Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

Second paragraph of third chapter:

It wasn’t the buildings’ fault. The narrowness of the ways between them, mere corridors, was what annoyed. So obviously outmoded. No room for machinery of any sort. Here was Victoria Street, a modern thoroughfare at last. Four lanes for carriages, business facades well set back but of more or less uniform height, meaning electric tramlines could easily be strung overhead between them. Striding rapidly along, an unconscious smile of contentment lurking behind his beard, Jackie saw only enough of his surroundings to avoid crashing into obstacles. He was lost, though continuing automatically on his course to St. George’s Hall. Lost in time, rapt in visions of things to come.

This was a Nebula finalist this year and came 8th in Hugo nominations, and has been getting a lot of buzz. It’s an alternate history where Fabian socialists team up with local leaders to build a steampunk-based society in what in our timeline became the Belgian Congo. I’m afraid I started grumpy because I found the map confusing, and I then had difficulty keeping the characters and places straight in my mind; I did like the technology and the concept of political liberation, but I would have liked more local colour to make me feel that the places were real. I’ll still look out for her other work, but this didn’t sell me.

This was my top unread book by a non-white writer. Next on that pile is Tangle Of Fates, by Leslie Ann Moore.