Best of Science Fiction Novels
This session should have been hopping with enthusiasm– it wasn’t. I arrived ten minutes into the session and already the two presenters had begun to talk to the audience about the good books that had come out during the year. This last year was described as having been a year that had many sequels and series novels. Some of the named sequels or novels in series were as follows:
Nancy Kress, Steal Across the Sky.
Karl Schroeder, The Sunless Countries. Great idea books.
CJ. Cherryh, Book Ten, entitled Conspirator.
Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring. This is a series that has four volumes and an end! Each volume has closure. Daniel Abraham’s writing was described (in both the novel fiction and short fiction sessions) as original and fresh. Further, Jo Walton said that he is not afraid to destroy the world. She said that the series had a very satisfying completion.
After this the two presenters began to poll the audience for new titles that they had enjoyed. The presenters indicated that they had previously asked the audience who amongst them had read more than twenty novels during the last year and several people had raised their hands. Among the titles that were listed were the following:
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt.
Norse Code by Greg van Eekhout.
The City and the City by China Mieville.
Cloud and Ashes (from Small Beer Press) which is the fantasy sequel to Moonwise by Greer Gilman.
The Immortality Factor by Ben Bova (Jo Walton says Millenium is his best which is a book that was published in the past.).
Beastly by Alex Flinn and also a Kiss in Time.
Graceling by Krisin Cashore.
By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear.
The Orphan’s Tale and Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente. Palimpsest was described as very innovative.
This is Not a Game by John Williams.
David Marusek’s Mind Over Ship is the name of the sequel that is currently out. The first book is: Counting Heads. Read Counting Heads first, but both were described as being fresh and very good.
Pump Six and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Paolo Bacigalupi.
Jo Walton and the other presenter were praising fiction focusing on other parts of the world beyond N. America and Europe. Setting a story in the future of India or Africa makes the story set apart.
Overall this session was very depressing because the panelists and the audience were not terribly enthusiastic about very many novels and everyone was fishing for additions to the list. This could mean several separate things. It could mean that there is room for an exciting new novel! (And that it is needed to generate a great deal of enthusiasm? People who are readers should not be hunting to come up with titles that they feel strongly about. I wonder about the health of the genre when there is such difficulty listing titles.) Or that maybe the panelists were put in an awkward position and did the best they could?
After the session I had a chance to speak briefly with Jo Walton who was very generous with her time in speaking to me. I asked her about the state of the genre if there are so many sequels and books in series and what this might indicate about the science fiction genre. She said, “There is a pressure to sell a new book in a series as opposed to a new stand alone book.” She explained that the publishers want to have books that are just like the last one provided they are successful.
I pressed further and asked about the state of the genre when it is so difficult to name new books. She recommended that I go to more of the panels being presented by editors who will be talking more about up and coming books. She said that the editors who have new fiction coming out will be in a better position to describe the exciting new works coming out.
Other books Jo Walton recommended:
Lifeload by Jo Walton ( Farthing is another book of hers that she recommends!)
Green by Jay Lake
I asked Jo Walton who the most innovative author with fiction out right now was and she said:
“Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson is most innovative thing out.”