After much mulling and culling, we've come up with our list of the twenty best books of the decade. The list is weighted towards science fiction, but does have healthy doses of fantasy and horror. And a few surprises.
This list is alphabetical, and not in order of awesomeness. All are equally great and worthy of your attention. In deciding which would make the list and which wouldn't, we weighed not only our opinions, but also those of the critical community at large - looking at how each book was received by reviewers for mainstream publications as well as science fiction magazines. There were many, many books we love that almost made the cut - if we'd let ourselves go it would have been more like the 100 best books of the decade.
Also, all of the books on this list were originally published in English. Regrettably I'm not conversant enough in global science fiction to make an educated "best of" list that includes works written in other languages. I hope those of you who are will add your picks to the comments below.
Acacia: The War with the Mein, by David Anthony Durham (Doubleday)
According to the Washington Post:
From the first pages of Acacia, Durham, a respected historical novelist, demonstrates that he is a master of the fantasy epic. He quickly sets out in broad strokes the corrupt world that these unwitting children have been raised to rule. For 22 generations, the Akarans have presided over the empire of Acacia. And for 22 generations, they've sent a yearly shipment of child slaves to mysterious traders beyond their borders, "with no questions asked, no conditions imposed on what they did with them, and no possibility that the children would ever see Acacia again." In exchange, the Akarans get "mist," a drug that guarantees their subjects' "labor and submission." . . . Durham sacrifices nothing — not psychological acuity, not political complexity, not lyrical phrases — as he drives the plot of this gripping book forward. The names of people and places sound as if they've been recalled from a dusty past, not cobbled from J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, a far too common practice among fantasy writers. Tropes that sound outlandish — "dream-travel," for one — are credible in Durham's telling. And the story always surprises. Characters that seem poised to take center stage are killed abruptly. Evil often triumphs.
This is the first novel in Durham's planned Acacian Trilogy. The second novel, The Other Lands, has recently been published and the third is on the way.
Air, Or Have Not Have, by Geoff Ryman (Gollancz)
Air won the Clarke Award and was nominated for a Nebula. Here is what Strange Horizons' Geneva Melzack had to say about it:
Chung Mae lives in Kizuldah, a tiny mountain village in the country of Karzistan. The people in Kizuldah live traditional sorts of lives, making a living through farming and migrant manual labour. TV has barely arrived in the village when a national test of Air, a new form of virtual media technology, takes place, badly shaking up Kizuldah's traditional existence. The person most shaken up is Chung Mae herself, who is involved in an accident in the midst of the test that fuses her, in the virtual world of Air, with her elderly neighbour Old Mrs Tung, killing Mrs Tung in the process. Air tells the story of how Chung Mae learns to adapt to her new situation, and the work she has to do to help the rest of her village similarly adapt to the changes that the test has wrought and the further changes that she knows will come when Air is fully implemented in a year's time . . . It might be tempting to read Air as a book that is advocating change and the embracing of the new, but there's more to it than that. Change in Air is simply something that happens. It is inevitable. The future is not necessarily any better than the past, but it is coming nevertheless.
The Alchemy of Stone, by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime)
Here is what io9 had to say about this book when it came out last year: