LJ Best Books 2017

It's time again for LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry and literature, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles.   SEE WHO MADE THE LIST

Literary SF Hits Award Shortlist, Hugo Drama Escalates

Judging from the six titles shortlisted for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for best science fiction novel published in 2014, the once-strict divisions between between genre and literary fiction are increasingly breaking down Emily St. John  Mandel’s dystopian best seller, Station Eleven, was a fiction finalist for both the 2014 National Book Award and the 2015 Pen/Faulkner Award, and. Michel Faber’s visionary The Book of Strange New Things hit many critics’ 2014 top ten lists. For fans of literary fiction adventurous enough to explore new worlds, these nominated novels offer an excellent starting point. [It’s worth noting that the first winner of this award, established in 1987 by author Arthur C. Clarke and described as the most prestigious sf award in Britain, was Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale.]

The Girl With All The Gifts – M.R. Carey (Orbit) girlwithgifts
VERDICT Like Max Brooks did with World War Z, Carey (Lucifer; Hellblazer) turns the zombie genre on its head. While the setting is a stark dystopian future teeming with undead, this moving story’s real focus is the relationships and growth of the characters, not who or what they are. In a packed field, this fast-paced and haunting tale is sure to stand out. (LJ 5/15/14)

The Book Of Strange New Things – Michel Faber (Canongate)
VERDICT Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow meets the loneliness of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris; recommended for lovers of thought-provoking sf.  (LJ 11/15/14)

Europe In Autumn – Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
A near-future spy thriller that The Guardian  praised as “a fusion of Kafka and Len Deighton,”

memorywaterMemory Of Water – Emmi Itäranta (HarperVoyager)
VERDICT The writing is gorgeous and delicate in this dystopian award-winning debut, which is unique in both its setting and the small scale that Finnish author Itäranta employs. A larger world, with huge problems, is hinted at but not shown. Because the reader stays with the beautifully realized character of Noria and the village she inhabits, the tension is high even though the pacing remains measured.  (Starred, LJ 5/15/14)

The First Fifteen Lives Of Harry August – Claire North (Orbit)
This tale about reincarnation was lauded by The Guardian as “a gripping read that is often quietly profound, emotionally affecting and intellectually dizzying.”

Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel (Picador)
VERDICT This is a brilliantly constructed, highly literary, postapocalyptic page-turner, and should be a breakout novel for Mandel. (Starred, LJ 9/1/14)

Meanwhile, the controversy surrounding the 2015 Hugo Award nominees continues with two  three-body problemfinalists withdrawing from the final ballot. The award’s official site reported that in the Best Novel category Markos Kloos removed his novel Lines of Departure from consideration. Replacing his work is Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. In the Best Short category, “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet was withdrawn by its author and replaced by “A Single Samurai” by Steven Diamond. The organization noted that it is the first time in the history of the Hugo Awards that a finalist has withdrawn a work after announcement of the finalist shortlist.

In addition, author Connie Willis declined to be an awards presenter at this year’s ceremonies, explaining in an essay on her website that she refused to lend credence by her presence to “winners who got the award through bullying and extortion.”

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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.