Yes, folks! My holds from the library have finally started trickling in. One of my local libraries has a drive-up window, and the other is reopening this week for curbside pickup. In this category, I only had one book left to read.
This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (full review here)
I'm going to say here and now this is the novella that probably will win. Everybody seems to have raved about it....except me. I didn't hate it, but as far as I'm concerned, it had a great many problems. It was beautifully written, but the worldbuilding left a lot to be desired. To put it bluntly, as a science fiction story, this made no frakking sense, and for me, the lovely prose couldn't carry the day all by its lonesome.
Knocking At the Door
The Haunting of Tram Car 015, P. Djeli Clark (full review here)
Compared to his excellent novella The Black God's Drums, this fell a bit short. Having said that, there's some interesting worldbuilding here I wouldn't mind revisiting.
"Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom," Ted Chiang, from the collection Exhalation
I didn't like this as well as "Omphalos," the other nominated story from this collection. Mainly because the ending wasn't that great. Having said that, Ted Chiang spins out ideas as easily as most other writers pen their names.
We Have a Winnah!
The Deep, Rivers Solomon w/Daveed Diggs, William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes (full review here)
This is based on the Hugo-nominated Clipping song, expanded into a full book. There's a lot to think about here, dealing as it does with the weight of memory, the responsibility of the historian, and how trauma is transmitted from generation to generation.
In An Absent Dream, Seanan McGuire (full review here)
As I wrote when I read this about a week ago, this is a "fairy tale with teeth." It also doesn't have a happy ending, so bear that in mind.
To Be Taught, If Fortunate, Becky Chambers (full review here)
Out of all the nominees in this category, this one surprised me the most. I haven't been overly impressed with Becky Chamber's books in the past; they've been either twee, silly, or plotless, and usually all three. This one works. Maybe it's because of its shorter length, or the better characterization, or the fact that it's fairly bursting with a love of science and the scientific method. It poses important questions for its future Earth to consider that ring true for our day as well.
These top three are very close. I'm sure I'll be shifting their slots in my mind for quite a while.