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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Top Five Expected SFF Novels of 2011 (by Liviu Suciu)

Last year I prepared a long post about expected 2010 novels, originally split into three and then later collated and updated. This year I discussed some anticipated books in six posts so far (I HERE, II HERE, III HERE, IV HERE, V HERE, VI HERE). I have read the following five all off which would have been candidates for the list in this post. Reviews will come in due course, starting soon with the two early January novels by Carol Berg and by KJ Parker, while a dual review with Robert for The Fallen Blade is scheduled for mid-January.

1.The Hammer by KJ Parker (A++ and starting as #1 2011 novel)
2.The Book of Transformations by Mark Newton (A++ and starting as #2-3 2011 novel)
3.The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg (A++ and starting as #2-3 2011 novel)
4.The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (A++)
5.The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (B)

The first three are just awesome novels guaranteed a spot in my best of 2011, the Abercrombie is excellent too but as military fantasy - subgenre I like less than others - it has a ceiling in my preferences, so while it may make my Top 25 of 2011, it will depend on how much I like other books - a battle is still a battle, so to speak - while The Fallen Blade was a minor disappointment for surprising reasons (no, not for vampires, but for narrative walls and contrived plotting), though I am still in the series and hope future installments will be better.

I decided to do only a Top 5 Expected SFF Novels for now, though I will start soon a continually updated post with 2011 novels read. I thought a lot about what to include here and I had to make some hard choices, but overall I would say that right now these are the novels I would take over anything else known to come out in 2011 and of course excepting the ones above already read. They also tend to reflect well my preferences - "different" epic, strange sff, sense-of-wonder sf and finally "new school epic" fantasy.

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1. The Sea Watch by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Shadows of the Apt is my ongoing #1 fantasy series and it almost got at the level of my top 2 ongoing series in terms of expectations. (As anyone who follows my posts knows, those are Honor Harrington and Safehold by D. Weber, sadly none having a story advancing book in 2011 - HH has an anthology and a YA back-story novel, and while I read one and will read the other, neither are that important for me).

For more about why and all, check my review of The Scarab Path (beware of spoilers though) and go from there.

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2. The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman

After 4 reads of the book and perusing quite a few reviews that trash it, I still believe that The Left Hand of God is a very entertaining novel with a lot of narrative energy, but one that is such a mix of stuff that resists any classification beyond being sff. I am still undecided if it's more sf-nal than fantasy-nal, or if it's just a big (bad) joke played on the readers as some reviewers more or less argue. I still love it though I chickened out of putting it in my top 25 2010 novels so I am giving it a "huge personal favorite" label for now.

The Last Four Things should give me a better understanding and if I find it as refreshing as TLoG, that one may give even The Hammer a run for the #1 spot in 2011 in sff. Will see, but the above make this one my #2 expected sff novel of 2011.

And if you wonder, these expectations are double-edged since for example The Horns of Ruin was my top expected book of the last half of 2010, only to badly disappoint me, so much so that even the author's Dead of Veridon - follow-up to a top novel of mine in 2009 - moved lower on my expected 2011 list.

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3. Embassytown by China Mieville

I was so-so on City/City and I am still stuck at page 200 in Kraken but in both cases that's because I find hard to suspend disbelief in a modern world with magic. For a book that's in the same narrative space as City/City and that truly blew me away and became my top novel read in 2010, check the 1951 Goncourt prize winner The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq which has none of the credibility issues I had with the Mieville novel.

In Embassytown it seems we will be in pure speculative fiction world-building so I expect no issues with that and the novel is another contender for #1 in 2011.

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4. The Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan

Nobody writes better mind-blowing sf than Greg Egan and while I had occasional issues with the literary aspects of his work, The Clockwork Rocket is another potential #1 2011 novel and the only other "core-sf" must for me.

While there is a chance the book will be published in 2012, the author has a great introduction to its universe HERE and I strongly believe that with Alastair Reynolds turning to mundane sf (I dislike that but will see how the master of hard sf handles it), The Clockwork Rocket is the one "universe as sense of wonder" novel we will hopefully have in 2011.

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5. The River of Shadows by Robert Redick

The Chartrand Series is a big time favorite, but the almost 18 months lag between The Rats (still not present in the USA) and the Ruling Sea and this one, makes The River of Shadows lack somewhat the immediacy of say the Kinden novels. I am also curious to see if the magic of the first two books is still there for me since recently there were a bunch of series that faded for me or at best still remained on my "series reading" list but with less urgency.

With the new Brent Weeks expected for 2012 - that one will have otherwise been here in the "epic" spot - the Chartrand is the one more-or-less traditional fantasy series I want first, just beating the Rothfuss, Lynch, Bakker, Morgan or for that matter Martin if 2011 offerings.

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Edit 12/23 Despite my mild skepticism it seems that there are good chances that How Firm a Foundation (Safehold #5) by David Weber stands a chance of being published in Fall 2011.

The author has started writing it at the end of November 2010 so things will have to happen fast as publishing timetables go, but I guess that an A list author gets priority, so it's clearly possible.
How Firm a Foundation would be of course my number one expected book of 2011 since I know for sure the new main Honor novel A Rising Thunder written and delivered is scheduled for 2012 since as mentioned 2011 has 2 Honorverse books already and the other two sf authors I would include there PF Hamilton and IM Banks do not have new novels for 2011 as far as I know (PFH has a collection and Iain Banks may have a non-M book).

Incidentally despite being technically sf, Safehold is the most traditional fantasy series I am reading today with an embodied AI-wizard called Merlin for good measure, good and bad kings, evil or corrupt religious hierarchy with miracles on show, a huge evil in the distant past that almost destroyed humanity and led to today's world and so on...

And the way I see it there is a destined child - dynasty in this case since the series is sf so things will take a while to get solved - with the first book essentially starting when the wizard (Merlin) comes and saves the destined one, young Prince Cayleb from certain death in the nick of time and starts instructing him in his (line's) destiny...

You love traditional epics, try this one despite its sf trappings...

5 comments:

The gloop said...

I seriously don't know how you can't be as excited as I am for "Wise Man's Fear." That would be number 1 on my anticipated awesomeness list. Oh and just FYI "The rats and the ruling sea" is available in the US, just under the title "The Ruling Sea."

Liviu said...

Thank you for the comments; I may have been unclear but the joke is on the title of the 2nd Redick book (ie The Rats are not available, the Ruling Sea is :) )

As for the Rothfuss book, let's see what is about; I read Name of the Wind on publication and I was so-so on first read, with the fizzled ending, the Prima Donna hero and all, but I liked it better on 2nd read. So sure, I want to read Wise Man's Fear but I am in no rush so to speak, when it appears, it appears

Anonymous said...

Liviu,

Do have the synopsis for The Sea Watch? I've looked at Tchaikovsky's blog and Amason and found nothing so far. I'm reading The Scarab Path (about 150 pages to go) and loving it so far, to the point that it is probably one of my favorite Shadows of the Apt book to date. Your review of The Scarab Path is spot on.

Thanks!

Jennifer

Ove said...

Hi How Firm a Foundation (Safehold 5) by David Weber (Tor) is said to be scheduled to fall 2011 on davidweber.net

Liviu said...

Jennifer; thank you for the kind words; Sea watch is something that starts in the Collegium and seems to involve Sten first and foremost.

Here is the link from Amazon.uk

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-Watch-Shadows-Apt/dp/0330511467

New Kinden seem to be in the works also...

Ove: I would be utterly happy if Safehold 5 will be published in the Fall and it may be though the author is writing it as of now from what I hear and usually Tor takes a year from delivery to production

Let's hope though!!

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