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On February 1st, Locus Online has released their 2011 Recommended Reading List which most likely will form the basis of the main list for the upcoming Locus Award which I consider one of the two major and relevant awards in the sff of today together with the more UK oriented Arthur Clarke one.
You can find the full list and the names of the contributors on Locus Online and I copy/pasted the choices in the three main categories of interest, SF novels, Fantasy novels and First novels. I will present them below with some comments.
Novels – Science Fiction
General: A great list with almost all the major sf novels of 2011 I thought were excellent or very good. In my list of 2011 highly recommended books you will find The Clockwork Rocket (my top sf of 2011 as we can consider 1Q84 to be "mainstream" for genre award purposes), Leviathan Wakes, Embassytown, The Islanders, Vortex, Home Fires all reviewed on FBC HERE.
Disagreements: Here, the two books I thought had some good stuff but were a little far from being on a top list were Firebird and Heart of Iron. I have no interest in most of the rest as I am not a fan of zombies, Stephen King, Charles Stross (outside of his crazy far future sf which was excellent, his near future and alt hist/fantasy are boring), Vernor Vinge, Joe Haldeman etc. The Ian McLeod would be of some interest but I have not seen a copy yet.
Notable Misses: Of the 2011 major sf novels the one missing here is By Light Alone by Adam Roberts. In addition I am strongly recommending the small press Dancing with Eternity by John Patrick Lowrie which quite surprisingly was my #2 sf novel of the year and # six overall.
Novels – Fantasy
General: A good list with some of the fantasy novels I thought were excellent or very good but with a lot of divergence from my tastes too . In my list of 2011 highly recommended books you will find A Dance with Dragons (my top fantasy of 2011), The Hammer, The River of Shadows, The Dragon's Path, The Book of Transformations, The Cold Commands, Heroes all reviewed on FBC HERE.
Disagreements: Here, the three books I thought had some good stuff but were a little far from being on a top list were The Fallen Blade, The Wise Man's Fear and The Uncertain Places. Kingdom of Gods and Mr. Fox are books I plan to read at some point, while in the rest I have no interest. I strongly disliked the first Magicians book by Lev Grossman which I thought quite poorly written as literary style goes, regardless of the fantasy-nal content and surprisingly I never got into the "Daniel Fox" series despite that I quite liked his fantasy series written under his real name, while Mystification just did not work out for me as style goes but others loved it...
Notable Misses: Major misses here are the novels by Kate Elliott, Jacqueline Carey, Carol Berg, Paula Brandon (aka Paula Volsky) and of course Adrian Tchaikovsky. In addition, I would strongly recommend Scholar by L.E. Modesitt and The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman.
General: This is the list with the fewest overlap with my preferences as I would recommend only Debris, The Night Circus and for literary style, The Tiger's Wife despite my objections to some of its content.
Disagreements: The only other books on the list I finished were Mechanique which I found ultimately mediocre despite some great moments and Low Town which I found just bad. I tried a few others like God's War, Seed and The Desert of Souls but they did not work for me though in all cases it was just a matter of style not matching my taste so I would recommend taking a look at our (FBC) reviews of some of those and Of Blood and Honey which were among Robert or Mihir's favorites.
Notable Misses: 2011 was not a great year for debuts imho as I found very little to compare with very strong preceding years. There was Dancing with Eternity mentioned above and the one major publisher miss from the list, All Men of Genius by Lev Rosen whose absence here surprises me a little bit as the book should have ticked all the right boxes for the Locus staff...