Diversity of approach and subject matter marked the best science fiction and fantasy of 2008, with notable titles by two new writers and excellent efforts by several seasoned pros. Brian Francis Slattery's Liberation combined the serious and the satirical in creating an unforgettable image of a future America beset by the collapse of the dollar and the specter of a new form of slavery. The Drowned Life confirmed Jeffrey Ford as the best fantasy short story writer of his generation. Jack O'Connell, noir specialist, returned after a long absence with the surreal, often stunning The Resurrectionist. Tender Morsels by Australian Margo Lanagan proved that she is as adept at the novel form as short stories, creating a stark and deeply disturbing fantasy. Anathem by Neal Stephenson showed once more that no one is better at using the novel to convey complex philosophical ideas--while at the same time creating a satisfying plot as a delivery system for those ideas.
Coming in at #6, new novelist J.M. McDermott summoned the spirit of William Burroughs in creating perhaps the first heroic fantasy collage/cut-up with Last Dragon--perhaps the most original book of the year. Another new writer, Jo Graham, showed off an emotive, often muscular style with her historical fantasy Black Ships. Jeanette Winterson returned to form with the very brave The Stone Gods, which took more chances and was more relevant to our times than any book on this list save Liberation. The Culture novel Matter by Iain M. Banks divided fans and critics, with its blend of heroic fantasy and SF, but we felt it was another major achievement by an iconic SF writer. Finally, Naomi Novik's Victory of Eagles successfully continued her popular series while demonstrating her growth as a writer.
Several worthy titles came in just under the top ten, and I will discuss those books in a December feature. Also in December, several of the writers on our SF/F list will contribute their own top tens, including Novik, Ford, McDermott, and O'Connell.
- Liberation: Being the Further Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America
- The Drowned Life
- The Resurrectionist
- Tender Morsels
- Last Dragon
- Black Ships
- The Stone Gods
- Victory of Eagles
Customers' Top Ten Picks in Science Fiction/Fantasy