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.
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.
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.
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.
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