Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, 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 2015. 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.
This Top Nine List is more or less in order. Ask me tomorrow and some
titles may shift around a little bit. Whichever order the list is in,
these are the nine novels published in 2015 which I feel were the
strongest titles of the year, popularity be damned.
1. Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie: Tonally different from the previous two volumes, Ancillary Mercy is a crushingly good book that closes out Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy. I was in awe of just how much I loved this book, the characters, the setting. While I always wanted to know just a little bit more about what was going on in other places of the universe, the story kept me rooted and grounded and focused. I loved it.
2. Uprooted, by Naomi Novik: I finished Uprooted as I began work on this list and it immediately shot nearly to the top. After all the hype and build up as I somehow didn't read this earlier, I was concerned that Uprooted would ultimately be a let down. It was not. It was oh so good. There is something to be said for a great standalone fantasy novel (see last year's The Goblin Emperor, but damn, they always leave you wanting more).
3. Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson: Destroy the moon with the first sentence of the book, see how quickly I want to read your book. "The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason." This was my first Neal Stephenson novel. It will not be the last.
4. Signal to Noise, by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia: Described as a "literary fantasy about love, music, and sorcery, set against the backdrop of Mexico City." Flipping between 1988 and 2009, Moreno-Garcia has written a beautiful novel that caught me up in its spell.
5. The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson: A comment from Dickinson on Goodreads mentions that there will be a sequel, though preferably only one. I would love to see Baru's story continued and wrapped up - to see if she's able to get her revenge on the Masquerade by destroying herself in the process. Brutal. Wonderful.
6. Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho: Though the novel is technically the story of Zacharias Wythe, the titular character in Victorian England, the beating heart of the story is that of Prunella Gentleman, a wonderful character and a bit of a force of nature. Sorcerer to the Crown is set in Victorian London, so we've got "vicious politeness", as Amal El-Mohtar so eloquently put it. I highly recommend this.
7. Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear: Bear can write pretty much anything she damn well pleases and the remarkable thing is, it's going to be one of the best things you read that year. That's one of her many super powers, and Karen Memory is no different. I could tell you that this is the story of a late 1800's era "seamstress" having one hell of an adventure in a steampunk western, with an appearance by real life Marshall Bass Reeves and a distinctive narrative voice - and that should be enough to convince you to read the book. But all I really should have to say is "written by Elizabeth Bear."
8. The House of Shattered Wings, by Aliette de Bodard: Imagine for a moment that angels fell from heaven and that they essentially took over Paris, setting up competing Houses and the brutal tension that would entail. Imagine, then, the humans that live under them, some serving and binding themselves to a house - some addicted to the angel's magic. Set up a curse and some murders, mix in de Bodard's fantastic storytelling, and you've got a recipe for one of the year's best novels.
9. Fool's Quest, by Robin Hobb: This is the fifteenth novel set in the Realm of the Elderlings and the eighth to feature FitzChivalry Farseer, and somehow, with all of those books and all of those pages, Robin Hobb manages to make this world feel both fresh and familiar and deeply necessary all at the same time. The story here isn't just the getting the characters to the next event, the story is actually the characters themselves - their journey, their relationships to each other, the brief joys and bitterest disappointments.
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