Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top Nine Books Published in 2017

Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven (insert your Spinal Tap joke here), yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2017. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

Also, there is no doubt that this list, like every other list out there is built entirely on the combination of the books I've actually read with my own prejudices, taste, preferences, and the choices I made when selecting books to read across the breadth of 2017. That's really what we're saying when we say we've put together a list of the "Best Books of the Year". It's the best we've read, the best we can remember, the best based on what we appreciate in speculative fiction. One of the other best books I've read this year is Alison McGhee's latest novel Never Coming Back, but this is a speculative fiction blog focusing on more nerdy endeavors, so for the sake of theme I'll limit this list to science fiction, fantasy, and everything in between and around the edges. With that said, I adore Alison McGhee's fiction and

This Top Nine List is more or less in order.  The top slot is a complete lock, but ask me tomorrow and some titles may shift around a bit.  Whichever order the list is in, these are the nine novels published in 2017 which I feel were the strongest titles of the year.

1. The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit): From my review "The Stone Sky caps off a stunning epic fantasy trilogy, one which began with the threaded narrative of three orogenes and concludes with the story of a woman and daughter finally coming back together. If you think there's going to be a truly happy ending, you haven't been paying attention. That's not the story N. K. Jemisin is telling here. The Stone Sky weaves deep personal drama and trauma with the overarching racial commentary that underpinned the entire trilogy.

The Broken Earth is a monumental achievement in fantasy fiction. The Stone Sky is the culmination of the best fantasy trilogy written today and that might be an understatement." It is not simply the best fantasy or speculative fiction novel of the year, it is the best novel I read in all of 2017.


2. Assassin's Fate, by Robin Hobb (Del Rey): If this is the last time Robin Hobb invites readers into the Realm of the Elderlings, Assassin's Fate is a fitting and wrenching end to the series and of the story of FitzChivalry Farseer. The writing of Robin Hobb and Assassin's Fate is beautiful and painful and aching and rippling with pain, but sprinkled with moments of pure grace. (my nanoreview)

3. The Stars Are Legion, by Kameron Hurley (Saga): As I wrote in my review of The Stars Are Legion, instead of "just focusing on all the cool and nasty stuff Kameron Hurley uses to build her novel, we should also discuss just how kick ass The Stars Are Legion is. Hurley has packed The Stars Are Legion with action, space battles, invasion, the exploration of worlds, betrayal, murder, adventure, and pretty much everything you might want out of a novel. I suppose I can't realistically claim that it i everything you want, but it's definitely everything I want."

4. Into the Drowning Deep, by Mira Grant (Orbit): A terrifyingly good novel which will completely change how readers think about mermaids. Forget Disney, forget the cutesy fairy tales, Mira Grant reinvents (or restores) mermaids to their rightful and frightful place as horrifying terrors of the sea. Into the Drowning Deep is compulsively readable and is perhaps the best novel Grant has written thus far. (my nanoreview)

5. City of Miracles, by Robert Jackson Bennett (Broadway): "Oh, this is so good. With each novel of The Divine Cities, Robert Jackson Bennett raises the bar - to the point that going into City of Miracles I was nervous. Yes, it was well established that Bennett is a fantastic writer, but could he hold that level of excellence for one more novel and truly stick the landing. He does, and then some. He opens the novel with Shara's murder and nothing about what follows is expected. All of it is great. All three of the Divine Cities novels were excellent. City of Miracles is outstanding and a near perfect ending to the series. My only regret is that this closes the book on the series." (my nanoreview)

6. The Power, by Naomi Alderman (Little, Brown): Alderman's novel flips the world's power structure and examines some of the asburdity (and evil) that can be done when one gender has an overwhelming amount of political and social power. Alderman does this by having women develop (or re-develop) the ability to conduct electricity and shock others. It puts the power literally in the hands of women and then pushes that concept out on a global scale. One of the ideas I found fascinating was the framing device of the novel, which looks at this book as historical fiction with the idea of how it is being used as subversive literature in a world where women have always had the power. The Power is intense and, well, powerful. It is excellent and compelling.

7. Amberlough, by Lara Elena Donnelly (Tor): I somehow managed to never review Amberlough, which is a bit of a shame because it was spectacular. Part political thriller, part spy thriller, part Cabaret, part callback to early 1930's Berlin, Amberlough is doing a lot of heavy lifting in a compact package. Donnelly's Amberlough is a smooth, charming, and brutally compelling novel that is near the top of the class of 2017.

8. Gluttony Bay, by Matt Wallace (Tor.com Publising): Come for the madcap gonzo writing, stay for the wrenching emotion. Regular Nerds of a Feather readers with any degree of perception will recognize just how much I love Matt Wallace's Sin du Jour novellas. Gluttony Bay is the penultimate tale and it is the best of the series so far. (my review)

9. Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit) - A locked room murder mystery with clones, in space. It's a hell of a concept that Mur Lafferty more than pulls off. She absolutely nails it. Six Wakes is a novel you just don't want to put down. (Shana's review)


As I mentioned in the introduction, for as many books as I read in a year, there is always something amazing that I missed and that I just didn't have time to get to. Or, as plugged in as I try to be, that I just haven't heard of (or heard enough about). As much as I wanted to, I did not read The Stone in the Skull (Elizabeth Bear), Oathbringer (Brandon Sanderson), An Unkindness of Ghosts (Rivers Solomon), and Barbary Station (R.E. Stearns). The list of highly recommend and presumably stellar novels that I just didn't get to read this year is long and distinguished. That's the reason for the tenth spot on the list. 

Also it is worth noting the seven books that just missed the list but were in serious contention: The Murders of Molly Southborne (Tade Thompson), The Wanderers (Meg Howry), The Collapsing Empire (John Scalzi), Phantom Pains (Mishell Baker), Winter Tide (Ruthanna Emrys), The Last Good Man (Linda Nagata), An Unkindness of Magicians (Kat Howard)

POSTED BY: Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 2017 Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Writer / Editor of the mostly defunct Adventures in Reading since 2004. Minnesotan.