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Best Books Tally
from reviewers in general newspapers and websites


Locus Magazine's
2002 Recommended Reading List




SF 'zines, 'blogs, 'sites

Fantastic Metropolis
(2 dozen + lists)

The Alien Online
(2 dozen + lists)

Locus Online
(Claude Lalumière)

SF Site
(Jeff VanderMeer)

Emerald City
(Cheryl Morgan)

Notes from Coode Street
(Jonathan Strahan)

SF Site
(Lisa DuMond)

Hugo Recommendations:
NESFA
Emerald City
SF Revu



Additional lists published after this page was compiled:

Tangent Online
(short fiction)

SF Site
(Greg L. Johnson)
SF Site
(fantasy; William Thompson)




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Best of 2002: Locus Online's Composite Top 15 Lists

This page, which expands upon the tally of genre books cited on best-of-2002 lists published in general newspapers and magazines, is based on a mid-January survey of reviews and lists at various genre websites (see links at left), plus those few awards nominations announced so far, as well as advance peeks at the many lists and essays being compiled for Locus Magazine's February 2003 year-in-review issue (that issue will provide extensive discussions of the year's SF, fantasy, and horror books, with more comprehensive recommended reading lists than are provided here). On this page, you can click on cover images to browse or purchase books from Amazon or Amazon UK (or from small press or magazine sites). Also, see Locus Online's 2002 Books Directory for links to descriptions, reviews, bestseller ranks, and best-of-year listings for these and many other titles. Further editorial notes are at the bottom of the page.


15 of the Top SF, Fantasy & Horror Novels of 2002

             

           

  • Kiln People, David Brin (Tor)
  • White Apples, Jonathan Carroll (Tor)
  • The Mount, Carol Emshwiller (Small Beer Press)
  • Coraline, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins)
  • Light, M. John Harrison (UK: Gollancz)
  • A Scattering of Jades, Alexander C. Irvine (Tor)
  • The Facts of Life, Graham Joyce (UK: Gollancz)
  • The Scar, China Miéville (UK: Macmillan; US: Ballantine Del Rey)
  • Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan (UK: Gollancz)
  • The Impossible Bird, Patrick O'Leary (Tor)
  • The Separation, Christopher Priest (UK: Scribners)
  • Redemption Ark, Alastair Reynolds (UK: Gollancz)
  • The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson (Bantam)
  • A Winter Haunting, Dan Simmons (Morrow)
  • Bones of the Earth, Michael Swanwick (HarperCollins/Eos)

Four novels stand out in this survey of genre lists and reviews: Miéville's SF/fantasy hybrid The Scar, follow-up to his multiple award-winning Perdido Street Station; Robinson's ambitious, philosophical alternate history The Years of Rice and Salt; Gaiman's short young adult horror novel Coraline, the most-celebrated of the year's many fantastic YA novels; and Swanwick's energetic time travel dinosaur novel Bones of the Earth.

Five other novels — Priest's The Separation, an alternate history of doppelgangers and World War II; Harrison's Light, a rich and complex tale partly set in the far future; Reynolds's Redemption Ark, latest in his sequence of gothic space operas; Joyce's The Facts of Life, a World War II fantasy concerning a family with seven sisters; and Morgan's debut SF/thriller Altered Carbon — have not (yet) been published in the US, though they've been enthusiastically received by numerous readers and reviewers.

Morgan's novel, and Irvine's A Scattering of Jades, are the most frequently cited first novels of the year (though John C. Wright's The Golden Age (Tor) and Kelley Eskridge's Solitaire (Eos) are close behind). Brin's Kiln People is clever, solid SF, a timely spin on the cloning controvery; Emshwiller's The Mount is the small-press success of the year; O'Leary's The Impossible Bird is a literary feat that surpasses even the author's popular GM advertising verse ("..and nobody knows it but me"); Simmons's The Haunting is the horror favorite of several reviewers; and Carroll's White Apples is a typically eccentric, and therefore beloved, fantasy.


15 of the Top SF & Fantasy Anthologies, Collections,
Nonfiction Books, and Art Books of 2002


           

             

  • Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers, Kage Baker (Golden Gryphon Press)
  • The Collected Stories of Greg Bear, Greg Bear (Tor)
  • Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang (Tor)
  • Mars Probes, Peter Crowther, ed (DAW)
  • The Fantasy Writer's Assistant and Other Stories, Jeffrey Ford (Golden Gryphon Press)
  • The Hard SF Renaissance, David G. Hartwell & Kathryn Cramer, eds (Tor)
  • The Art of Jeffrey Jones, Cathy & Arnie Fenner, eds (Underwood Books 11/02)
  • Fantasy Art Masters: The Best in Fantasy and SF Art Worldwide, Dick Jude (UK: Collins)
  • The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction, Justine Larbalestier (Wesleyan University Press)
  • The Birthday of the World and other stories, Ursula K. Le Guin (HarperCollins)
  • Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril, Judith Merril & Emily Pohl-Weary (Between the Lines)
  • L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz, Katharine M. Rogers (St. Martin's)
  • Conjunctions: 39: The New Wave Fabulists, Peter Straub, ed (Bard College)
  • City of Saints and Madmen, Jeff VanderMeer (Prime)
  • Leviathan 3, Jeff VanderMeer & Forrest Aguirre, eds. (Ministry of Whimsy)
  • It was a great year for single-author collections, with Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others (comprising all his published fiction to date) and VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen (a hardcover expansion of the book first published in 2001) most often cited by admiring reviewers. Other collections by Le Guin, Ford, and Baker scarcely lead several close runners-up; Golden Gryphon Press, with the Ford and Baker titles, and others by James Patrick Kelly and Ian Watson, has become the premiere specialty publisher for such collections. Bear's Collected Stories was prominent among retrospective collections.

    Among anthologies of original stories, Crowther's paperback Mars Probes stands out in 2002's weak field of solid SF anthologies, with Straub's guest-edited issue of Conjunctions and the VanderMeer/Aguirre Leviathan 3 leading in reviews and admiration, though they emphasized fantasy and 'slipstream' rather than conventional SF.

    Among reprint anthologies, Hartwell & Cramer's massive The Hard SF Renaissance was the most ambitious book of the year, though it triggered debate and controversy. (For this list, self-selecting best-of-the-year anthologies of fiction and art were excluded.) Nonfiction titles about Judith Merril and L. Frank Baum were well-received, as was Larbalestier's The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Prominent art books include one showcasing Jeffrey Jones, and Dick Jude's end-of-year anthology Fantasy Art Masters.


    16 of the Top SF & Fantasy Short Fictions of 2002

                 

                 

    • A Year in the Linear City, Paul Di Filippo (PS Publishing)
    • "The Big Rock Candy Mountain", Andy Duncan (Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists)
    • "Singleton", Greg Egan (Interzone Feb '02)
    • "Creation", Jeffrey Ford (F&SF May '02)
    • "What I Didnít See", Karen Joy Fowler (Sci Fiction 10 Jul '02)
    • "Stories for Men", John Kessel (Asimovís Oct/Nov '02)
    • "The Wild Girls", Ursula K. Le Guin (Asimovís Mar '03)
    • "Lull", Kelly Link (Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists)
  • "Breathmoss", Ian R. MacLeod (Asimovís May '02)
  • "The Old Cosmonaut and the Construction Worker Dream of Mars", Ian McDonald (Mars Probes)
  • The Tain, China Miéville (PS Publishing)
  • "If Lions Could Speak: Imagining the Alien", Paul Park (Interzone Mar '02)
  • V.A.O., Geoff Ryman (PS Publishing)
  • "In Paradise", Bruce Sterling (F&SF Sep '02)
  • "Halo", Charles Stross (Asimovís Oct/Nov '02)
  • "Jury Service", Charles Stross & Cory Doctorow (Sci Fiction Dec '02)
  • Novellas were strong in 2002, with the best-reviewed story of the year, Paul Di Filippo's A Year in the Linear City, published as a chapbook by UK small-press PS Publishing, which issued several such books during the year, including those by Miéville and Ryman listed here and close runners-up by Stephen Baxter and Ken MacLeod. Other novellas, by Stross, Kessel, MacLeod, Egan, and Stross & Doctorow received much praise from Locus and other reviewers.

    At shorter lengths, Le Guin's "The Wild Girls" stands out among novelettes, with those by Link, Duncan, and McDonald close behind. F&SF published several of the best-received short stories of the year, led by Ford and Sterling. Park's short story was a favorite of a couple Locus reviewers, while Fowler's was surely the most talked-about story this year posted at Sci Fiction.


    Editorial notes:
    These lists are not based on strict tallies, since there are not enough data to clearly rank items in each group beyond the first few places; beyond those, editorial discretion was applied to achieve a balance in terms of type, source, or length; thus, these lists are only samplers, not intended to be definitive rankings. The lists were compiled in the first two weeks of January — before the Clarke nominees were announced, and before receipt of the January issue of New York Review of Science Fiction, in which David G. Hartwell refers to our tally from general magazines and newspapers (as does Gary K. Wolfe, in his essay for the February '03 Locus). (Though we made one change in one category based on The Alien Online lists, posted on 20 or 21 January.) That earlier tally is problematic, since it includes mainstreamish books plus numerous YA novels from YA lists not compared to other genre books. The lists on this page incorporate genre reviewers and should be more representative of genre tastes. Still, these are at best first-draft summaries of 2002's best books and stories. Hartwell, mulling over diminishing consensus on aesthetic standards, invites submissions of top-10 lists from his readers, and this page of lists is offered in the same spirit of suggesting a basis for a consensus, if such is possible. Also, you can vote for your own favorites in Locus's annual poll: the ballot is in the magazine's February issue, and will become available as an online form by mid-month.

    Mark R. Kelly


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