Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reading Lists - Locus Award Winners for Best Fantasy Novel

Each year, the readers of Locus magazine vote for their favorite science fiction, horror, and fantasy books, among other categories. Ballots are sent in the February issue of Locus, along with a recommended reading list featuring titles published during the preceding year.

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin (2009)
In The Aeneid, Virgil's hero fights to claim the king's daughter, Lavinia, with whom he is destined to found an empire. Lavinia herself never speaks a word in the poem. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes the reader to the half-wild world of ancient Italy, when Rome was a muddy village near seven hills.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett (2008)
In the 32nd installment (yes, you read that correctly!) of Pratchett’s Discworld series, prisoner-turned-postal worker Moist von Lipwig tackles a new assignment in a different branch of the government. He is directed to oversee the printing of Ankh-Morpork's first paper currency, a job with unexpected challenges. Pratchett is known for his fast-paced, laugh-out-loud novels.

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner (2007)
Anticipating nothing more than a conventional life and marriage among the city's high society, young Katherine Talbert is stunned when her uncle, the Mad Duke, hands her a sword, relegates her to boy's clothing, and sends her on an adventure-filled odyssey of self-discovery. This story’s plot and style are in the swashbuckling tradition of Dumas.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (2006)
Fat Charlie is the son of Anansi, the trickster god, whose embarrassing taunts and untimely death cause a lot of problems for young Charlie. His trouble is multiplied when he meets the brother he never knew—Spider gets him fired, sleeps with his fiancée, and gets him arrested in this romantic screwball comedy seasoned with murder, magic, and ghosts.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold (2004)
Three years free of the madness that kept her imprisoned in her family’s castle, Ista, Dowager Royina of Chalion, is finally released from her last remaining duties by the death of her mother. She undertakes a pilgrimage, but doesn’t get far before she is overtaken by trouble, sorrow, need, and a host of other adversities.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (1997)
In the first of Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga, the kingdom of the royal Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes. Intrigue, action, romance, and mystery abound in this saga.

The Innkeeper’s Song by Peter S. Beagle (1994)
Lukassa drowns but is abducted by an ethereal sorceress with golden eyes. As Tikat braves a long and dangerous trek to find the lover whose death and resurrection he witnessed, he meets three women—each of whom hides a secret, and who each undertake impossible missions.

Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card (1988)
The first installment of the Tales of Alvin Maker takes place in the Northwest Territory in the late
18th century. Alvin is the seventh son of a seventh son and heir to great powers that he must learn to use and control. In the tradition of T. H. White's Sword in the Stone, Card mixes historical figures and imaginary ones, fantasy and philosophy.

Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolfe (1987)
In 479 B.C., Athens and Sparta have defeated the invading Persians. Latro, a Latin-speaking mercenary with the Persian army, has suffered a head wound and lost his memory; he can't remember from one day to the next. Every night he records the previous day's events on a scroll, which he must read the next morning to rediscover his circumstances and who his companions are.

Trumps of Doom by Roger Zelazny (1986)
In the sixth of the classic Amber Chronicles, Corwin, Prince of Amber, is exiled to Earth because of an ancient feud with his brothers. He must battle his way back to the perfect world of Amber, the center of reality. Like the rest of Zelazny’s series, Trumps of Doom features heroic fantasy figures combined with kinetic action and a cliff-hanging conclusion.

Job by Robert A. Heinlein (1985)
After he firewalked in Polynesia, the world wasn't the same for Alexander Hergensheimer, now called Alec Graham. As natural accidents occurred without cease, Alex knew Armageddon and the Day of Judgment were near. Somehow he had to bring his beloved heathen, Margrethe, to a state of grace, and, while he was at it, save the rest of the world in Heinlein’s “comedy of justice.”

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1984)
Bradley’s Avalon series reworks the Arthurian legend with greater focus on the supplanting of the Earth Mother religion by male-dominated Christianity. Morgaine is a priestess of Avalon, seat of the Great Goddess. She falls pregnant with Arthur’s son during fertility rites, later turning against him when she thinks he has betrayed the old ways.

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (1978)
Tolkien began writing these legends in 1917, decades before the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Two brief tales, which outline the origin of the world, precede the title story about the Silmarils—three brilliant, jewel-like creatures who are desired and fought over. Two final short tales follow to round out the history of the Third Age.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reading Lists - Hugo Award Winners for Best Novel

The Science Fiction Achievement Awards, or Hugos, are selected annually by popular vote of the World Science Fiction Society. Established in 1953 and named for Hugo Gernsback, an early science fiction publisher, the awards are given for the best science fiction and to individuals for contributions to science fiction writing, art, and publishing.

The City & The City by China Miéville (2010)
Twin southern European cities Beszel and Ul Qoma coexist in the same physical location, separated by their citizens' determination to see only one city at a time. Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad roams through the intertwined but separate cultures as he investigates the murder of Mahalia Geary.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
In a future of rising water levels, bioengineered plagues, widespread food shortages, and retrotechnology, calories have become currency. An encounter between Anderson Lake, AgriGen's "calorie man" in Bangkok, and Emiko, a genetically engineered member of the New People (and titular “windup girl”), sets off a cataclysmic chain of events.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2009)
While a killer murders his family, a baby pulls himself out of his crib and toddles out of the house and into the night. Finding his way into an ancient graveyard, the baby is discovered by a caring couple who just happen to be dead. Under their care, baby "Nobody" is raised among the dead in order to protect him from the murderer, who relentlessly pursues him. (YAF Gai)

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon (2008)
In a world in which Alaska, rather than Israel, has become the homeland for the Jews following World War II, Detective Meyer Landsman and his half-Tlingit partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy. Raucous, decidedly impolite, and stylistically arresting, this book is a brilliantly engaging read.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (2006)
After witnessing the onset of an astronomical event that has caused the sun to go black and the stars and moon to disappear, Tyler, Jason, and Diane learn that the darkness has been caused by a time-altering, alien-created artificial barrier and that the sun will be extinguished in less than forty years.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2002)
A convict called Shadow is flung into the midst of a supernatural fray of gods such as Odin, Anansi, and a multitude of other ancient divinities as they struggle for survival in an America beset by trends, fads, and constant upheaval. They are joined in this struggle by such contemporary deities as the geek-boy god Internet and the goddess Media.

To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (1999)
In 2057, Ned Henry goes back in time to 1889 to study the Coventry Cathedral for a wealthy American who wants to build a replica. This novel is the grand result of taking an excursion through time, adding chaos theory, romance, plenty of humor, a dollop of mystery, and a spoof of the Victorian novel.

Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (1997)
In the final installment of the Mars trilogy, Mars has declared independence from Earth, but it still faces problems—an impending ice age, a search for religious meaning, and immigration. New medical discoveries enable people to live 200 years, causing overpopulation on Earth; the Martians object to being swamped by Earthmen.

A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge (1993)
In a far future interstellar society, intelligence is limited by a mind's location in the universe. A scientific experiment gone awry disrupts this situation, causing widespread destruction and chaos. Refugees who may have the secret to saving civilization fall into the hands of a medieval race of aliens, and the quest is on for an oddly assorted band of rescuers to save the refugees.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1986)
A desperate Earth command resorts to genetic experimentation in order to produce a tactical genius capable of defeating the alien “buggers.” So likable but determined "Ender" Wiggins, age six, becomes Earth's last hope. In a dramatic, brutal series of war games and computer-fantasies, Ender is forced to realize his military genius and to rely on nothing and no-one but himself.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1985)
Case was the hottest computer cowboy cruising the information superhighway. Then he double-crossed the wrong people, who caught up with him in a big way and burned the talent out of his brain. Banished from cyberspace, trapped in the meat of his physical body, Case courts death in the high-tech underworld until a shadowy conspiracy offers him a second chance and a cure.

Gateway by Frederik Pohl (1978)
In this adventure, earthmen try to unlock the secret of the Heechee Gateway, an asteroid created by a long-gone civilization that provides instantaneous passage to the far reaches of the universe. Prospectors venture to unknown destinations, mindful that only one in three will survive, but the financial rewards for a successful return are stupendous.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm (1977)
Having foreseen and planned for the worldwide devastation of war and pestilence, the landed Sumner family of Virginia have assured themselves physical survival through a perilous cloning experiment, but they are hard-pressed to provide for a meaningful human future. This novel is sweeping, dramatic, and rigorous in its science.