Books of the year 2018: science fiction

2018 is drawing to a close, and a bookblogger’s thoughts inevitably turn to the books that have made the biggest impact of the year.

I therefore give you my favourite ten science fiction books of 2018

In no particular order (don’t make me choose…), I give you:

84k, by Claire North (Orbit Books, May 2018)

Claire North’s books are always startlingly original, and 84K is no exception to that rule. She takes language and format and plays with them, twisting and shaping the very forms of lines and sentences, leaving you with such imagery that the words in and of themselves couldn’t provide, leaving you with the sense of a sculptor playing with marble, or plasticine, or both. It’s astonishing to see it happen in front of you on the page and wonder how on earth she made it work.

Adrift, by Rob Boffard (Orbit Books, June 2018)

Enormous fun. I’ve been a huge fan of Rob Boffard’s books since Tracer first landed on my doorstep, and Adrift does not disappoint. It’s a standalone adventure following the (mis)fortunes of a group of tourists aboard a tour ship out by the Horsehead Nebula. Things go awry, and no-one does awry better than Mr Boffard. Cracking read.

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells (TOR, May 2017)

All Systems Red won a *lot* of stuff (Hugo Award for Best Novella, Nebula Award for Best Novella, Alex Award, Locus Award, one of the Verge’s Best Books of 2017, as well as being a New York Times and USA Today Bestseller).

And it’s just utterly splendid. A somewhat depressed Company supplied SecUnit hacks its own governor unit so can pretty much do what it likes, calls itself Murderbot (long story) and has a soft spot for soap operas. Then some creatures start attacking Murderbot’s clients and it, somewhat reluctantly, is forced to do something about it.

I love Murderbot. The story might be short (well, it *is* a novella), but it’s fast and funny, and the plot fairly whistles along. It’s also a lovely character study, delving into the mind of a machine hybrid that’s not entirely sure who it is, or wants to be.

Everything About You, by Heather Child (Orbit Books, April 2018)

Everything About You is an unsettling, creepy techno-thriller which feels all too plausible. Echoes of Black Mirror abound as we follow the story of Freya and her new ‘Smartface’ virtual assistant. Technology has advanced to the point where you can have any personality installed you like, built up from the thousands of interactions that person had with others – emails, texts, voice. Except Freya has a new, bleeding-edge prototype and the voice of her missing sister, who vanished when they were teenagers.

I loved this book and rattled through it in a couple of sittings. It’s clever, it’s creepy and it’s just so damn smart. The mystery is neatly plotted and beautifully written, with plenty of twists and turns thrown in.

I also had the pleasure of attending a writing workshop with Heather at the Edge-Lit book festival in Derby over the summer.

Rosewater, by Tade Thompson (Orbit Books, SEptember 2018)

Stunningly good sci-fi. Rosewater is a community which grew up around an alien biodome, where people gather in the hope of its healing powers. But the healing doesn’t always take the form they might wish…

Deliciously weird biopunk with an avalanche of clever ideas and brilliant characters. Just read it.

Tade Thompson wrote a great guest post on the five ingredients that make up Rosewater as part of a mini-blog tour.

Void Black Shadow/Static Ruin, by Corey J. White (TOR, March/November 2018)

Books 2 and 3 of Corey J. White’s superb Voidwitch Saga. I adored Killing Gravity and was excited to see book 2, Void Black Shadow, turn up in March. Even more excited to discover that book 3, Static Ruin was out in November.

The action is bloody, brutal and relentless. Mars is brilliantly acerbic and pissed off with anyone who gets between her and her target, which turns out to be 90% of the people we meet in this book. So much blood. So much mayhem. So much fun.

The writing style is punchy and taut, with no time wasted. These books are short and to the point (often brutally so – did I mention all the blood?), and unlike some of their contemporaries, don’t wallow around waiting for stuff to happen. Gloriously refreshing

The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi (Tor, October 2018)

Another sequel, following Scalzi’s glorious The Collapsing Empire, again this one snuck up on me and I had to zip down to the bookshop to get a copy immediately. I bloody loved book 1, and book 2 continues in the same vein – glorious worldbuilding, snarky characters, feuding Houses, the works. The Consuming Fire is clever, funny, and it’s like taking the essence of an Iain M. Banks book and boiling it down until you’ve stripped it down to the pure essence of an idea, making it 100% more witty, with a ton more diverse characters and 100% more sex. 

Warren Ellis described it as

…frictionless high-speed platinum-pulp science fiction storytelling.

which pretty much sums it up perfectly.

Vicious/Vengeful, by V.E. Schwab (Titan Books)

Last, but by no means least, these two books by V.E. Schwab consumed a couple of very late-into-the-night reading sessions. I realised that I’d had book 1, Vicious, on my kindle since FOREVER and finally found a spare evening to read it. A couple of days later I got an email asking if I wanted to read book 2, Vengeful, and I nearly bit the publicists hand off.

The format was challenging at first, with timeline jumps between ‘last night’, ‘ten years ago’, ‘ a week ago’ and so on, but once you settle into the style you start to appreciate the craft on display. The characters are great but awful, but also sympathetic (ish) and you can’t help rooting for them.

Vengeful continues the story, but introduces us to the utterly brilliant and merciless Marcella. It’s a hefty book at 600ish pages, but the chapters are short and punchy and I flew through it.

So, those are my sci-fi books of the year. Have you read any of them? Agree/disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!, Oc

Author: dave

Book reviewer, occasional writer, photographer, coffee-lover, cyclist, spoon carver and stationery geek.

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