I posted the first edition of my 2022 Recommended Reading List back in early December. But then everyone else posted their own lists, and there’s no better way to blow up a favorites list than spending a couple months reading everyone else’s favorites. There was a lot of amazing sci-fi and fantasy published in 2022, and my list has transformed in the last two months. With Nebula nominations due this week and Hugo nominations promised to open soon, I thought it was time for an update. I won’t be posting a third edition, but I will continue reading 2022 fiction up until the Hugo nomination deadline, and I’ll keep this one updated, with new additions added to the bottom of each category and marked with dates.
Keep in mind, I am only one blogger, with limited time and idiosyncratic tastes. As such, this is not a list of the best works of sci-fi and fantasy that were published in 2022. This is a list of the works that I liked the best. It is limited by what I’ve read–19 novels, 8 novellas, 38 novelettes, and 182 short stories–as well as my preferences, and even my mood and reading environment. All that to say, this list is far from exhaustive. But I feel very confident in declaring each entry to be well worth the read. So let’s get to it.
Entries within each length category are alphabetical by the author’s last name, and I’ve tried to include enough information to give readers a sense of whether one of my favorites may also suit their own tastes. Novels and novellas have full reviews elsewhere, so feel free to click the titles if you’d like more complete thoughts. Short stories and novelettes that are available free online are linked.
- Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham, published in February 2022 by Orbit. An epic fantasy from the perspective of petty thieves who don’t know much of the big picture, with a slow pace, rich prose, and some of the best-written frenemies you’ll find in the genre.
- Babel by R.F. Kuang, published in August 2022 by Harper Voyager. A historical fantasy in which Oxford is the hub of translation magic that powers the British Empire, with a Chinese lead who loves life at Oxford even as he recognizes how little Oxford values him–highly recommended for fans of languges, magic systems, school novels, and unsubtle critiques of imperialism.
- The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler, published in October 2022 by MCD. A thriller plot turned in a philosophical direction, with an octopus-based undersea first contact, AI, dystopia, and lots of reflection on the nature of humanity and consciousness. It won’t appeal to everyone, but if you don’t mind your sci-fi leaning a little literary and a little philosophical, this one is tremendous–perhaps my favorite of the year.
- Neom by Lavie Tidhar, published in November 2022 by Tachyon. Another literary-leaning sci-fi that has the feel of future myth, with a mosaic of marginalized characters seeking love and belonging in a far-future Arabian Peninsula.
- Lonely Castle in the Mirror (YA novel) by Mizuki Tsujimura, translated by Philip Gabriel, published in October 2022 by Erewhon (originally published in Japanese in 2017). A slow-paced school novel without the school, as a small group of bullied and otherwise traumatized tweens discover a portal world open only when they ought to be in school. There’s enough plot to satisfy, but this one is mostly about the characters, and is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys exploration of adolescent mental health struggles.
- Unraveller (YA novel) by Frances Hardinge (ADDED 4/23/23). A really tremendous YA novel, with whimsy, adventure, and a ton of thematic depth. Set in a world with creepy forests, magical creatures, Fae-like bargains, and powerful curses, where just one teen has the ability to unravel curses–by finding and resolving the conditions that led to the curse. So much to say about hatred, revenge, abuse, and recovery from trauma, with a satisfying overarching plot made up of a bunch of small, individual mysteries.
- Saint Death’s Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney (ADDED 4/30/23). An epic coming-of-age story of a gentle necromancer with an allergy to violence and a family that sees her embroiled in it far more than she’d like. I didn’t read a novel this year with a better narrative voice, and the plot and characters are pretty excellent as well.
- “Hydroplaning” by Peter Medeiros, published in GigaNotoSaurus in July 2022. A well-executed “little town in the boondocks with a dark secret” tale, set in a magic-infused secondary world, beginning with a creeping sense of wrongness and building to a thrilling finish.
- Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky, published in March 2022 by Solaris. One human’s revolution against Ogre overlords, told with an indirect, second-person narration that keeps the pace slow to start before coming together for an explosive conclusion.
- Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo, published in October 2022 by Tordotcom. The third entry in the Singing Hills cycle, but totally readable as a standalone, featuring a local historian traveling the rough-and-tumble riverlands and swapping stories with larger-than-life travel companions. Beautifully written, it comes together well enough to justify the novella form–as opposed to simply being a collection of stories–but this should appeal to fans of lower stakes tales of interesting journeys.
- “Troubling a Star” by Andrew Dykstal, published in the November 2022 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. An apprentice diviner tries to understand the mystifying–and sometimes horrifying–dictates of her mentor. The complicated mentor/student relationship is worth the price of admission, but that’s not the only selling point. It’s plotted such that the reader begins to suspect twists just sentences before the characters do, and the moral quandaries are truly compelling.
- “Lost and Found” by M.L. Clark, published in the October 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. A fascinating rescue mission on an isolated planet of arachnoid biocomputers that never loses the tension in the plot, even as it reflects on personhood and comments on contemporary divisions without ever feeling simplistic.
- “Solidity” by Greg Egan, published in the September/October 2022 issue of Asimov’s. A story about making life work after an unexplained apocalypse that leaves relationships fractured and reality unstable. It’s never naive about the tendency of people to use chaos to their own advantage, but it intentionally chooses to tell a more personal and aspirational story about the people who choose to support each other and look for a better way forward. Fans of “figuring things out” stories are in for a treat with this one.
- “Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness” by S.L. Huang, published in the December 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. The lack of traditional narrative may be a turn off to some, but this longform piece on the ethics of AI–using a fictional story of serial harrassment as a jumping-off point–is really tremendous, and I’m shocked that it’s not getting more attention than it is, especially coming out just before ChatGPT began to dominate the zeitgeist. At the very least, this should be required reading in machine learning courses.
- “Rogue Enchantments” by Isabel Ibañez, published in Reclaim the Stars in February 2022. This story of a girl opening a shop in a magical marketplace over the objections of those around her may not break new ground, but it’s immersive and engaging from start to finish–a simple but wonderfully-executed tale.
- “Falling Off the Edge of the World” by Suzanne Palmer, published in the November/December 2022 issue of Asimov’s. Suzanne Palmer has written a couple novelettes that have gotten a lot of attention in the last two years–one even winning a Hugo Award–but for my money, this one is better than both. It’s an absolutely tremendous story about the isolation of two survivors of a disaster in space, desperately holding onto their sanity for the decades they wait for rescue. I’ve read a lot of really good novelettes from 2022, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be this one, and I hope it gets the attention it deserves despite spending its first two months behind a paywall.
- “A Dream of Electric Mothers” by Wole Talabi, published in Africa Risen in November 2022. This story of a country who outsources major decisions to a computerized representation of their ancestors expertly weaves the main storyline with a much more personal secondary plot to deliver a conclusion with every piece fitted perfectly into place. Genre awards are often dominated by stories available free online, but this piece from the Africa Risen anthology is good enough to crash a shortlist or two.
- “We Built This City” by Marie Vibbert, published in the June 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. The story of a labor dispute on a space station orbiting Venus gets all the details right, expertly building the tension and never oversimplifying. There are three Clarkesworld novelettes jostling for space on my Hugo nominating ballot, but if I only had to pick one, I think it’d be this one.
- “Border Run” by Octavia Cade, published in the September 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. A chilling slice-of-life story set in a world devastating by overfishing, on a ship that shows no mercy to poachers. Engaging, unsettling, and morally complicated.
- “The Bones Beneath” by Vanessa Fogg, published in Podcastle in June 2022. A story of a child growing up in a totalitarian state in which even the bones rise up against the abuses of those in power. There aren’t many surprises in the plot, but the beauty in the storytelling make it well worth the read.
- “In the Time of the Telperi Flower” by David-Christopher Galhea, published in GigaNotoSaurus in May 2022. One of the top contenders for my favorite of the year, it’s an adventure fantasy with a much darker undercurrent told via a series of (often hilarious) annotations to an adventure guide’s journal–this one really is the whole package.
- “To Make Unending” by Max Gladstone, published in The Sunday Morning Transport in January 2022. The “high fantasy world has kids role-playing as 21st-century Westerners” inversion has been done before, but the execution is so good that it doesn’t matter.
- “An Expression of Silence” by Beth Goder, published in the April 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. A quiet but expertly-written story of first contact and the difficulty in translating between fundamentally different beings–even when both are working in good faith. Recommended for fans of stories about communication.
- “Food for the Soul” by Elnora Gunter, published in the Food & Cuisine (summer 2022) issue of FIYAH. A teen girl tries to save her father’s restaurant in a spice-free dystopia. This one makes no real secret of its ultimate end, but it’s a lot of fun getting there.
- “Our Quiet Guests” by Thomas Ha, published in November 2022 issue of Three-Lobed Burning Eye. I find myself struggling to connect to horror, not just out of squeamishness, but also because it seems you so commonly reach the end of the story and nothing has changed, except that the monster has won. This one has some gore, but there’s an emotional progression from the protagonist that truly resonates, as his family’s rules to appease their horrifying guests never quite seem to work as promised.
- “Spirits Don’t Cross over Water Until They Do” by Jamey Hatley, published in Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue in January 2022. This has flown under the radar, being part of a print anthology with an extremely complicated publishing journey, but it’s gorgeous, disorienting, and powerful, mixing mythology with recovering from traumas of war and the death of MLK. Very much worth more attention, and likely a reread or two.
- “The Bone Stomach” by Ziawa Jande, published in the December 2022 issue of Lolwe. This is a heavily folkloric tale and would be worth a read on the strength of the folk story alone. But it’s elevated by the way the tellers interrupt each other with comments or admonitions to tell it right, and elevated beyond that by the powerful layering of the story-within-a-story and the impending death of the family matriarch. It’s tremendous work and deserves much more international recognition.
- “Law of Tongue” by Naim Kabir, published in the December 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. The tale of a human negotiater who will do whatever it takes to keep the orcas at the table to protect the waters off the coast of post-climate disaster Seattle. Engaging and well-plotted. And fans of this one should also check out “Abitrium” by Anjali Sachdeva, which I also liked quite a bit–despite it not quite making this list–and also features human negotiations with non-humans (in this case, viruses).
- “Calf Cleaving in the Benthic Black” by Isabel J. Kim, published in the November 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. A compelling story of scavengers happening upon a dead ship full of riches beyond their wildest dreams, only to be confronted with a moral quandary much more difficult than they’d bargained for.
- “Termination Stories for the Cyberpunk Dystopia Protagonist” by Isabel J. Kim, published in the July 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. Come for the extremely meta storytelling (the main character is “Cool and Sexy Asian Girl”), stay for the commentary on the types of stories we tell and how our stories affect others. It’s an unusual style that manages to be both entertaining, profound, and ultimately satisfying, making it my favorite of an extremely strong lineup of 2022 publications by Isabel J. Kim.
- “You, Me, Her, You, Her, I” by Isabel J. Kim, published in the 2022 Fund Drive special issue of Strange Horizons. An AI takes the place of an artist shortly after a fatal crash, where playing the role requires learning about what it means to create, and what it means to be human.
- “Fly Free” by Alan Kubatiev, translated by Alex Shvartsman, published in the October 2022 issue of Clarkesworld (published in Russian in 2001). Like “The Bones Beneath,” a totalitarian dystopia, only much weirder, with an unexplained avian ascendence rearranging the priorities of society into a chilling world where one is never sure when a wrong world could see them imprisoned or killed. Harrowing, excellent stuff.
- “The Empty” by Ray Nayler, published in the November/December issue of Asimov’s. Sometimes, you discover an author who just clicks with you, and it seems everything they write is fantastic. That’s been my experience with Ray Nayler over the last year, and he has a pair of small-scale stories on my favorites list, both featuring individuals trying to make what difference they can, even without support (or, in this case, with active opposition) from broader society. This one starts small, with a contract worker at a trucking company just trying to do her job, but escalates into a harrowing and touching tale of someone who cares, doing what she can.
- “Fostering” by Ray Nayler, published in VICE in July 2022. It’s possible that I’m just a sucker for small-scale stories about parents trying to raise children (or foster young AIs, as the case may be), but this one does such a good job with the mundane moments while delivering incisive social commentary and a heart-wrenching finish. VICE is a bit off the beaten path for genre fans, but this deserves a lot more attention.
- “The Summer Castle” by Ray Nayler, published in the February 2022 issue of Nightmare. A dreamlike story about war and memory that’s not totally cohesive but plenty creepy enough to make up for it.
- “To Live and Die in Dixieland” by Russell Nichols, published in the April 2022 issue of Apex Magazine. Both a virtual reality story and a slavery one, with heavy themes and plenty of tension alongside an ethical debate that feels all too grounded in contemporary reality.
- “Seen Small Through Glass” by Premee Mohamed, published in the February 2022 issue of Fireside. The creepiness of the opening scenes of a disaster story, with the urgency of a frantic search for a missing child, and a touching but messy relationship at the center of it all.
- “Notes to a Version of Myself, Hidden in Symphonie fantastique Scores Throughout the Multiverse” by Aimee Picchi, published in the July 2022 issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, it’s a very fun title, and an epistolary format. But there’s more than that, with a spin on multiverses that I hadn’t seen before and a whole lot of character growth in a very short time.
- “Godmaker” by J.A. Prentice, published in the January 2022 issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Nothing but an extremely well-executed fable that perfectly captures the mythopoetic voice.
- “Two Spacesuits” by Leonard Richardson, published in the April 2022 issue of Clarkesworld. A weird, uncanny, and shockingly relevant story about coming home and finding your empty-nest parents in a bizarre internet cult. But while you might expect a lot of darkness following that setup, it’s not grim so much as just strange. This is one that has stuck with me all year–it’s one of my absolute favorites, and I hope others also resonate with this odd little tale.
- “Phoenix Tile” by Guan Un, published in the June 2022 issue of khōréō. It’s trickster story, with a rich background setting, and should be a big hit for anyone who enjoys trickster stories or worlds where deities have power proportional to people’s belief in them.
- “Your Space Between” by Marie Croke, published in the July 2022 issue of Apex Magazine (ADDED 4/3/23). A deeply personal story about the aftermath of a sci-fi tragedy. Small-scale, featuring a tremendous use of second-person.
- Two authors appear multiple times on this list: Ray Nayler with four appearances, and Isabel J. Kim with three. Astoundingly, Kim’s first professional publication came in 2021, and she is still eligible for the Astounding Award. That will make for a very easy first entry on my nominating ballot.
- It’s not surprising that Clarkesworld has dominated this list, because I read a lot of Clarkesworld, and it rewarded me with some excellent stories. But I don’t think I read more than ten from any other individual magazine, so any publication that appears more than once here has done some impressive work. As I understand it, just GigaNotoSaurus is eligible for Best Semiprozine, but there are a host of great editors eligible for Best Short-Form Editor: Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld), Sheila Williams (Asimov’s), LaShawn Wanak (GigaNotoSaurus), Jason Sizemore and Lesley Connor (Apex Magazine, to be nominated as a team), and Scott H. Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies).
- As someone whose current-year reading is dominated by short fiction, I don’t follow many fan writers who haven’t moved on to columns with professional magazines. But Maria Haskins is still chugging away with monthly short fiction round-ups on her blog and has steered me to some absolutely tremendous stories.