Much like my family Christmas letter, I prefer to keep end of the year wraps a day late and a dollar short. Add to this the fact that my Published/Released in 2011 reading list is pretty scant, and we have the makings of a pathetic ranking. (Two or three titles I think?) Instead, I’m just going to go with the 10 best SFF I consumed in 2011, regardless of copyright date.
And so, in no particular order:
The Devil’s Eye – Jack McDevitt
I like all of the Alex Benedict novels, but this is my favorite of the three I read last year. It’s also one of the best because of the way it ties together multiple threads from earlier novels into one grand arc about Humans coming to terms with their unpleasant fellow spacefarers.
Harmony – Project Itoh
Despite a disjointed ending that gave me narrative whiplash, this is one of the best SF novels to ever come out of Japan. Those who look will find a window opening far into the depths of the Japanese soul, revealing a lot more than sushi and Hello Kitty. Itoh died shortly after publishing this, which is a terrible loss for the SF community.
Mardock Scramble – Ubukata Tow
Another Japanese juggernaut, I called this a “convoluted anime love letter to classic cyberpunk.” The first 200 pages made my head explode. They also made up for the next 300, which were compelling, but odd. If anyone ever wondered how goth-loli and cyberpunk go together, this is the answer.
Chasm City – Alistair Reynolds
This isn’t the first novel in Reynolds’ Inhibitor series, but it is a standalone and probably a less daunting place to start than Revelation Space. This universe is an unforgettable combination of space opera, Bruce Sterling weirdness circa Schismatrix, rigorous Hard SF, and Warhammer 40k Gothic. I confess to not reviewing this yet on Two Dudes, a fault I must rectify soon.
Ghost in the Shell – Shiro Masamune
More Japanese cyberpunk. This award goes to both the manga and the anime, as both have strengths. Required reading/viewing for anyone who likes Japan, cyberpunk, The Matrix, philosophically inclined robots and androids, and all around good storytelling. Shiro consistently produces groundbreaking stuff.
The Last Colony – John Scalzi
Scalzi is the winner of the Two Dudes Inaugural Post Award. The whole series is good, but The Last Colony is what got read in calendar 2011. Some people like it for the action, others for the characters, still others for the laughs. I like it because Scalzi (unwittingly?) writes a three volume Military SF treatise about International Relations theory. I may be a bit odd.
Blue Mars – Kim Stanley Robinson
Robinson’s Mars Trilogy is a magnificent accomplishment. His vision of our colonization and transformation of Mars is so complete and overwhelming that I have been unable to touch any others. (Bova, Bear, there’s probably another couple.) These three books should be required SF reading for pretty much everyone.
The Sunless Countries – Karl Schroeder
Another series, of which I read at least book four and possibly book three in 2011. Schroeder’s Virga is brilliant world building paired with fun storytelling. The fifth and final volume is slated for release in a few months; expect a big review when I finish it, because the Virga series is some of my favorite stuff from the last decade.
Redliners – David Drake
This isn’t my favorite Drake, that would be Northworld, but it’s one of the most important books in his canon. Understanding Redliners is understanding the author, who is as fascinating as any other author out there. I have as much fun reading about him as I do his books.
I’ll toss one film on here, even though it’s from 2010 and I missed all the 2011 fare. I’m mildly surprised that Inception earned the cash and devotion that it did, considering its complexity. Just goes to show that, once in awhile, Hollywood does alright by not underestimating our brain power. Some people left confused I guess, but I saw it as transplanting cyberpunk cliches into Nolan’s conception of dreams. (inception = hacking, noir period fashions, etc.) This is a rare Hollywood movie that demands multiple viewings.