One of the best things about being a writer is that eventually, you start making friends with other writers. And sooner or later those same friends start putting out books that look exactly like them and you get to read them all! And since a number of my friends have already gotten books out, I figured I’d share some of the contents of my friendshelf. Because my goodness my friends are talented.
Architects of Memory by Karen Osborne
This is the one that’s top of mind, since it’s the one that I’m reading at the time of writing. Karen was my roommate at Clarion. She was also the second of our cohort to get a book out since then. She was querying this book while we were in Clarion, but I think she started rewriting parts of it almost as soon as we came away. She sold it soon after. That was over three years ago. That, my friends, is just how long publishing takes. Anyway.
Karen’s writing has this brittle, glittering sort of honesty that can cut you as well as entertain you. This book is full of it. It’s a space opera set in a corporation dystopia with a cast of characters just trying to become citizens. It’s like Firefly meets Alien meets Starship Troopers with a queer protagonist. It’s the first book in a duology, with the second book set to come out in February.
Every Bone a Prayer by Ashley Blooms
Ashley was another of my Clarion classmates. In her debut novel, she shares the same haunting and painful type of writing that always made me look forward to reading her fiction. Even when it’s a rough first draft, Ashley knows how to make you cry like all the sorrows of the world have been piled on your shoulders.
This book. I am honestly not sure what to say about it. I just read it and I’m honestly still a little raw from the experience. It’s definitely going to stay with me a long time. The magic of names meets poverty and generational abuse set in the heart of American coal country. Obviously, I think you should read it. It wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t. But probably go in prepared with tissues and something to hold.
Amatka by Karin Tidbeck
I’m not entirely sure where I first met Karin. We know a lot of the same people because in some ways Nordic fandom is very small. But where we became friends was on a slack we share. Mostly because Finland and Sweden share some customs, just slightly different and we have friendly arguments over which ones are better (Karin is wrong, of course, but I digress).
Amatka is the kind of book that takes the breath out of you. It’s similar in some ways to the previous one, but where Ashley hits you right in the feels, Karin has a habit of blowing your mind on the way to hitting you in the feels. Amatka is all about the vague unease of someone with a lot of privilege inside a terrible system. It has a different take on the importance of names And it’s honestly just so good. Karin’s writing is so deeply rooted in reality that it’s easy to forget that you don’t actually need to name your chair every day to make sure it doesn’t become something else entirely.
The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo
Speaking of rooted in reality, Leena is one of those writers who researches meticulously. She knows how the sun falls in a particular room in winter before she ever writes a single word. I met her through Twitter, basically. One of us realized that we were both writers in Helsinki, writing in English, and we decided to meet up for coffee. Then we accidentally wound up working in the same building, which was a fun discovery.
The Five Daughters of the Moon is a lush story inspired by the last days of the Romanov family and even though you know what’s coming, the book is hard to put down. It’s a duology, so make sure to get the second book at the same time as you will be sure to want to finish the story.
Docile by K.M. Szpara
I know I’ve recommended this book before. But a) this is a very good book and b) Kellan was my roommate at VP and got me into the writers’ community that keeps me sane. I will probably recommend it again and again. Kellan has this visceral, unflinching way of writing that always hits me where I live. Docile is absolutely the best thus far in his line of impressive work that seems to only get more impressive.
The tagline for Docile is “There is no consent in capitalism” and boy does it deliver. Kellan does a masterful job of mixing romance with criticism of late-stage capitalism and science fiction technology. On the way there, he builds familiar feeling characters without them ever feeling like stereotypes. I love this book unabashedly and I think you will too.