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All the Winners for the Nebula Award for Best Novel Since 2001

These 22 award-winners are some of the most influential books that have shaped sci-fi and fantasy fiction of today and tomorrow.
Emmanuel Hidalgo-Wohlleben •
May 15th, 2023

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association convened authors and publishers on Sunday night to announce the winners of the 58th Annual Nebula Awards. The award nominees represented some of the most original fiction out today across six different categories: best short story, best game writing, best novella, best novelette, best script, and best novel. Author R.F. Kuang took home the biggest prize (best novel) for Babel, her ambitious fantasy masterpiece about the nature of colonial power and the price of revolution. She joins a long line of visionary novelists that have taken us on journeys to the far edges of fiction from Ursula Le Guin to Philip K. Dick to Isaac Asimov.

Take a trip down memory lane — no microchip or portal required — with this list of every Nebula winner since 2001, including crown jewels of the genre such as Neil Gaiman's beloved 2002 American Gods, N.K. Jemisin's stunning conclusion to the magical Broken Earth trilogy, and Michael Chabon's noir murder mystery set in an alternative historical timeline. This imaginative and diverse roster shows the incredible range that sci-fi and fantasy writing provide, and is an excellent primer for anyone dipping deeper into this evolving genre.

A fantastical and imaginative depiction of 19th-century colonialism

2022: Babel by R.F. Kuang

This year's Nebula-winning novel follows Robin Swift, an orphan from Canton and raised in London, destined for Oxford's renowned Royal Institute of Translation, a.k.a. Babel – the epicenter of linguistic magic that underpins British colonial power.

Navigating the tension of his Chinese heritage and British upbringing, Robin is caught between loyalties to Babel and his homeland. The emergence of a mysterious clandestine society and a brewing war with China forces Robin to question whether oppressive systems can be transformed from within, or if real revolution demands violence.

A magical steampunk adventure set in an alternate Cairo

2021: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

In an alternate-history Cairo, Fatma el-Sha'arawi is a skilled agent in the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. When a series of mysterious murders and disappearances threatens to destabilize the city, she is tasked with solving the case and discovers a dangerous conspiracy that could lead to the end of the world. With the help of her colleagues and a powerful djinn, Fatma must use all of her skills and knowledge to stop the conspirators before it's too late. 

Your favorite murder machine is back

2020: Network Effect by Martha Wells

In the fifth book (and first full-length novel) of the "Murderbot Diaries" series, the rogue SecUnit is back in action. When its human friends are kidnapped, Murderbot must infiltrate a heavily guarded facility to rescue them. Along the way, it must navigate a maze of dangerous obstacles and face off against some old enemies. But as Murderbot uncovers more about the conspiracy that threatens its friends, it must also confront its own feelings of vulnerability and the limitations of its own programming. This Nebula winner also took home the top prize for the Hugo and Locus Awards. 

A dystopian future where making music is an act of rebellion

2019: A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker

In a world where public gatherings have been outlawed, Luce, a former rock musician turned clandestine street performer, and Rosemary, a talent scout who has never experienced live, in-person interaction, must navigate the dangers of a surveillance state to bring people together through the power of music. 

Humanity looks to space for survival after a catastrophe rocks the world 

2018: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Another alternate history tale, a meteorite strikes Earth, destroying much of the East Coast and causing a climate crisis that threatens to make the world inhospitable. Now, humanity must look to the stars for its survival. 

The book’s hero, mathematician and pilot Elma York, becomes a leading advocate for space exploration and fights against sexism and racism to become one of the first female astronauts—most certainly a deviation from the real version of the American mid-century space race. 

The thrilling conclusion to the award-winning Broken Earth trilogy

2017: The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where cataclysmic "Seasons" wreak havoc on the planet, the final installment in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy follows Essun, an orogene with the power to manipulate geological energy, and her daughter Nassun, as they grapple with their fractured relationship and the fate of the world. 

Essun hopes to harness a power to end the Seasons forever, while Nassun, embittered by her experiences and under the guidance of her father's killer, plans to use the same power to destroy the world that has caused her so much pain.

A genre-bending love story that weaves sci-fi and fantasy across its pages 

2016: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

In this Nebula winner, an ancient coven of witches is engaged in an apocalyptic war with a tech startup. On either side of the conflict are two childhood friends: Patricia, a powerful witch and Laurence, a brilliant engineer. The pair must decide whether to put their love for one another ahead of their loyalty to their factions, with only the fate of their world at stake. 

The highly influential novel was also a finalist for the Hugo Award and made Paste’s 50 Best Books of the 21st Century (So Far) List. Economics blogger Noah Smith called it “one of the most beautiful novels ever written.” 

A brave heroine battles an enchanting, dark forest

2015: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieszka is a young woman who lives in a village on the edge of a dark and dangerous forest. When the village's protector, a wizard named Dragon, chooses her to serve him for 10 years, she must learn to harness her own magical powers to save her friends and her home. Fans of a modern fairy tale with a twist will be delighted by Uprooted.

The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy

2014: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Following in the footsteps of 11 previous expeditions, all of which have ended in disaster, a bold team of scientists embark on a journey to a mysterious and deadly zone known as Area X. As they explore the allegedly abandoned area, they begin to unravel the secrets of its past and confront the horror that lies at its center. 

Fans of the book should also check out the 2018 movie adaptation which features an all-star cast including Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac. 

An AI-powered soldier’s quest for vengeance 

2013: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

In the first chapter of the first book of the Imperial Radch space opera trilogy, Breq, an artificial intelligence that previously controlled an entire starship, is now left with only a single human soldier in her control. Breq must navigate the complex politics of the Radch empire and confront the truth about her own identity in this revenge-fueled quest. 

Delve into an interplanetary mystery, exploring humanity's future amid climate change

2012: 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

For anyone who dreams of the potential for humanity to thrive beyond planet Earth, this novel will ignite the imagination. It's 2312, and humans have colonized the solar system, terraforming the planets, moons, and asteroids into livable environments. Swan Er Hong, an artist and former asteroid terrarium designer from Mercury, becomes embroiled in a complex conspiracy following the death of her influential grandmother, Alex. The death sets off a series of events that threaten to unravel the delicate balance of the solar system's societies.

A poignant coming-of-age story that celebrates the transformative power of reading

2011: Among Others by Jo Walton

After her magic-wielding mother’s experimentation with forbidden arts goes horribly wrong, 15-year-old Morwenna flees to a magicless boarding school in England, where she discovers a love for sci-fi and fantasy literature. But the temptation to practice her own magic is too much to resist. Her actions do not go unnoticed and a confrontation with her past is all but inevitable. 

In addition to winning the Nebula, this title took home the Hugo Award for best novel.


Set in a near future where academics are sent back in time to conduct primary research

2010: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

In this two-part novel, time-traveling historians from 2060 are sent back to England during World War II to observe and record historical events. However, when the time-travel portal malfunctions, they become stranded in the past and must find a way to survive and return to their own time. This pair of books is a thrilling and meticulously researched exploration of history and time travel.

Navigate a biopunk dystopia, where genetic engineering meets political intrigue

2009: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

In a future where corporations control food production, a genetically modified "windup girl" and a disgraced government agent are caught up in a dangerous conspiracy. The novel is a thrilling and thought-provoking exploration of the implications of biotechnology and AI on society, and it will challenge readers to think about the balance between progress and sustainability.

A tale of superhuman teens, battling conspiracy and ethical dilemmas

2008: Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin

This final installment of Le Guin's Annals of the Western Shore trilogy follows the young slave Gavir who has the power to see into the past and future. Gavir lives a relatively comfortable life for a slave, serving an aristocratic family as a teacher. However, after a devastating betrayal, Gavir flees into the marshlands. The narrative follows Gavir as he encounters various societies and grapples with his own power and what it means to be free.

(Not available on Tertulia)

An engrossing alternate history noir murder mystery 

2007: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Chabon's 2007 novel is a unique mash-up of a detective story, alternative history and commentary on geopolitical power. Under the premise that Israel was destroyed in 1948 forcing Jews to settle in Alaska, a detective investigates a murder in a settlement in Sitka. 

A thrilling examination of the human propensity for exploration and discovery

2006: Seeker by Jack McDevitt

In the distant future, humanity has spread throughout the galaxy, but still has not found evidence of intelligent alien life. When a group of archaeologists discovers a mysterious artifact that suggests the existence of an alien race, they must confront the truth about their own existence and the limits of human knowledge.

Shapeshifting aliens embark on a search for identity in an underwater mystery

2005: Camouflage by Joe Haldeman

In Joe Haldeman's Camouflage, two shapeshifting aliens have been on Earth for centuries, assuming the identities of humans and living among us. As they search for each other, they reflect on their own lives and the nature of consciousness. 

Follow a reluctant heroine's epic adventure, battling gods and dark magic

2004: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

In this sequel to "The Curse of Chalion," former queen Ista is seeking peace and redemption after years of madness. She embarks on a pilgrimage to the city of Cardegoss, hoping to find solace in the company of fellow pilgrims. But as she travels, Ista finds herself drawn into a web of political intrigue and supernatural danger. With the help of a loyal bodyguard and a mysterious god, she must lean on her wits to navigate the dangers of the road and confront the demons of her past.

A profound meditation on what, and who, we consider ‘normal’ 

2003: The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

In a near-future world, where most genetic defects are removed in the first years of life, high-functioning autistic man Lou Arrendale works for a pharmaceutical company. When his employer offers him an experimental treatment that promises to cure his autism, Lou is forced to consider what it means to be "normal" and whether or not he wants to change who he is. As he grapples with this decision, Lou also faces new challenges at work and in his personal life. With his unique perspective and the support of his friends and family, Lou must find his own way forward in a world that doesn't always understand him.

Journey through a world where mythic gods wage war amidst modern America

2002: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This revered jewel by fantasy master Neil Gaiman offers a compelling critique of what society has come to worship in the contemporary age. In the world of American Gods, gods of legend exist and maintain their power through belief. But as society's beliefs have shifted, so too has the power dynamic among the gods. The plot follows ex-convict Shadow, who becomes embroiled in a conflict between the old gods of myth and spirituality and the new gods of technology and media. 

An intergalactic Harlequin romance that is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast

2001: The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro

A tale of love and quantum physics, The Quantom Rose is a Beauty and the Beast space romance following Kamoj Argali, a young ruler of a poor province destined for an arranged marriage to a wealthy, but exceedingly cruel intergalactic governor, Jax Ironbridge. The marriage is more transactional than romantic and aimed at saving Kamoj's province from dire circumstances, including famine and possible destruction. Plans fall through, though, when a mysterious, otherworldly — and possibly monstrous — suitor poses an alternative.

(Not available on Tertulia)

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