The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016

38998041_mlHappy sigh...

Looking back on this year's contribution to the grand genre of science fiction and fantasy, I had so many impressive books to choose from to create my best-of-the-year list that the hard part wasn't finding good books--it was narrowing the list down to only 20.

Below are a selection of our picks for the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2016. See the full list here...and prepare to utter your own happy sigh as you open your next favorite book.

 

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The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis - This book is not only our number-one pick in science fiction and fantasy but our number-two pick in our overall best of the year list. All year I have been recommending this book to anyone who will stand still for thirty seconds and let me jabber on about it. Imagine a postapocalyptic Western told from the perspective of a female Huckleberry Finn on the run from a serial killer. Now realize that this book is unlike any you've read before. A remarkable, ominous story starring a heroine that will grab at your guts and your heart. And you'll never think about jerky the same way again.
 

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The Hike by Drew Magary - When a father of three goes on a hike in the woods, the journey twists and turns through hilarity and horror as Ben tries to find his way home. Videogames and fairy tales bend reality into a trippy, bizarre tale perfect for those with a skewed sense of humor and a leaning toward introspection.
 

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The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman - Cogman smashes gas-lamp London together with Librarians who travel through space and time to find special books for the shelves of the Library. Irene and her new (and mysterious) assistant Kai find themselves way over their heads as a dangerous rogue ex-Librarian stalks them and the rare book they are trying to retrieve, even as they land in the middle of a war between vampires, fey, and other magical creatures. Irene is a quick-thinking and smooth-acting protagonist, and fans of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series will especially enjoy this dynamic literary romp. Happily, book two, The Masked City, is just as strong, and I'm looking forward to book three, The Burning Page, in January.
 

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Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee - Lee's hard sci-fi thriller is a cat-and-mouse game between ruling classes, a rebellious genius, and a battlefield soldier whose own razor-sharp grasp of math could change everything. When I say "hard" sci-fi, I mean that you'll have to use your brain as Lee weaves numbers and strategy together in a fascinating universe that doesn't operate under our mundane rules of physics. But the story is well worth the effort. And your newly strengthened brain will thank you.
 

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The Burning Isle by Will Panzo - A young killer arrives at the ragged, brutal town of Scipio. As he insinuates himself deeper into the organizations of the two local crime lords, it becomes clear that our mysterious hero, Cassius, has a far deeper plan than simply establishing his bonafides. Debut author Panzo has thought a lot about Cassius' world, giving it an authentic touch even while he unspools the motivation behind Cassius' master plan. Suspenseful and dark, this is a strong addition to the shelves of those who like Leigh Bardugo or George R. R. Martin.
 

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The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison - This Philip K. Dick award-winner places the reader in San Francisco shortly after a disease has wiped out most of humanity in a few days but has taken the biggest bite out of the female population. The few women left are little more than sex slaves, and this book evokes every woman's fear of being vulnerable--only to turn the situation on its head as the protagonist makes an unusual choice in how to save the women she meets. Elison paints a world so empty of long-term hope and driven by short-term desperation that you'll be haunted by it even when not flipping the pages, yet the barest glimmer of light on the future's horizon will keep you moving forward. The sequel, The Book of Etta, hits shelves in February 2017.
 

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Machinations by Hayley Stone - Imagine Sarah Connor leads the rebellion against the machines after Judgment Day, she and her band of ragtag warriors are making their last stand in Alaska, and then she's killed...and comes back from the dead as a clone. Now substitute "Rhona Long" for "Sarah Connor" you have an idea of what this riveting postapocalyptic novel is about. As much a meditation on leadership and self as it is a gun-rattling action SF novel, Machinations satisfies on multiple levels. This series's dynamic book two, Counterpart, released in October.
 

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The Dark Side by Anthony O'Neill - A mash-up of 1950’s Las Vegas and the Mos Eisley cantina (Mos Vegas?), Purgatory is an anything-goes colony on the dark side of the moon, where the convicts and ne’er-do-wells are outnumbered only by the vices available on demand. As newly-arrived Lieutenant Damien Justus tackles a challenging case involving the assassination of a local official, a homicidal android cuts a terrifying (and often hilarious) path of destruction toward Purgatory. The frenetic action and sublimely clever dialogue of The Dark Side build to a satisfying conclusion, even though you’ll wish your time in Purgatory didn’t have to end. (Review by Matt Fyffe)
 

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Comments (1)

Wolf Road was such a riveting read. It took me a while to make the connection between the title and the story. Whew, what a journey north.
I wish you included Good Morning, Midnight on your list.

Posted by: Ferdinand Solis | Wednesday November 30, 2016 at 2:45 PM

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