Kind of sad this thread gets no love, because I got a lot of great recommendations and interesting perspectives from it!
Some stuff I’ve read since last post:
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
Very nice SF novel by Leckie, told from an interestingly semi-omniscient perspective (all seeing, perhaps, but not all knowing). With this and the Broken Earth series it feels like maybe the distant inheritors of LeGuin are finally here. The plot is hard to describe without spoilers but is about a iron age civilization and its complex relationship with its gods. Recommended to anyone who likes thoughtful SF.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Wonderful very Iain M Banks-ish SF novel about the new ambassador from a vulnerable civilization to a dominant space empire with very elaborate customs. The book is really all about language, culture and people in a way that is rarely seen, and is very well-executed. Like Banks the focus is always on the characters, too, not the technology. As a bonus it’s basically humane and sane, rather than grim and cynical. Strongly recommended to anyone who liked Banks or just likes good SF. Possible contender for my top ten favourite books.
Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schrier
Essentially an extended journalistic piece by Schrier, famed for his access and reliable contacts, covering the development of a number of troubled games from the last decade or so. It’s short and a fairly light read, and comes across rather as an apologia for crunch, but still interesting and would be very informative to a lot of people who make grand proclamations about game dev.
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
If you put all of Tchaikovsky’s recurrent themes and ideas into sort of randomiser, I feel like this book might well be the result. We start with would-imperialist colonisers falling into ideological in-fighting and accidentally seeding a terraformed planet with increasingly large and smart jumping spiders instead of a servant race and it all goes from there. Surprisingly, the book actually works really well, with lightly sketched but plausible and enjoyable characters, a good sense of passage of time, some good twists, and a very believable and flawed technological development. A much better book than A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge, which contains a number of similar ideas, and is perhaps technically better written, yet is nowhere near as compelling nor as deft in handling difficult subjects (Vinge ends up resorting to crude extremism to make his point, which works emotionally but seems cheap and unlikely when reflected upon).
The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan
A grim weird-fantasy novel interesting mainly in that it is the first novel I’ve read that is clearly inspired by Perdido Street Station, and trying to do something similar. Unfortunately Hanrahan does not have Mievilles edge, wit, or whimsy, so it’s a more pedestrian tale, that feels very much a ‘genre novel’, just from a rare genre. Lots of briefly cool ideas and a fair willingness to “kill your darlings” do not add up to greatness, sadly. Still better than most fantasy genre fiction so there’s that I guess.