My Favourite Reads of 2009

I’ve been looking back on what I’ve read in 2009 and I’m surprised just how much variation there has been in my reading. Before this year I pretty much stuck firmly with sci-fi, but with some excellent fantasy novels out in recent years I let a few of them slip into my reading, as well as some urban fantasy. Since enjoying them so much I’ve been slowly adding more to my to-read pile in the hope that I’ll get around to them, but that hasn’t gone entirely to plan (more about this, and other general stuff in my post looking forward to 2010).

So, I’m sticking with listing the best science fiction books I’ve read in 2009 that were also released this year. I’ve had some debate on how to narrow down the list of books I’ve reviewed, but I think what I’ve listed represents the best of what I’ve read this year. I’ve also got some honourable mentions below these along with some disappointments, so scroll down to see what else I think you should get around to.

For all the below make sure you visit the original reviews for a more in-depth look at them.

Science Fiction | The Best Reads of 2009

orbus1. Orbus by Neal Asher
Definitely the best space opera released this year and a superb finale to the Spatterjay series. Neal brings all his usual flair and unique aliens to the mix in what can only be described as one of his finest novels to date.

retribution-falls2. Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
This is a book that I see making it on to a fair few best reads lists. A book that brings a very familiar flavour to the genre in the Firefly comparisons that has been earned in the wake of its release is one that is more than worthy of a place in the top three sf releases of the year.

twisted-metal3. Twisted Metal by Tony Ballantyne
With an interesting premise and a complete robot cast this is a book that can offer many surprises. As the first book in the series I couldn’t recommend this one highly enough.

seeds-of-earth4. Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley
The first in a new space opera series – and a very promising start it is too. With plenty of intrigue and some very vivid depictions of an alien planet that isn’t a million miles away from what you’ll see in the recently released Avatar, this is definitely one to pick up.

xenopath5. Xenopath by Eric Brown
The second of the Bengal Station books featuring psychic detective Jeff Vaughan is another excellent novel and self-contained story. It’s well worth picking up the first book, Necropath, and follow this series for some very good detective fiction set in a great place.

mirror-space6. Mirror Space by Marianne de Pierres
The third in the Sentients of Orion series and this book takes events up a notch to deliver some very good space opera with great plotting and excellent set pieces. Another series you should read – start with Dark Space and follow that up with Chaos Space.

nova-war7. Nova War by Gary Gibson
Here’s yet another space opera that’s part of an ongoing series, this time book 2 of 3. The first book, Stealing Light, was enjoyable enough, but Nova War opens the series up to much more interesting things.

Other Favourite Reads

the-painted-manThe Warded Man by Peter V Brett
This is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. The world and characters set this one apart from many books I’ve read and the sequel, The Desert Spear, is one of the most highly anticipated books for 2010.

the-name-of-the-windThe Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Another fantasy novel that has had its fair share of praise since release. This one also stands above a lot of books, but it’s the sheer story-telling power that Rothfuss has that entertains so much.

ragamuffinRagamuffin & Sly Mongoose by Tobias S Buckell
I’ve taken a while to catch up on Buckell’s two sequels to Crystal Rain, but they were both hugely enjoyable and would easily have made my top five if I had read them in the year of release. This series is a good one to pick up from an author that will always be on my radar.

Black Magic Woman & Evil Ways by Justin Gustainis
I’ve read bits here and there in the urban fantasy genre, but these two books are ones that I’ve enjoyed more than others. There is a third due out in the future, but I’m not entirely sure when, but it’s one that I’m really looking forward to.

Disappointments

journey-into-spaceJourney Into Space by Toby Litt
Such a shame that this just didn’t fulfill the promise it initially showed. I was really looking forward to this too, but I guess a sci-fi book from a mainstream author just didn’t make the cut…

the-grand-conjunctionThe Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams
A real disappointment as the finale of the series. Spread over such a length of time I just lost the focus that I was struggling with at the end of Earth Ascendant. If you think you can handle a story told over hundreds of thousands of years then by all means give the series a go…

My Favourite Reads of 2008

I reviewed 34 books this year, plus one audio book, which is a fair amount for me considering the blog was only a minor outlet until July/August time (I only reviewed 8 books in the first half of the year).

I’ve had the pleasure this year to read so many great books, to have contact with both great publishers and authors and, of course, everyone that reads and comments on the blog – it’s a great feeling to know that people actually do read what I post and comment on the blog, whether they agree with me or not. I’ll look forward to more of this in 2009, but more of that in my new year post coming up later in the week 😉

Putting time into the blog is one of the most rewarding things I could have done. I’ve discovered that there are so many books out there that I never really got around to as a casual reader of sci-fi and spreading the word about these great stories puts a smile on my face. While looking back at the books I’ve got around to this year there are some that really stand out, and that’s what this post is here for: the books that I’ve enjoyed above all others and would recommend without hesitation – in short the books I think you should read. I’ve only included what was released this year in my top 5, but there are a couple of special mentions at the end. So, without further ado…

the-temporal-void1. The Temporal Void by Peter F Hamilton
Although this wasn’t the book that got my highest rating this year, it is by far the most deserving of the top spot. As the second part in a trilogy it had the benefit of all the set up in place from The Dreaming Void, but also in the tight spot of having to carry a lot forward for The Evolutionary Void. It carried everything off exactly as it should have done and is the only book that I’ve re-read this year and was even more rewarding the second time around. Peter F Hamilton is back at his best with the first two books of the Void trilogy and the mix of hard sf and the fantasy style sections of the Void play off each other perfectly. If you haven’t started this trilogy yet you are missing out o some of the best sf out there – I’m just hoping that the wait for the conclusion isn’t too long!

kethani2. Kethani by Eric Brown
Possibly the ‘softest’ of all science fiction I read this year, but by far the most profound. I can’t say much more about it that I didn’t put in my review – check it out for the full breakdown on why you should read it!

vault-of-deeds3. Vault of Deeds by James Barclay

This was an absolute blast from cover to cover – the humour is spot on and it also takes the typical fantasy stereotypes and mocks them thoroughly! Not only will it put a smile on your face throughout, but if you look past the witty dialogue you’ll find a setting with so much depth and promise. Here’s hoping James Barclay comes back to this setting in the not too distant future 🙂

space-captain-smith4. Space Captain Smith & The God Emperor of Didcot by Toby Frost

Toby Frost has been my find of the year – both of these books are excellent sci-fi with humour running throughout – I found these especially good because they are set in a fully realised universe, the sort I love. What Toby does is bring witty dialogue and great prose along with a typically British approach. Must reads.

the-gabble5. The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher
The king of weird, wonderful and gruesome alien creations, Neal Asher hits all the right spots with this collection of short stories set in his Polity universe. I love Neal’s stuff and his short fiction is always guaranteed to entertain – it’s through his collections that I got really hooked and found some of the best ideas I’ve seen in science fiction today.

old-mans-warHonourable Mention 1
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

Although this wasn’t published this year I only discovered the excellent Scalzi in July and have since gone on to read both The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. I’m aiming to get Zoe’s Tale soon enough as the prose John Scalzi delivers makes the pages turn like nothing else.

crystal-rainHonourable Mention 2
Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell

Another great author I only discovered this year and one I plan on keeping track of in the future. With a unique combination of Caribbean culture and space opera this is a fresh take that I really enjoyed.

house-of-sunsDisappointment of the Year
House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

I’ve read quite a few things by Alastair Reynolds and I’ve come to expect some high quality stuff, but this just didn’t hit he spot at all. A real shame 🙁