Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas

Part 3 in a Series of Bingo Challenge Themed Reviews & Suggestion Lists – Full List of Squares and Introduction Available Here.

SFF Novella – works of fiction of between 17,500 and 40,000 words.

HARD MODE: Novella is NOT published by Publishing.

– Reddit r/Fantasy

Novellas are great bite-sized option when you’re not looking to sit down with a 1200 page beast of a novel. Slim, sleek, and still packing a punch. I’m a big fan of being able to sit down on a nice Saturday morning and finish a book before lunch. 

Mini Review #1 – Silently and Very Fast by Cathrynne Valente

A compelling and wonderful story of an AI leaning to be human (one of my favorite tropes!). This novella is surreal, yet brimming with authenticity and humanity. The prose is gorgeous and poetic, with small folklore-esque interludes as narrated by the AI. I was charmed, enthralled, and heartbroken in equal measures. Elefsis, the AI in question, exists as a piece of technology that can “piggyback” on a human host, connecting them mind to mind, emotion to emotion. Elefsis has been passed down through generations within the family who created them, and deeply mourns the loss of their best friend and partner each time they outlive them. Elefsis learn through creating stories and exists in a fantastic wonderland limited only by both their imagination and the imagination of their host, Neva. One might express joy by becoming a flock of sparrows, or anger by creating a mountain to isolate yourself. The landscape changes on a whim, and is a part of both Elefsis and Neva – it is not a separate or static thing. Elefsis and Neva change each other… and may change history as well.

Mini Review #2 – Los Nefilim by T. Frohock

I am a shameless shill for these books. Full review available hereThey are so good, you guys. I can’t recommend them enough. Music based magic, based on Christian mythology (but not Narnia style – think heavenly war style, angels vs demons with nefilim caught in the middle), fantastic LGBTQ+ representation, broken families coming back together by supporting one another, amazing depiction of healing from rape and sexual assault… there’s a lot to love in these novellas. 

Mini Review #3 – This Census-Taker by China Mieville

A short, atmospheric novella that left me hungry for more. While I loved every minute of This Census-Taker, I couldn’t help but feel a bit dissatisfied with it. There just wasn’t enough substance beneath the surreal and ephemeral setting, and the characters ultimately felt a little too airy and whimsical. Events are told out of order and by an uncertain narrator. If you enjoy light, surreal storytelling, I’d still highly recommend this book… but know that the plot (and book overall) suffers a bit for it.

Mini Review #4 – The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

I adored this novella without reservation. Full review available here, but *wow*. The prose is gorgeous, the story is heartbreaking, and I even learned a few things about the Radium Girls in the process. It hurts your soul seeing both the girls and the elephants poisoning themselves and dying. It’s not afraid to make the culture and thoughts of the elephants alien, yet poetic, as well.

“Every day she eats the reeking, gritty poison. The girl with the rotten bones showed her how, and occasionally Men come by and strike her with words and tiny tickling whip-trunks if she doesn’t work fast enough. She feels neither. She feels neither, but a rage buzzes in her ear low and steady and constant, a mosquito she cannot crush. Like a calf she nurses the feeling. Like the calf she’ll never Mother she protects it safe in her belly, safe beneath the vast bulk of Herself, while every day it grows, suckles, frolics between her legs and around the stall and around the stall and around the stall until she’s whirling red behind the eyes where the Stories should go.”

List of SFF Novella Suggestions

(personally read & verified – ask me about these if you’re curious!)

  • All System Red (Murderbot #1) by Martha Wells
  • Binto by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson
  • Longer by Michael Blumlein
  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohar and Max Gladstone
  • Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • The Undefeated by Una McCormack
  • Los Nefilim (three novella collection) by T. Frohock
  • Empire Star by Samuel R. Delany

(aggregated from other recommendation threads)

  • River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • The Jewel and her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
  • Night Flower by Kate Elliott
  • Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott
  • The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler 
  • The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch 
  • Powder Mage novellas by Brian McClellan 
  • Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

  • Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson
  • Children of the Nameless by Brandon Sanderson
  • How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain With the Crooked One by C.S.E. Cooney
  • Spice Pogrom by Connie 
  • We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory
  •  And Then There were (N-one) by Sarah Pinsker (free online)
  • Unmagic by Jane Glatt
  • Waiting to Fly by Sherry Ramsey
  • The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer

If you have another book that fits this category, please consider entering it into the Bingo Database!

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