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24Dec/170

Best of 2017

thousandautumns

It's been a while since I've posted anything on here, but I thought I'd update with a list of the best books that I've read this year.
he best 10 I read were:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Starts off as a fascinating piece of historical fiction in a setting (a Dutch trading colony in 18th Century Japan) I knew little about, but it’s the introduction of a (relatively subtle) fantasy element in the second part of the book that really raises the stakes and makes this so compelling. Mitchell’s writing is great, there are memorable characters and it has a powerful ending.

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Has a reputation as one of the masterpieces of 20th Century Science fiction and it lives up to it. The way Le Guin slowly unravels the contrasting strengths and weaknesses of the two societies is thought-provoking, but this isn’t just about the ideas, Shevek is a great protagonist and the plot is compelling.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

I can’t say I’ve ever read anything quite like this, the setting is utterly bizarre and alien with warfare being conducted using calendars. It may throw the reader in at the deep end but I think it reveals enough to be comprehensible. The phrase ‘grim dark future’ has been rather overused in recent years, this one definitely qualified but the characterisation offers just enough glimpses of humanity to stop it being entirely bleak. It also features a fascinating antihero in the form of Shuos Jedao.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

A welcome return that is reminiscent of the best parts of “His Dark Materials”. Maybe this is still ostensibly a young adult book but Pullman has never talked down to his audience and there is plenty of depth here, as well as an entertaining adventure fable.

City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

A good conclusion to the trilogy that manages to fit well with the rest of the series even if I suspect it wasn’t planned in advance. After the previous books had been a spy novel and a war novel in a fantasy setting this feels more like a Western, specifically one of those Westerns where an ageing gunslinger with plenty of regrets finds he can’t quite rest yet.

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

Sadly this is the last time I’ll ever read one of Banks’ SF novels for the first time. This isn’t a Culture novel but it has all the ambition and wonder of that setting, the parts of the story spent in the gas giant inhabited by the Dwellers are excellent. However, some of the other subplots did fall a bit flat.

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

An audacious and playful concept of a man searching for his lost wife in the bizarre societies of the Tower of Babel. An enjoyable and unusual read, even if it perhaps started to lose momentum in the third act.

Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

The sequel to Ninefox Gambit takes the plot in some interesting new directions and introduces some different perspectives on the story.

The Bear and the Serpent by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A high-concept epic fantasy set in a world where everyone can shape shift into the form of various animals. This makes for some distinctive action scenes, and the plot has a few surprising developments that I wasn’t expecting after the previous book in the trilogy. I’ve always enjoyed Tchaikovsky’s characterisation and this is no exception.

Luna : Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

I found this a bit inconsistent, but at its best has some excellent writing – Lucasinho Corta monologuing about the importance of cake to his niece while fleeing for their lives across the lunar surface was particularly great.

Honourable mentions to Ian Esslemont's Dancer's Lament, the first five books in Max Gladstone's Craft Cycle, Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto's The Ruling Mask and Jo Zebedee's Inish Carraig.

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