By now you’ve probably all seen PW‘s list of the 100 best books of 2010. I had five spots each for romance and SF/F/H, and I had to make some very hard decisions. The books that made the final cut for SF/F/H:
- The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum
- Feed by Mira Grant
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and The Broken Kingdoms (yes, I cheated a bit and squeezed two books into one listing) by N.K. Jemisin
- Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
- A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter by Peter Straub
All these books received starred reviews from PW, and if you’ve talked to me at any point over the past year, you’ve probably heard me squee about them. Every book on that list made me sit up and go “WOW”, a rare and treasured thing for a jaded old reviewer like me.
I also want to list some honorable mentions here. It’s been an especially strong year for fantasy, and numerous books deserve acclaim:
- Hard Magic, Laura Anne Gilman: “CSI with magic” in a really neat little package.
- The Poison Throne et seq., Celine Kiernan: An improbably terrific epic fantasy trilogy.
- Game of Cages, Harry Connolly: The powerful sequel to rural urban fantasy Child of Fire, which was on last year’s mass market Best Books list.
- The Third Bear, Jeff VanderMeer: A delicious selection of deeply surreal short stories.
This was not such a great year for hard SF, I’m sorry to say, but a few titles are definitely noteworthy:
- Hull Zero Three, Greg Bear: A strange, video game–like cross between Elizabeth Bear’s Dust and the movie Groundhog Day. No, weirder than that.
- Zendegi, Greg Egan, and Omnitopia Dawn, Diane Duane: Two very different novels about MMORPGs and how the game world can affect the real world.
- The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction: A must-have for any scholarly library.
Finally, on the horror front–where I am perhaps the pickiest–I want to give a shout-out to Mr. Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett, which vividly brought out the scariest parts of the Great Depression.
I don’t usually talk much about romance on Genreville, since I don’t want to tread on the toes of the brilliant Barbara Vey, but since I put together the romance list, I figure I can get away with it just this once. Here’s our top five:
- The Forbidden Rose, Joanna Bourne
- The Iron Duke, Meljean Brook
- The Heir, Grace Burrowes
- Barely a Lady, Eileen Dreyer
- Trial by Desire, Courtney Milan
For the honorable mentions, I’ll start with historical romance:
- Proof by Seduction, Courtney Milan: A stunning debut Victorian that very nearly made the top list, outclassed only by its sequel.
- Whisper of Scandal, Nicola Cornick: An adventure story wrapped around a heartbreaking tale of a woman rendered barren by her husband’s beatings.
- Last Night’s Scandal, Loretta Chase: The hilarious and adorable story of two rapscallions renovating a haunted Scottish castle.
- Marry Me, Jo Goodman: A moving 19th century American romance with tons of interesting period medical detail.
On the paranormal front, a big crowd-pleaser is Zoë Archer’s Warrior/Scoundrel/Rebel trilogy, which cranks up the Indiana Jones–style adventure to 11 and then piles on the sexy heat. Jodi Thomas’s contemporary Western Welcome to Harmony is a really lovely meditation on what it means to be family. And Christy Reece’s series kickoff No Chance is an exemplary romantic suspense novel with a fabulous self-saving heroine.
Congratulations to these authors and their publishers on some very impressive achievements. I look forward to seeing where you all go next!
(An administrative note: Honorable mentions are just that, and cannot be billed as being on PW‘s best books list. If you want to quote anything I’ve said here, feel free, but the quote should be attributed to “Rose Fox on PW‘s Genreville blog” and not to PW. My opinions as stated here should not be treated as equivalent to PW reviews–and PW gave all these books very positive reviews, so go quote those instead!)