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Top 10 Books of 2002
by Greg L. Johnson

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

   No. 1
Schild's Ladder Schild's Ladder by Greg Egan
In Schild's Ladder, Greg Egan matches his usual cutting-edge science with an equally uncompromising approach to characterization. People living so far removed from us by time and technology would feel and act differently than 21st century humans, and Egan's characters do just that. Yet because they care passionately about their lives, we can sympathize with them and their problem, and the problem they face is immense. What should be done about an accidentally created universe that threatens to displace our own? Must it be destroyed? Could it hold life?

   No. 2
Stone Stone by Adam Roberts
The only known psychopathic killer in an interstellar society, that resembles Iain M. Banks' Culture, is contacted by an unknown group who wants him to commit genocide. Thus the murderer plays detective in a society that normally has neither. This short novel, written with a brutal eloquence, takes us deep into the mind of madness, on a journey through a world built on nanotech and the economics of plenty.

   No. 3
Explorer Explorer by C.J. Cherryh
C.J. Cherryh wraps up the Foreigner series in much the same way that Chanur's Homecoming finished the Chanur saga. Layers and layers of conversations, intrigue, speculation, plotting and supposition finally erupt into intense, realistically portrayed action. It's a fitting ending to what has been one of the all-time great SF series.

   No. 4
Chasm City Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds
Alastair Reynolds' second foray into a bleak, hostile universe is built around the main character's discovery of the horror that lies within. It's also a story of those who survive and find hope in a tragic, beautifully destroyed world.

   No. 5
House of Chains House of Chains by Steven Erikson
(Bantam UK)
We return to Raraku Desert in this fourth volume of the Tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Men, women, goddesses, gods, and others continue their struggles in the most historically rich fantasy series since Tolkien.

   No. 6
The Golden Age The Golden Age by John C. Wright
In a solar system whose inhabitants have declared the perfection of their existence, one man struggles with the question of why he chose to erase the memory of why he disagreed, and what he wanted to do. That story propels this baroque, word-drunk novel set in a glistening, high-tech future. One warning; it's part one of two, and literally leaves off in mid-step.

   No. 7
Lion's Blood Lion's Blood by Steven Barnes
Other alternate histories have garnered more attention this year, but when it comes to combining the exploration of an historical premise with character and story, Steven Barnes story of slavery and friendship set in an alternate South ruled by Africans, in a world where Carthage defeated Rome, is as good as any of them.

   No. 8
Empire of Bones Empire of Bones by Liz Williams
An untouchable young woman in a future India that has re-adopted the caste system is the only human who can communicate with an alien civilization, itself based on an age-old hierarchy of social stratification. Given that premise, Liz Williams' second novel seldom goes where you would expect it to. Empire of Bones is an entertaining combination of adventurous story-telling and a well-developed alien culture.

   No. 9
Bones of the Earth Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick
This one's just for fun. Bones of the Earth is an old-fashioned, what-have-they-done-to-my-reality time-travel story that both pays tribute to all the old classics and manages to find something to say about a few dilemmas that confront our current past, present, and future.

   No. 10
The Years of Rice and Salt The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
Re-writing all of human history from the time of the Black Death in Europe to the present, The Years of Rice and Salt is as much a treatise on history and philosophy as it is a work of fiction. Perhaps that is why, while very worth reading, it's a book that in the end seems easier to admire than it is to enjoy.

Honorable mentions:
Maximum Ice, Kay Kenyon
Fallen Dragon, Peter F. Hamilton
If Lions Could Speak, Paul Park
Strange But Not A Stranger, James Patrick Kelly
Chindi, Jack McDevitt
The Great Escape, Ian Watson

Copyright © 2003 Greg L. Johnson

Greg L. Johnson reads and lives to write about it in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition to the SF Site, his reviews appear regularly in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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