Science fiction and fantasy                                            







   

Lists

Who Reviews What In 2013
A chart of the sub-genre preferences of prominent speculative fiction book bloggers reviewing in 2013.

Who Reviews What In 2012
A chart of the sub-genre preferences of a number of prominent SFF book bloggers writing reviews in 2012.

The Best Books Of 2011
My choice of the best genre reading of 2011.

10 Years of Warpcore SF
Celebrating 10 years of blogging with a look at the best of the best from the past.

Top 10 Cheerful, Bleak, Highbrow and Accessible YA Books
The best books, listed according to various qualities.

Top 10 Lists: Books
Top rated authors and books by genre and date.

A Short List of Under-Appreciated Books
A list of some of some books that have slipped under the radar.

Empire State  
The Alchemist of Souls  
Suited  
Crown Thief  
  The Return Man
  Pure
  Nights Engines
  Ironskin
 

The Best Books Of 2012

24th December 2012

In 2012 I read a little more fantasy than I usually do, so my favourites from the past year reflect this. It's been a pretty good year for début authors, and even better for relative newcomers who have written sequels in which their style has continued to evolve and improve. I've probably read fewer books overall, but more new voices.

Best Superhero Noir

Adam Christopher is one of these refreshingly new voices, and his novel Empire State is quite unlike anything I've read before. Doing a noir take on the superhero genre is far from a well-worn path, but it's not merely the novelty that makes this a great read. It's a complex mystery that paints an atmospheric and somewhat tragic alternate world full of vibrant characters.

Best Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia

In theory we dodged the apocalypse on December 21st, but the end of the world has been quite prominent in fiction. In Pure by Julianna Baggott, society is divided between humans who escaped by living in a dome, and all the other unfortunates who ended up getting fused to machines, creatures, and anything else they were near at the time of the disaster. It's a very unusual scenario, with some hard-hitting political themes and characters I could really warm to.

The Return Man by V. M. Zito is on somewhat more familiar ground with a zombie apocalypse that divides America between the safe areas and the infected. It's less weird than Pure, but it nevertheless has a great balance between blood-pumping action, a scary and nearly credible scientific explanation, and thoughtful characterisations.

Best Bad Boy

Easie Damasco is back as the lovable rogue and eponymous thief in David Tallerman's Crown Thief. I don't know if it's a Han Solo thing, but I've always liked thieves and rogues in fiction, precisely because of their recklessness. Damasco's appeal is partly down to his devil-may-care attitude, and partly because he's not some brutish fighter. He's never going to bash his way out of trouble, and his character flaws mean he's unlikely to avoid it for long.

Best Refuse Collection Based Fantasy

Once again Jo Anderton scoops this title, with Suited, the sequel to Debris. The second in The Veiled Worlds series piles layer after layer of intrigue over a solid foundation, so on the one hand it's a cracking mystery. But on a metaphorical level it's about people with disabilities, and it deals with these characters in a believable and sensitive way.

Best Adaptation of a Classic

Ironskin by Tina Connolly takes Jane Eyre and gives it a spooky, fae makeover. It's a dark story about disfigurement, special needs, and romance. As with Debris, it's the social awareness that makes this story stand out above the usual fantasy romances.

Best Alternate History/Historical Fantasy

Elizabethan swashbuckling is the stuff dreams are made of, and it's so much better when magic is involved. Add in the uncertainty of alternate history, a cross-dressing young heroine, and a game of spying played by a handsome yet troubled young swordsman, and you may begin to see why Anne Lyle's The Alchemist of Souls was such a hit with me.

Best Science Fiction

Night's Engines by Trent Jamieson is another story to take on an apocalyptic mood. It's the sequel to Roil, and it's full of an ominous feeling of the end of times as darkness closes in on the world of Shale. It's science fiction that feels like epic fantasy, but it's also more knotty than a kitten's knitting party.

So those are 2012's highlights for me. Although I haven't featured any straight-up comic fantasy on this list, scaling the book mountain has been a lot of fun this year. I can only hope 2013 will be as entertaining.