Best of 2010

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This past weekend, my local newspaper, the Washington Post, printed a rare separate Book World section.  (They used to have one every Sunday, but they’ve now placed that content in the body of the paper, spread throughout the week.  Yes, it’s the same amount of coverage.  No, it doesn’t feel the same.  I hate the new way of doing things.  But anyway…)

The Book World section contained the end-of-year lists – Best Fiction, Best Nonfiction, Best Children’s Books.  There wasn’t any Best Speculative Fiction list.  (Alas, the mainstream publications *never* have a Best Speculative Fiction list…)

So, I decided to make up my own list.  In no particular order, here are the five best speculative fiction books that I read in 2010:

  • MOCKINGJAY, by Suzanne Collins.  The conclusion of the HUNGER GAMES trilogy, this book grabbed my emotions and didn’t let them go, as Collins did not flinch from bringing her characters to the logical conclusion of their actions, making the series’ final, difficult decisions.
  • FEED, by Mira Grant.  This zombie book isn’t about zombies — it’s about how much independence and control we give to others when we’re afraid.  I loved the pace of this story — even when I questioned some character motivations, I went hurtling along with the storytelling, staying up way past my bedtime to finish.
  • THE PASSAGE, by Justin Cronin.  This vampire book isn’t about vampires — it’s about how much independence and control we give to others when we’re afraid.  Gee, there’s a theme hidden in this post, somewhere…  While I know a number of hard science fiction readers who threw up their hands at the alleged science in this novel, I loved the social analysis of this post-apocalyptic vision.  Even if it was, you know, written by a literary author.
  • LIAR, by Justine Larbalestier.  This book is narrated by a self-admitted liar who is the very definition of unreliable narrator.  So unreliable, in fact, that the book may or may not belong in a year-end summary of speculative fiction.  I am absolutely, positively, 100% certain that I know the “true” story buried in this tale.  Unless, um, I’m wrong about what is truth and what’s a lie.
  • SOULLESS, by Gail Carriger.  Yeah, I know this book came out in late 2009.  But I didn’t read it until 2010, and this is my post, so I can cheat that way.  I was surprised by the amount of romance in this book — especially because I picked it up to provide a *break* from my romance reading.  Nevertheless, I thought the story was well told, and Carriger handled Victorian social conventions so deftly that I found myself simultaneously amused and bemused by her story.

So, what about you?  What book or books would you put on your Year’s Best?

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14 comments to Best of 2010

  • Mindy, you *do* know what you’ve done, yes?
    You have added entire series to my TBR pile.
    En-tire ser-ies!
    I don’t know whether to hug you or cry!
    However, while we are talking about lists — Our own AJ Hartley and Jagi Lapmlighter made another *best* list. Kirkus’ Reviews Best SiFi and Fantasy list for 2010.
    Go AJ and Jagi!

  • Thanks Faith. I am, as my students say (or used to–I lose track) pretty stoked. Here is the complete list: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-2010/

    Thanks also for the recommendations, Mindy. More for my wish list.

  • Apparently I was enthralled by gritty tales of magic in the dark city streets, because my top books from this year were all in that category.

    A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin
    Two years after his untimely death, Matthew Swift finds himself breathing once again, lying in bed in his London home. Except that it’s no longer his bed, or his home. And the last time this sorcerer was seen alive, an unknown assailant had gouged a hole so deep in his chest that his death was irrefutable…despite his body never being found. He doesn’t have long to mull over his resurrection though, or the changes that have been wrought upon him. His only concern now is vengeance. Vengeance upon his monstrous killer and vengeance upon the one who brought him back.

    Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
    James Stark spent 11 years killing monsters in Lucifer’s arena for the entertainment of fallen angels, but now he’s back in seedy, magic-riddled L.A., trying to avenge his girlfriend’s murder and hunt down Mason Faim, the black magician responsible for getting him sent downtown.

    The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
    Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle–but there’s a risk: Sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London–just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That’s OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off…

  • I’m right there with you regarding Soulless. It was one of the reading highlights of my year. Of course, our own MW authors put out plenty of wonderful words, so there’s lots to choose from. Thanks for the great list.

  • Faith – ha-ha! My work here is done! My goal is to make sure that *everyone* has to-be-read shelves as stacked as mine! (And yes, you’re returning the favor 🙂 )

    A J – Many well-deserved congrats!

    Misty – You’re a wicked, wicked woman. Ah well, I’m planning on finding a lot of time in the next couple of weeks to curl up with a good book or ten…

    Stuart – I think that SOULLESS surprised me because it read as *such* a romance, but it has received such (well-deserved) acclaim from the spec fic community! Ah, all the genres I read crossing the streams!

  • Unicorn

    Can I play too? Only most of the books I read came out in the last century. Being a huge Sir Terry Pratchett fan, I must first say that his “Hogfather” is really one of the best books I’ve ever read; and “Nation” was just as good. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J. K. Rowling (needless to say) was a fantastic conclusion to the series and I loved it, it tied up all the loose ends so well. (Yes, I know, I got my hands on it rather late. It’s not me, it’s the local library 🙂 ). Oh, and my TBR pile has just got a few more books added to its tottering peak. It used to be just a shelf, now it’s a whole library. Sigh.
    Thanks for the post! I am a sucker for “Best of” lists.
    Unicorn

  • Mindy and Misty, I am currently reading The Devil You Know by Mike Carey, and it is fab-u-lous!

  • Unicorn – Thanks for playing! 🙂 (And yeah, I know how frustrating it can be, waiting for the library to get those books you’re dying to read!)

    Faith – You have no pity for my TBR shelf, do you? ::grin::

  • I read Joe Abercrombie’s series: The First Law. I think the last book was released this year.
    Either way I was very enthralled and much thrilled by Mr Abercrombie’s twist on the typical epic fantasy quest. He has all the ingredients: an orphan of unknown heritage, a powerful and fearsome warrior, an ancient wizard following an equally ancient prophecy and a princess… However Joe manages to take each element and twist it out of shape and fit them all back together again in sometimes unexpected ways. I loved that things seemed to follow the formula but nonetheless manage to break it so completely. When you read the three books, The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings, no matter how confident you are of how the story will end, you’ll be surprised by at least two things (out of the many possible).
    Stick that on your shelf and read it! 🙂

  • Scion – I’ve heard other great things about the Abercrombie books. That does it. I’m quitting my day job, and I’m reading full time 🙂

  • Oh no, Mindy. I already *have* a TBR shelf that’s sagging beneath the weight of its unread gems!

    Fortunately, three of those are the Hunger Games books, but I’m avoiding them for now because my WIP is first-person, present tense and I don’t want to risk it. My husband’s burning through them and enjoying them quite a bit. The other books I hadn’t heard about, though.

    I’m working on Justine Larabalestier’s Magic of Reason trilogy. That and A.J.’s books were on my best list of 2010. I also read Jane Yolen’s Pit Dragon trilogy. Excellent reads, all.

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

    Thanks, Faith.

    I have not read many books this year, so I’m not in a position to judge. I read the Dresden books that came out and enjoyed them. I read two of Mindy’s Wish books and enjoyed them, too.

    There are two books I read that I really liked that I’ll mention specifically.

    The Magician and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett. Part Regency, part Gothic, part political espianage thriller, part fantasy. And all parts well done! I’ve never read a gothic written by a man before. There must be some, but I just hadn’t come upon them. But his guy did a great job with each mood. I loved the book and I happen to know that I’m getting the sequel for Christmas. (Galen Beckett is a pen name, but I can’t recall the guy’s real name.)

    The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir by Ken Harmon
    A) A charming noir mystery with elves
    B) A superb blend of nearly everything Christmas into one seamless whole
    C) A wonderful take on the relationship between Santa and the Real Meaning of Christmas that is not only touching but also handled in just a few paragraphs here and there without slowing the story down.

  • L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright

    Er…that should have read “there are two other books that I read…”

    I didn’t mean it to read as if I did not really like Butcher and Mindy’s books.

  • Moira – I *totally* understand not wanting to read what you’re writing. I have some books that have settled on my TBR for a long time because of that restriction… I loved the Magic of Reason books – the first one, most of all, but all of them are good.

    Jagi – Not to worry – I did not mis-read your original post! (And thanks for fitting my Wish books into your way-too-busy life!)