It’s already July (whoa, when did that happen?), and as such, it is time for an annual Smuggler Tradition—we count down our favorite 10 books of 2012 (so far).
We’ve taken a good hard look back at everything we’ve read this year, and out of 120 or so books reviewed (most of them speculative fiction and YA), we’ve picked our top 10 favorite adult SFF books published between January and June 2012.
Disclaimer: It should go without saying that we could not possibly have read ALL of the SFF books published in 2012. This list is admittedly restricted to those titles that we have managed to read and review in the year thus far.
And so, our Book Smugglers’ Favorite Books Read, Reviewed and Published in 2012 (in no particular order):
N. K. Jemisin
The first book in a brand new duology by multiple award-winning author, N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon is a dark, lush fantasy novel set in a land where dreams are harvested and souls are cut free of their earthly form to seek solace in the peaceful embrace of goddess Hananj. Something stinks in the state of Gujaareh, and three unlikely allies find themselves in a fight against a great and terrible evil that threatens to consume the land. There are no words to express Jemisin’s gift for weaving beautifully complex worlds, cultures and characters—The Killing Moon, and its follow-up, The Shadowed Sun, is Jemisin’s finest work yet, and our collective favorite book of the year so far. Oh, and read our previous piece on books inspired by The Killing Moon.
The Song of Achilles
OK, technically, we read and reviewed this book at the end of 2011 when the book was first published in the UK (where it just won the Orange Prize for Fiction). But because it wasn’t published in the States until March, and since it is SO GOOD, we couldn’t pass the opportunity to sings its praises one more time. The Song of Achilles is the Trojan War from Patroclus’ point of view, following the development of his romantic relationship with the great Greek Hero, Achilles. It is a deeply romantic historical fantasy novel that also explores themes of heroism, fate and war exceptionally well.
After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall
A firmly established science fiction author, Nancy Kress needs no introduction. Her newest novel details Earth after, before and during the apocalypse, providing an incisive look at the end of the world and the handful of survivors that carry on. If you haven’t tried Kress yet, After/Before/During the Fall is a good place to start.
Further: Beyond the Threshold
We’ve been fans of Chris Roberson’s comics (I, Zombie and Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love), but Further was the first full prose novel we had read from the talented writer. Using the familiar trope of a man who has slept far too long, only to awake in a strange distant future, Further is good old-fashioned, Roddenberry-esque science fiction fun.
Again, technically, this is a YA novel but one with a lot of crossover potential. It is kind of a retelling of Moby Dick, only with a sea of trains and set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is adventurous, diverse and so smart. Plus it features a charming omniscient and omnipresent narrator that wins at narrative conducting. Read our previous column on Railsea for more on this great new book.
When We Were Executioners
Following the excellent 2011 title Never Knew Another, When We Were Executioners is the second book in the Dogsland Trilogy. It follows an unnamed narrator as she investigates the death of a demon-child by surfing the late man’s memories. Featuring an amazing labyrinthine narrative-within-a-narrative, this novel reinforces the idea that Dogsland itself is the main character of the series.
The Serpent Sea
Another sequel to a 2011 favorite novel, The Cloud Roads, the Books of the Raksura feature a beautifully rendered fantasy world, intricate social and political dynamics, and amazing characters, including one very badass female protagonist.
A completely unexpected delight of a novel, The Rook tells the tale of Myfanwy Thomas, one of the highest-ranking members of a secret order called the Chequy, charged with protecting the world against supernatural evil. One rainy night, Myfanwy wakes up in a ditch, surrounded by a bunch of stiffs wearing latex gloves. She hasn’t the foggiest idea where she is, who the stiffs are, or who she is herself. There is one thing that we’re sure of—The Rook is one of the best contemporary fantasy novels we’ve read in years.
The third and final book in Patrick Lee’s truly fantastic Breach trilogy, Deep Sky is the ultimate adventure of Travis Chase and Paige Campbell, directors of top secret covert agency, Tangent, and their ongoing mission to save the world. Part Fringe (parallel universes!) part The X-Files (shadowy government agencies and coverups!), the Breach series comes to a fitting, dramatic conclusion with Deep Sky.
Fly Into Fire
Susan Jane Bigelow
A very ambitious sequel to the excellent Broken (another notable read of 2011), Fly Into Fire is a speculative fiction novel set in a futuristic dystopian world. In this future world, pragmatism has been replaced by exploitation and prejudice, where Extrahumans, or the equivalent of your friendly neighborhood superheroes, are just trying to survive. Featuring a plethora of planets and different peoples with diverse social and philosophical beliefs, there is much to like about this series. The best part? Book 3, The Spark, comes out very soon, and we cannot wait to read it.
Of course, there are a number of honorable mentions that almost made our list, including but not limited to: John Scalzi’s Redshirts, John Barnes’ Losers in Space (technically YA but again we’re including it on this adult SFF list because it is so very, very good), Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, White Horse by Alex Adams, 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstadt, Partials by Dan Wells, The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman, Worldsoul by Liz Williams and Pure by Julianna Baggott.
What about you? What are your favorite SFF books of 2012 so far? Comments and suggestions are most welcome!