Speculative Fiction Top 10 of 2013

Hey guys!

It's that time of year again! Here's my Speculative Fiction Top 10 novels of 2013! You can access my review of each novel by clicking on its title.

Enjoy!

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1- River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

In his critically acclaimed novel Under Heaven, Guy Gavriel Kay told a vivid and powerful story inspired by China’s Tang Dynasty. Now, the international bestselling and multiple award-winning author revisits that invented setting four centuries later with an epic of prideful emperors, battling courtiers, bandits and soldiers, nomadic invasions, and a woman battling in her own way, to find a new place for women in the world – a world inspired this time by the glittering, decadent Song Dynasty.

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life—in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later—and his life changes again, dramatically, as he circles towards the court and emperor, while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor—and alienates women at the court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading to events no one could have foretold, under the river of stars.


2- Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

12 May 1940. Westminster, London, England: the early days of World War II.

Again.

Raybould Marsh, one of “our” Britain’s best spies, has travelled to another Earth in a desperate attempt to save at least one timeline from the Cthulhu-like monsters who have been observing our species from space and have already destroyed Marsh’s timeline. In order to accomplish this, he must remove all traces of the supermen that were created by the Nazi war machine and caused the specters from outer space to notice our planet in the first place.

His biggest challenge is the mad seer Greta, one of the most powerful of the Nazi creations, who has sent a version of herself to this timeline to thwart Marsh. Why would she stand in his way? Because she has seen that in all the timelines she dies and she is determined to stop that from happening, even if it means destroying most of humanity in the process. And Marsh is the only man who can stop her.

Necessary Evil is the stunning conclusion to Ian Tregillis’s Milkweed series.


3- Abaddon's Gate by James S. A. Corey (Canada, USA, Europe

Here's the blurb:

For generations, the solar system -- Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt -- was humanity's great frontier. Until now. The alien artifact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has appeared in Uranus's orbit, where it has built a massive gate that leads to a starless dark.

Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artifact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them.


4- 23 Years on Fire by Joel Shepherd (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Cassandra Kresnov-a highly advanced hunter-killer android-returns to face down a rogue government's plot to eliminate free will.

Commander Cassandra Kresnov has her hands full. She must lead an assault against the Federation world of Pyeongwha, where a terrible sociological phenomenon has unleashed hell against the civilian population. Then she faces the threat from a portion of League space known as New Torah, in which a ruthless regime of surviving corporations are building new synthetic soldiers but taking the technology in alarming directions.

On the Torahn world of Pantala, Sandy encounters betrayal, crisis, and conspiracy on a scale previously unimaginable. Most challenging of all, she also meets three young street kids who stir emotions in her she didn't think she was capable of. Can the Federation's most lethal killer afford unexpected sentiment? What will be the cost if she is forced to choose between them and her mission, not only to her cause, but to her soul?


5- Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don't look to me to save you. Don't think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don't follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.


6- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

A major new work from "a writer to make readers rejoice" (Minneapolis Star Tribune)— a moving story of memory, magic, and survival.

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.


7- The People's Will by Jasper Kent (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

Part historical adventure, part vampire thriller — the fourth dark and dazzling novel in Jasper Kent's 'Danilov Quintet'.

Turkmenistan 1881: Beneath the citadel of Geok Tepe sits a prisoner. He hasn'’t moved from his chair for two years, hasn'’t felt the sun on his face in more than fifty, but he is thankful for that. The city is besieged by Russian troops and soon falls. But one Russian officer has his own reason to be here. Colonel Otrepyev marches into the underground gaol. But for the prisoner it does not mean freedom, simply a new gaoler; an old friend, now an enemy. They return to Russia to meet an older enemy still.

In Saint Petersburg, the great vampire Zmyeevich waits as he has always waited. He knows he will never wield power over Tsar Aleksandr II, but the tsarevich will be a different matter. When Otrepyev delivers the prisoner into his hands, Zmyeevich will have everything he needs. Then all that need happen is for the tsar to die.

But it is not only the Otrepyev and his captive who have returned from Geok Tepe. Another soldier has followed them, one who cares nothing for the fate of the tsar, nor for Zmyeevich, nor for Otrepyev. He has only one thing on his mind – revenge. And it'’s not just Zmyeevich who seeks the death of the tsar. Aleksandr’'s faltering steps towards liberty have only made the people hungry for more, and for some the final liberty will come only with the death of the dictator. They have tried and failed before, but the tsar’'s luck must desert him one day. Soon he will fall victim to a group that has vowed to bring the Romanov dynasty to a violent end — a group that calls itself The People’'s Will.


8- Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed... but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...


9- The Flames of Shadam Khoreh by Bradley P. Beaulieu (eBook)

Here's the blurb:

Nearly two years after the harrowing events of The Straits of Galahesh, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim. The clues they find lead them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies.

But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. Worse, the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.

Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.

From Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the critically acclaimed debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, comes the concluding volume in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.


10- The One-Eyed Man by L. E. Modesitt, jr. (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb:

The colony world of Stittara is no ordinary planet. For the interstellar Unity of the Ceylesian Arm, Stittara is the primary source of anagathics: drugs that have more than doubled the human life span. But the ecological balance that makes anagathics possible on Stittara is fragile, and the Unity government has a vital interest in making sure the flow of longevity drugs remains uninterrupted, even if it means uprooting the human settlements.

Offered the job of assessing the ecological impact of the human presence on Stittara, freelance consultant Dr. Paulo Verano jumps at the chance to escape the ruin of his personal life. He gets far more than he bargained for: Stittara’s atmosphere is populated with skytubes—gigantic, mysterious airborne organisms that drift like clouds above the surface of the planet. Their exact nature has eluded humanity for centuries, but Verano believes his conclusions about Stittara may hinge on understanding the skytubes’ role in the planet’s ecology—if he survives the hurricane winds, distrustful settlers, and secret agendas that impede his investigation at every turn.

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A few weeks ago, I was complaining on Facebook that 2013 turned out to be the year of disappointments. And yet, looking back as I put together this annual Top 10, regardless of the disappointing titles and although many of the heavyweights are absent, it's been another good year for speculative fiction readers everywhere!

Roll on 2014! =)

2 commentaires:

Bob Milne said...

I have 2 or 3 more contenders to read before I sit down and do my own Top 10 list, but River of Stars will definitely be at or near the top, and I suspect Emperor of Thorns will make an appearance as well.

The One-Eyed Man is one of those contenders, so we'll see if I get to it in time, and as for Bradley P. Beaulieu . . . well, he and I need to do some catching up.

Anonymous said...

The One-Eyed Man sounds like a copy of Dune.
That said, Guy Kay made pretty much a copy of Lord of the Rings when he was beginning (his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy) that is, to me at least, emotionally far stronger and ultimately better than the original. So it doesn't need to be a bad thing. It's just that it usually is.