The OF Blog: Amazon's SF/F Best of 2008 List

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Amazon's SF/F Best of 2008 List

Jeff VanderMeer is responsible for this list, which contains many books that I either own, have ordered, or will order in the very near future:

1. Brian Francis Slattery, Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America.

I own this book but probably won't sit down to read it for another week or two. I loved Slattery's Spaceman Blues and it seems that he was prescient in his topic choice in light of last month's stock market collapse.

2. Jeffrey Ford, The Drowned Life.

Ford is a perennial favorite of mine and this third short fiction collection of his should be in my hands in the next few days.

3. Jack O'Connell, The Resurrectionist.

I haven't bought this book yet, but I've heard plenty of good things about it, so I'll probably get to it before the year is out.

4. Margo Lanagan, Tender Morsels.

Read it and although I haven't yet reviewed it, it certainly has a place on my own upcoming Best of 2008 list (which incidentally is promising to become huger than last year's).

5. Neal Stephenson, Anathem.

Will buy in the near future. Uncertain if I'll read it before the new year, though.

6. J.M. McDermott, Last Dragon.

A book that will be featured in at least the Best Debut Novel portion of my Best of 2008 list, if not in the overall list (which it may).

7. Jo Graham, Black Ships.

See above, as her novel was very, very good as well.

8. Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods.

Excellent SFish (regardless of what the author might think ;)) satire. Glad I took Jeff's recommendation to read it.

9. Iain M. Banks, Matter.

May buy/read it in the future, but uncertain about this year.

10. Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles

I have this fifth Temeraire novel, but I have yet to read volumes 2-4 (although owning those as well), so it might be a while. This selection is a bit different in tone/subject matter than most of the others mentioned above, but if it is around the level of the first book, it doubtless is a fun-filled adventure read. Considering that I love Arturo Pérez-Reverte's novels, that's not an indiction of Novik, but rather an admission that there is a place for such novels in quality reads for any given year.

But what about you? What books on this list have you read and what are your thoughts about them?


J m mcdermott said...

I probably wouldn't have read "Liberation" so soon without Jeff's recommendation because - I hate to admit this - the COVER was so blah compared to all the other shiny things in my pile.

However, once the pages were cracked, I was surprised and delighted to find a story both entertaining, hilarious, horrifying, and thought-provoking.

Jeff didn't plug his own stuff, but "The New Weird Anthology" was one of the most important things to happen in Literary Fantasy this year. It defines and lays the outlines for an interstitial artistic gesture that is far from over, and steadily taking over epic/heroic fantasy. The best epic/heroic fantasy of the year was heavily influenced by the New Weird writers. (Felix Gilman, Holly Phillips, etc.)

I love year's best lists. They get people talking and disagreeing and fuming and agreeing. They're so much fun!

Joe said...

I wonder if the Novik pick was the "popular" choice that Jeff's editors pushed onto the list like last year, or if that didn't come up this year.


I think I need to read Liberation, though.

Liviu said...

No more Name of the Wind this year:) Anathem was a NYT #1 bestseller so I guess Mr. Vandermeer paid his dues to the commercial reality.

Joking aside, for me Anathem was the #1 novel of the year in sff and overall, Caine Black Knife #1 in genre fantasy and Memoirs of a Master Forger #1 in fantastic literature, though honestly it has very little of the fantastic but it's such a wonderful and lifting tale, and 2666 #1 in mainstream non-fantastic.

I liked Black Ships a lot and I look forward to Hand of Isis.

Matter was very good but not quite top-tier Banks mainly because it lacked a great character and the ending was rushed

Last Dragon was ok, but the fragmentary style did not fully work for me. I liked much more the experimental style of P. Palmer Debatable Space though even that did not quite work perfectly. For some reason sff and experimental writing never meshed for me so far.
Only Dantec's Cosmos Incorporated worked very well, though it's only marginally experimental.

I gave up on Novik after book 3 which to me was so ridiculously contrived to make me throw it in disgust. Jena with dragons...

I tried The Stone Gods but it's not for me.

The rest do not tempt me for various reasons.

Anonymous said...

I thought Anathem was a unique achievement. I thought Matter was the opposite. I'm currently reading The Stone Gods which I'm not convinced is best read as SF but is very good.

Ben said...

The Resurrectionist is an AMAZING book!

Anonymous said...

I loved "The Last Dragon." But it's the only book on this list I've already read. "Anathem" and "The Drowned Life" are on my night stand. Unfortunately, Anathem is a little awkward to carry around. I like a book that fits in my purse, and I love that the publishers of 2666 have released a set of paperbacks for reading--can't wait for that one. "Liberation" is on my wish list as well as several others from this list.

J.M. I agree, "The New Wierd" deserves recognition as one of the top reads of the year.

Larry, I Can't wait for your list.

Mary C

Lsrry said...


I agree on Jeff's anthology, as it certainly has a space reserved for it (and likely the Steampunk one as well) for the Best Anthologies section of the roundup I'll write next month. And yes, I'm looking forward to the arguments/discussions regarding lists such as my own.


Jeff said on his blog that he did read and enjoy the Novik, thinking it was the best of her five novels.


I believe VanderMeer implied that he chose a list based on his own reads that would appeal to a wide variety of readers, so it isn't surprising that there are some on the list that wouldn't appeal to you (or to others).


I agree regarding the Winterson comment. I read it more as a satire than as SF and it appealed to me greatly.


I'll get around to reading that one after Christmas most likely, as I'll probably have that be one of the Christmas books my family can get me ;)


I loved 2666 in Spanish and I have high hopes for it appealing to English-language readers. As for my own list, it'll be out sometime around Christmas time...well, the first parts of it, as I suspect it'll be a multi-part one at least, since I have a few dozen books I want to highlight.

Anonymous said...

A follow-up post about the list.

Lsrry said...

Cool. I should be receiving Ford's book on Monday, according to Amazon. Really looking forward to reading well as seeing which books almost made your list.

Anonymous said...

AAARRGH!! I only have "Anathem" and "Matter", unfortunately - but I intend to correct this ASAP.

Liviu, Larry: I´m reading 2666 right now (in English, though I have other two Bolaño´s novels in Brazilian Portuguese), and I´m loving it.

And I agree with McDermott (sorry I didn´t read Last Dragon yet, man! :-) : "The New Weird" is a great accomplishment. I daresay its impact (now and for years to come) is comparable to "Mirrorshades".

Lsrry said...

Well Fábio, at least you have the two books I won't have in my possession after Monday :P Glad to hear that you are enjoying Bolaño's book. I have his Estrella distante to read in the next few days, after I finish Sapkowski's fifth Witcher book, Bautismo de fuego, and three Gabo novels.

Anonymous said...

Someone has now commented on the disconnect between the editor and customer choice lists on Amazon. But the fact is, the customer "choice" lists simply reflect which ten SF/F books got the most sales so far in 2008. That's not really a vote by customers, which might have different results. Just buying a book doesn't, of course, guarantee enjoyment of it. JV

Lsrry said...


I saw that also on a few forums as well. I didn't think much of it for the same reason as you cite; it's just what people have purchased, not their stated preferences. Although I am curious about how much Star Wars fans might enjoy those novels, as I have heard in passing that the extended universe books often lead to passionate arguments.

Charles said...

I've read Last Dragon and The Drowned Life and they're both good, especially the latter.

Add to Technorati Favorites