Over the last few years, Kim and I have gotten more into reading novellas. These short books of about 150 or so pages are sometimes the perfect thing when you’re in the mood for a story that will engage you quickly or introduce you to a new author. There are a variety of book awards out there for novellas, but … you know, sometimes we disagree. So here are our thoughts on 9 novellas that recently won book awards.
The Deep, Rivers Solomon
2021 Audie Award for Science Fiction
The Audie Awards doesn’t have an award for novellas, but every now and again, one takes home an award. The Deep is an unusual story – Yetu holds the memories for her people – water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one – the historian, who is now Yetu. But she doesn’t want the job. This is not an easy read, and it’s not perfect, but it’s sensual and rythmic and I found mydelf remembering the story months after I had read it.
Night of the Mannequins, Stephen Graham Jones
2020 Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction; 2020 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novella
A teen prank with a mannequin goes very wrong and all hell breaks loose. I’m not the audience for books with teenage pranks – it’s just not my jam. So I started this novella, out it to the side a few days later, but then came back to it when I knew we were going to write about award winning novellas. I grudgingly read it … and kept reading it … and it got dark … darker. And before you knew it, I was into it. Quite the curve ball with this one and I like where the author took it.
Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark
Locus Award for Best Novella | 2021 Nebula Award for Best Novella
I loved the heck out of this “alternate history” speculative fiction novella – and side note – it’s even better as an audiobook because the narrator was phenomenal at bringing unique voices to the characters and the monsters. Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters hunt the Klan’s demons and sends them straight to Hell.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about the author – he’s phenomenal at World building and I was sucked into this one whole. This short novel completely had me in it’s thrall.
Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi
2021 Ignyte Awards | 2021 World Fantasy Award Winner for Best Novella
I have to admit that I did not love this book. I really wanted to like it because the writing and the imagery are exceptional, but the story lacked cohesiveness and proper execution to give us something meaty that we could sink into. If this book was longer I would probably not finish it. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.
Seriously, are you trying to tell me that this girl had all these bad ass powers and she does nothing with them for almost all of the book?! She just watches and waits. while absorbing all the injustices of the past and present. Homegirl can time travel, teleport, read people’s thoughts … but its not integrated into the story in any meaningful way. The entire book felt like a jumble of different ideas smashed together to fight it out and see which one idea came out on top. Except in the end we got a … stay tuned!
The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo
Rabbit, a handmaiden, sold by her parents to the palace for the lack of five baskets of dye, befriends the emperor’s lonely new wife and gets more than she bargained for. Although I felt there were a few ways in which this book was lacking, I forgave it because there’s only so much you can fit into a novella. What I did love was the lyrical writing style and the little touches of an interesting world that I would really like to see more of.
Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh
2020 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella
My goodness I loved this book! It’s part of the Greenhollow duology about a wildman named Tobias. He is tethered to the forest and lives a quiet existence. One day his peace is disturbed by the arrival of a stranger. Henry Silver is the new owner of Greenhollow Manor and he wants to know everything about Tobias. What unfurls is the most tender love story.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Wayward Children #2, Seanan McGuire
Part of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, this book is the second in the line up and probably my favorite. I loved the dark and creepy world that McGuire’s weaves in this one. It’s a Jack and Jill retelling where the twins find themselves on opposite ends of a very strange world in which vampires and monsters exist.
Every Heart A Doorway- Wayward Children #1, Seanan McGuire
2017 Hugo Award for Best Novella | 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novella|2017 Locus Award for Best Novella| 2017 ALA Alex Award
The first book in the Wayward Children novella series I mentioned above and it definitely hooked me. Although I’ve had varying success with the rest of the books in the series, I really loved this one. A book about children stumbling onto doorways to magical worlds? Sign me up!
All Systems Red, Martha Wells
2018 Hugo Award for Best Novella | 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella | 2018 Locus Award for Best Novella | 2018 ALA Alex Award
Need I say more about my love for Murderbot? I can fully admit these are not the most clever or intricate sci-fi books out there but they are what I like to call ‘happy reads’. From the very first chapter of this first novella I was hooked to Murderbot’s personality. So very relatable and funny in a snarky way. And as the series goes on I find that I adore Murderbot even more than when I read All Systems Red.
Do you read quick lit or novellas? You might also want to check out our Book Awards Calendar section.
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