Aliette de Bodard’s novella The Tea Master and the Detective, another Hugo read, is set in her Xuya universe but doesn’t seem to require prior knowledge of it. It’s actually a pretty simple standalone story: The Shadow Child, a “shipmind” suffering with what seems like PTSD after an accident in the mind-bending “deep spaces” which are, roughly, de Bodard’s version of hyperspace, is hired by a mysterious and precociously intelligent woman called Long Chau to help investigate an unusual and extravagant murder.
It’s essentially a Sherlock Holmes story, only in space and with Asian female characters. What I do like about it is how de Bodard treats the standard detective story formula in which the status quo is restored by solving the murder: folded into that consolatory structure, here, is a narrative of change. The solving of the murder is directly linked to a personal crisis for The Shadow’s Child: she faces her fears, and in doing so takes the first step towards healing. It’s not that her problems are solved, or resolved; it’s that her situation has changed for the better, and that she can look forward to further change through her relationship with Long Chau.
Basically, this is just a lovely novella where people make friends and do good and drink tea. I haven’t read much of de Bodard’s work – I didn’t get on great with The House of Shattered Wings – but, after this, I’d love to read more.