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John DeNardo on the Definitive List of 2017’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Stone-Sky-N.K.-Jemisin-smaller The-House-of-Binding-Thorns-smaller A Conjuring of Light-small

As he does every year, John DeNardo breaks down the Best of the Year lists to find the most widely acclaimed science fiction, fantasy, and horror books of the last 12 months. Why does he do it?

I love looking at book-related “Best of the Year” lists because it’s fun to see what made the cut and how lists differ from one another. Even better: lists stoke my desire to read and point me towards books I may have otherwise skipped over. However, an abundance of “Best of” lists begs the question: which books truly deserve that label? Which books are the absolute best?

Intent to find some concrete answer to those admittedly subjective questions, I began an intense session of OCD-fueled list aggregation and spreadsheet manipulation to find which science fiction and fantasy books garnered the most mentions. The result is a very unscientific ­— but nonetheless worthwhile — “Best of the Best” list of the science fiction and fantasy books that debuted in 2017.

For those (like me) who want to read the books that everyone is talking about, and get a jump on the 2018 awards season, John’s meta-list is invaluable. Let’s see what’s on it.

Noumenon Marina J. Lostetter-smallJohn drew from the following Best-of-the-Year lists to make his selection.

Amazon’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017 (20 titles)
Barnes & Noble Best Books of 2017 (42 titles)
Barnes and Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2017 (25 titles)
The Guardian Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017 (16 titles)
Kirkus Reviews Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017 (12 titles)
Library Journal Best Books 2017: SF/Fantasy (5 titles)
Publishers Weekly‘s Best Books 2017: SF/Fantasy/Horror (7 titles)
The Washington Post: The 5 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels of 2017 (5 titles)

The final list includes nine novels by N.K. Jemison, Aliette de Bodard, V. E. Schwab, Marina J. Lostetter, Annalee Newitz, Jeff Vandermeer, Rivers Solomon, Elizabeth Bear, and Katherine Arden; plus ten honorable mentions.

Here’s John on The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin.

Making her 3rd consecutive appearance (The Fifth Season appeared on 2015’s “Best of the Best” list and the sequel The Obelisk Gate grabbed the top slot in 2016’s “Best of the Best” list), author N.K. Jemisin again lands in the top slot of books receiving the most mentions with the conclusion to The Broken Earth trilogy. The Stone Sky is set on a world where Extinction Level Events are all-too frequent and society oppresses the minority of people who possess the seemingly magical abilities to control the cataclysmic seismic events.

And The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard.

Fallen angels in the great Houses of Paris fight for control as the city itself tries to rebuild in the aftermath of an arcane war. In House Silverspires, once considered to be the most powerful of Houses until it was destroyed by an ancient evil, an immortal man attempts to resurrect someone he lost. Meanwhile, in House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist is forced to undertake a perilous diplomatic mission to an underwater dragon kingdom where the previous emissary met with an untimely end.

And A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab.

In the conclusion to Schwab’s well-received and imaginative sf/fantasy hybrid series, the fates of monarchies are determined across four Londons in four very different parallel-worlds: there’s Grey London, where there is no magic but there is one very mad king; Red London, where magic is revered; White London, where people fight to control magic that fights back; and Black London, which nobody dares speak about.

And finally Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter.

The years is 2088 and mankind is on the precipice of journeying beyond Earth’s solar system. Astrophysicist Reggie Straifer discovers an anomalous star that’s either the first of its kind discovered in the universe, or entirely artificial. Investigating the anomaly will take generations, so to preserve the genetic talent of the original crew, clones are used to keep the mission going over eons. However, a clone is not a perfect copy and the variations introduced over generations change the parameters of the mission and its chances of success.

Read John’s Definitive List of 2017’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books here. His 2016 list is here.

See all our coverage of the best New Treasures here.

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