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Best of 2009
by Greg L. Johnson

If you'd have talked to me in the middle of the year, say August or so, you might have heard me bemoan the state of the year so far in science fiction, few of the books I'd read by that time had struck me as worthy of inclusion on a best of the year list. But that quickly turned around, and whether it was me or the publishing industry, the rest of the year quickly produced a run of books well worth celebrating, and what had looked like a year with a short list turned out to be a year that took more than one cut to make it. So, with the usual caveat that titles are limited books I actually read, the best of 2009.

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

Sandman Slim Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Richard Kadrey's punk sensibility turns L.A.'s streets into the perfect setting for a character who's already been to Hell and back.

The Empress of Mars The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker
Kage Baker's untimely demise in early 2010 is made all the more sad by the fact that as a writer she was on a creative peak in 2009. In addition to the Empress of Mars colorful tale of life on the Martian frontier, her YA novel The Hotel Under the Sand was very well received. Her voice will be missed.

Cyberabad Days Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
Snapshots of a future India, these companion stories to River of Gods both expand on and add detail to one of the most stylishly portrayed future histories in recent science fiction.
review by Paul Kincaid

The Windup Girl The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
Paolo Bacigalupi's first novel combines genetic engineering, unrestrained capitalism, and Bangkok to produce a world where megadonts provide power, wealth is measured in food calories, and an uncontaminated seed bank is the key to Thailand's and possibly the world's future.

Finch Finch by Jeff Vandermeer
Murder takes on new shades of gray in an Ambergris torn by civil war and occupied by the Gray Caps. Jeff Vandermeer's hallucinatory, vivid prose effectively captures the minds of characters living on the edge of madness, including that of a detective forced into an investigation with no safe conclusion.

City Without End City Without End by Kay Kenyon
The Entire and The Rose series continues on a high level. While some questions are answered, others are raised and the stakes become even higher for Titus Quinn and two universes.

The Devil's Alphabet The Devil's Alphabet by Daryl Gregory
Daryl Gregory's second novel starts out as a typical, though smartly-written, small-town, southern horror novel and then becomes something quite different; reality-bending science fiction.

The Quiet War The Quiet War The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
Paul McAuley uses lessons learned from writing thrillers to spice up this space opera look at how modern warfare can be plotted, managed, lost, and won before the first shots are even fired.
review by Paul Kincaid
review by Rich Horton

Julian Comstock Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson
From out of the West comes Julian Comstock; fugitive, heretic, war hero, President. At least that's the way the story is related in Robert Charles Wilson's tale of a 22nd century America that has reverted to 19th Century values.

Galileo's Dream Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
Speculations in history, philosophy, and physics, grounded in a warts and all look at the life of the great scientist make Galileo's Dream a rare combination of literary science fiction and serious biography. In a career of highlights, this could well be Kim Stanley Robinson's best.

Copyright © 2010 Greg L. Johnson

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

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