The best fantasy/sci fi novel of the last half decade.


Last week, like most of the MW regulars, I was at Dragon Con, an experience which–much as I love it—is thoroughly overwhelming: the tracks, the stars, the costumes, the events, the people…

And the books.

I had a moment in the dealer room, standing at the Larry Smith bookseller booth where, confronted by all those slick and stylish covers, I felt that particular blend of elation and ignorance.

I often feel these two at cons; there’s just so much stuff there I know nothing about, much of it intriguing, even thrilling, but all of it pointing an accusatory finger as if to demand what on earth I have been doing that has left me so little time for this.

Or that.

Or all of those.

So I’m gazing at this wall of books, aghast at how few I’ve even heard of, let alone read, and I’m feeling that rising sense of panic that I’m missing crucial stories, characters and worlds, and just don’t know where to start, when it occurs to me that cons are full of like minded (or near enough) people and I figure I should just ask around.

Which is where you come in. MW is, after all, a bit like our own semi private convention, so where better to pick brains (in the non zombie sense,) than here?

So tell me: what is your favorite spec fic book published within the last 5 years and why? I need to add to my TBR pile.

I realize this looks a bit on the lazy side, so I’m going to ask not for lists but for one title only per comment with a short (50 word) explanation of the choice, in the hope that the conversation will generate more than just statements of taste. Show me the basis of your judgment and sell me on why I should move your choice right to the top of my list.

That’s all. I know: can’t believe I managed to write an MW post that was under a thousand words…

Over to you and thanks in advance for the suggestions.


27 comments to The best fantasy/sci fi novel of the last half decade.

  • Oooh, I get to be first? This is what I get for staying up too late, I suppose.

    The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The narrative voice is amazing, and the prologue was so beautifully written that I had writer’s block for a month. I felt upon reading the first paragraph like a kid who’d taken one guitar lesson and then went to see Eric Clapton jam with Stanley Jordan, Eric Johnson and B.B. King. I think the Kingkiller Chronicles is the perfect blend of humor, adventure, character development, magic and pathos. Simply one of my favorite series. Ever.

    I took the easy one. Next!

  • Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn. It’s a fantastic stand-alone set in the near, not-qute-dystopian future, and it’s about stories. And stories within stories. And the narrative direction goes both forwards and backwards, all the way back to the Greek gods even as the main plot moves ever forward. Riveting stuff that I can’t recommend enough.

  • wookiee

    The Name of the Wind is also the first book that jumped to mind for me. But to give different options, I offer:

    Daemon by Daniel Suarez. This book delivered a mindset shift much like Foundation, The Matrix, and Neuromancer did in previous eras. The connected, separate society that develops in Suarez’s world is fascinating.


    Eifelheim by Michael Flynn. I don’t like all Flynn’s stuff, but Eifelheim is a fantastic first contact story, and the learning interactions that happen between medieval humans and the aliens gave me that warm feeling I had while watching Enemy Mine.

  • sagablessed

    I have to choose? Hmm….I will have to ponder this for a while, lol.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Unfortunately, we haven’t had a lot of time for reading in my house for rather a while (although, interestingly, we *have* read half of the suggestions so far made above…)

    However, we *always* have time for the Bartimaeus books by Jonathon Stroud. The original is more than five years old, but the latest one just came out, moves the series to ancient Jerusalem, and is just as fabulous as the others. Awesome footnote humor plus serious, thoughtful treatment of what truly makes a hero and the importance of how we view ourselves.

  • mysticcowboy

    “A Madness of Angels” by Kate Griffin
    Matthew Swift, has been re-animated with the energy of telephone conversations, which now shares his consciousness as the Blue Electric Angels. Who killed Swift and the other sorcerers? Mind blowing in its originality, this story set in modern London. The writing is tense and incredibly vivid.

  • The Wind-Up Girl, by Paulo Bacigalupi — an eco-dystopian, futuristic, steampunkish science fiction book that was riveting and horrifying and beautiful all at the same time. Brilliant really. Not at all my sort of book, but I read it on the recommendation of a friend, and wow. I’ve been reading in genre a lot recently, so you and I should continue this conversation in private at some point.

  • MJRousos

    Since ‘The Name of the Wind’ has already been called out, I’ll nominate ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. Wonderfully written, with marvelous descriptions and setting. The characters are intriguing – especially some of the supporting cast.

  • Wow. Great suggestions, all, and largely knew to me, which is sort of the point. Thanks! And yes, David, let’s chat soon.

  • quillet

    I have to pick just one? Oh MAN that’s hard, but I’ll go with Terry Pratchett’s ‘Nation.’ Anything recent by him is excellent, actually, but this one is a stand-alone alternate history with magical elements. It’s by turns very funny and deeply sad, but also wise and very, very beautiful. One of his best.

  • Mikaela

    I have to pick? Hrm. Ok, I’ll pick The Grass King’s Concubine by Kari Sperring. I cannot say it is the best book I have the last 5 years since I read in a lot of different genres, but it is one of them.

  • Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. It has the funniest opening line I’ve read in a long time – funny enough that I bought the book on the strength of that alone. It’s a sci-fi political thriller that combines satirical humor with real depth of characterization. As I read I worried that Scalzi would drop the threads of his fairly complex political intrigue as so many of these books do, but he never did. At the end of it all everybody was where they were supposed to be and every character actually mattered. And yes, the title is a nod to Philip K. Dick. Also, it pokes fun at Scientology without sneering at people of faith, which is quite hard to do.

  • Dang, MJRousas beat me to The Night Circus! So let’s see…Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Stark, a talented but inexperienced magician, is betrayed by his mentor and spends eleven years in Hell, eventually fighting his way through the demonic arenas to return to Earth for the revenge he wants more than anything. It’s violent and gritty with a midnight-dark sense of humor and probably doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a nice Southern girl would read, but there we are.

  • Don’t have any, alas. Everything I’ve read recently has been either old stuff, my stuff, or things from the MW group. 😉

  • Razziecat

    The Spirit Lens, by Carol Berg. It’s the first in the Collegia Magica trilogy, and it’s so well written that when I finished the last page, I turned back to page one and read the book again. No one gets inside the characters’ hearts and mind like Berg does, and no one does world-building with such color, depth and down-to-earth reality. The other two books are just as beautiful, but the I think the first one in this series is what makes it all work.

  • Prospero’s Daughter Trilogy, by L. jagi Lamplighter. It’s really one longer book chopped up into three bits for publication, and perhaps the best new thing I’ve read in a long time. And gnostic modern fantasy worlds are not generally my thing.

  • Vyton

    Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. It’s post-some-unspecified-apocalypse where most people can’t see color. The more red you can see, the higher your rank in society. I really like the techno part about the color spectrum. A really good read.

  • mepanchin

    If the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie counts (first book 2006, 2nd 2007, 3rd 2008) then I’ll nominate that. Great characters, realistic world. A definite spin on a number of epic fantasy tropes. In my view, he makes Martin’s treatment of his characters (and often, readers) seem tame.

  • I’m also going with a Joe Abercrombie title–Best Served Cold. This book shows the darker side of love, loyalty, family, friendship in a dark and gritty fantasy tale of revenge. The characters are ones you hate to love, but mostly do.

  • Actually, I have read one recently I enjoyed that’s not from the MW folk. Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan. A pretty fun read. I got it for free from a contest and I rather enjoyed it. It’s actually a trilogy and I only have book 1, but it did leave me definitely wanting the other two. The main characters are a bit snarky and somewhat mercenary in their approach (then again, they’re swords for hire, so…). The one is sort of the moral compass for the other and always pulling him into higher causes. I liked the character building, the setting, and the story was a fun read all the way through. I saw the twist coming early on, but I tend to see things coming like that. It’s a large book, epic fantasy, and I imagine the other two are as well (Darn my lack of disposable cash!).

  • Jamie

    AFTER THE FALL, BEFORE THE FALL, DURING THE FALL by Nancy Kress. Yes, I am biased, but it really has jumped to the top of my list of favorites of her novels.

  • Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy. In some ways he takes shortcuts with the world such as having Angland invaded by Northerners, not far removed from England and Vikings. However, his characters and their awesome POVs make up for it. I sadly found myself cheering for the sadistic torturer because of all the crap he’d endured and continued to face. And Ambercrombie writes action as riveting as Salvatore.

  • Cieloan

    I’ll nominate The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko. The story follows a young man who is forced into extreme humility and his struggle to overcome it. It delves deeply into the ideas of cowardice, bravery, and courage, has a strong lyrical style, and crafts some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while. One of the best books I’ve read all year.

  • I was going to say Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy.
    Oh well, I’ll say The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Just the first book. The second is not bad, but the first is the pick. A great combo of world and characters. The city the book is set in is a character unto itself. It is part Venice, part London and all corruption with a heart of gold (stolen gold that is).

  • mysticcowboy

    I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned “The Warded Man” by Peter V. Brett. It’s the first of a series. Very well done.

  • Megan B.

    I feel like someone has to mention George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I know, every fantasy lover is aware of it, but for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, I want to endorse it. (Note: The first one came out more than 5 years ago, but the series is ongoing). Truly, the depth of the story is amazing. There are so many characters, and so many of them are developed, yet it’s not hard to keep track. The story itself is engrossing, the setting is rich, the writing is good. I put off reading it for too long, but I am so glad I picked them up.

  • ajp88

    Hurray Megan B! I finally had time and a decent connection to comment on this post, and meant to champion ASOIAF. To fit with the half decade thing, A Dance with Dragons is a fantastic new entry in the series with shocking turns in character development, advancing the plot. Oh, and that epilogue…CHILLING.