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SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2006: Readers' Choice
by Neil Walsh

As many of you know, since mid-December SF Site has been soliciting your votes for your favourite books of the past year. We had a good rate of participation this year, and some very interesting choices. Thanks to everyone who participated; I appreciated receiving your votes as well as your comments.

For me the most remarkable thing about the Readers' Choice Top 10 list this year is how little overlap there is with the Editors' Choice Top 10 list. It's almost like we weren't even reading the same books. But the good thing about that is it means there are even more great recommendations to be found by looking through both lists.

[Editor's Note: Where possible, links lead to SF Site reviews of the books. You can find links to other Best of the Year columns here.]

   No. 10
The Ghost Brigades The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi
(Tor, February 2006)

This novel is set in the same universe as Scalzi's Old Man's War (2005). Ghost Brigades are special forces units made up of soldiers cloned from the DNA of the dead. Jared Dirac is cloned from a despicable traitor. The memories of his infamous progenitor are transplanted into Dirac in an attempt to find out how deep the treachery went and how much the enemy might know. The memory dump doesnt' seem to take -- at least, not at first...

   No. 9
Rainbows End Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
(Tor, May 2006)

In this novel, Vinge has created an uncomfortably plausible near future world. Virtual reality is now able to create and superimposes a real-time overlay on your perception of the real world, essentially allowing you to live in the VR world of your choice. But some clever cookie has also created extremely slick mind control software called YGBM (You Gotta Believe Me), which causes you to believe whatever the originator wants you to believe.

 
   No. 8
Forest Mage Forest Mage: The Soldier Son, Book 2 by Robin Hobb
(Voyager, July 2007 / Eos, September 2006)

In this sequel to Shaman's Crossing (2005), Nevare Burvelle is a survivor of the Speck plague that has devastated the King's Cavalla Academy. Unlike the other survivors, few as they are, Nevare seems to have resumed his previous good health. The only thing troubling him is that his defeated adversary, Tree Woman, continues to haunt his dreams -- dreams in which his Speck self is the ultimate betrayer.

   No. 7
Glasshouse Glasshouse by Charles Stross
(Easton Press, 2003 (limited ed.) / Ace, June 2006 / Orbit, July 2006)

Even in the 27th century people are still a little nostalgic for the past. An experimental historical role-playing project designed to recreate the mid-20th to mid-21st centuries goes somewhat awry. A far future SF thriller with complicated plot twists and complicated characters. Fast-paced, well-written and full of cool ideas, this is what SF is meant to be like.

 
   No. 6
Fragile Things Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
(Headline, September 2006 / William Morrow, October 2006)

Neil Gaiman is well known to SF Site readers. He took the number one spot on this list last year with Anansi Boys, and his first short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors captured the number one spot on our inaugural Readers' Choice list 9 years ago. He's definitely a perennial favourite among SF Site readers -- including me. This second collection of his short fiction made it onto my own personal top 10 as well. The stories here have a loose thematic connection as suggested by the title. Gaiman's stories are clever, vivid, lively, and always worth reading.

   No. 5
The Bonehunters The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson
(Bantam, March 2006)

The sixth book in the 10-volume Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is the fulcrum in this unfathomably vast web of plot. The events of the Malazan campaigns on Genabackis and Seven Cities, the Tiste Edur conquest of the Letherii Empire, the machinations of the Malazan Empress -- almost everyone we've met and everything that has happened so far is pulled together in this book. And now the Malazans are not only at war on every continent they occupy, they are also courting civil war on their very doorstep.

 
   No. 4
Blindsight Blindsight by Peter Watts
(Tor, October 2006)

In this novel it's the characters sent to meet the aliens who are at least as interesting as the possibility of first contact. A linguist with a brain surgically quartered to house each of her distinct personalities; a pacifist warrior; a synthesist with half his brain missing; a biologist who is more machine than man; and a genetically reconstituted vampire to keep them all in line -- what more unlikely crew to represent humanity to a potentially hostile alien species? A suspenseful read to the very end.

   No. 3
Temeraire / His Majesty's Dragon Temeraire / His Majesty's Dragon Temeraire / His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
(Voyager, January 2006 / Del Rey, March 2006)

The first three books of this series were all published last year: His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War. The pseudo-historical backdrop here is the Napoleonic wars, except in Novik's world dragons are used for aerial attack. Captain Laurence of the British Navy captures a French ship that has a rare dragon egg on board. When the dragon hatches, it bonds with the Captain, condemning him to a very different life than the one he had chosen for himself.

 
   No. 2
The Thousandfold Thought The Thousandfold Thought: The Prince of Nothing, Book 3 by Scott Bakker
(Orbit / Penguin Canada / Overlook, January 2006)

This novel is the concluding volume in the fantasy trilogy that began with The Darkness that Comes Before (2003) and continued in The Warrior-Prophet (2004). The Thousandfold Thought is a potent sorcery. It is the only thing that can avoid a second Apocalypse, and in doing so it will forever transform both faiths on either side of this holy war. Anasûrimbor Kellhus, the warrior-prophet, must learn the secret of the Thousandfold Thought -- the fate of the world rather depends on it.

   No. 1
The Lies of Locke Lamora The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
(Gollancz / Bantam, June 2006)

The number one most recommended book by your fellow SF Site readers is this debut fantasy novel about a talented and daring thief and con man named Locke Lamora. In the course of his adventures and schemes, Locke runs afoul of the local authorities as well as the underworld leaders. In fact, he is drawn into a feud between the reigning crimelord and a new and sinister contender known as the Grey King. But there is honour among thieves. Unwilling to be manipulated, Locke declares his own personal war on the Grey King.

The Near Misses and Honourable Mentions
    In the spirit of recommending good books, we never can resist going beyond a mere 10. If we had a Top 15 list, for example, it would have continued thus:

  • 11 - The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross (Golden Gryphon, November 2006);
  • 12 - Dzur by Steven Brust (Tor, August 2006), 10th book in the Vlad Taltos series begun way back in 1983;
  • 13 (tie) - Shriek by Jeff VanderMeer (Tor, August 2006), #2 on the Editors' Choice Top 10 this year;
  • 13 (tie) - Vellum: The Book of All Hours, Book 1 by Hal Duncan (Macmillan, August 2005 & August 2006 / Del Rey, April 2006)
  • 14 (tie) - Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey (Warner, July 2006);
  • 14 (tie) - The Last Witchfinder by James Morrow (William Morrow, March 2006 / Weidenfeld & Nicholson, April 2006), #8 on the Editors' Choice Top 10;
  • 15 (tie) - The Virtu by Sarah Monette (Ace, June 2006);
  • 15 (tie) - Sun of Suns: Virga, Book 1 by Karl Schroeder (Tor, October 2006)

    And if we went beyond a Top 15, the following books would likely have featured on the list:

  • Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton (Macmillan, October 2005 / Tor, October 2005 & May 2006 / Del Rey, February 2006);
  • Oracle's Queen by Lynn Flewelling (Bantam Spectra, July 2006);
  • Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe (Tor, December 2006), sequel to Soldier of the Mist (1986) and Solider of Arete (1989);
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore (William Morrow, March 2006);
  • Crystal Dragon: Great Migration, Book 2 by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Meisha Merlin, March 2006);
  • Three Days to Never by Tim Powers (Subterranean, May 2006 / William Morrow, August 2006);
  • Eifelheim by Michael Flynn (Tor, October 2006);
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (Gerald Duckworth & Co / Crown Publishers, September 2006);
  • A Shadow in Summer: The Long Price Quartet, Book 1 by Daniel Abraham (Tor, March 2006);
  • Infoquake: Jump 225 Trilogy, Book 1 by David Louis Edelman (Pyr, July 2006);
  • The Sharing Knife: Beguilement, Book 1 by Lois McMaster Bujold (Eos, October 2006);
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Alfred A. Knopf, September 2006 / Picador, November 2006), #10 on the Editors' Choice Top 10.

    And the following authors might have made it onto the Top 10, or ranked even higher than they did, if votes for their work had not been split due to more than one of their books being published in 2006:

  • Neal Asher for The Polity Agent (Tor, October 2006) and The Voyage of Sable Keech (Tor, February & October 2006);
  • John Scalzi also for The Android's Dream (Tor, October 2006) and Old Man's War (Tor, February & December 2005 & January 2007);
  • Charles Stross also for The Clan Corporate: The Merchant Princes, Book 3 (Tor, June 2006);
  • Neil Gaiman also for Anansi Boys (William Morrow, September 2005 / Headline, September 2005 & May 2006 / Thorndike, April 2006 / Harper, October 2006);
  • Steven Erikson also for House of Chains (Bantam, December 2002 & September 2003 / Tor, August 2006) and Memories of Ice (Bantam, December 2001 & October 2002 / Tor, November 2005 & August 2006), as the US readers catch up with the UK publication schedule;
  • Justina Robson for Keeping it Real (Gollancz, May & November 2006) and Mappa Mundi (Tor, October 2001 & October 2002 / Pyr, September 2006).
Best Read of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Previous Years
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2005           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2004           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2003           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2002           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2001           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2000           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 1999           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 1998           
           Best Read of the Year: 2005
           Best Read of the Year: 2004
           Best Read of the Year: 2003
           Best Read of the Year: 2002
           Best Read of the Year: 2001
           Best Read of the Year: 2000
           Best Read of the Year: 1999
           Best Read of the Year: 1998
           Best Read of the Year: 1997
Thanks again to all of you who participated. If you want to see how your selections compare with the SF Site Contributors' selections for this year, I encourage you to check out
Editors' Choice - The Official SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2006


Copyright © 2007 Neil Walsh


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