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Best of 2007
by Greg L. Johnson

Here we are again, time to dig through a year's worth of reading and try to decide which books belong on the list of personal favorites. All in all, I'd say 2007 was a very good year, good enough so that the main problem was not in finding enough titles to make the list, but instead the problem was cutting titles that in many other years would have been automatic inclusions.

Before we get to the list, there needs to be some special recognition of the achievement of J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a fitting end to the most successful series of all time, and while some may have quibbled along the way about matters of style or the growing length of each volume in the series, there is no doubt that Rowling's skill as a story-teller was evident from beginning to end. There's a reason why those books sold as much and created as much attention as they did and it wasn't because of marketing or some kind of mass hysteria. They sold because they were good and people of all ages enjoyed reading them.

But now, without further ado, here's a list of the ten science fiction and fantasy books that I liked the most in 2007:

Editor's Note: Links lead to SF Site reviews of the books.

The Prefect The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
A solid murder/adventure story set in the same fictional universe as Revelation Space, Chasm City, and several other books by Alastair Reynolds, with an interesting cast of characters including a nasty post-human villain.

From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Minister Faust
After the last battle, Earth's super-heros are left with nothing to face but their own neuroses and personality problems. Enter Dr. Brain, whose counseling techniques run from group therapy to individual confrontation. Minister Faust's second novel tackles the politics, race issues and the consequences of living life as a celebrity with humor, insight, and, in the end, a bit of truly unsettling paranoia.

Thirteen Thirteen by Richard Morgan
Speaking of paranoia, Thirteen reeks of it. Set in a near-future Earth where concerns with genetically-influenced behavior has become a world-wide obsession, the 'thirteens' are humans whose genetic structure has been altered to remove most, if not all, of their inhibitions toward sudden, inter-personal violence. The main character is one of the thirteens, and it is a major achievement of Richard Morgan's novel that as the story goes on, the reader's sympathies align more and more with the actions of a character who scares the entire world.

The New Moon's Arms The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson
Another novel with a character who shouldn't be sympathetic but somehow is, but any resemblance to Thirteen ends right there. Nalo Hopkinson's novel is set comfortably in the Caribbean, and the main character is an aging woman who has, in a life-time of belligerence, sarcasm, and negative judgments has managed to alienate everyone from old school friends to co-workers and even her own daughter. Maybe it's because under the crusty exterior lies a keenly observant woman with a sharp sense of humor and a growing realization that her life has gone sadly off-track.

Acacia Acacia by David Anthony Durham
The first fantasy novel from an experienced writer of historical fiction, and the first in a new series. Acacia gives us a new world with deep historical background, dominated by an empire and a traffic in human slaves traded for a highly-addictive drug. From there, though, David Anthony Durham's story confounds expectations at almost every turn, creating a novel that leaves you waiting for the next installment with great expectations.

Territory Territory by Emma Bull
The old west of Tombstone Arizona comes alive once more, this time with an emphasis on the town's less-famous inhabitants and hints of magic and sorcery. It all starts when a mysterious stranger, skilled with horses and with a talent for the hidden ways of the world, comes in to town, following a stolen horse.

Sixty Days and Counting Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
Amidst a world dominated by political intrigues and a global climate crisis, Kim Stanley Robinson finds room for optimism and hope in a novel that completes the story begun in Forty Signs of Rain and continued in Fifty Degrees Below.

In War Times In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Brilliantly mixing jazz, physics, and compelling characters, Kathleen Ann Goonan shows us a history of World War II and its aftermath that is not quite our own, but which presents us with a vision not of the world and humanity as it is, but as it possibly should be.

Brasyl Brasyl Brasyl by Ian McDonald
With wit and stunning imagery, Ian McDonald takes us to a near-future, and a distant past, that is as strange as any alien world. It may be hard at first to see how quantum computers, a popular television producer, the street life of Rio de Janeiro and the life of an eighteenth-century Jesuit missionary all fit together, but McDonald pulls it off with a story that masterfully blends history, character, Portuguese street slang and cosmological speculation, meeting both the requirements of hard SF and literary style along the way.

Bright of the Sky Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon
Book one in a new series, The Entire and the Rose, Kay Kenyon tells the story of a man searching for his family in a strange new world. Science fiction over-laid with the trappings of fantasy, Bright of the Sky lies somewhere between Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Sun and Karl Schroeder's Ventus, and was, for me, the one book of the year that, once I started reading, was impossible to put down.

Honorable Mentions
As previously stated, 2007 was a year where worthy titles got forced off the list, due to the excellence of the competition. Here are several titles, in no particular order, that in past years might very well have made the top ten.
The Sons of Heaven, by Kage Baker
Halting State, by Charles Stross
Postsingular, by Rudy Rucker
Axis, by Robert Charles Wilson
Queen of Candesce, by Karl Schroeder

Copyright © 2008 Greg L. Johnson

Greg L Johnson reviews science fiction and fantasy for the SF Site and The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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