2011 has come to an end and it’s time to reflect on all of the good stuff I’ve read in the last twelve months. This is going to come up again when I talk about the Best Books Published in 2011 (that I’ve read), but 2011 was something of an off year in regards to the number of books that I’ve read and also with the number of new books and authors I have encountered for the first time. There is a fairly obvious reason for this: seven months out of my year was spent in Texas (TEXAS!!) and due to the vagaries of training and a lack of access to the newest fiction, I had to take what I could get when I could get it.
Here then, are my top nine author discoveries of 2011. In the spirit of acknowledging that there is always something or someone I’ve missed, either by a slip of memory or just lack of opportunity, the traditional tenth spot on my list remains blank.
1. Jo Walton: I've been reading Jo Walton for so long on Tor.com and have been aware of her fiction for even longer, that I have to remind myself that I've never actually read one of her novels until picking up Among Others. It was a revelation. Among Others is such a beautiful novel and I hope everyone reads it.
2. Sandra McDonald: The Outback Stars. Wonderful. I wrote that “The SF, military, and romantic elements of The Outback Stars all come together to tell a singular story which I really didn't want to end. Fantastic novel and one which I wish I didn't wait so long to read.” McDonald blends different elements into a seamless whole, and what I appreciated most was the deeply personal story of Lt. Jodenny Scott. McDonald hooked me early on and I'll be catching up on the two other novels in this sequence sooner, rather than later.
3. Anne Ursu: I blame Kelly Barnhill for this. I went to one of Kelly's readings to support her and to hear Kelly read from her debut novel (which, being a bad person, I still haven't read) and came out entranced by the other reader, Anne Ursu. Ursu read from her latest novel Breadcrumbs, but I'm still waiting on my library to deliver it to me. Impatient, I picked up one of her more adult novels, Spilling Clarence. I devoured it. Ursu also occasionally uses one of my favorite techniques: repetition.
4. Alastair Reynolds: I feel confident that I've read some of his short fiction before, and possibly blogged about it, but 2011 was the year which I read Revelation Space. It is excellent. It demands that I pick up the next two volumes in the trilogy. Quality science fiction and space opera. It gets a little heavy on the description, but is well worth checking out if you're one of the twelve people who haven't already read this.
5. Sara Zarr: Here's something else to blame that darned Barnhill woman for. I am 95% positive I ran across something she posted that praised up Sara Zarr's novel How to Save a Life. Being a sucker for books about broken and hurting people, I fell into the grief stricken recovery of Zarr's storytelling.
6. Dan Wells: So, you've got a boy who knows that he is a sociopath and believes he is destined to become a serial killer. Then, in his small town, there is a serial killer. The boy believes he may be the only one who can catch the killer, but if he does, will that let loose the “monster” he knows is deep inside himself? Really damned well done.
7. John Barnes: So, John Barnes has apparently written all sorts of novels before Directive 51. I thought he might have been a debut novelist before I looked him up for this entry. He's not. Barnes has more than 20 previous novels. Naturally. Directive 51 is a post-apocalyptic novel that begins just before a series of linked attacks using nanotechnology destabilize the industrial infrastructure of the world. I like that sort of thing and the novel is fascinating. There are two more books following this one and I plan to read them both.
8. Vince Flynn: Flynn writes political action thrillers. It's not really in the style of Tom Clancy because Clancy is more known for the intense amount of detail and jargon that laces his novels, even his best. Flynn writes with a much more aggressive sense of pace and even though I would suggest that he isn't a technically great prose writer, following Mitch Rapp's assault on terrorists and the political intrigue that goes along with it is an exciting ride.
9. David Gemmell: I feel uneasy about placing Gemmell here. Or, on the list at all. Part of the reason is that if I had the chance to read more widely this year, I know Gemmell wouldn't make the list. The other is that I didn't love Legend the way I hoped to. I see where Legend could be an influential novel, but I felt that it was a little too pat and simple.
Previous discoveries can be found for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.