Catherine Rockwood: 2019 was the year I finally realized I should start looking for good graphic novels for my daughter (8) to read. As a result, and 100% thanks to knowledgeable comics-store staff, it’s also the year I discovered and loved Faith Erin Hicks’s Nameless City trilogy: after it had been read—fast, and delightedly—by its intended recipient. I certainly hope my daughter grows up to expect protagonists as excellent and companionable as Hicks’s early-teen “Rat” and Kaidu, and plotlines as elegantly spare, ambitious, and exciting as those offered in The Nameless City. I wish her, too, a world that assumes its best warriors are not solitary “punishers” but collaborative martial diplomats like Kaidu’s mother, Kata of the Liuyedao.
Niall Harrison: From a dislocated year, two dislocated novels stand out. In Sandra Newman’s The Heavens, the dreams of a woman living in a better Y2K NY—which may or may not be a kind of projection into actual history—gradually ruin her world into our own. Each time she wakes, she finds things a little less clean, a little less moral. The fable-like tone reminded me a little of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017), but Newman’s construct is less stable, and less optimistic. Laura Beatty’s Lost Property is similarly concise, but more dense. A middle-aged woman, in despair at the modern world and modern Britain in particular, sets out with her partner on a road trip across Europe.
Nina Allan: In something of an odd coincidence, my picks for best speculative novel of 2019 seem to have organised themselves around the theme of water. My vote for best speculative novel of the year goes unequivocally to Mark Haddon’s The Porpoise. A driving narrative, coupled with intense, lyrical language and inventive use of mythology and secondary texts, this novel is a bona fide masterpiece. It also contains the best legitimate use of a deus ex machina I have ever encountered. I’m a year late to Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, which turned out to be my book of this summer, a blisteringly honest portrayal of what it is really like for a woman to live in a patriarchal society.
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