to show you what Indian SF has in store. Nobody has left the enclosed city of Sumer in 2000 years; civilisation depends on adherence to its strict rules. But Mithila is determined to cross the Wall and bring her people a horizon – even if destroys everything she knows…

The Light Years – R.W.W. Greene | Angry Robot

Hisako is sold before she’s even born, promised in marriage in exchange for an education she doesn’t want and to secure her legal status on an unforgiving world. Greene’s debut explores the hurdles of arranged marriages – and the elusive, world-changing promise of faster-than-light travel.

The Chimera Code – Wayne Santos | Solaris

Hot off the presses, The Chimera Code is another genre-busting mash-up in which an AI hires a mercenary team that consist of a bad-ass mage, a non-binary hacker and a cyborg with a big fucking gun. Come for the cyberpunk swagger, stay for the cross-genre action.

The Phlebotomist – Chris Panatier | Angry Robot

Set after a nuclear war, Panatier conjures a world in which you can supplement your income – or earn a crust – by donating blood to help those in the fall-out zones. But the Harvest is not what it seems, and the government agency in charge of it is keeping dangerous secrets… Crewmate Tammy Sparks says ‘a bold, bloody, high stakes plot, relatable characters, and a diabolical twist make this a standout book of 2020’.

The Mother Code – Carole Stivers | Hodder & Stoughton

When a military bioweapon threatens to wipe us out, genetically-engineered babies raised by increasingly unpredictable robot Mothers are our only hope. Crewmate SJ Higbee suggests this tale of apocalypse, parenting, and the illusions of control is ‘for fans who enjoy their apocalyptic adventures with a dollop of hard sci fi’. Note: set during a respiratory pandemic

The Rush’s Edge – Ginger Smith | Angry Robot

Out last week, Ginger Smith’s high-octane debut has found instant fans amongst the SciFiMonth crew. Crewmate Maxine said ‘sci-fi full of adventure, found family and a nice little romance in the background. Can I just say LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and be done’ – come for the action, stay for a classic buddy partnership.

Re-Coil – JT Nicholas | Titan Books

Humanity has spread across the solar system, liberated from death by technology that allows us to back up our personalities and download into a new body (or coil) after death. But someone is very determined to kill Carter Langston – and he’s running out of time (and back-ups) to figure out why…

The Companions – Katie M Flynn | Scout Press

In The Companions, the stored souls of the dead belong to the Metis Corporation, who rent them out as company for the lonely living in lockdown. When a rebellious Companion discovers she can evade her programming and escapes, the stage is set for Flynn to study the complications that arise when the living and the dead co-exist.

Note: this quarantine lockdown setting may not be for those struggling with 2020 cabin fever

Axiomโ€™s End – Lindsay Ellis | Titan Books

In an alternate timeline, 2007 is the year we hear the US government might have made first contact. Thanks to her whistleblowing father, Cora Sabino is at the heart of the furore. Soon, she will discover the rumours are all true – and that only she can turn contact into communication, as the aliens’ chosen intermediary.

The First Sister – Linden A Lewis | Hodder & Stoughton

First Sister is a priestess – owned by the military, commanded to spy on the captain they abandoned her with, loyalties divided as her heart betrays her. Expect high-octane space opera with lots of heart, as people from opposing sides of a system-wide war come together to try and end it.

The Mirror Man – Jane Gilmartin | MIRA

Cloning is illegal, but ten million dollars is an awfully lot of reasons to say yes when a corporation asks you to help them test their illicit technology. All Jeremiah Adams has to do is let his clone live his life for a year – but disengaging proves harder than he expected. Crewmate Mogsy recommends this conspiracy tech thriller for readers who enjoy intense pacing and high stakes [full review].

Tarnished Are The Stars – Rosiee Thor

Earth is long gone, destroyed by unfettered technology. Those who live on Earth Adjacent have their access to technology restricted; Anna’s clockwork heart is as illegal as the medical aid she offers on the black market. Crewmate Amanda ‘just loved everything about this story. There are mystery and suspense, romance and betrayal, great worldbuilding, and loveable characters. What else do you need?’ [full review]

Nophek Gloss – Essa Hansen | Orbit

Okay, if you’re following SciFiMonth there’s no way you missed Nophek Gloss as Essa Hansen’s space opera has already generated more buzz than any other title this month. But today is it’s book birthday so hell yes Imma include it in this list! Check out the crew’s reviews: Off the TBR | Jake is Reading | Realms of My Mind

I’m sure I’ve missed loads – and I haven’t even tried to research indie and self-published releases – so pipe up in the comments if you have some more 2020 debuts that merit our attention!