Archive | December 2016

First Look: 2016 Mainstream Meta-List

I don’t have many lists on my Best of 2016 meta-list yet, but some patterns are beginning to emerge. So far, I’ve collated 8 “Best Of” lists by Library Journal, NY Times, NPR, Guardian, Amazon, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly, and Goodreads. Rules are simple: I take a look at their “Best SF and F” of the year list, and if you show up on the list, you get one point. I don’t make any judgments about eligibility, publication date, or genre. Lots of comics, short story collections, older books, etc., show up on these lists. If the venue has a dedicated SFF list, I only look at that. If they only have a single Best Of list, like the NY Times, I use that. The point of this list is to get an idea of what the mainstream thinks the best Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of the year are, which is always interesting and often confusing. I’ll complement this with another list of more specialty SFF websites.

You can check out the developing spreadsheet here. If you click on the 2015 tab at the bottom, you can see how things wound up last year.

Here are the early results:

4 All the Birds in the Sky Anders, Charlie Jane
4 The Obelisk Gate Jemisin, N.K.
4 Death’s End Liu, Cixin
3 Every Heart a Doorway McGuire, Seanan
2 City of Blades Bennett, Robert Jackson
2 Morning Star Brown, Pierce
2 Star Nomad Buroker, Lindsay
2 A Closed and Common Orbit Chambers, Becky
2 Dark Matter Crouch, Blake
2 The Book of the Unnamed Midwife Ellison, Meg
2 Ninefox Gambit Lee, Yoon Ha
2 The Paper Menagerie Liu, Ken
2 Too Like the Lightning Palmer, Ada
2 Version Control Palmer, Dexter
2 Age of Myth Sullivan, Michael J.
2 Central Station Tidhar, Lavie
2 Crosstalk Willis, Connie
2 The Invisible Library Cogman, Genvieve
2 Borderline Baker, Mishell

I will note that if I included works from the “Best Fiction” lists many of these sites have, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad would have been the clear winner, as it’s going to appear on basically every list this Holiday season. Whitehead’s novel has only light speculative elements (an actual underground railroad), so I’m betting it won’t make an impact on the Hugo or Nebula, but your mileage may vary. Whitehead didn’t get any nominations for his more obviously speculative Zone One, a clear zombie novel.

This, of course, is the Mainstream list, put together by big newspapers and websites that may have only a passing familiarity with Science Fiction and Fantasy. These tend to be drawn to big bestsellers and big names, and they tend to prefer SF to Fantasy. The trio of works at the top, by Anders, Jemisin, and Liu, all figure to be players in the 2017 awards, particularly Jemisin. The McGuire book is pretty short and, in my opinion, more likely to compete as a Novella than a Novel. It’ll be interesting to see who from that big group of “2” votes separates themselves over the next couple weeks. My guess is the Yoon Ha Lee and the Ada Palmer, but only time will tell.

My big surprise so far is that Mieville is not showing up for Last Days of New Paris, a weird novella where Surrealist paintings come to life. Seeing any other surprises or interesting trends?


Best of 2016: Reviewer’s Choice returns with it’s annual Reviewer’s Choice post. This year, they had 11 of their reviewers chose roughly 3 books each. That’s a lot of opinion crammed into one post. Historically, the tastes of have aligned pretty well with the tastes of the Hugo voters, so expect a lot of overlap when the eventual Hugo nominations come out.

I only included the “main choices,” which conveniently bolded for us. There was no overlap among the 11 reviewers, and not everyone chose 3 books. Here’s what was listed:

Hagseed, Margaret Atwood
The Power, Naomi Alderman
This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab
Malafrena, Ursula K. Le Guin (originally published 1979, republished as part of the Library of America Le Guin volumes, definitely not eligible for anything in 2016)
Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee
Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates (comic book)
The Sunlight Pilgrims, Jenni Fagan
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
The Bloodsworn, Erin Lindsey
Conspiracy of Ravens, Lila Bowen
Lovecraft Country, Matt Ruff
All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
The Fisherman, John Langan
An Accident of StarS, Fox Meadows
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
What is Not Yours is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi (collection)
Ghostland, Colin Dickey (non-fiction)
A Tree or a Person or a Wall, Matt Bell (collection)
The Unfinished World and Other Stories, Amber Sparks
The Medusa chronicles, Stephen Baxter and Alasdair Reynolds
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar
The Race, Nina Allan (originally published 2014)
Wicked Weeds, Pedro Cabiya
Death’s End, Cixin Liu
Iraq+100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion (collection)
The Fireman, Joe Hill
The Summer Dragon, Todd Lockwood
The Queen of Blood, Sarah Beth Durst
Furnace and Other Stories, Livia Llewellyn (collection)
Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones
The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle

A long list, but with many of this year’s likely contenders, such as Yoon Ha Lee, Ada Palmer, Charlie Jane Anders, and Cixin Liu, making an appearance. Who’s missing? N.K. Jemisin, for one, which seems an odd oversight. Maybe the crowd thought everyone else would recommend it. Connie Willis doesn’t make it for Crosstalk, and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades shows up only as an also ran. China Mieville has not been doing well on year-end lists so far, and The Last Days of New Paris, novella or not, doesn’t make it here either. There’s no real revelations or surprises, but that’s not what these lists are for: in their totality, they’ll give us a picture of the major contenders.

Best of 2016: The Guardian

Adam Roberts, a major SFF author himself, returns with his annual best Science Fiction and Fantasy books of the year in The Guardian. Check it out here. It’s not so much a list but a discussion, and this is what he mentions:

Death’s End, Cixin Liu
Central Station, Lavie Tidhar
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho (a book from last year that Roberts points out already won the British Fantasy award; I don’t get why it is on this list)
Iraq + 100: Stories from a Century After the Invasion (story collection)
Azanian Bridges, Nick Wood
Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer
A Closed and Common Orbit, Becky Chambers
Ninefox Gambit, Yoon Ha Lee
The Gradual, Christopher Priest
The Race, Nina Allan (this is a 2014 book, but was recently republished)

N.K. Jemisin is mentioned in the opening paragraph as having won the Hugo this year, but there isn’t a mention of The Obelisk Gate by name. Good to see some praise for Central Station, one of my favorite books of last year, but also too literary and too strange to likely make much of an impact on the Hugo or Nebula this year. Death’s End—my favorite SF novel of 2016, if you’re keeping score at home—shows up first. I wonder if it can return to the Hugo or Nebula ranks after The Dark Forest didn’t make it last year? Will Ken Liu’s translation—he translated The Three-Body Problem and Death’s End but not The Dark Forest—make that much of a difference?

I think that Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit showing up on another list means they’re emerging as the critical favorites of 2016. If they keep this momentum up, they’ll have a good chance to make a major impact this awards season.

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