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Editors' Choice - The Official SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2007
by Neil Walsh

Here it is -- the SF Site's 11th annual Editors' Choice Top 10 Best Books of the Year. Last issue we had a look at the Readers' Choice Top 10, and I think you may be as surprised as I was to compare the two lists. There's so little overlap, it almost seems like the SF Site readers and reviewers aren't reading many of the same books. Personally, I choose to see this as a good thing, since it means that when you look at both lists you'll find even more recommendations for great books to read.

[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
One For Sorrow One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
(Bantam, August 2007)

This novel is a sort of supernatural coming-of-age story. Adam McCormick has an unhappy home life, and mostly keeps to himself at school. Then his mother is in an accident that confines her to a wheelchair, and a fellow student is murdered. These two separate events braid together into bindings of confusion and guilt that begin to tighten around Adam's miserable life. Jamie, the murdered boy, haunts Adam as a literal ghost; and Lucy, the woman to blame for the crippling of Adam's mother, becomes a semi-permanent fixture in the broken family's home. The novel is told from Adam's point of view, and his detached stoicism about most things serves to heighten the poignancy of key emotional moments when they do break through. An impressive debut novel.

   No. 9
Territory Territory by Emma Bull
(Tor, July 2007)

The taming of the wild west has become a source of some of the greatest American legends, including those surrounding the now legendary characters of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday -- particularly their famous run-in with the Clanton gang. Emma Bull has returned to the events in 1881 at Tombstone, Arizona, but she's spiced up the story with dark sorcery and ritual magic in her own re-telling of the shootout at the OK Corral. What you think you know about this legend is probably fiction anyhow, so why not throw some dark magic into the mix and enjoy a fine mingling of the western and the fantastical.

   No. 8
The Servants The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith
(Earthling, July 2007)

Mark is 11 years old. He hates his new stepfather and his new home in seaside Brighton. Worse, his mother is very ill, possibly dying. Mark discovers that the long-disused servants' quarters in their new house is full of very active servants -- all of them long dead. When he notices things in the servants' world beginning to fall apart, he realizes there are disturbing parallels to his own situation. Perhaps if he can fix what's broken in the past, Mark can effect positive change in his family home of the present. Smith's first original novel in nearly a decade was definitely worth waiting for.

   No. 7
In a Town Called Mundomuerto In a Town Called Mundomuerto by Randall Silvis
(Omnidawn, April 2007)

This book has a tangible feeling of magic, even though there is little overt evidence of it in the novel itself. Superstition and prejudice abound, but actual magic is considerably more elusive. As we learn from the opening line, it's a story about "a woman who bore a dolphin's child." An old man has told this same story hundreds of times already to a young boy, now on the brink of becoming a man. The boy wants to hear it again. The old man obliges, although he fears the boy may soon tire of the story and move on to another stage of his life. But the story has a determined, inexorable life of its own.

   No. 6
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry Potter, Book 7 by J.K. Rowling
(Bloomsbury, July 2007)

Here's one book where SF Site readers and contributors are in agreement, as it shares the same spot on this and the Readers' Choice Top 10 for 2007. Rowling has created quite a phenomenon; even people who never read Young Adult fiction have been reading Harry Potter. Once you get hooked into the story, it's not hard to see why. In this final book, Harry and his friends have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes of the evil Voldemort if they are to have any hope of defeating him. This is no easy task. In fact, it may not even be possible. But all Harry knows is that he has to try. For my money, The Deathly Hallows provides a fully satisfying conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining series.

   No. 5 (tie)
Bad Monkeys - HarperCollins Bad Monkeys - Bloomsbury Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
(HarperCollins / Bloomsbury, August 2007)

When Jane Charlotte is arrested for murder, she reveals to the police her secret mission: she's a member of an organization dedicated to fighting evil, the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, or Bad Monkeys. Naturally, Jane is quickly transferred to psychiatric evaluation. But either she's an extremely clever liar, she's delusional, or -- could it be possible? -- she's on the level. This is a funny, gripping and thoroughly enjoyable novel.

   No. 5 (tie)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union - HarperCollins The Yiddish Policemen's Union - Fourth Estate The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
(HarperCollins / Fourth Estate, May 2007)

Although this novel has more of a noir feeling to it than anything else, it's based on an alternate history premise. Post WWII, a Jewish settlement in Alaska has been established (apparently this was actually proposed by Roosevelt at the outset of the war), and the state of Israel has failed. Meyer Landsman is a cop in this Alaskan Jewish community, and he's on the trail of a murderer, while larger international conspiracies loom in the background. Chabon deftly shakes up an oddball mix of ingredients into a delectable cocktail of a novel.

   No. 4
Black Man Thirteen Thirteen or Black Man by Richard Morgan
(Gollancz, May 2007 / Del Rey, July 2007)

Released in the UK as Black Man by Gollancz, this novel was retitled Thirteen for the US release by Del Rey. In the future, some humans are genetically engineered to suit them to particular tasks. Thirteens are aggressive throwbacks that nevertheless have certain uses. When a thirteen escapes into society and goes on a murderous rampage, Carl Marsalis, a freelance thirteen hit-man is hired to track down and eliminate the threat. The story that unfolds is a complicated plot, an action-packed thriller, and an interesting exploration into the nature of humanity.

   No. 3
Buffy, Season 8: issue 1Buffy, Season 8: The Long Way Home - trade Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8 by Joss Whedon, et al.
(Dark Horse, March 2007-ongoing / trade paperback vol. 1, October 2007)

Joss Whedon's decision to do Buffy Season 8 as an ongoing comic book series has introduced a huge number of Buffy fans to the wonderful world of graphic novels. Picking up where the TV series ended, the Sunnydale Hellmouth has been destroyed and there are now thousands of Slayers in the world. But the fight against evil hasn't slackened. The volume 1 trade paperback of Season 8 collects issues 1 to 5 of the ongoing graphic series. Joss Whedon, of course, is the mastermind behind the project and scripted the first few issues before handing off the writing to veteran comic book writer Brian K. Vaughan. The dialogue is as snappy and witty as you'll remember it from TV.

   No. 2
The Execution Channel - Orbit UK The Execution Channel - Tor US The Execution Channel by Ken MacLeod
(Orbit, April 2007 / Tor, June 2007)

MacLeod presents us with an alarmingly plausible near future scenario. War and climate change disasters are boiling over everywhere, snowballing the world's problems and creating unmanageable numbers of refugees. State cover-ups and official executions go hand in hand, and video footage of the latter is readily available on the internet -- with more executions occurring all the time. James Travis has a son in the military and a peace activist daughter. When a nuclear bomb destroys a US Air Force base, and some compromising information about Travis comes to light, he and his family find themselves in serious danger of being featured on the Execution Channel.

   No. 1
Brasyl - Pyr US Brasyl - Gollancz UK Brasyl by Ian McDonald
(Pyr, May 2007 / Gollancz, June 2007)

Unlike the Readers' Choice list of Best Books of 2007, where we had a clear run-away winner, the voting amongst Contributors was very close. However, this is the book that eked into the lead here, and as it was also featured as number 3 on the Readers' list, clearly we're all in agreement that McDonald's latest novel is one that should not be missed. It follows three stories in Brazil: of a TV producer in present day; a self-made entrepreneur 25 years in the future; and a Jesuit 275 years in the past. It soon becomes apparent that these three different timelines are only a tiny fraction of the possible parallel worlds made accessible by a new technology -- and each is threatened by a multiverse-spanning conspiracy. McDonald masterfully explores some key sfnal concepts and pivotal alternative science. Wrap your head around this book if you want to see what truly ingenious science fiction can look like.

The Near Misses and Honourable Mentions
The voting amongst SF Site editors and reviewers was indeed close. So close, in fact, that it would be difficult to give you a top 20, as we did for the Readers' Choice list. What follows are some of the near contenders that were only just barely squeezed off the list, presented in reverse alphabetical order. These are also excellent books that you may want to check out if you've already read everything listed above -- or even if you haven't.

Pirate Freedom
Un Lun Dun
Water Logic
Twilight Watch
Bright of the Sky
Soon I Will Be Invincible
Spook Country
Endless Things
World War Z
Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe (Tor, December 2007);

Ascendancies: The Best of Bruce Sterling by Bruce Sterling, edited by Jonathan Strahan (Subterranean, September 2007);

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (Macmillan, January 2007 / Del Rey, February 2007);

Water Logic: Elemental Logic, Book 3 by Laurie J. Marks (Small Beer Press, June 2007);

Twilight Watch: Night Watch, Book 3 by Sergei Lukyanenko (Miramax Books, June 2007 / William Heinemann, July 2007);

Bright of the Sky: Entire and the Rose, Book 1 by Kay Kenyon (Pyr, April 2007);

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman (Pantheon, June 2007 / Michael Joseph, August 2007);

Spook Country by William Gibson (Viking / Putnam, August 2007);

Endless Things by John Crowley (Small Beer, May 2007);

World War Z by Max Brooks (Gerald Duckworth, September 2006 / July 2007).

Best Read of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Previous Years
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2007           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2006           
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: 2006
           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
With more great books coming out all the time, we'll be back next year to see which ones are most recommended from 2008.
Until then, happy reading!

Copyright © 2008 Neil Walsh

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