2017 is winding down. Good riddance. This year was horrible.
But I did read some great novels this year. Here are the top ten novels I read in 2017.
10) River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. A thrilling adventure set in an alternate America where hippos have replaced cows as the primary source of meat and horses as a means of transportation. I really enjoyed this book. My lone complaints are that the world building needs fine tuning and the plot twists are rather obvious.
9) Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. A wonderful, original space opera set in a solar system riven by planet based conflict. I bailed on this book when I first read it a few years ago. But on a reread this year, I really enjoyed it even with its faults (Miller).
8) Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. Sword and rap adventure dealing with a caravan fighting against the monster stalking them. I love Wilson’s writing. The language is spectacular.
7) Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. This is a surprisingly engaging exploration of one man’s life. I am, honestly, surprised I love this novel.
6) The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle. This is a powerful novel of how two people relate to a troubled young man. I am, again, surprised how much I enjoyed this novel.
5) Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. This Is Space Opera! Damn I love this book. It is so good. The characters! The world building! The complexity!
4) The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Boddard. In a Paris shattered by magical war, a new fallen angel ignites a long simmering plan of vengeance. This novel is wonderful. I love it!
3) The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Boddard. In a Paris shattered by magical war, the Dragon Kingdom hidden in the Seine becomes the locus of House Hawthorn’s ambitions and fall. This novel is even better than the first! I love it!
2) Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. Saga, the legendary band, reunites to rescue a daughter trapped in a city besieged by a horde of monsters. This book is awesome! I love it!
1) Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. What happened to the documentary filmmaker Severin Unck? This question drives an exploration of an alternate solar system in which most of the planets are habitable. The writing is so good. So so good. The characters are amazing. The world building is amazing. I want to live in this universe. I love it so much.
So, that is my top ten list. Will 2018 be even better? I certainly hope so!
In an alternate universe where every planet in the solar system is inhabitable, Severin Unck, documentary filmmaker, vanishes while filming in a mysteriously destroyed Venusian village. What follows is an amazing homage to old Hollywood and science that never was through the lens of the weird.
I adore Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente. But how do I write a glowing review?
The book is amazing, the best thing I’ve read so far this year bar none.
But talking about why I like it is so damn difficult. There is no one thing that I can point to. And many of the elements of the novel may be off putting to other readers.
Catherynne M. Valente is a difficult writer. She melds science fiction and fantasy with a highly experimental literary sensibility. She does not always succeed. But when she does, the work is amazing.
The writing for Radiance is gorgeous. It is baroque and ornate and fits the social milieu of the characters like a glove.
The structure is amazingly well crafted, telling the story through textual home movies, diary entries, film scripts, radio scripts, transcripts, and the ever changing novelization of a film that will never be made. All the narratives combine to create both a powerful homage to a lunar Hollywood that never was and a complicated narrative of grief and the search for solace.
The characters are amazingly realized even as the artificiality of the movie industry transforms the characters both physically and mentally.
My words cannot do this novel enough justice. Just know that if you want to read a novel that reaches the heights science fiction can achieve when it marries literary ambition and experimentation, Radiance might just be the novel for you.