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Best Read of the Year: 2001 Best Read of the Year: 2001
compiled by Neil Walsh
Just as our last Best Read of the Year: 2000 list did, this one had its share of surprises and treasures. As much effort as these kinds of Awards are to do, the rewards for the diligent compiler are considerable. The writers, reviewers and editors of the SF Site present their pick for the Top Ten Books of the year. Everyone who contributed to this list -- no matter how widely read we thought we were -- walked away with a discovery or 2 (or 10) that made all the work worthwhile.

Dhalgren Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
reviewed by David Soyka
In the moonlit woods, a man with ugly hands who claims to be 27 years old but looks 16, encounters (well, more than just encounters, copulates with) a woman distinguished by a scratch down her lower leg. She leads him to the discovery of a chain of prisms that he wraps around himself. The man does not remember his name or much of his past. Upon his arrival in Bellona, a city in which the rules of modern American life have been discarded, he receives a sort of welcoming gift, a wrist band from which seven blades protrude, called an orchid. There is no need of money. A sort of hippie communal lifestyle prevails, for those who wish to partake of it.

The Ear, The Eye And The Arm The Ear, The Eye And The Arm by Nancy Farmer
reviewed by Lisa DuMond
Set in 2194, Tendai, Rita, and Kuda are the over-protected children of the powerful and feared General Matsika. They decide to slip out of the compound for an adventure in their city in Zimbabwe. Trouble isn't far away. The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm, physically deformed from birth by the toxic legacy of their village, possess special abilities corresponding to their appearances. It is these gifts that make them the finest detectives in the country. Who else would Mrs. Matsika turn to find her beloved children?

The Astonished Eye The Astonished Eye by Tracy Knight
reviewed by William Thompson
Following the vicissitudes of two visitors to a small, rural town in downstate Illinois, both arrive in Elderton seeking similar if not immediately associated goals.  Jeffrey Sprague is a runaway, a recidivist reject of the foster care system, searching desperately for "a new life role: the good kid, the one people liked, the one who belonged. Ben Savitch, on the other hand, is a cynical, wise-to-the-world reporter working for the tabloid, The Astonished Eye.  Following the lead of a UFO crashing somewhere in the vicinity, he returns to the town of his birth, assuming, even though he has not been back since age six, that his childhood connection just might open doors of information that might otherwise remain closed to an outsider.

Ursula K. Le Guin A Conversation With Ursula K. Le Guin
An interview with Nick Gevers
On Taoism:
"...but what happened to the practice and teaching of Taoism under Mao that was the initial impetus of [The Telling]. I was shocked to find that a 2500-year-old body of thought, belief, ritual, and art could be, had been, essentially destroyed within ten years, and shocked to find I hadn't known it, though it happened during my adult lifetime. The atrocity, and my long ignorance of it, haunted me. I had to write about it, in my own sidelong fashion."

Black Gate #3 Black Gate #3
reviewed by Sherwood Smith
The editorial, in part says, that epic fantasy is "what we do best but there is still plenty of room... for a diverse range of fantasy genres." The reader will find that this statement is as true in this 3rd issue as it was in the previous. There is indeed a wide range, from horror to science fiction to a quiet, beautifully written story that could have appeared in a mainstream magazine without causing a blink.

Soldiers Soldiers by John Dalmas
reviewed by Donna McMahon
Far in the future humans have spread across the galaxy, creating an empire which has been at peace for many centuries. But this quiet existence ends abruptly when 14,000 alien warships appear on the fringes of the empire and begin swiftly, systematically and mercilessly exterminating humans wherever they encounter them. Humanity, which hasn't fought a war in centuries, suddenly faces annihilation if they can't gear up for a fight which must be won at any cost.

The Peshawar Lancers The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling
reviewed by Steven H Silver
A fragmentary comet has struck the Earth in the 1870s, making much of Europe and America uninhabitable. England and French refugees have managed to move their governments to less damaged countries, with the British basing themselves in the Indian dominions. The lives of Captain Athelstane, King of the Peshawar Lancers, and his scientist sister, Cassandra are going in very different directions until attempts on their lives lead them into a mystery which threatens not only them, but the entire British Empire in exile.

New Arrivals New Arrivals
compiled by Neil Walsh
We're seeing some interesting new titles in 2002, including new anthologies & collections, all-new novels, continuations of ongoing series, re-releases, and classics reprinted. But there are also a few goodies trickling in from 2001.

Ticktock Ticktock by Dean R. Koontz
reviewed by Rodger Turner
Tommy Phan was having a bad evening. During a rain-soaked joyride in his new 'Vette, his mom had guilted him into feeling badly that he wasn't a doctor (he's a mystery novelist), he didn't come home to dinner (he ate burgers and fries and flirted with the waitress) and he hadn't married a Vietnamese girl (he liked blondes). Arriving at home, he finds a rag doll on his doorstep. Taking it inside, he soon finds himself being terrorized by a small demon (hidden inside the doll) intent upon devouring Tommy.

Empty Cities of the Moon Empty Cities of the Moon by Howard V. Hendrix
reviewed by Donna McMahon
This novel is bursting with ideas about biotech, nanotech, artificial intelligence, shamanism, disurbanism, and the nature of consciousness, just to name a few. A new prion disease throws the planet into sudden apocalypse. One of the major players is Cameron Spires, a billionaire whose bioengineering researchers may have inadvertently unleashed this incurable insanity plague.

Mary Soon Lee
Mary Soon Lee A Conversation With Mary Soon Lee
An interview with Trent Walters
On the trepidation of writing short short stories:
"I think there are writers who find it difficult, and hence perhaps frightening, to write short stories let alone short-shorts. But I suspect that another factor is the economics of it all. Even at 20 cents a word, a short-short won't earn much money, yet the marketing effort is the same as for a longer story."

Winter Shadows and Other Tales Winter Shadows and Other Tales by Mary Soon Lee
reviewed by Trent Walters
Each story isn't a swashbuckling adventure or a pyrotechnic fountain of ideas. The author doesn't mince mint images but hits her stride with characterization, detailing the backdrop of lives and relationships, gathering her huddled masses of the discarded: the divorced and the destitute, the desperate and the longing, the lost and the lonely. These are quiet stories -- even in death -- awash with sentiment, unburdened by complex plots. The reader looking for the pace of a literary story in traditional and contemporary speculative garb has found his place here.

Nearly People Nearly People by Conrad Williams
reviewed by William Thompson
While this setting has been touched upon by a wide variety of apocalyptic visions imagining the future, holocaust aftermath continues to remain one of the more lasting and central themes of science fiction literature. Here, the author infuses his novella-length telling with energy and spark in the form of his central character and, more significantly, through his use of metaphor and symbolism.

Divine Intervention Divine Intervention by Ken Wharton
reviewed by Lisa DuMond
The inhabitants of the planet Mandala have spent more than a century cut off from Earth, and in that time they have acquired a society of their own and a religion entirely their own. Or, rather, they have adopted a religion wholly the Captain's (the man who led their scouting mission); a religion that sprung newborn from the man's over-weaning ego, took over a planet, and made him that planet's Prophet. Excerpts from the Captain's log alternate between harmless musing and near-psychotic breaks.

Babylon 5.1: Televison Reviews Babylon 5.1
TV reviews by Rick Norwood
Rick offers his mid-season thoughts about Enterprise. There have been some fine episodes like "Breaking the Ice" and "Dear Doctor" and some that we'll quickly forget. Have a look and see if you agree.

Ombria in Shadow Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip
reviewed by Margo MacDonald
The plot leads you on a swift-moving journey through a maze of truth, loss, secrets, bravery, temptation, obsession, magic, and, ultimately, love. The king dies, his mistress is cast out, the prince is just a boy and at the mercy of an evil woman and sorceries of all kinds. Those who love him seek to save him, while those whose purposes are woven through with much greater ambition, care not who is destroyed as they move towards their goals.

Second Looks

A Good Old Fashioned Future A Good Old Fashioned Future by Bruce Sterling
reviewed by Donna McMahon
This collection contains seven stories set in the near future, all of which feature international settings, clever high tech detail and interesting ideas. He certainly has a feel for globalization. In "The Littlest Jackel," for instance, Russian mafioso hire Bosnian mercenaries to help Finnish separatists stage a rebellion in the Aland islands, so the Russians can use the Alands as a handy site for various shady business ventures, such as laundering rubles in Japan via Finnish toys.

The Complete Roderick The Complete Roderick by John Sladek
reviewed by Stephen M. Davis
Roderick is an evolving robot: he evolves from an AI construct to a legless but mobile box with sensory apparatus, and finally, near the end of the first novel in this two-volume compilation, to something with a body and a reasonable facsimile of a head, though a head painted black, which causes quite a bit of confusion amongst some of Roderick's neighbors.

Sacrifice of Fools Sacrifice of Fools by Ian McDonald
reviewed by Rodger Turner
The Shians have landed. In exchange for technology, Earth has ceded them enclaves. Ex-criminal Andy Gillespie has become one of the liaison folk who are there to ease the Shian transition to life on Earth. (He is so alienated from his own contemporaries that the Shians seem like family.) On his way to a Shian celebration, Andy finds himself the chief suspect in the barbaric mutilation and murder of five Shian. To save himself, he decides to track down the true culprits.

The Snow Queen The Snow Queen by Eileen Kernaghan
reviewed by Donna McMahon
Gerda leads a comfortable, sheltered life in Victorian Denmark, but her world is turned upside-down when her boyfriend, Kai, is ensnared by a powerful sorceress. None of the adults seem to understand the danger or be willing to pursue the Snow Queen and rescue Kai, so she sets out by herself -- naive and utterly unprepared for the rugged trip ahead.

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