I'm going to have to refrain from gushing about Ancillary Justice again because I think it's becoming obsessive of me to do so - but suffice to say that I've bought multiple copies for friends! That is how much I loved it. *_*
Lavie Tidhar's The Violent Century! I'm not familiar with the history side of things - this being alternate history, that spells a lack on my part - but the *writing*. I don't think it's often I get to read something so intense, so indelible, and breathless. It's such visual visual text and incredibly different. In an interview, Lavie said it underwent several conceptual revisions, having been conceived at various points as screenplay and comics.
On the short fiction end of things, I discovered Seth J. Dickinson's writing this year starting with The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Her Field-General, and Their Wounds, a heartbreaking tragedy, tautly and richly made - I don't think anyone I have recommended this to didn't love it; I believe he has a novel taking place before this story and I hope to see that out someday. More this-yearly, his 'Never Dreaming (In Four Burns)' is just as wrenching but ends on a *slightly* happier note. Women rocket scientists! Magic *and* hard science!
'The Long Road to the Deep North' was my favorite story from Lavie this year, not an easy choice to make when he's published more than twenty! I hear that he sleeps... sometimes. But it's a wonderfully engaging story, brilliantly smart, with the way it speculates on the future of languages and poetics.
Is there anybody who's not read Yoon Ha Lee yet? 'The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars' is so stunning, isn't it? Yoon Ha Lee is how I got started writing space opera, possibly one of my biggest writing influences this year.
Why not more space opera! What a coincidence as well that two of my favorite reads this year have spaceships in human bodies - although hugely differently: 'The Waiting Stars' is, like much of Aliette's fiction, complex and haunting, and it's about memory and forgetting, two of my favorite themes.
Lastly, whimsical time travel playing with history! 'Count Poniatowski and the Beautiful Chicken' by Elizabeth Ziemska. I do so adore it.