2020 is almost over (yes!) so… it’s now time for the end of the year lists!
I love reading short fiction and this year, I have read more than 130 stories. Since I have read so many, I have decided to only talk about my ten favorites and it was quite hard to narrow down my selection of favorites to only ten .Indeed, some stories I had given five stars to at first were not that memorable while some stories I rated lower managed to stick with me a lot longer.
In order to make this list a bit less tedious to read, I have decided to split it into two posts. I will talk about five stories in the first part and I will publish the second part with my other picks next Sunday.
FYI: My favorites were not necessarily published in 2020 but I read them this year.
Favorite short stories of the year
City of Refugee by Maurice Broaddus – Escape Pod anthology – 2020
The rich left Earth to live on Mars or on the Moon, the Earth is now home to the people who couldn’t afford anything else. The economy has crashed, the air is toxic, yet, the poor and the outcast remain. Royal is an ex-convict and he is trying his best to survive in this dying world. However, people who are supposed to support him want him to fail.
City of Refugee is a story that made my blood boil. I have rarely hated someone that much while reading a short story but, Royal’s racist penial officer infuriated me!
This story perfectly discussed systemic racism and how it’s extremely difficult for ex-convicts to really break free from jail and the vicious cycle of violence. I also loved how it depicted the fact that some people are always left behind and how they have to live with the decisions made by people richer (and whiter) than them.
The Machine that Would Rewild Humanity by Tobias Buckell – Escape Pod anthology – 2020
Set in a world where humans are a rare species that can only be seen in zoos and AIs rule the planet, this story follow a robot working in a rehabilitation organization that wants to reintroduce humanity in New York. However, after a terrorist attack which threatened the entire program, the robot learns that reintroducing humans in a world that is doing just fine without them, might not be a good idea after all.
I’m always amazed when short fiction writers manage to pack a ton of fascinating ideas and cool concepts in just a few pages and Buckell did an amazing job at that with this story. The premise was awesome and it was perfectly executed, the themes explored were fascinating and the pacing was perfect. I wouldn’t change a single word.
Distant Stars by P.H. Lee – Clarkesworld – 2020
A grad student struggle with balancing her research and her family life and, when she makes a discovery that may change the course of humanity, it only gets worst.
This particular story is very sad and it broke my heart several times. However, I still loved it. It was hard to see the main character being unable to bridge the gap between her family and her work. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I felt so much for her but I did. And that ending, oh my god, that ending.
If you want a slice of life story with a tragic feel to it, I highly recommend Distant Stars.
Debtless by Chen Qiufan, translated by Blake Stone-Banks – Clarkesworld – 2020
In a future where people with too much debt can decide to work as asteroid miners to repay it, Debtless follows an asteroid miner trying to survive long enough to go back on Earth. However, the death rate is very high and, as far as he remembers, no one has lived long enough to leave the station. But does he truly remember well?
With more than 16 000 words, Debtless in a hefty novelette. I have to admit that I usually don’t tend to like novelettes because they often feel like drawn-out short stories or underdeveloped novellas. However, when they are done well, they can be truly great and Debtless is the perfect example of that. I really loved figuring out what was happening on the mining station, the tension was perfectly built and the many twists and turns were wonderfully crafted and surprised me over and over. It’s a long one but wow, it’s worth the time for sure!
The ThoughtBox by Tlotlo Tsamaase – Clarkesworld – 2020
In order to keep their marriage going, a couple decides to invest in a ThoughtBox, a machine that records your every thought. The machine was supposed to help them communicate better but, one day Ogone realizes that her partner is hiding a lot of thoughts from her. And those thoughts are getting more and more alarming.
I love every single story on the list but, if I were to pick a favorite child, it would be The ThoughtBox. This story has everything: great writing, great storyline, perfect pacing and the tension kept me at the edge of my sit the entire time. I also thought it discusse some very important topics such as abusive and codependent relationships. And the ending was incredible. I need to re-read this story.
I have read a lot of issues of Clarkesworld this year but, surprisingly, almost all my favorites are from the same issue, issue 163! 😯 As always with Clarkesworld, you can read the stories for free on the magazine website. (Though I would highly recommend buying Issue 163 because most of the stories in this issue are excellent!)
I hope you enjoyed this selection of stories and that you will read some of them, they are all very different from each other but they are all great!
See you next Sunday for the rest of the selection! 😀