I haven’t read Ancillary Mercy or The Fifth Season yet, and I’m still reading The Aeronaut’s Windlass, but I can’t say that I’m too upset over the five Hugo Awards finalists for Best Novel. That does not mean, though, that there weren’t some great novels published in 2015 that didn’t get nods. A few I’ve already reviewed here, but a few I haven’t and at this point I don’t foresee getting full reviews up. So below are short reviews of some books that fell through the cracks.
The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
The Autumn Republic concludes McClellan’s remarkable Powder Mage Trilogy (I will get full reviews of the first two books and of some of his short fiction up in the future). As an epic fantasy I would put it up about just about any series, and it has to be considered an ur- or über-Flintlock Fantasy. The setting closely resembles revolutionary era France, complete with early industrialization and Enlightenment thinking, and there is even a gunpowder-based magic system. The first book is still probably my favorite, but McClellan’s finale is both gratifying and breathtaking. McClellan’s has always done action extraordinarily well, and there are some major worldbuilding revelations.
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Ken Liu has invented—and named—his own subgenre with The Grace of Kings. Liu’s “Silkpunk” is chock full of airships and battle kits and low-tech submarines based on historical East Asian sketches. It’s War and Peace with airships, rooted in both Chinese and Western classics. It’s punk because there is continuous rebellion, and our attempts to perfect the world fail. It’s epic in scope, covering not just the rebellion that topples a continent-spanning empire but its aftermath. Liu is obviously brilliant, but a format not rooted in limited POVs robs the story of that immersive quality, and about halfway through Mata Zyndu’s story lost its interest for me.
The Red Trilogy by Linda Nagata
Nagata originally self-published The Red: First Light. It was re-published in mid-2015 with the remaining two books in the trilogy—The Trials and Going Dark—following shortly thereafter, and it would have been a good candidate for a Hugo nomination as a single work a la The Wheel of Time in 2014. It’s also immensely fun military science fiction full of killer action scenes and every sort of futuristic military hardware you could think of.