Alexis Wright, The Swan Book, Constable, 2015.
The Swan Book is by more way than one a novel that blur the genres. It is also something quite unique and if you are the right reader for it, this politically and ecologically engaged fantasy novel from Australia set in the near future will be a delight to read.
Dan Grace, Winter, Unsung Stories, 2016.
In the last year, Unsung Stories has become fast one of my favourite SFF publishers as I have yet to find a story they have published and that I didn't like. And Winter, a fantasy novella set in the near future but steeped in the supernatural, is no exception.
Jen Williams, The Copper Cat trilogy,
Epic and heroic fantasy trilogies are my best frenemies. When I pick up a new one I always long to find back that sweeping sensation I felt the first time I read Lord of the Rings but I usually end up casually throwing the book above my shrugging shoulders: "Been there, done that, read it to death a thousand times". Having read Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland (with accompanying novels of Derkholm) doesn't help either.
So, by the end of the fifth chapter of the Copper Promise, I was eyeing it pretty dubiously wondering if I should really need going any further. But read on, dear reader, because my adventure with the Copper Promise has a happy ending that includes a happy me...
M. Suddain, Hunters & Collectors, Jonathan Cape, 2016.
Though Hunters & Collectors lacks a bit of substance, it is a very enjoyable scifi novel with a grisly baroque comical twist to it that will certainly delight anyone looking for something entertaining to read.
Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium, Aqueduct Press, 2014.
By the first chapter, I was intrigued. By the second chapter, I was starting to elaborate theories. By the fifth chapter, I was going "What the heck?" By the tenth chapter, I was going "What the frigging heck?" By the ending, I was in no doubt I would review it.
Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Utopia, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2011.
Translation: Chip Rossetti.
First published in 2009 in Cairo, a year before the Arab Spring begun, this near future novel has something prophetic in it. But even some 8 years after the events, Utopia is a tale of violence and social unrest that still remains topical.
Naomi Alderman, The Power, Viking, 2016.
The Power was on my reading list for months. It sat there while I was unsure whether I should read it or not. It seemed to me it would be too much like this book or this TV show. I was wrong and as I read on it kept on delivering.
China Miéville, This Census-Taker, Picador, 2016.
I have a huge problem when it comes to Miéville stories: I judge everything he writes by comparing it to The City & The City, which isn't fair because The City & The City is such a masterpiece. So it took me a week after having read This Census-Taker to realise that this novella, despite an initial disappointment, was in fact very well worth a review and a brilliant story.
Aliya Whiteley, The Arrival of Missives, Unsung Stories, 2016.
I started reading with a groan: The Arrival of Missives uses a first person narrator who is a naive and arrogant teenager in love with her teacher. My amount of patience for fictional teenagers is extremely limited and I was thinking that this was turning into a disaster by page 15. So how was I supposed to know that, upon reaching the end of this short scifi novel, some 80 pages further, I'd be standing up on my sofa, elated and the fist raised?
Oliver Langmead, Metronome, Unsung Stories, 2017.
"And then he woke up and it was all just a dream..." is probably the most pointless and infuriating sentence I can read. Except that it's the premise of Metronome, by Oliver Langmead and that, far from being pointless and infuriating, it leads to a poetical and gripping fantasy tale. To keep it short: it's made of awesome...
Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching, Pan McMillan, 2009.
I was grabbed from the first page. By the second page, I knew I would review it. At the third page, I was tweeting "Wow". By the fourth page I wasn't doing anything else but reading because I was too engrossed in the book.
Nick Wood, Azanian Bridges, NewCon Press, 2016.
Set in a current South Africa that still enforces Apartheid, Azanian Bridges is, despite some flaws, a striking read with hints of Brazil. Though most political uchronias tend to give a sense of relief (as in "Thank goodness it didn't turn out that way!") with a slight warning for times ahead, it almost feels as if this very topical scifi novel arrived slightly too late for our world's current state of affairs...
Connie Willis, Crosstalk, Gollancz, 2016.
As much as possible, I try not to review twice the same author, except in the Collections. There are so many writers worth being discovered and if I did, I'd probably spend my time reviewing some of my favourites in a loop: Pratchett, Stross, McMaster Bujold, Willis... Oops! "Do you, at least, have a good reason for reviewing Willis again?" will you ask with a stern look. Yes: my reason is that we all need a laugh and a feel good story right now and that's what Crosstalk provides aplenty...
Indra Das, The Devourers, Del Rey, 2016.
Here was The Devourers, popping up on a few of "Best of scifi 2016" lists. I'm always wary of those lists on which I often find the latest thing everyone raves about and that I barely managed to finish. Only one way to find out: I picked it up, started reading... argh, no, werewolves! Is it going to be Twilight all over again? But I kept on reading and I loved it. (And it's definitely not Twilight!)
"Why two covers?" are you asking, "You never put two covers even if it's a series." Thank you for being so observant a regular reader (or if it's the first time you come here, welcome). Planetfall and After Atlas are both set in the same universe. They are both tied by one event: a ship called Atlas leaving Earth with humans aboard. But they can both be read as stand alone novels, you could even read just one and not the other. On the other hand, reading both as a diptych will certainly illuminate the stories more...
Tade Thompson, Rosewater, Apex Publications, 2016.
Aliens arrived on Earth and... "Wait!" will you tell me, "I've already read this. Like, a thousand times! Not to mention countless formulaic American movies... Why would I read it?" Because it's far removed from your typical "Aliens arrived on Earth" story and so well written that it'd be a real pity not to read it...
Jo Walton, Thessaly,
Plato's Republic, Greek gods, Socrates, time travel and robots. Honestly, what's not to like? ...
Art by Joshua Mays.
"Science-fiction is a white "menochrome": it's a genre written by white men for white men and in which characters are white men."
Erm... No, really, no.
So here are ten novels, chosen subjectively and by chronological order, that will get you on your way to discover that there are much more than just these ten novels and that scifi and fantasy is a genre as diverse as our planet's population...
Chris Beckett, Eden,
Chris Beckett's Eden trilogy is something quite unique to say the least and it had been a while since I had read such a well written scifi novel...
N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth
There aren't many novels that have received the Hugo Award and that I've really liked. But The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin grabbed me from the first pages and I couldn't leave it until I had reached the end...