Top Ten Tuesday: sci-fi novellas

Text only: top ten TUESDAY

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 sailing slightly off-topic – debatably – because I want to talk about SFnal novellas for SciFiMonth.

SciFiMonth is thirty days of celebrating one of my favourite genres: science fiction. I decided my focus for SciFiMonth this year would be primarily novellas, and what better way to kick off proceedings than with a top ten? Right! That said, as the official topic is ‘ten books for people who don’t like reading’ and I wholeheartedly believe a good novella is always a good start, I’m calling this cross-over gold and running with it.

First up, five favourites:

Book cover: Fugitive Telemetry - Martha Wells

The Murderbot Diaries – Martha Wells

Is it even possible to talk science fiction novellas without talking about Murderbot? Maybe, but not on this blog. Having given the requisite nod to everyone’s favourite socially anxious cyborg – may they always have one more group of irritating humans to resentfully safeguard – I want to focus on some other SFnal novellas shouting to be read.

Premee Mohamed’s post-apocalypses

2021 is the year of Premee Mohamed novellas: I’ve read 2 so far, and both were excellent for their world-building, characters and sharp, fierce hope. These Lifeless Things is set 50 years after a devastating alien invasion, splicing academic research in the rubble with a survival diary. The Annual Migration of Clouds asks a young person to choose their future when they are offered an impossible opportunity.

Book cover: These Lifeless Things - Premee Mohamed
Book cover: The Murders of Molly Southbourne - Tade Thompson (blood trickling down the bottom half of a woman's face)

Molly Southbourne – Tade Thompson

The Molly Southbourne duology are gems: speculative fiction wrapped up as body horror, presented with an unflinching eye to the psychological ramifications. Tightly-plotted and well-paced, these novellas ask whether a woman with a unique problem can survive herself – and if so, whether she can live with herself.

The Voidwitch saga – Corey J White

Mars Xi is the most wanted woman in the empire, a genetically engineered psychic space witch taking on a dystopian galaxy. Expect no-holds-barred action set pieces in White’s hard-boiled space opera, which isn’t afraid to explore just how much of a monster its heroine is.

Book cover: Killing Gravity - Corey J White (a person in a spacesuit in a balletic pose with a planet in the background)
Book cover: Sisters of the Vast Black - Lina Rather

Sisters of the Vast Black – Lina Rather

Rebellious nuns travel the galaxy in space slugs. This awesome bite-sized space opera explores questions of faith, duty and compassion in a dystopian galaxy on the edge of a pandemic. It’s getting a sequel next year, but it stands alone so why wait?

Now let’s talk about the novellas I’m looking to read this November (if you’d like to join me, yell in the comments):

Hard Reboot – Django Wexler

This had me at giant mechs (Pacific Rim has a lot to answer for): this novella promises naive academics, con artists and robots punching each other, which is really all I need to know. Stir in a promise of seedy diplomacy and all my bells start dinging. I’ve been meaning to read Wexler for ages – that time is now.

Book cover: Hard Reboot - Django Wexler
Book cover: A Psalm for the Wild-Built - Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built – Becky Chambers

I love the comforting visions of possible futures that Chambers typically writes. This novella introduces a new universe that features tea monks and sentient robots, and asks the big question of what do people need? Many answers leap to mind – I’m curious to see where Chambers goes with this. Up next week.

Light Chaser – Gareth L Powell & Peter F Hamilton

Big name authors of big scope space opera team up to write a novella? I love the concept of an interstellar explorer trading trinkets for histories, and hearing a deadlier truth woven through the tales – but I’m intrigued to see how Powell & Hamilton boil a big idea down to bite-size. Up in week three.

Book cover: Light Chaser - Peter F Hamilton & Gareth L Powell
Book cover: Pollen From A Future Harvest - Derek Künsken

Pollen From A Future Harvest – Derek Künsken

I’m disappointed the Solaris Satellite novellas haven’t blazed a bigger trail across the reading horizon this year (get on them, folks, they’re great!), but I’m looking forward to reading my third, a time travel locked room murder drama. This will be my first foray into the work of Derek Künsken, as I understand it stands alone in the Quantum Evolution universe. Up in week four.

And What Can We Offer You Tonight – Premee Mohamed

Yes, there was a third Premee Mohamed novella out this year, and damn right I’m reading it. Dial in for far-future dystopia, this explores concepts of freedom, privilege and justice after a client murders a courtesan who won’t stay dead. This is super short, so will be a bonus read at some point in the month.

Book cover: And What Can We Offer You Tonight - Premee Mohamed

What other scifi novellas should I be adding to my reading list?