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SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2007: Readers' Choice
by Neil Walsh

Every year at the SF Site we do a Top 10 Best Read of the Year list; this year will be our 11th. And every year we do a Readers' Choice Top 10 list as well; this year is our 10th.  Ordinarily, we set the deadline for the Readers' Choice voting to follow one week after the deadline for the Editors' Choice, but before that list is announced. This year, in honour of the 10th anniversary of the Readers' Choice Best Of, we've reversed the deadline dates with the result that the Readers' Choice Top 10 list is being announced first.

Over the past couple of months, SF Site has been encouraging you, our regular readers, to vote for your favourite books of the past year. We appreciate that many of you took the time and trouble to compile your personal top 10 and send it along to us by way of voting. Following is the outcome of the efforts of you and your fellow readers. Don't be disappointed if you don't find your own personal top choices on this list; sometimes you've found some gems that others haven't discovered yet. Maybe they will eventually. In the meantime, look on this list as the most recommended reading of 2007 as chosen by the collective SF Site readership -- because that's exactly what it is.

[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
The Sharing Knife: Legacy Legacy: The Sharing Knife, Book 2 by Lois McMaster Bujold
(Eos, June 2007)

This novel is the direct sequel of The Sharing Knife, Book 1: Beguilement (Eos, October 2006), which received honourable mention on this list last year. Picking up where that story left off, Fawn and Dag are newly married with a magical blood-weave bond between them. However, being from different cultures, they face mundane but very real resentment and prejudice, and possible exile. Bujold offers magic, adventure, romance, and fully developed characters in a gripping sequel that points the way to further adventures in this world.

   No. 9
Red Seas Under Red Skies Red Seas Under Red Skies: Gentleman Bastard Sequence, Book 2 by Scott Lynch
(Gollancz, June 2007 / Bantam, August 2007)

Last year the SF Site Readers chose The Lies of Locke Lamora, Book 1 of this series, as their number one favourite book of the year. Lynch's second book is likewise capturing the imagination of a huge number of readers. This time, Locke and his friend Jean Tannen are interrupted in their plans to swindle a Tal Verrar gambling operation when they find themselves taking to the high seas as pirates, in support of a clever con by the Archon of the city. Then Locke and Jean are captured by actual pirates. All in all, another enjoyable tale of rollicking adventures full of convoluted capers.

   No. 8
Axis Axis by Robert Charles Wilson
(Tor, September 2007)

Wilson's Spin (Tor, April 2005) was the best thing I read in 2005. But don't take my word for it: Spin topped the SF Site Best of the Year, was #3 on the SF Site Readers' Choice Top 10, and won the Hugo Award for best novel. Axis is its sequel, and the second book of the trilogy. Equatoria is a world designed and engineered for humanity by the enigmatic Hypotheticals. And humanity undertakes the colonization and exploitation of this new world with all the intensity and determination you'd expect. Until something happens to turn this seeming paradise into something dangerously alien. Another page-turner from one of the smartest SF writers around.

   No. 7
The Last Colony The Last Colony by John Scalzi
(Tor, April 2007)

Old Man's War (Tor, January 2005) was nominated for a Hugo. The sequel, The Ghost Brigades (Tor, February 2006), was number 10 on this list last year. This third book in the series has moved up in the estimation of SF Site Readers. I'm glad you're catching on, because Scalzi is certainly one sharp writer. In this novel, intergalactic politics take a back seat to the aspect of human relationships -- making for a very pushy back seat driver. John Perry has traded down for his third body, and is enjoying a peaceful retirement. That's soon interrupted when he agrees to lead a new colony, and becomes stranded on the wrong planet.

   No. 6
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry Potter, Book 7 by J.K. Rowling
(Bloomsbury, July 2007)

Rowling has created quite a phenomenon; even people who never read Young Adult fiction have been reading Harry Potter. Once you get hooked into the story, it's not hard to see why. In this final book, Harry and his friends have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes of the evil Voldemort if they are to have any hope of defeating him. This is no easy task. In fact, it may not even be possible. But all Harry knows is that he has to try. For my money, The Deathly Hallows provides a fully satisfying conclusion to a thoroughly entertaining series.

   No. 5
Before They Are Hanged Before They Are Hanged: The First Law, Book 2 by Joe Abercrombie
(Gollancz, March 2007)

Following on The Blade Itself (Gollancz, 2006), this novel is clearly the middle book in a series. But it's a series well worth following. The three main stories told in this volume follow Inquisitor Glotka in a city beseiged, West in his fight on behalf of the Union in the war in Angland, and Logan Ninefingers and the quest of the Bayaz to recover The Seed. This is addictive reading that should appeal to fans of George R.R. Martin. The third installment, The Last Argument of Kings, is coming from Gollancz in March 2008.

   No. 4
The Terror The Terror by Dan Simmons
(Little, Brown & Co., January 2007 / Bantam UK, February 2007 )

In this novel, Simmons takes the doomed Franklin expedition -- the 1845 search for the north-west passage -- as his backdrop for a novel of chilling suspense and, yes, terror. As the two ships of the expedition remain trapped in the ice for a second straight year, it falls to the captain of HMS Terror to lead the survivors on a desperate journey across the ice. But something more ominous than the freezing cold and the relentless ice and wind, more deadly than starvation, scurvy and madness, is stalking the ill-fated party, mutilating and devouring one victim after another...

   No. 3
Brasyl Brasyl by Ian McDonald
(Pyr, May 2007 / Gollancz, June 2007)

This novel follows three stories in Brazil: one in present day; one 25 years in the future; and one 275 years in the past. It soon becomes apparent that these three different timelines are only a tiny fraction of the possible parallel worlds made accessible by a new technology. McDonald masterfully explores some key sfnal concepts and pivotal alternative science. Wrap your head around this book if you want to see what truly ingenious science fiction can look like.

   No. 2
Reaper's Gale Reaper's Gale: Tales of the Malazan, Book 7 by Steven Erikson
(Bantam UK, May 2007 / Coming from Tor in March 2008)

This book made it to the number 2 slot and it's not even out in the US edition yet! In the latest chapter of this epic-scale fantasy series, Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, is now the mad ruler of the Letherii Empire, and the Letherii secret police have initiated a campaign of terror against their own people. The Malazans have sent advance forces into Letheras to try to stir up the populace against their new oppressors. But somehow, in spite of their swift advance on the capital and successful guerrilla tactics, the Malazans aren't finding the local support they anticipated. My question is what they heck are they doing there in the first place? I guess we'll have to wait for the next book to find the answer to that and many other questions. As with the whole series, Reaper's Gale is full of adventure, conspiracy, humour, magic, warfare, and characters you genuinely want to spend time with.

   No. 1
The Name of the Wind - DAW The Name of the Wind - Gollancz The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 1 by Patrick Rothfuss
(Daw, April 2007 / Gollancz, September 2007)

This novel was the hands-down, no-contest winner this year -- the number 1 most highly recommended book from SF Site Readers. It's the first novel from Patrick Rothfuss, and it simply will not let the world ignore it.
  From the press release:

'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.'

So begins the tale of Kvothe - currently known as Kote, the unassuming innkeeper - from his childhood in a troupe of travelling players, through his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.

The Near Misses and Honourable Mentions
    Although it's not unusual to see ties in the SF Site annual Best of the Year lists, this year the scoring didn't show up any ties in the top 10. If we counted beyond the top 10 -- which we always do, in an effort to recommend as many good books as possible -- a couple of ties do indeed appear. Here's how the list would have looked if we had ranked the top 20:

  • 11 (tie) - The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, April 2007);
  • 11 (tie) - Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay (Viking Canada, January 2007 / Simon & Schuster, March 2007);
  • 12 - White Night: Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (Roc, April 2007 / Thorndike, September 2007);
  • 13 - Black Man by Richard Morgan (Gollancz, May 2007), retitled Thirteen (Del Rey, July 2007) for the US edition;
  • 14 (tie) - The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins / Fourth Estate, May 2007);
  • 14 (tie) - The Dreaming Void: Void Trilogy, Book 1 by Peter F. Hamilton (Tor / Macmillan, August 2007);
  • 14 (tie) - Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (Macmillan, January 2007 / Del Rey, February 2007);
  • 15 - Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor, April 2007);
  • 16 - Cauldron by Jack McDevitt (Ace, November 2007);
  • 17 - Captain's Fury: Codex Alera, Book 4 by Jim Butcher (Ace, December 2007);
  • 18 - Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair (Bantam, December 2007);
  • 19 - Deadstock by Jeffrey Thomas (Solaris, March 2007);
  • 20 - Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey (Warner, June 2007).
Best Read of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Previous Years
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: 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
Thank you to all who participated. Come back in March 2008 to see how your selections compare with the SF Site Contributors' selections for this past year, when we'll present our
Editors' Choice - The Official SF Site Best SF and Fantasy Books of 2007

Copyright © 2008 Neil Walsh

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