I’m a newcomer to reading Science Fiction and Fantasy. For reasons I can’t explain, I spent most of my life thinking I didn’t like SF/F. Then, some years ago, I had an epiphany. I did like SF/F, or at least I liked the few books people had talked me into reading over the years. And I loved SF/F movies. With that in mind, I decided to get some books and really dive into the genre.
But where to dive in? How deep did I want the water to be? To help me out I talked to friends and relatives and cruised around the internet looking for recommendations. One of the sites I stumbled upon was Joe Mallozzi’s blog. He was, at the time, a writer for the Stargate TV show, and a prolific reader of SF/F. He wrote reviews about the books and started an online book club. I used his blog recommendations and book club selections as the place to dive in. (If you haven’t read his blog, I recommend it. He also writes about food, his dogs, movies, TV, comics—he’s funny and sarcastic and sweet, and has great interaction with the blog regulars. I don’t comment often, but I read it every day. http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/)
All of that background is to say that I still feel like a newcomer to the SF/F world of books. Because I always feel compelled to start at the beginning of a series, I’m not up to date on a lot of series and haven’t read some of the big series books published in 2011. Since I’m still catching up on SF/F classics, many of my favorite books this year were actually published much earlier, but I’ve tried to stick to the ones released last year.
Many of my favorite books fall into the “it’s the end of the world as we know it and we don’t feel fine” category. Several feature some version of zombies.
- Deadline—Mira Grant This is the second book of a trilogy and you really should read the first (Feed) before this one. Both books are great, combining a zombie infestation with the growth of instant internet news. The main characters are news bloggers, so they are digging into stories that go beyond the basic zombie coverage. Violent, dark, sad, and funny.
- Aftertime—Sophie Littlefield Another zombie book, this one starts with a woman recovering from a zombie attack—she didn’t turn into a zombie or die. Now she’s looking for her daughter. The characters make this story. (I liked the sequel, Rebirth, even better.)
- Robopocalypse–Daniel Wison Not zombies this time, but robots. A great post apocalypse story about what happens when robots take over from the point of view of a man fighting back.
In addition to zombies and robots, I love reading about vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches. This goes back to my childhood days of running home to watch Dark Shadows after school. The subgenre of urban fantasy is the perfect place to indulge in my love of the paranormal. My favorites from 2011:
- Ghost Story—Jim Butcher I love the Dresden Files, Butcher’s series about wizard Harry Dresden, set in Chicago. There’s plenty of magic, mystery, and mayhem. This is the 13th in the series, so you might want to start earlier.
- Spirit Dances—C.E. Murphy In this 6th book of The Walker Papers, the main character has finally come to accept her shamanistic powers, but that doesn’t mean life is now easy. Great characters here.
- Mercy Blade—Faith Hunter This is the 3rd book in the series, which may have the most interesting main character of any urban fantasy. Jane Yellowrock is a vampire-killer for hire, but she’s so much more. I won’t say what in case you want to read the books. Start with the first in the series!
- Pale Demon—Kim Harrison This is my favorite of all urban fantasy series. The first book starts off with a witch, a vampire and a pixie opening up a detective agency. In this book, the three of them, plus an elf, take a cross-country car trip. As usual, things get out of control. There’s violence, death, and destruction. And humor.
The last four on my list aren’t as easily classified, but are excellent reads. And three of them are standalones, or first in the series.
- Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children—Ransom Riggs After his grandfather’s death, Jacob sets out to discover the truth about his grandfather’s childhood. He discovers more than he ever thought possible.
- A Discovery of Witches—Deborah Harkness This is a densely packed story couched in terms of a researcher delving into the mysteries of her own past. Full of conspiracies and secret meaning, almost like the Da Vinci Code with witches and vampires.
- Vortex—Robert Charles Wilson This is actually the third book of a trilogy, more science fiction than fantasy. I loved the first book, was confused by the second, and appreciated the great story here in the third. This is set on another world 10,000 years in the future, but the main character is trying to get back to a dying Earth, while trying to understand the mysterious Hypotheticals.
- Rule 34— Charles Stross This is about as “hard” SF as I get and I admit I had to work a bit to read this. Worth it though—a great thriller set in the future. But not too far in the future.
What SF/F did you like in 2011? Any recommendations?