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SF Signal Readers’ Choice: What was Your Favorite SF/F/H Book of 2013?

The end of the year is often a time of reflection and, more importantly, list making!

Help us compile a list of the best genre reads of the year by telling us which science fiction, fantasy and/or horror stories were your favorite reads. These do not have to necessarily be books that were originally released this year — we are more interested in the best books and stories that you consumed for the first time in 2013.

Sound off in the comments!

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

51 Comments on SF Signal Readers’ Choice: What was Your Favorite SF/F/H Book of 2013?

  1. Dino Mascolo // December 26, 2013 at 4:28 am //

    SF – Hominids by Robert J Sawyer
    F – A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
    H – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

  2. Lots of genre books published this year, and a fair proportion of them received at least some puffery from one website or another. I haven’t read all the books of course, or even most of them, but of those that I did it was a rare volume that (IMO) justified the (ersatz?) enthusiasm.
    Indeed, there were occasions when I felt that I’d been conned.
    Seems to me there are an awful lot of derivative, mediocre books clogging up the shelves of both the virtual and the bricks-and-mortar bookshops.

    OK, Sturgeon’s Law applies, but too many of the 90% somehow end up getting recommended by somebody for one reason or another.

    That said, there were the others, the ones that were a joy to read – and top of my list would be ‘The Rook’ by Daniel O’Malley.

  3. SF – The Red: First Light, by Linda Nagata.
    F – The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox, by Barry Hughart.

    Great military sci-fi by Nagata, very well-written, fast paced, realistic and capable of changing themes several times without losing the reader, but actually enticing him even more.

    Master Li and Number Ten Ox is a compilation of three books with these two characters as protagonists, dealing with mythological creatures and complex plots straight from ancient China. All three end with a sad, and often heart warming fantastical note.

  4. The hardest part is narrowing down the list. I think it comes to a 3-way tie between Courtney Schafer’s “The Tainted City,” Nnedi Okorafor’s “Who Fears Death,” and Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora.”

  5. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill was the best 2013 book I read, I guess you’d lump this in Horror but it was above everything else.

    Best Science Fiction book was probably VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

    Best Fantasy was Daniel Abraham’s THE TYRANT’S LAW

    Best book that flutters between the three genres: AMERICAN ELSEWHERE by Robert Jackson Bennett

  6. David Greybeard // December 26, 2013 at 8:35 am //

    Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy. One of the best fantasy trios I’ve ever read.
    GREAT NORTH ROAD by Peter F. Hamilton. The best SF novel I’ve read in decades.

    Myke Cole’s pair of SHADOW OPS novels.
    DARKNESS WEAVES by Karl Edward Wagner.
    HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne
    WITCH HOUSE by Evangile Walton
    HEAVEN’S FALL by David Goyer
    BLOOD OATH by Christopher Farnsworth

    • David Greybeard // December 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm //

      Just started reading Brent Weeks’ NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY. My god, this is good!!! Why wasn’t I reading this sooner?

  7. As far as 2013 releases go, my favorites:

    SF – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
    F – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
    H – American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

    Favorite reads regardless of publication date:

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
    The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling by Ted Chiang

  8. I think I only read three books this year, but got back into manga again and found some great titles!

    I’m reading Ancillary Justice right now and I think it’ll be my favorite book of the year. 2312 was another book I read this year. I liked it, but since it was so dense it took me half a year to finish the book.

    My favorite manga this year is Library Wars. It’s Fahrenheit 451-esque. One part of Japanese government is banning and censoring books for the “betterment” of people while another branch of the government protects the rights of free speech and houses all books in libraries where people have the ability to go read books without fear of them being taken away. So each faction of the government forms a military of sorts to enforce each of their laws. It’s still running in Japan but the first ten volumes are available in English from Viz.

    Non sci-fi, I’m reading Norwegian Wood from Murakami. It’s really good but started getting depressing so I had to shelf that one for a while until I feel more up to reading that type of novel again.

  9. SF 2013 (1st U.S.): Blue Remembered Earth: Alastair Reynolds
    SF other: Nova: Samuel Delany

    F 2013: Over My Head: Charles de Lint
    F other: Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson

  10. Let’s see …

    SF: Downbelow Station.
    F: Probably Elizabeth Bear’s first two Eternal Sky books.
    H: N0S482.

    (Based on my own reading, obviously, not on year of publication.)

  11. Matte Lozenge // December 26, 2013 at 12:42 pm //

    I’ll put in mention for Transcendence by James Gunn. It has an unusual kind of prose style and structure, reminding me of A.E. Van Vogt and Stanley Weinbaum, which is logical because Gunn started his career in the 1940s.

    The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata was good although a little repetitive toward the end.

    When I read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie I felt like I was reading a James S.A. Corey space opera… and that’s a good thing. It got off to a slow start but was a fine ride after the focus turned from flashbacks to present action.

    The Broken Universe by Paul Melko was unfairly maligned. It wasn’t as inventive as the first book in the series but it had its own pleasures, being about management and colonization. If you liked Up the Walls of the Universe give the sequel a try.

    • Matte Lozenge // December 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm //

      More: there’s Impulse by Stephen Gould. The best YA sci-fi of the year and one of Gould’s best novels. It’s an amiable power fantasy that throws in a little romance and physics for good measure. He adopts a first person teenage female narrative voice and is reasonably convincing with it.

      Also, Countdown City by Ben H. Winters kept up the quality started in The Last Policeman. Winters’ policeman is doing a tricky balancing act between ethical heroism and nihilistic apathy. It looks like the conclusion of the trilogy will have jump to a different level or else it will crash or fizzle.

  12. Steve Oerkfitz // December 26, 2013 at 1:13 pm //

    Best SF Novel-The Adjacent by Christopher Priest
    Best Horror-NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
    Best Fantasy-Year of the Ladybirds by Graham Joyce
    Best short story collection-North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud

    Limited myself to books published in 2013

  13. Harry Blanchard // December 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm //

    I can easily stick to books released in 2013, as there are some really good ones:

    1. ANCILLARY JUSTICE by Ann Leckie – Way out in front as the best this year. Clever, innovative, well-written, yet about as classic a setting (Roman Empire like interstellar politics) as you can get – brilliant. It better win at least one award this year, or someone ought to give the genre a good talking to…

    2. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman – We could say that anytime he releases a novel we should just automatically given him an award, but darn it, yet again, this is really, really good.

    3. THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS by Karen Lord – Reminded me of LeGuin’s earlier sf novels, which I have a real soft spot for, very enjoyable.

    4. THE RED: FIRST LIGHT by Linda Nagata – Just because, how can such a good hard sf writer appear out of nowhere yet seems to have been writing for many year. Buy her books so she’ll write more, that’s my principle.

    5. YOU by Austin Grossman – Not likely to be on anyone’s prize list, I suppose, but Grossman’s writing is has such a smooth, humorous, likable, and clever aspect to it, I can’t help but like it. Some argument that this might not be sf or fantasy at all, but given the kinds of things we see in say, Asimov’s, now, it does.

    Just starting Priest’s “The Adjacent” and expect good things from it.

    • Steve Oerkfitz // December 26, 2013 at 9:53 pm //

      Loved the Priest and the Gaiman. Liked the Karen Lord. But I couldn’t finish Ancillary Justice. I thought the gender confusion irritating and didn’t find the main character interesting. I seem to be in a minority about this I know.

      • Matte Lozenge // December 27, 2013 at 9:01 am //

        True, the gender confusion was clumsy. At first I thought there was something really unusual going on with the genders of the society but as it turned out it was just the author’s affectation.

  14. CRASH, by Guy Haley.

  15. Horror: Night Film by Marisha Pessl and Red Moon by Benjamin Percy.

    I’m not sure if Night Film is strictly horror or not, but it contains enough horror elements for me to risk throwing it into that category. Red Moon by Benjamin Percy was also a good read.

    Fantasy: Something Red by Douglas Richards

    Beautiful prose and a terrific sense of foreboding and menace. Arguably a blend of horror and fantasy.

    SF: The Factory World by Joseph Edward Ryan

    The ending was a little weak but it kept me riveted like no other book in 2013. A small press book I discovered through my obsessive/compulsive clicking of book covers in SF Signal’s “books received” 2013 posts.

    Collection: The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

    Contains some of my all time favourite short stories, including Blackwood’s Baby and The Men from Porlock. Laird Barron knows how to write horror.

    • David Greybeard // December 30, 2013 at 9:36 pm //

      I adored SOMETHING RED. It’s become an all time favorite. It’s a virtually perfect novel with shinning prose.

  16. Whoops. I mistakenly stated that Douglas Richards was the author of Something Red. It’s Douglas Nicholas.

  17. just sticking to books that were published in 2013:

    The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White
    Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
    A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
    Firebrand, by Gillian Philip
    Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente

  18. Hunted by Kevin Hearne (Fantasy)

  19. Feed by Mira Grant. I haven’t read many zombie books, but this one was awesome. And I loved the sibling dynamic.

    Breakdown by Katherine Amt Hanna. A near-future post-apocalyptic novel that’s one of the few where things actually get better on the larger scale and humanity pulls together.

  20. There were some ties:

    Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence
    The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, Bradley Beaulieu
    The Exiled Blade, Jon Courtenay Grimwood

    Crux, Ramez Naam
    The Curve of The Earth, Simon Morden
    The Age of Scorpio, Gavin Smith

    American Elsewhere, Robert Jackson Bennett

  21. As I mentioned in the recent SF Signal Podcast, two favorites were Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh and the Edge of Infinity anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan.

    Other favorites include:

    The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
    Both Andromeda books by William C. Dietz
    Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
    The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
    The first two Expanse novels by James S.A. Corey
    First Shifty by Hugh Howey
    On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

  22. I’d like to include The Cleansing by Sam Kates for Sci-Fi, and Dragon Fate and Dragon Blade by J.D. Hallowell for Fantasy.

  23. SF – Ancillary Justice. Though I’m not as gaga about it as other readers and the pacing was off, I loved the novel conceptually.
    Fantasy – Republic of Thieves. Loved the insight into the bondsmagi and love where it is going.
    Horror – NOS4A2. Joe Hill has improved his storytelling ability from an already solid start.
    Comics – Locke &Key – Alpha and Omega. Great conclusion to one of the best comic seried in the last decade.

    Classic I read – Player of Games. What? Sorry I’m late to the party.

  24. stephen newberg // December 27, 2013 at 11:52 am //


  25. Ryan Viergutz // December 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm //

    Ghost Spin by Chris Moriarty. I’ve waited YEARS for this book and it was worth the wait. Crunchy, meaty and as weird and strange as I would expect out of her. I wish she was a lot more prolific because I love the way she thinks.

    Cable and X-Force by Dennis Hopeless (dude’s got the weirdest name in the world) was a good pulp book. The second wasn’t as good, because of a lack of Hope Summers, but I think the last two volumes should be great.

    I have to keep reading Biomega by Nihei Tsutomu. Badass biker with a cute AI girl, a hot female commando, a Russian geneticist bear (yes) and twisted morbid Giger-esque monsters. Low in dialogue, high on visuals, built on action.

    Ravine by Ron Marz and illustrated by Stephan Sejic was well worth reading for the gorgeous art alone. I’m salivating for the next volume, though the plot isn’t the best, the art is just amazing and enthralling.

    Claymore rocks as much as always, and I’ll be sad when it concludes either this year or next. Yagi Norihiro’s manga about silver-eyed slayer women and Giger monsters deserves SO MUCH more love, and I hope someone licenses his next manga or I’ll have to look into scanlations of it.

    I read tons of Excalibur just because it’s silly and over the top. Turns out I’m not the only one who loves this bizarre team of dimension hopping superheroes.

    Garth Nix’s A Confusion of Princes, about a prince of a sprawling intergalactic empire and its culture of backstabbing, is a VERY, I mean EXCEEDINGLY fast read, and I suggest it to anyone who needs some pumping pulp in their system.

    Justina Robson’s Selling Out was AMAZING, mindbogglingly warped and crazy. It’s about a half-robot half-human secret agent and a half-elf half-robot rock star. She goes to Demonia, he goes to Zoomenon where the elementals live. I have a crush on the demon pop diva Sorcha who literally glows on fire and sizzles with sensuality, and… you know, go read it already.

    (I’m reading Surface Detail and might read a Reynolds book first, but I’m SALIVATING to read more of Lila Amanda Black.)

    And then there’s Alif The Unseen, a mythic fantasy steeped in Arabic culture that takes place in a made-up world that looks just like the Arabic Rebellions are going on in it. It’s about a master hacker with a crush on a rich girl who ends up being betrothed to the bloodthirsty, brutal head of secret intelligence. Did I mention it’s completely steeped in Arabic culture and myth? Go read it.

    • David Greybeard // December 30, 2013 at 9:40 pm //

      Not a fan of either Cable nor X-force but I have to agree Hopeless is a very talented writer. Loved his Legion of Monsters book. Marvel really needs to groom him for it’s top titles. He’s got the potential to join the new breed elite Marvel writers Remender and Hickman.

      • Ryan Viergutz // December 30, 2013 at 11:45 pm //

        The first volume reminded me of the snappy dialogue in Remender’s early Uncanny XForce. I’m looking forward to the next two, since I’m one of those unusual people who likes Hope Summers.

        The ironic thing about him taking up a central role is, like Remender, I’d be less inclined to read him. (Tried Uncanny Avengers, it bored me.)

        I’ll have to look for Legion of Monsters.

        • David Greybeard // December 31, 2013 at 10:41 am //

          For me, Remender’s second volume of UNCANNY AVENGERS was much better than the first volume.

          • Ryan Viergutz // December 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm //

            Curious that. If I feel in the mood I’d remember that. More than likely, I’ll be wandering off to his creator-owned stories when they reach trade paper like “Black Science” though.

  26. Jack Conway // December 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm //

    SF: Atlantis Gene by AG Riddle

  27. Kerry Hall // December 28, 2013 at 5:19 am //

    F/SF combo- Threads slivers &Thread Strands by Leeland Artra
    F-Dragon Blade & Dragon HeRt by J.D.Hallowell
    F-Elf hunter C.S.Marks
    F-As the crow Flies by R. Lithgoe
    F-Thinblade by D. WELLS
    F-Seven days by Ben Hale
    F-Blood song by A. Ryan

  28. Things I read this year that I really enjoyed (when series are listed, links are to first books):

    Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles

    Brad Beaulieu’s Lays of Anuskaya

    J.D. Hallowell’s War of the Blades

    Science Fiction:

    Hugh Howey’s Wool series

    Sam Kates’ The Cleansing

    Margaret Atwood’s Maddaddam series

  29. Brian Hiebert // December 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm //

    Ocean at the End of the Lane
    Doctor Sleep

  30. I just finished up my post for #bestreads2013 and am full of annual cheer. It’s been a splendid year for books. At least two from 2013 are very special to me.

    Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars is thematically and intellectually rich on top of having all the fun culture and fighting we expect out of Epic Fantasy. It’s also much more intelligent about the nature and history of violence than any Fantasy I’ve read in a long time.

    Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni is the other big winner. It kept me up to 2:00 for two nights in a row. It uses its 1899 period-piece trappings to both separate and bring characters together in such neat ways, and I love how murky the options are at the end. Fantasy could always use more non-binary last acts!

  31. Nina Phillips // December 30, 2013 at 7:13 pm //

    For me it was Andrez Bergen’s “Who Is Killing The Great Capes Of Heropa?”, which I read in October.

    I read it in two days flat.

  32. That thing with the guy. You know.

  33. Sci-Fi: Old Man’s War by Scalzi
    Fantasy: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

  34. 01 michael shean “redeye” (the wonderland cycle II)
    02 cory doctorow “homeland” (little brother II)
    03 ian tregillis “bitter seeds”(2010), “the coldest war” (2012)
    & “necessary evil (the milkweed triptych)
    04 ramez naam “nexus” (2012) & “crux” (nexus I & II)
    05 wesley chu “the lives of tao” & “the deaths of tao”
    06 charles stross “neptune’s brood” (saturn’s children II)
    07 william & bill vitka “the kulture vultures & the plot to steal the universe”
    08 jean-christophe valtat “aurorarama” (2010) & “luminous chaos”
    (mysteries of new venice I & II)
    09 jason m hough “the darwin elevator”, “the exodus towers” &
    “the plague forge” (the dire earth cycle)
    10 joel shepherd “23 years on fire” (cassandra kresnov IV)
    11 ian tregillis “something more than night”
    12 simon morden “the curve of the earth” (metrozone IV)
    13 leonard richardson “constellation games”
    14 ann leckie “ancillary justice”
    15 john scalzi “human division” / tobias s buckell “apocalypse ocean” (2012)

    • Matte Lozenge // January 2, 2014 at 9:57 pm //

      Good list! Doctorow has a whole series of agitprop novels now, and Homeland is one of the better ones, I’d say. Maybe because the good guys get to win a little.

      Constellation Games is world class snark from beginning to end. A real hoot.

  35. My favourite this year has to be the conclusion of Mark Lawrence’s trilogy – The Emperor of Thorns. Closely followed by The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Republic of Thieves. Also loved reading Robin Hobbs for the first time – Assassin’s Apprentice. American Elsewhere by Robert Bennett. Finally read Lauren Beukes and loved her Zoo City. Read a lovely trilogy by Sarah Pinborough – Beauty, Charm and Poison. Got into Chuck Wendig’s series about a girl called Miriam and also really enjoyed Miserere by Teresa Frohock. Now, who am I missing?? Oh yes, Brandon Sanderson’s The Emperor’s Soul – which I loved.
    Lynn 😀

  36. SF – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

    F – Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher

    Love reading about what others enjoyed reading this year. Reminds me of the things I have been meaning to get to: The Rook, Old Man’s War, The Lies of Locke Lamora,Rivers of London etc. and introduced me to some titles I had not heard of: Ancillary Justice, The Red: First Light etc.

  37. Oh yeah, and this post also reminded be I need to get going with The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, The Dire Earth Cycle by Jason M. Hough, The Shadow Ops series by Myke Cole and The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey.

    Also in the to be read pile: the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, The Greywalker series by Kat Richardson and various series and books by Seanan McGuire, Simon R. Green and Robert J. Sawyer.

  38. Oh, and George Mann’s Newbury and Hobbes series.

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