January 10, 2011

The Best Books of 2010 (Part 2): Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Last week, I offered up a fave five list of sorts dedicated to some of my favorite horror titles released in 2010. This week, I'm shining a light on some of the sci-fi and fantasy titles I read from the past year. Well, there's only one book on this list that could be classified as science-fiction, so I decided to include it hear as I didn't read enough from that genre to have a fave list for it.

There's actually a lot of fantasy and sci-fi titles from this past year that are still on my wish list and to-be-read pile, much like with the horror genre. A couple of book with potential to have been on this list include Joe Hill's Horns and Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World, so bear in mind this list only reflects my opinion of a relatively limited pool of books.

Let's call this one historical sci-fi: Voltaire's Calligrapher by Pablo De Santis [review here]

This is a short novel and has a unique vibe to it. It's historical fiction with some intriguing sci-fi ingredients thrown in. The book was originally published quite a few years ago in South America, but North America got its first taste of novel, translated of course, and was well worth the wait it would seem. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's worth giving a chance. Why should Swedish authors get all the love these days? Save some for the South Americans.

Urban fantasy with a chip on its shoulder: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey [review coming soon]

This one was originally published in '09, but the paperback release came out in spring of last year, so that counts in my book. I'd read enough good reviews for this book that when I won my choice of books from Adventures with Cecelia Bedelia in April, I picked this one. It's urban fantasy in so much that it takes place monstly in Los Angeles and has plenty of demons, magic, and fighting. But the protagonist and narrator, Sandman Slim, is easily the surliest sonofabitch in the genre. Like, if Mickey Rourke attended Hogwarts.

How about a graphic novel: Neil Young's Greendale by Josh Dysart [review coming soon]

A music aficionado I am not, but I enjoy Neil Young's tunes more often than not. So imagine my surprise to hear there's a graphic novel out inspired by his album, Greendale. I wouldn't have figured a comic book based on a folk rock singer's baying-at-the-moon style of singing would work, but this was pretty darned good. George Bush and Sarah Palin might not care for it, but it's not like they were the target audience anyway.

Zombies with a romantic side: The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan [review here]

This is the sequel to one of my favorite novels of 2009, The Forest of Hands and Teeth. It didn't carry the same jaw-dropping impact as the first, but it was a very good followup and the daughter's story wound up as intriguing and suspenseful as her mother's in the first book. The third, and presumably final, book is due out sometime in 2011, and I'll certainly be looking forward to it. Out of all the books that could be saddled with the YA romantic fantasy label, Ryan's novels have been my favorites by far.

My favorite novel of any genre: Black Hills by Dan Simmons [review here]

My first opportunity to read a Dan Simmons novel turned out to be a showstopper of a book. When I read this book in the spring, I was reasonably sure I wouldn't come across a better 2010 release. So far, I hold to that assertion. This was just a great sweeping story about a Native-American's life from boyhood to old age, and his tribulations in holding onto his heritage, surviving love and revenge, and enduring the pernicious ghostly thoughts of General Custer in his head. Amazing book.

There you go, five books that you should consider reading if you want to dip into those genres. The past year looked like a very rich time for the two genres, so if you have any suggestions, by all means:

What were your favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels from 2010?


  1. Have to agree that Black Hills is one of the top books of 2010. One of my top fave's that didn't make your list was a book by Leonid Korogodski called Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale. Pink Noise is a good response to Peter Watt’s Blindsight—and, hopefully, it will generate a dialog. Not only does the author answer the question why our consciousness evolved, but he also places it in the context of an evolutionary process that surpasses biology.

  2. I have Black Hills on my shelves waiting to be read. I may have to put it up front a little more on my reading list.

  3. Clark - Never heard of Pink Noise, but you're apparently not the only one who likes it, as it was mentioned in my best horror blog post too. Hmm.

    Ryan G - It's certainly worth reading, in my opinion. Not very heavy at all on the fantasy elements, but the idea of a ghost haunting your haunts throughout your life does strike me as a great premise.