Ah, dear reader. We’ve come to the final chapter. Who will turn out to be the murderer?
Wait, wait, wrong post. That was the best crime books of 2017 post. This is the other stuff. You know, with spaceships, dystopia, zombies and swords. The good stuff.
Without further ado, I hereby present my top five fantasy, scifi and all that other stuff of the year.
(Yes, yes. there *are* 8 books on the list. Well, nine if you count 5(a) and 5(b) as two separate books. Which technically they are, but they’re part of one story and the list was long enough already so I’ve given them joint fifth place. Look, it’s *my* list. You go and do your list and make it a ‘top five’ or a ‘top 10’ and be all pedantic and ‘ooh look at me with the correct number of books’. Send me a link when you’re done.)
Fast-paced, with funny dialogue which fizzes with snark and a glorious cast of characters. We’ve got grand Houses battling for influence with the Emperox, wormholes, sarcastic space captains, pirates, dukes and a glorious cast of minor players in the empire-spanning game of power.
Favourite character is hard to pick – there’s the deliciously foul-mouthed Kiva, daughter of the House of Lagos, unafraid to speak her mind (and she does get most of the best lines). Cardenia, newly-annointed Emperox Grayland II, ruler of, well pretty much everything, and not entirely thrilled about it. The rival Houses, with their Machiavellian schemes to gain or influence power reminded me of Frank Herbert’s Dune (though slightly more foul-mouthed).
The plot veritably bounds along from planet to planet (or slightly more accurately, from planet to Hub) as we follow our heroes (if you can call anyone here a hero) on an exhilarating, rip-roaring galaxy-spanning adventure.
I do love a good dystopia (spoiler: there’s another one further down the list) and The Feed is just that. Splendid concept, beautifully and horrifyingly realised. Imagine having Twitter/Facebook/everything implanted in your head where every fact is mere nanoseconds away, where books are obsolete and society is addicted the ever-present rush of knowledge and has been for years. Now, imagine what happens when the Feed goes down. Superb. The opening chapters are a horrifyingly credible view of a future not too far away.
6, The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman (Pan, December 2016)
Book #3 in The Invisible Library series, following on from The Masked City (a book of the year for 2015), we follow the adventures of Librarian spy Irene and her dragon assistant Kai as they try to save themselves and The Library from destruction at the hands of arch nemesis (and deliciously evil) Alberich. Glorious fun, superbly inventive. It’s got books, dragons and librarian spies. Just go and read it. Probably start with book #1 though. Genevieve’s latest book, The Lost Plot is out now!
A double-header for book 5. The Girl With All The Gifts is a disturbing dystopian thriller which is a fresh take on a well-trodden genre staple.
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
. It’s the characters which make this book so special. Melanie is wonderfully drawn and we see the crumbling world through her eyes. The ending is spectacular.
The Boy on The Bridge then, is another story in the same world. I was blown away by TGWATG and approached this second book with no small amount of trepidation. How do you follow a book like that? Mike Carey knocks it out of the park. The Boy on the Bridge is instantly recognisable, yet very different. It’s one of those books that you just inhale in a single sitting, then fall back and marvel at what you’ve just read. The Girl was good, the Boy was astonishing, and together they make one hell of a team.
Set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where something… unusual has happened, Defender tells the story of a young girl called Lacey and a drifter, Pilgrim. The world has changed – the biggest threat to mankind is from the voices that have started appearing – voices which tell people to do bad, bad things. Suicide, murder or a descent into madness – you don’t get to choose, the voices do…
Defender is part thriller, part horror, with a dash of sci-fi. It’s startlingly original, blackly comic, bleakly desolate, with an utterly fantastic cast of characters, and a setting which just oozes menace. It’s dark and brutal, and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but if you give it a chance, it’ll grab you by the hand and take you on a dust-soaked ride across the wilderness to some places you’ll not soon forget.
Phew. Top three territory now (and I’ve checked, and yes there *are* only three). Super tough to choose between them, but the ‘Top X’ format demand that I do just that.
In third place, we have Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames
I have a tiny confession to make. The book turned up and, dear reader, I judged it by its cover. More specifically, I judged it by its title, the ‘Wyld’ made me think of the terrible fantasy epics of my youth and Wyld Stallyns from Bill & Ted.
Oh how wrong I was. How very, very wrong. Kings of the Wyld is, quite simply enormous fun. Clay Cooper, determinedly helmetless member of the Watch, returns home to find his old mate Gabe with one last job: Let’s get the band back together and go on a quest to find his daughter on the other side of the world. It’s only a thousand miles through a monster-infested forest. Should be no problem.
What follows is a splendid rollercoaster of the most rollicking kind, with a grand smörgåsbord of beasts and monsters, evil villians, ex-girlfriends, former managers, relentless bounty hunters and what will soon become your favourite wizard since Gandalf (or Rincewind, depending on your literary tastes), Moog.
Kings of the Wyld has a simply delicious premise – what if the bands of adventures were treated as rockstars, with bookers sorting out gigs to clear out a horde of goblins, or dealing with an infestation of kobolds? Clay’s band really do get back together (one even wields an axe) and go on one final world tour with the action cranked firmly up to 11.
It’s an epic quest which simply rattles along, putting our ageing heroes with their sore backs and gammy knees through trials and tribulations one after the other until the grand finale. Superb entertainment.
In second place (but again, the top three might as well have gone in a hat) we have Age of Assassins, by RJ Barker
A refreshingly different hero, in a splendid coming-of-age tale of assassins set to track down another assassin, with a dash of intrigue, magic, skulduggery and shenanigans aplenty. If I’ve met you over the course of the last six months, I’ve probably suggested that you go read this book. It’s one of *those* books.
It’s got everything. Great characters, and more to the point interesting characters doing interesting things that actually make you care about them, a tightly-crafted plot (involving the aforementioned skulduggery) and some quite gloriously gritty worldbuilding. Oh, and footnotes. RJ appears to love footnotes almost as much as I do. It was refreshing to see a disabled hero (if you can call Girton a hero) where his disability wasn’t just a plot twist, or something which needed to be there in order for the story to be. Much like Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road, just another person in a story. Utterly brilliant. And RJ is a thoroughly nice chap too, with only a *tiny* obsession with antlers.
And so we come to number one. Though as I said earlier (assuming you were paying attention and not just scrolling down to see which book I liked best), the top three are a tightly-knit bunch.
At #1, we have Godsgrave, by Jay Kristoff
The sequel to the much-loved Nevernight (book #3 in last year’s list), Godsgrave took everything which was awesome about the world (which was pretty much everything) and cranked the volume over as far as it would go, and then some. Mia sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally kill Scaeva and Duomo (who killed her father), who will be making a rare public appearance at the games in Godsgrave. Think Gladiator, but with more stabbystabstab and assassins.
I was super lucky to score an advance copy in August, at which point all other books were unceremoniously pushed to one side as I lost myself in the world of stabby assassins, twisted plots and intrugue. Oh, and death, blood, murder, revenge. You know, all the good stuff. Nevernight was (and indeed is) one of my all-time favourite books. Jay has a love of footnotes which ranks alongside mine and RJ’s, and I adore him for it. Godsgrave is staggeringly good. I cannot wait to see where Jay takes us in book 3.
So, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with me. Those were my books of 2017. I know there’s a couple of weeks left to go, but I’m guessing nothing’s going to shift Godsgrave off the top spot…
What have been your books of the year? Have you read any of the books on my list? I’d love to hear what you think!