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SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2012: Readers' Choice
by Neil Walsh

Here we are at our 15th annual SF Site Readers' Choice Top Ten Books. Every year we ask our readers to vote for their favourite books of the preceding year. What follows below are the results of that voting.

It's a banner year for Baen Publishing, with 6 of the top 10 books here, including first, second and third choices. Congratulations to Baen, to all the other fine publishers, and to the authors who write the books we so enjoy reading.

[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
War Maid's Choice War Maid's Choice: War God, Book 4 by David Weber
(Baen, July 2012)

It's been a long wait for readers of this series. The adventures of Bahzell Bahnakson, outcast barbarian, began with Oath of Swords (Baen, 1995), and this latest installment follows Wind Rider's Oath (Baen, 2004). Bahzell has established his reputation as a wind rider and champion of the god of war and justice. But in the 7 years that have elapsed since the action in the previous book, Baron Tellian's daughter and heir has trained as a war maid, attained her majority, and is now determined that Bahzell is the only man for her...

   No. 9
Queen of Wands Queen of Wands: Special Circumstances, Book 2 by John Ringo
(Baen, August 2012)

Christian soccer mom and demon fighter, Barbara Everette, was introduced to readers in Princess of Wands (Baen, 2006). Now she's back, and this time she has to try to save the soul of her assistant, Janea, who is lingering in a magically-induced coma. And by the way Janea, when she isn't fighting demons, is a stripper and a priestess of the Norse goddess Freya. If Barb can't rescue Janea from the astral plane, there's a good chance humanity will be destroyed by zombies.

   No. 8
Elfhome Elfhome: Elfhome/Steel City Series, Book 3 by Wen Spencer
(Baen, July 2012)

Readers will have previously met Tinker, former human orphan and present elf princess, in Tinker (Baen, 2003) and Wolf Who Rules (Baen, 2006). In the latest book in this series, the humans and elves of Pittsburg are at war with the oni, but the enemy may already be within the city. Elf children are going missing, and as the oni are known to devour their prisoners, Tinker and her people have to act quickly if they want to save their children, their home -- and perhaps even their race.

   No. 7
The Drowning Girl The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. Kiernan
(Roc, March 2012)

This novel is the latest winner of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. It has been variously described as challenging, haunting, and beautiful. The story is told from the perspective of a schizophrenic woman, India Morgan Phelps -- "Imp" -- who cannot fully trust her own perceptions of the world around her. This novel reveals Imp's struggle to discover what truth there may be in her encounters with mythical beings -- or possibly something stranger.

   No. 6
2312 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
(Orbit, May 2012)

Robinson's vision of our future includes technological advances like extended human lifespan and colonization of our entire solar system. Even on Mercury there is a human habitation, Terminator, which is a perpetually moving city designed to stay forever out of the direct sunlight that would otherwise prove deadly. In the year 2312, an unexpected death at Terminator leads a former designer of worlds, Swan Er Hong, into the discovery of a plot to destroy them.

   No. 5
Cold Days Cold Days: The Dresden Files, Book 14 by Jim Butcher
(Orbit / Roc, November 2012)

We first met Harry Dresden, wizard detective, in Storm Front (Roc, 2000). He's been busy since then, and so has author Jim Butcher, chronicler of 13 more books in the Dresden Files since that first one. In Cold Days, having been brought back from the brink of death (or perhaps just beyond the brink), Dresden is tasked with bringing death to an immortal. It seems like magic is definitely going to get someone killed.

   No. 4
Redshirts Redshirts by John Scalzi
(Tor, June 2012/ Gollancz, November 2012)

Scalzi's latest novel is a humorous SF adventure in which eager, young Ensign Andrew Dahl, recently assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, is delighted with his prestigious new posting... until he discovers that every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien lifeforms that always, always ends in the death of at least one low-ranking crew member. Once he realizes the risk of wearing the red shirt, Dahl and his fellow redshirts strive to avoid any assignment to an Away Mission.

   No. 3
Monster Hunter Legion Monster Hunter Legion: Monster Hunter International, Book 4 by Larry Correia
(Baen, September 2012)

Monster Hunter International (Baen, 2009) was opened for business just a few years ago, and Correia has been delighting readers ever since. In this 4th book of the series, a Monster Hunter convention in Las Vegas turns deadly when a WW II weapons experiment comes to life and shows itself to be a nasty piece of business. Rival monster hunter companies compete to stop this thing. But meanwhile, Owen Zastava "Z" Pitt and his crew at Monster Hunter International are trying to prevent an ancient god from unleashing hell on earth.

   No. 2
Capt Vorpatril's Alliance Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: Miles Vorkosigan, Book 13 by Lois McMaster Bujold
(Baen, November 2012)

Miles Vorkosigan was first introduced to readers in The Warrior's Apprentice (Baen, 1986). Book 12 of the series, Cryoburn (Baen, 2010), was nominated for a Hugo and appeared as number 8 on our SF Site Readers' Top 10 list for 2010. The action of this book takes place before Cryoburn. Vorkosigan's cousin, Captain Ivan Vorpatril, only wants a quiet, uneventful life. And for the most part, that is what he has enjoyed. But all that is about to change when he is asked to protect a pretty young woman from a dangerous criminal syndicate.

   No. 1
Dragon Ship Dragon Ship: Theo Waitley, Book 4 by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
(Baen, September 2012)

SF Site readers are huge fans of this series. Dragon Ship is 4th in the Theo Waitley series, which is the 5th subseries and 15th book overall in the Liaden Universe. The previous book, Ghost Ship (Baen, 2011), was #1 last year as well. This time Theo Waitley is juggling the daring rescue of hundreds of stranded pilots, a jealous sentient spaceship, an ex-lover battling a nano-virus, and a power that no one -- especially not Theo herself -- can be sure of.

Near Misses and Honourable Mentions
As often happens, the results this year were quite close. It would seem a shame not to mention some of the excellent books that only just barely missed finding a spot on our Top Ten, so here are a few that were oh, so close:
  • Railsea by China Miéville (Del Rey/Macmillan, May 2012/ Subterranean, June 2012)
  • A Rising Thunder: Honor Harrington, Book 13 by David Weber (Baen, March 2012)
  • The Fractal Prince: Jean le Flambeur, Book 2 by Hannu Rajaniemi (Gollancz, September 2012/ Tor, November 2012)
  • Caliban's War: Expanse, Book 2 by James S.A. Corey (Orbit, June 2012)
In addition to those that only narrowly missed the Top Ten, there were several other great books from last year that received many votes from the SF Site Readers. Here are some of those deserving of honourable mention:
  • Ghost Ship: Theo Waitley, Book 3 by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller (Baen, July 2011/July 2012), which was #1 last year and still gets a mention this year with a paperback edition released in summer 2012
  • Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz/Orbit/Orion, October 2012)
  • Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (Ace, July 2012)
  • Empty Space: Kefahuchi Tract Trilogy, Book 3 by M. John Harrison (Gollancz, July 2012)
  • The Hydrogen Sonata: Culture, Book 10 by Iain M. Banks (Orbit, October 2012)
  • When Diplomacy Fails: Ripple Creek (Freehold Universe), Book 3 by Michael Z. Williamson (Baen, August 2012)
  • Fair Game: Alpha and Omega, Book 3 by Patricia Briggs (Ace/Orbit, March 2012)
  • The Rook by Daniel O'Malley (Little Brown, January 2012/ Back Bay Books, October 2012)
  • Jack Glass by Adam Roberts (Gollancz, July 2012)
  • The Killing Moon: Dreamblood, Book 1 by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, May 2012)
  • The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter (Doubleday/Harper, June 2012)
  • Fire Season: Star Kingdom, Book 2 by David Weber & Jane Lindskold (Baen, September 2012)
  • Range of Ghosts: The Eternal Sky, Book 1 by Elizabeth Bear (Tor, March 2012)
  • Whispers Under Ground: Rivers of London, Book 3 by Ben Aaronovitch (Gollancz, June 2012/ Del Rey, August 2012)
  • The Hot Gate: Troy Rising, Book 3 by John Ringo (Baen, May 2011/May 2012)
  • The Rise of Ransom City: Half-Made World, Book 2 by Felix Gilman (Tor, November 2012)
  • Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway (William Heinemann, February 2012/ Alfred A. Knopf, March 2012/ Vintage Books, October 2012)
  • The Far West: Frontier Magic, Book 3 by Patricia Wrede (Scholastic Press, August 2012)
  • Tricked: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 4 by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey/Orbit, May 2012)
  • H Hour: Countdown, Book 3 by Tom Kratman (Baen, July 2012)
  • Darkship Renegades: Darkship Thieves, Book 2 by Sarah A. Hoyt (Baen, December 2012)
  • Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey (Createspace, January 2012)
  • Sharps by K.J. Parker (Orbit, July 2012)
  • Forge of Darkness: The Kharkanas Trilogy, Book 1 by Steven Erikson (Bantam, July 2012/ Tor, September 2012)
  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There: Fairyland, Book 2 by Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel and Friends, October 2012)

    Thanks again to everyone who voted. Enjoy your reading for 2013, and remember that we'll be asking you for your favourites and your top recommendations again next year. Meanwhile, drop in to see the next issue of the SF Site when we'll show you the results of the SF Site Contributors' Best Reads.

Best Read of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Previous Years
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2011           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2010           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2009           
Readers' Choice: Best Read of 2008           
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: 2011
           Best Read of the Year: 2010
           Best Read of the Year: 2009
           Best Read of the Year: 2008
           Best Read of the Year: 2007
           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

Copyright © 2013 Neil Walsh

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