Best-of-2010 Megalist: Speculative Fiction
Posted by: Neil Hollands
My compilation of awards and best-books-of-the-year selections is complete. This year’s Megalist includes 175 different sources which suggested 2,279 titles as one of the best books of 2010. Visit my other blogging home at Blogging for a Good Book to download the full spreadsheet. I’ll wrap up my coverage here at Book Group Buzz by highlighting the most frequently selected works of speculative fiction.
1. Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart (34 votes)
Though not marketed as such, Shteyngart’s tale of near future America and the unlikely romance that it spawns is clearly a speculative work. Its lead characters–equal parts annoying, tragic, and funny–command attention and Shteyngart’s jazzed-up, sexed-up, slangy language jumps off the page, but all-too-real dystopian vision ultimately makes the most impact. You won’t know whether to laugh or cry.
2. The Passage, by Justin Cronin (32 votes)
Just two votes behind, and perhaps even more impressive given that it didn’t get nearly so much crossover vote from “serious literary” critics is the first book in Cronin’s trilogy about a future where government tests have released a form of vampirism into the world, leaving only the hardiest little enclaves of humans to fight the tide. Lyrical and deeply involving, the result is a paean to Stephen King’s The Stand and something entirely its own.
3. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu (18 votes)
Falling somewhere between metafiction and science fiction, Yu’s work follows a lonely time machine repairman through meditations about his lost father, the vagaries of time and memory, and his sad communications with computers and other nonhuman entities. Philosophical and loopy, sweet-hearted and clever to the core, Yu’s work is a promising debut.
4. Kraken, by China Miéville (15 votes)
Taking Lovecraftian themes over the top, Miéville posits an alternate London where religious cultists do battle with tough-talking witch cops. Packed with wordplay, goofy cultural riffs, and original and imaginative detail, this is proof that a book with a meandering plot can still be highly entertaining.
5. Horns, by Joe Hill (14 votes)
Bereft for a year over the high school sweetheart that everyone thinks he killed, Ig Perrish wakes up one day with a massive hangover, a growing pair of horns, and the ability to get people to tell him their darkest secrets. The story that follows is a murder mystery, a revenge tale, a morality play, and a farce all at the same time.
6. Blackout, by Connie Willis (13 votes)
Willis again turns to Blitz-era Britain and time travel in a tale of three Oxford researchers from 2060. Full of high suspense and laced with humor, it’s a celebration of the reality and the legend of plucky WWII Brits. It’s also only the first half of the story, but not to fear, the other half All Clear is just a few spots down the list.
7 (tie). Zero History, by William Gibson (11 votes)
A down-on-her luck former rock star and trend investigator and a cryptologist who’s also a recovering addict are hired to look into the source of a new line of military clothing, but the hunt leads them into a dark world of arms deals and shady marketing techniques. Gibson’s latest is set in the same near future as Spook Country, but can be read on its own.
7 (tie). The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N. K. Jemisin (11 votes)
This first book in the Inheritance trilogy received much praise, with the follow-up The Broken Kingdoms also just a few votes out of this list. After the murder of her mother, a young barbarian woman is summoned to the capital where she quickly becomes embroiled in political plots.
9 (tie). Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor (10 votes)
In a post-apocalyptic African setting, Okorafor spins a dark story involving rape, genital mutilation, genocide, magic, and cultural prophecies. This powerful novel is not light fantasy, but it has a strong connection to current events.
9 (tie). All Clear, by Connie Willis (10 v0tes)
This follow-up to Blackout finds three Oxford time travelers trapped in the London Blitz and at risk of changing history in Hitler’s favor. Since this is a sequel, I won’t say more, but read the exciting duology.
This was a closely contested category, with titles by favorites like Guy Gavriel Kay, Ian McDonald, Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and Iain Banks just out of the top 10. Download the full spreadsheet to get the whole story in this category and all of the others.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Megalist coverage as much as I’ve enjoyed reading and compiling all of the sources from which it is derived. Thanks to all of the blogs, magazines, newspapers, awards panels, librarians, and critics who put thought into the question of which books are most worth our time and write to help us all find out about them. And thanks to all the writers who give us so many fine books from which to choose.