As I've mentioned elsewhere: 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 2009. 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.
Unlike my list of the top books published in 2009, this list is for the top books I read in 2009, no matter when the book was published.
1. Ammonite, by Nicola Griffith: This is easily the best novel I read in 2009. Griffith’s deft handling of the cliché reversing “all female world” is nothing like readers might expect, but it is powerfully and purposefully done. In lesser hands Ammonite might be trite or preachy. In the hands of Nicola Griffith the result is nothing short of amazing.
2. The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell: This is easily the second best novel I read in 2009. Knowing the result of a first contact mission to another world from the beginning of the novel does nothing to lessen the raw power of Russell’s storytelling.
3. By the Mountain Bound, by Elizabeth Bear: It seems I am not able to make one of these lists without placing one of Elizabeth Bear’s novels at or near the top, and for good reason. She’s really good. By the Mountain Bound is a prequel to All the Windwracked Stars. It ends where the first novel begins, and yet, knowing the ending, we find that we don’t know a thing about what came before. A surprising, beautiful, and heartbreaking novel. It changes our understanding of All the Windwracked Stars and makes the reader question what The Sea Thy Mistress will be.
4. Cyteen, by C. J. Cherryh: Murder. Genetic Engineering. Galactic, personal, ethical, and sexual politics. Cyteen has it all. Reading Cyteen caused me to go out and buy more of Cherryh’s work.
5. Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest: This is Cherie Priest at the top of her game. Her richly imagined alternate history Civil War era steampunk novel, now with airships and zombies, is outstanding.
6. Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld: A steampunk novel set in an alternate World War I where the factions at war are split down technological lines. It treats both the history are its audience with respect and in the end, what matters is that Leviathan is a rollicking tale.
7. Imaro, by Charles Saunders: An epic sword & sorcery novel featuring an alternate-African setting with a truly African hero. It’s fantastic.
8. Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson: With his last novel before the publication of The Gathering Storm, Brandon Sanderson proved his versatility in creating another distinct magic system in a world built with secrets. This thick single volume fantasy raises the bar for what readers should expect from Sanderson’s fiction and helped build anticipation for what he would be able to do with the Wheel of Time.
9. City Without End, by Kay Kenyon: If you’re not reading Kay Kenyon, you’re missing out on some great science fiction. This is the third volume of a series that improves with each offering.
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