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Embassytown SF Site's Best Read of the Year: 2012
compiled by Neil Walsh
This is Year 16 of our annual SF Site's Best Read of the Year: 2012, the SF Site official Best Reading and Top Ten recommendations from everything we read in the previous year. This time you may find it interesting to see the variance in what SF Site Contributors and Readers have been enjoying by comparing the present list with our Readers' Choice Top Ten as chosen by the SF Site readership. I was surprised to see how little overlap there was between the two lists this year. In any case, between both lists, I'm sure you'll find plenty of worthwhile suggestions for further science fiction and fantasy reading.

The Friday Society The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
reviewed by Sherwood Smith
Cora, Michiko, and Nellie are all assistants, Cora to a lord who is an inventor in secret, and an MP in his public life, Nellie to a mysterious magician whose background is not clear, except he's non-English, and Michiko to a bigoted brute of a con man named Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw, who makes his living supposedly teaching self-defense. Michiko does what little teaching that takes place, while Sir Callum parties. The three girls meet accidentally one night when they all stumble upon a head without a body. Then they find out that someone is murdering flower girls. Are the murders related?

Grim Tides Grim Tides by T.A. Pratt
reviewed by Nathan Brazil
Anti-hero Marla Mason was chief sorcerer for the city of Felport, until a disastrous encounter with a version of herself from an alternate dimension resulted in her being stripped of her office, and most of the powers that came with it. As Grim Tides begins, Marla is in exile on the Hawaiian island of Maui, living courtesy of her friend and long time associate Rondeau. Having no express purpose in life, her vague plan is to offer her services as an occult detective, regardless of the fact that she's far more suited to knocking down doors than she is to seeking out subtle clues.

Dragon Ship SF Site's Readers' Choice: Best Read of the Year: 2012
compiled 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, 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.

The Islanders The Islanders by Christopher Priest
reviewed by Christopher DeFilippis
Twins, doubles and doppelgangers often take center stage in the novels of Christopher Priest, and his narrators are often not entirely reliable. Fans who enjoy these aspects of his work are sure to love his new novel as the author foregoes a single unreliable narrator for an entirely unreliable narrative. The book is presented as a gazetteer, or guidebook, of the Dream Archipelago, a world-spanning chain of islands with fantastical properties.

After the Apocalypse After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh
reviewed by Greg L. Johnson
What do you do next after the zombies have moved into town? After the chicken nugget epidemic, or the global economic collapse? That question or a variation thereof, is faced by every character here in this collection. In a way, any large enough catastrophe is an apocalypse of sorts, leaving lives altered in its wake, with survivors who still need to live in a changed world.

The Restoration Game The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod
reviewed by David Soyka
This is a techno-thriller, though it's more precisely a geek-thriller in that the first person narrator, Lucy Stone, is an online game developer for a company called Small Worlds (one of number of jokes underpinning the novel's plotline). However, Lucy isn't so much a geek as a "chicks-kick butt"-styled heroine who is usually the smartest one in a room full of clueless testosterone.

The Door Gunner and Other Perilous Flights of Fancy The Door Gunner and Other Perilous Flights of Fancy by Michael Bishop
reviewed by Paul Kincaid
Back in the mid-70s, in the first volume of an original anthology series that never saw volume two, Paul came across a novella called "On the Street of the Serpents" by Michael Bishop. It was, along with fictions by Samuel R. Delany and James Tiptree, Jr. whose work he was also discovering at that time, a story that helped to change the way he read science fiction. He didn't realize how new Bishop was as a writer, but he was doing something sophisticated, original, and challenging with the form, and it caught Paul's imagination.

Rivers of London Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
reviewed by Nathan Brazil
The central character is Peter Grant, a young, mixed race British PC, who encounters something supernatural during the course of his duties; specifically, a talking ghost. Taking this in his stride he is soon immersed in a world where magic is real, and supernatural critters a fact of life. So far, not much different to a dozen other titles, you may think. However, as with the majority of fiction, the difference is not in a well trod theme, but all about the skill and imagination displayed in its execution.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
reviewed by Seamus Sweeney
Virginia Woolf famously said that throughout history, the author "Anonymous" was usually a woman. An equal if not greater case could be made that Anonymous was usually more than one person. While the pendulum of scholarly opinion as to whether there really was a historical individual called Homer who wrote the epics now attributed to that name goes back and forth, there can be little doubt that many of the classics we enjoy were collaborative efforts.

2312 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
reviewed by D. Douglas Fratz
The story starts on Mercury with the unexpected death of the influential grandmother of Swan Er Hong, who finds that she has been left messages for herself and others that she must deliver, including one to a colleague in near Saturn. This leads her to meet, among others, Fitz Wartham, a Saturnian diplomat, and inspector Jean Genette, who is investigating mysterious occurrences which he believes could be related to Swan's grandmother's death. After unexplained incidents on Titan and Mercury, it becomes clear to them that there is some kind of conspiracy at play.

Off On A Tangent: Novel Reviews Off On A Tangent: Novel Reviews Off On A Tangent: Novel Reviews
a column by Dave Truesdale
In The Kassa Gambit, author M.C. Planck has chosen to play with the standard tropes often found in the space-adventure milieu. Prudence Falling captains a tramp freighter among the stars, she and her motley but loyal crew finding work wherever they can. The time is centuries after the ecological collapse of Earth when Man has seeded hundreds of planets in search of resources. It appears that humanity is alone in the universe. And in this third James F. David novel, Dinosaur Thunder (previous titles in this sequence were Footprints of Thunder and Thunder of Time). Dave found this newest to be a crackerjack read. What's not to love about time travel and dinosaurs?

Nexus Graphica Nexus Graphica
a column by Rick Klaw and Mark London Williams
Last month, Mark London Williams mentioned how much he liked the James Vance / Dan Burr graphic novel On the Ropes, a sequel to their two-decades past masterpiece, Kings in Disguise, which he said "reads like a combination of Clifford Odets and James M. Cain." Or you can think of it as Carnivàle without the mysticism. In the intervening month, he was lucky enough to catch up with Vance and lob some interview questions his way, to which he gave considered and thoughtful replies.

Watching the Future Watching the Future
a column by Derek Johnson
Recently, Derek noted that the Future used to be a place, as real a destination to movie goers and the general public as Chicago or Los Angeles, and about as strange to those who grew up a perfectly ordinary suburb during the heights of paranoia infusing the decade of the 1970s. The visual language of the movies released during that period shared many similarities: perfect geometries and Spartan design aesthetics. A recent viewing of three different 1970s dystopias -- George Lucas's THX 1138, Woody Allen's Sleeper, and Michael Anderson's Logan's Run -- served to reinforce this observation.

New Arrivals New Arrivals
compiled by Neil Walsh
New and forthcoming books this time include the latest from Greg Bear, Elizabeth Bear, Terry Brooks, Orson Scott Card, Mark Chadbourn, Peter Crowther, Cory Doctorow, Erin Hoffman, K.D. McEntire, Garth Nix, Kit Reed, Connie Willis, and many others.

Babylon 5.1: Televison Reviews Babylon 5.1
TV reviews by Rick Norwood
Revolution is back. There have been several comments about Revolution that miss the point. They say, in effect, that they could make electricity. No. The premise of Revolution is that something inhibits electricity. Solar panels don't work. Alternators don't work. Human brains don't work. Well, maybe we have to give them a pass on that one. Natural electricity still works. Electric eels still work. It is only man-made electricity that doesn't work.

Second Looks

Under My Skin Under My Skin Under My Skin by Charles de Lint
reviewed by Sherwood Smith
This fast-paced tale for older teens takes off fast with first person narrator Josh, a normal surfer teen in a coastal California city, until his mom's abusive boyfriend attacks him. Josh turns into a mountain lion and mauls the guy, then races off in a complete panic until he meets another animal human. Josh has become a Wilding, a shape-shifter who can switch back and forth between his animal shape and human. For some reason it's been happening to local teens, no one knows why.

Cursed Cursed by Benedict Jacka
reviewed by Katherine Petersen
Alex Verus, a diviner who can see multiple futures at once, is minding his own business, working with his apprentice, Luna, to try to manage her curse when he's pulled into a plot to resurrect an old ritual to drain the life-force from magical creatures. Verus hates the ritual on principle, but he is also close friends with a huge spider named Arachne, who weaves exquisite clothing. It all starts when a beautiful enchantress runs into his magical shop with an assassin on her heels.

The Lost Fleet: Invincible The Lost Fleet: Invincible by Jack Campbell
reviewed by Michael M Jones
After a century of cryogenic sleep following a space battle in which he was one of the only survivors, John "Black Jack" Geary was discovered. He awoke into a world in which he was a living legend, into a society made weary by a century of constant war and strife. Through a series of bizarre circumstances, he was forced to assume control of the Alliance's fleet, stranded deep in enemy space, and bring it home. Against all odds, he did so. His reward? Rather than being allowed a quiet retirement, he was promoted to Admiral, given command of a new fleet, and dispatched into the furthest regions of known space.

The Best of Kage Baker The Best of Kage Baker by Kage Baker
reviewed by Steven H Silver
In a more fair universe, this collection would include the subtitle "Volume I: 1997-2010." In the universe in which we live, however, we have to settle for this single book that contains twenty of her stories that will leave the reader wishing to be allowed access to that other universe where the book is followed by more installments. The stories in the book are organized based on which of Baker's collections the stories were reprinted in, rather than in strict chronological or thematic organization, many of the tales relate to Baker's Company series about a time travel organization.


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