Well, November sure was horrific. In keeping with the world news these days, I’ve been reading some fantastic dystopian fiction – namely, Station Eleven. What an amazing book, elegantly crafted from multiple points of view, jumping back and forth in time – before, during, and twenty years after a deadly flu outbreak that wipes out most of humanity.
I reckon I read over forty books a year, and I deeply enjoy most of them. So it is very difficult to come up with a top ten list for 2016, but I feel I must, in the interest of contributing something positive toward the end of the year – a summation, as it were, that has nothing to do with politics, or reality. So here it is, in order of publishing year. (Note that the books were not necessarily published in 2016. It’s just when I got around to reading them.)
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, 1962
Extraordinarily creepy novel narrated by eighteen-year-old Merricat, who may or may not be a mass murderer.
Blindsight by Peter Watts, 2006
A bunch of transhumans on a ship bound to investigate suspected alien activity in the Oort cloud. What can possibly go wrong? Answer: just about everything you cannot imagine.
A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, 2013
Richly imagined secondary world fantasy, beautiful and lush – descriptive writing at its best. A gourmet meal of a book! Not hard to see why it won the 2014 World Fantasy Award.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, 2014
A deeply literary novel, despite the dystopian, sci-fi setting. Immersive, emotionally resonant, and highly recommended.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, 2014
The kind of book I wish I had written. Part fairytale, part mystery, part coming-of-age story. Perfect for a night curled up in a blanket.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2015
Some people have described this book as a ‘slog’. It’s not. It’s just very different from ‘normal’ books. But then, one should never read Kazuo Ishiguro’s books with expectations of any sort. I ‘woke’ from this book when it was over and felt like I was dreaming, and wanted to go back to sleep so the dream would continue.
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2015
This book explores the limits humans face in their quest to leave the solar system. Clever and insightful, a different take on the usual generation ship story. My favorite character was the ship, though. Not the humans.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik, 2015
A delightful fantasy, pure fun to read. Escapist fiction at its best. 2015 Nebula award winner, and unputdownable.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters, 2015
In the final months before an asteroid is scheduled to destroy the Earth, a policeman investigates a murder. Trying to do the right thing in the face of impending doom – there’s something very attractive about a person who will do that.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, 2016
Dark, violent and yet illuminated by moments of light and love, this is my favorite fantasy read of the year. A missing God, a magical library, and a woman on a quest for vengeance. A vast, complex novel with an utterly satisfying ending.
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, 2016
A delightful and memorable collection by a writer I admire. None of these stories disappoints. Some will haunt you for years afterward.
(Okay, so I cheated. That’s 11 books, not 10. But who’s counting?)
“Station Eleven” will be on my list too, I think. Also a likely appearance for “I Have Waited, and You Have Come” by Martine McDonagh – do you know this one? Also literary post-apoc fic, but maybe a bit more under the radar. Pretty darn good.
Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll keep an eye out for that one!
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I read this quote about Station Eleven … “A literary novelist writing a genre novel is like an intellectual dating a porn star.” (meaning the ‘intellectual’ would be a man, of course, and the ‘porn star’ would be a woman, of course)… and I thought ‘what an arrogant jerk’, then I saw it was by the NYT and it all made sense … which turned me off the whole thing
Now that I’ve read your recommendation, I’m going to give it a try.
We’re an odd species, us humans 😀
That’s a really bugging quote. They’re comparing genre fiction with a porn star, and literary fiction with an intellectual. I think a lot of what passes for lit fic in NY is navel-gazing BS. But no book can help the quotes it gets! This one is totally worth reading.
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