So it’s that time of year again; as the days get shorter and the temperature plunges, I find myself making a top ten list. It’s an endeavour fraught with peril, because 2017, for all its faults, has been a really good year in SF&F fiction. That said, these are my top picks from 2017, arranged in the order in which I read them (clicking on the titles will navigate to full reviews where available):
Then we get the protagonist, Shuos Jedao, the Empire’s greatest tactician. They also happen to be dead. Also quite possibly insane. With an agenda which seems to span generations, Jedao is charming, witty, and emotionally present – with hidden edges on which an observer might cut themselves. I kept turning pages to see what they’d do next, and I have to admit, I was never disappointed. This one is sci-fi at its best, asking big questions whilst giving us great characters in an interesting setting.
Smith-Spark’s debut is a painfully brilliant read. It explores themes of power and violence, and then wraps them up in questions about control and personal integrity. It’s also a story about civilisations – making and breaking them. There’s byzantine court politics, including assassination attempts, betrayal, scheming and the odd bit of thuggery. There’s battles which evoke screams and blood, the tearing down of walls between men at the same time that they carve each other apart. There’s reflections on religion, and on sustaining that religion through death. It’s a multifaceted text, which I get something new out of each time. It also has a lot of heart (possibly because it ripped it from the chest of the reader) – the raw emotional intensity pours off the page. This is whip-smart fantasy, engaging, cunningly plotted, and bloody.
9. Ruin of Angels – Max Gladstone
The finale of a trilogy, Siege Line has all the qualities which make Cole’s works so much fun. It’s a fast-paced, hard hitting thriller, with some interesting supernatural elements. The combat sequences have the patina of authenticity, which always helps when the protagonist’s opponents are wights with a penchant for human flesh. Jim Schweitzer, the protagonist of the first two books, is as charming as ever; living in his own corpse has to be hard on a guy, but the love and loyalty he feels for his family is something you can feel through the words on the page; he’s driven and focused, and a lot of fun to read. He’s joined by a marvellous ensemble cast, struggling to defeat a relentless antagonist before time runs out. This blend of military urban fantasy makes up a very tasty brew indeed.
There were. of course, other abbsolutely storming reads this year; these are just a sample of the tid of excellent fiction we've been inundated with. That said, f you want to get a flavour of SF&F in 2017, these books are probably a good place to start.