Features | Written by Ed Fortune 21/12/2017

STARBURST’s Books of 2017

As 2018 and all its potential looms ever closer, it’s about this time of year that we have a quick look back at some of the more interesting books that came out in 2017. We aren’t going to stand on ceremony here.  This is a mixed list of stuff that caught our eye over the year, each one chosen because it delighted us in some way.

To start off with, let’s mention Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun, a notably dense yet utterly absorbing tale of two Victorian Era Christian Missionaries head into the land of fairies to bring god to godless. It’s wonderfully bleak and though it’s hardly poolside holiday reading, it’s rather fun. Speaking of light reading is Andy Weir’s Artemis. Weir is best known for his book The Martian, which got turned into a movie featuring Matt Damon. Artemis is more of the same; believable science fiction (this time set in a moon base), slight less believable characters and lots of friendly science to go with the fiction. Bubblegum it may be, but it’s delicious bubblegum that feeds your brain.

This year also saw Jeff Noon return to form with A Man of Shadows. With a movie adaptation of Vurt planned and growing interest in Noon’s work hitting the mainstream, we were delighted to discover that Noon has not only stayed weird, he’s gotten all the more wonderfully strange.

Fans of strong and intelligent military sci-fi were well treated in 2017. Gavin G Smith joined the ranks of ‘Masters of Military SciFi’ with his book The Bastard Legion, which took many of the preconceived notions of the ‘shooty death in space genre’ and turned them around. This is a book that shouted ‘nope’ quite loudly and proceeded to deliver the sort of action the fans demand, whilst.  Clarke award-winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky also stepped into this realm with two books. Dogs of War is a gripping take on the rights of sentient beings, which opens up with heavily armed genetically modified animals in a war zone, moves to a war crimes tribunal and moves further along the chain of consequence. Ironclads was a more traditional affair, with power armoured soldiers in a modern warzone and EZ Company hi-jinks, but also a powerful anti-capitalism polemic.

We also adored Yoon Ha Lee’s Raven Stratagem. A sequel to last year’s much-praised Nine Fox Gambit blends science-fiction high concept with high fantasy in a lovely clash of ideas and explosions. A similarly addictive (but entirely different) novel was Ann Leckie’s Provenance, a gripping bit of science fiction set in the world of the award-winning Imperial Radch series. It’s mostly a thriller with the trapping of a sci-fi world wrapped around it, with some wonderfully eye-opening moments peppered throughout.

Speaking of thrillers,  it would be foolish of us to talk about books of 2017 without bringing up Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, a jaw-dropping work of jealousy and betrayal set in the modern day that has one of the most interesting endings we’ve seen. Fans who like their mysteries with a more fantasy bent may want to check out RJ Barker’s Age of Assassins, a tale about a crippled murderer charged to a protect a prince to stop a war. A stunning debut from Barker.

Other exciting new writers came to us via the excellent Fox Spirit books. The Bushy Tales series of anthologies concluded with Tales of Mice and Minotaur, which contained an amazing take on Medusa and some cracking new talent. Similarly, their collection Respectable Horror delivered the right sort of chills and introduced us to the likes of Rosalind Mosis and Su Haddrell.

Tie-In novels wise, our highlights were the Star Wars 40th celebration anthology From a Certain Point of View, which brought together talents such as Paul Dini,  Wil Wheaton, Chuck Wendig and Kieron Gillen to present some rather beautiful and very entertaining stories.  We also rather liked Judge Dredd Year Two Omnibus. Old Stony Face is hard to write well and this collection of novellas nailed it, especially as it covers the time in Dredd’s life where his very existence is being questioned.

We were also entertained by much of Quirk Books output this year; Paperbacks From Hell provided an essential window into the world of horror fiction and reprinted some pretty amazing covers. They also hit their stride with a series of tie-in books of their own. ET, The X-Files and Home Alone all got the ‘children’s book’ treatment. X-Files ‘Earth Children Are Weird’ is especially adorable. We got a big laugh out of The League of Regrettable Super Villains, a whistle-stop tour of some of the worst excesses of bad ideas from comic book history. They also gave us most of the Star Wars movie in Shakespeare form, much to the delight of geeks everywhere and the terror of many an English teacher.

Our stand-out funniest book came courtesy of Rebellion Publishing. Nate Crowley’s 100 Best Video Games (That Never Existed) took perfect aim at those endless ‘Christmas Stocking Filler’ books filled with bad reviews of obscure games. Instead, Nate just made them all up to hilarious results, producing a well-informed but clearly informed tome and parody of the nostalgia industry.

We’ll have missed loads out, so don’t forget to let us know what your recommendations are via Twitter or Facebook. Until this time next year, carry on reading.

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