Friday, May 20, 2011

Booklist's "Top 10 SF/Fantasy: 2011"

--by Brad Hooper
(First published in Booklist, May 15, 2011)

SF and fantasy, as with all fiction genres these days, offer tantalizing — even dizzying — diversity, which, of course, beckons a wide spectrum of readers of popular fiction. The 10 novels below are the ones Booklist thought particularly tantalizing of the titles we reviewed over the past 12 months.

All the Lives He Led (Frederick Pohl). It’s 2079 and Pompeii has become a theme park. Pohl is a master of everything that goes into a cracking good novel, and for this one, he has clearly boned up on vulcanology to boot.

The Best of Larry Niven (Larry Niven). Niven excels at creating possible futures that are the outcome of current ideas stretched to the extreme. This is a collection to love.

A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness). Diana Bishop is the last of the Bishops, a powerful family of witches, but she has refused her magic ever since her parents died. Essential reading across literary mystery and epic and fantastic romance genres.

Dragon Haven (Robin Hobb). The second volume of the Rain Wilds Chronicles shows Hobb again working at the highest level of contemporary fantasy, to which her creativity with dragons adds majesty.

Hellhole (Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson). This is a militaristic sf story of galactic proportions that also offers characters easy for the reader to believe in.

Midsummer Night (Freda Warrington). Set after the end of the Great War, this novel should please classic- and urban-fantasy fans, romance readers, and anyone looking for a good, fey story.

Pale Demon (Kim Harrison). The ninth Rachel Morgan novel finds our tough and feisty witch on a mission to get her shunning rescinded; this is an excellent series entry that is guaranteed to satisfy the author’s following.

The Spirit Thief (Rachel Aaron). Aaron’s outstanding fantasy debut is the first in a trilogy about unrepentant thief Eli Monpress, whose goal is to amass $1 million in gold.

Thirteen Years Later (Jasper Kent). Kent has magically blended history, folklore, and storytelling to produce a superb account of the Dekabrist revolt in 1825 Russia.

What the Night Knows (Dean Koontz). This novel is deliberate, highly supernatural, somber throughout, and motivated by religious dread—one of Koontz’s weightiest performances.