I can feel myself running out of steam in my booklog-catchup effort, but looking over my notes to myself on past books, the ones I wanted to talk about most are Genevieve Valentine’s Persona and Icon. I doubt I can do them justice in this state, but I’ll try to give an impression, at least.
The fastest way I can describe the setup of these is that they’re near-future political thrillers in which UN(ish) ambassadors are called Faces and are celebrities, as in red carpets and paparazzi and careful public image management. Suyana Sapaki is the Face of the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation; Daniel Park is an unauthorized photographer who witnesses an assassination attempt on Suyana.
Another way to describe them is that Persona is Suyana’s origin story and Icon is an exploration of the problems with superhero stories. Suyana is not literally a superhero, to be clear–these are SF by virtue of being near-future–but those were my strong impressions when I finished each (indeed, the day I finished Icon, I said on Twitter that it was what the MCU will never give me no matter how much I want it to). So if that sounds appealing, you should definitely check these out.
Other things that may be useful to know: the books are full of excellently varied women and non-white people and their relationships to each other. They are unflinching in their acknowledgment of complexity, compromise, and loss, while also containing moments of progress, gain, and hope. And they are fast-paced reads, not long, and a complete duology.
Disclaimer: the author is a friend.
A spoiler post follows.