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Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Titles of 2008

Liberation 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.

Check out all of the Best of 2008 lists.

Editors' Top Ten Picks in Science Fiction/Fantasy

  1. Liberation: Being the Further Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America
  2. The Drowned Life
  3. The Resurrectionist
  4. Tender Morsels
  5. Anathem
  6. Last Dragon
  7. Black Ships
  8. The Stone Gods
  9. Matter
  10. Victory of Eagles

Customers' Top Ten Picks in Science Fiction/Fantasy

  1. The Host
  2. Small Favor
  3. Anathem
  4. The Outlaw Demon Wails
  5. Cry Wolf
  6. Iron Kissed
  7. The Gypsy Morph
  8. Invincible (Star Wars)
  9. Valiant
  10. Revelation (Star Wars)


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Yo Ellen. Does it really take that much more effort to type out hardcover instead of hc or paperback instead of pb?

Ellen Datlow: So which should I blame for the lack of an ebook, Farrar, Straus or Giroux? And which one of your many responses should I be responding to? The internets are once again getting the better of me.

David Lomax: Just fyi, Tor didn't publish the hc edition of Carroll's new book, FS&G did. Tor WILL be publishing the pb.

David Lomax: Just fyi, Tor didn't publish the hc edition of Carroll's new book, FS&G did. Tor WILL be publishing the pb.

David Lomax: Just fyi, Tor didn't publish the hc edition of Carroll's new book, FS&G did. Tor WILL be publishing the pb.

David Lomax: Just fyi, Tor didn't publish the hc edition of Carroll's new book, FS&G did. Tor WILL be publishing the pb.

David Lomax: Just fyi, Tor didn't publish the hc edition of Carroll's new book, FS&G did. Tor WILL be publishing the pb.

Before you buy any of the books on these lists look at a sample first.
I bought Liberation-what a mistake! It reads like it was written by a crack head after a bad night. The names, events, and plot? were so disconnected that I got a headache trying to make sense of it all.

Hey, Chuck--The customers didn't vote on their favorites, I don't believe. It's simply sales figures. Although some of those books might make it onto a customer voting top 10, I don't believe all of them would. For one thing, just buying a book doesn't mean you ended up liking it. So it's not as much of a disconnect as you might think. Although sometimes there is more of a synergy between bestsellers and editor choices

There is an almost complete disconnect between the editors and customers. Hmm...

A must resd - By The Sword - if you have not yet read one of Paul Wilsons Repairman Jack novels yet - start with this one & I know you will be looking to purchase all the previous books - keeps your interest from the beginning to end.

So here's an observation, from someone who recently bought (and loves) the Sony Reader*: Of the editor's picks, I can currently buy and download exactly half of them for the Reader. Of the customers' picks, I can buy all. I'm assuming that this is because smaller presses and imprints are slightly slower to buy into the ebook thing, but I sure wish they'd get going. When I experienced how pleasurable it was to read on the e-ink display, I decided that I was done with physical books. However, I'm finding it hard to stick with that resolve. Tor Books is my favourite publisher. I really want to read Jonathan Carroll's newest. Time to get going, publishers.

*I would have bought a Kindle, but I'm in Canada. Blech.

Thanks for the comment--glad to have it. I must respectfully disagree, but the diversity of the list is such it's unlikely every reader will like every book on it.

All the best,


6. Last Dragon

I have to strongly disagree with this choice. McDermott's stylistic experimentation did not succeed in my opinion, and obfuscated the story in a way that few writers manage with success.

It might be the book I liked the least of this year, much less one of the best.

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