Huh, I didn't realize that The Raven Tower or Ancestral Night were this year releases. Of the three books mentioned which I've read, I'd currently rate them
Empress of Forever >? Ancestral Night > The Raven Tower
Every single one of Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children novellas has been nominated (and the first one won), so it seems reasonable to predict that this year's entry, In an Absent Dream, will as well. Her most recent novel, Middlegame, has been getting a fair bit of buzz - I don't know if it's as surefire a bet, but it seems like it might have a shot.
Thanks for the suggestions. I now have In an Absent Dream, This is How You Lose the Time War, and A Memory Called Empire. I'll read them and give my reactions. In the meantime, keep the suggestions coming.
Spoilers for This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar, Hardback Novella, Gallery/Saga Press
Two agents from mutually exclusive far-future civilisations, fighting throughout history and the multiverse to support their timelines, start exchanging letters and fall in love.
First off, I don't approve of this new trend of packaging novellas as complete books, and charging the same price. It's even got to Greg Egan, with Perihelion Summer. I suppose it's better than that trend a while back when all the fat books were cut in half and sold twice. But I borrowed Time War from the library, so whatever. As for the book itself, this is SF with tech so advanced it's gone halfway to fantasy. The agents casually travel back and forth and side to side in time, and at least one of them can regrow from spores if she's killed. I've always been a little disappointed that stories about warring time-travelers, like Terminator, make both the futures and the wars so mundane. That's not the problem here - both civilisations are serious bizarre far-future worldbuilding, and the war is much more subtle than just blasting each other with laser guns. The problem is that the setting is so enormous - dozens of time periods, none of them exactly matching real history, described in a few pages each - and the two agents are so weird that it's hard to get a handle on the story. You start wondering how each agent's mission lines up with the civilisations they're fighting for, and whether the agents are human enough for a romance to make sense. Anyway, hugely ambitious, great writing, but maybe not for me.
I agree that In an Absent Dream, Raven Tower and Empress of Forever will likely show up on various award nomination list in the coming year. Another one I'd add to that list is The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley.
I'll plug a couple of candidates from authors I've met and liked:
- The Dragon Republic, by R.F. Kuang, is the sequel to her debut novel The Poppy War. Rebecca was the only author in their first year of eligibility to be a finalist for the 2019 Campbell Astounding award, so is very very likely to be a 2020 finalist. The Poppy War also topped the 'longlist' of novels that would have been Hugo finalists if any of the initial finalists had declined or withdrawn.
- A Song For A New Day is the debut novel by Sarah Pinsker, who had a short story on the 2019 Hugo ballot, multiple Hugo finalist appearances in previous years as well as a Nebula win. (Good authors get recognized a lot. Who knew.) I'm looking forward to the chance to see her longer work.
Also seconding recommendations of work by Max Gladstone and Arkady Martine -- both are excellent and nuanced writers.