Friday, November 17, 2006

The Best Books of The Millenium (Thus Far)

Granted, we're not yet 7 years into the 2K's, but inspired by Jay Tomio's Best 100 Books of the Past Ten Years (Which he has no intention of ever completing, I'm quite certain.), I've decided to do something similar. Spanning the time period from January 1, 2000 unto the present day, these are the best speculative fiction works released thus far this decade. They are in descending order, based solely upon my opinion of their merit, with the briefest of descriptions as to why.

50. Knife of Dreams byRobert Jordan: It appears that Jordan has finally righted this tottering behemoth of a series. KoD is a return to the highest quality of the heyday of The Wheel of Time, and it's noteworthy and commendable after the travesty that was his last few volumes.

49. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey: Sexy and exciting, Carey's first foray in the world of Terre d'Ange is also her best novel to date. The rest of the books are worth reading, however.

48. The Merchant Princes by Charles Stross: SF wunderkind Charlie Stross's fantasy epic which combines equal parts Zelazny's Amber, the Medici family, and James Bond.

47. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold: Tragedy and hope; a wonderful and moving ghost story.

46. The Mount by Carol Emshwiller: No one is weirder than Emshwiller. A boy is the horse of a soon-to-be Emperor of an alien species that has conquered Earth.

45. Infoquake by David Louis Edelman: Perhaps the best recent take on the dangers of widespread capitalism. A wonderous and scathing debut novel.

44. Smoking Poppy by Graham Joyce: Graham Joyce is the best fantasy author you've never read. Fix that failing.

43. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke: Incredibly overrated, this Hugo and World Fantasy Award winner is still a pretty damn fine novel.

42. Black Juice by Margo Lanagan: It is impossible to read this short story collection for children and remain unmoved.

41. Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay: Kay's first urban fantasy, and his best novel in over a decade.

40. Fables by Bill Willingham: A comic book series telling the story of fairy tale legends in New York. Winner of multiple Eisner Awards.

39. War Stories by Joe Haldeman:
an omnibus edition of Haldeman's Vietnam novels and shorts. A wonderful companion piece to his SF mega-novel, The Forever War, and perhaps the most important book published thus far from Night Shade Books.

38. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: The first book of the dazzlingly addictive Thursday Next SF mysteries.

37. Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds: Space opera meets mystery in Alastair Reynolds finest novel to date.

36. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon: Science fiction featuring autism and futuristic corporate politics. Winner of the Nebula Award

35. Galveston by Sean Stewart: Galveston, Texas is split between a world of magical ever-lasting Mardi Gras and the mundane normal city. World Fantasy Award winner.

34. The Fantasy Writer's Assistant by Jeffrey Ford: A deeply affecting short story collection from one of the finest short story writers in the world, in any genre.

33. Camouflage by Joe Haldeman: Haldeman's Nebula Award winning novel of shape shifting.

32. GRRM: A Rretrospective by George R.R. Martin: An amazingly complete collection of the Martin's short work. It contains some of the best short fiction of the 70's and 80's, along with newer work. Published in the UK as Dream Songs.

31. Vellum by Hal Duncan: This novel will confound or enthrall you; there is no third option. A fine debut novel, not easily topped.

30. Accelerando by Charles Stross: Stross's most important work thus far, but I expect more from him based upon his evident abilities. I have no doubt he will fulfill this demand.

29. White Devils by Paul McCauley: A post-apocalyptic techno-thriller set in Africa. Think Michael crichton, if he were, you know, a good author.

28. A Year in The Linear City by Paul Di Filippo: The story of a city betwixt heaven and hell.

27. The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford: Simply the finest urban fantasy I have ever read from an author we lost this year.

26. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: Six fantastic viewpoints weaved together to form a dreamlike whole. A marvel of a novel.

25. Temeraire by Naomi Novik: A wonderfully enjoyable amalgam of McCaffrey's Pern and O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin novels.

24. Kalpa Imperial by Angelica Gorodischer: Stories of a fictional empire. Absolutely stunning and moving. It's the best book you've never heard of.

23. City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer: A similar theme: VanderMeer's collection of stories set in Ambergris. His latest novel, Shriek, I have yet to read, and so was unable to judge if it was fit for inclusion in this list. A fault I will shortly remedy.

22. Air by Geoff Ryman: The story of a provincial woman trapped in the quantam realm of a futuristic internet. James Tiptree Jr. Award Winner

21. The Facts of Life by Graham Joyce: Joyce's best novel in a handful of years. That's high praise, people. World Fantasy Award winner.

20. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson: a great science fiction yarn about big ideas and full of that good old fashioned 'sensawundah.' Hugo Award Winner

19. American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Gods exist because we believe in them. The story of Shadow and Wednesday is the pinnacle of Gaiman's stories career, and an excellent novel. Hugo Award winner.

18. Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link: Kelly Link bends structure and warps expectations. Her short fiction is like nothing else, and that's a good thing.

17. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: I have not read a more enjoyable book in years. Lynch is the future of high adventure fantasy.

16. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan: Simply the best science fiction comic book currently being produced, by a wide margin. Yorick must survive in a world where he is the last living male. Eisner Award winner

15. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: 've sat down three times to review this novel, and I am at a loss as to what to say. I was decimated, mind and body, by this tale of hope and horror.

14. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro: Booker prize winning author's take on cloning and human engineering.

13. The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach: Orson Scott card has not done much worthy of mention since Speaker For The Dead, but I thank him heartily for bringing this epic tale into print in the United States.

12. Blindsight by Peter Watts: Next years Hugo Award Winner. This is the SF novel of 2006.

11. The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford: This volume deserves to be ranked with The Rediscovery of Man, Deathbird Stories, and The Jaguar Hunters, as one of the best genre fiction collections in history. It's almost as good as Number 6.

10. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: Perdido ushered in the New Weird, and Mieville is one of the finest young writers in speculative fiction today.

9. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore: Without a doubt, the funniest book ever penned. Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt ought to take notes from this master.

8. The Prince of Nothing Trilogy by R. Scott Bakker: This is the best epic fantasy trilogy since The Lord of The Rings.

7. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan: Until Number 5 came along, this was the best SF novel of the burgeoning decade. A page turning noirish cyber-mystery, that will have you buying the sequels before you're done with the first. Phillip K. Dick Award winner.

6. Story of your Life and Others by Ted Chiang: The best SF collection since The Rediscovery of Man. An absolute must-read for lovers of the short form.

5. River of Gods by Ian McDonald: The veritable proof I was searching for that science fiction is not dead.

4. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: The reinvention of the horror novel. The book itself is a work of art, and Danielewski is an absolute madman -- but you'll enjoy the ride.

3. The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe: This dualogy is the pinnacle of Wolfe's Grandmaster level career. This dream induced fantasy is about as good as fantasy can possibly be.

2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: The story of cousins, The Holocaust, comic books, love, and courage. Pulitzer Prize winner.

1. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin: The single best fantasy novel ever written.


Comments on "The Best Books of The Millenium (Thus Far)"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:25 PM) : 

What little I've read of the award winners since 2000 I've been unimpressed with. I don't find Lamb funny. I didn't like American Gods. And I'm not going to ever touch Robert Jordan. However, I do agree that Emshwiller, Mieville, and DiFillipo belong somewhere in any TOP OF SF list. Most of the SF I've been reading lately though is not attempting to be great literature.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:51 AM) : 

Have you not read any Erikson or are you just an idiot?


Blogger William Lexner said ... (10:43 AM) : 


I've read Erikson. I find him to be mediocre. I'm not a fan of convoluted D&D stories about demi-Gods.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:16 PM) : 

God, Stego, don't you know if you don't like people's favourite books you are a freakin idiot?! Cause, you know, everyone has the exact same taste and standards when it comes to books, and everything else in life.

A damned good list.


Blogger Race said ... (10:30 AM) : 

ju r loozar
Erikson roxxors ju 5t00p1d n00b!



Blogger Neth said ... (10:34 AM) : 

Nice list - like most everyone, I have my agreements and disagreements, but it is your list (Lamb is good, but that good????).

I've only read 11, but about half of the remaining books are already on The Stack. I've got a lot of reading to be doing.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:15 PM) : 

What? No Lies of Locke Lamora? You suck, Lexner! You suck and you're an idiot and you smell like poo!

Oh, wait. There it is. #19. My bad.

I'm not the author, honest.


Blogger Scott Marlowe said ... (2:05 PM) : 

Nix Martin and add Robin Hobb in there somewhere.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:31 PM) : 

Jordan gets mentioned, but no Erikson? Come on.


Blogger Ran said ... (5:25 PM) : 

By my count, I've just managed to read 13 of them, though like neth I've got a number on the to-read pile.

It's a pretty good list in a lot of ways, but honestly, Knife of Dreams? It's a long way from Jordan's best. It's better than the last books, though, true enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:39 AM) : 

knife of dreams isn't as enragingly bad as the last four books?

damn, maybe I'll pick it up off the remainder table.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:17 AM) : 

House of Leaves? You've got to be shitting me! Creative, sure. Original, sure. Great? I really don't think so. And I love Lamb, but I wouldn't say it was Moore's best. Though, of this millenium? Maybe.

And where's Declare, huh? Not to mention The Atrocity Archivese. I know Stross is on there twice already, but I'd take a third one by him before the latest Wheel of Time.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:20 PM) : 

I like lots of your choices, and the mention of some others spurred me to buy them. I'll be watching your blog with interest in the future.

Sorry we didn't bump into each other at WorldCon.
~ intensityxx


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:30 AM) : 

Thanks for the list, Stego. Your tastes have never steered me wrong, and I was hoping you would provide a guide like this. SF books used to be so short, and now they are all so looonnnnggg that it is very frustrating to invest so much time in a new book and discover that it wasn't worth the trouble. You are providing the world an important service, Stegoman.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:34 PM) : 

you've obviously never read erikson or you wouldn'te be calling his books d&d."not a fan of convoluted stories?"So what do you like?Murder stories where the butler did it?
By the way,you shouldn't put a wheel of time book right at a top of a list,or else people will simply close the window


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:48 PM) : 

It's always the anonymous cowards that have the biggest mouths and the least of value to say, isn't it?


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:27 PM) : 

Hell, I love Erikson but let's speak the truth--his books are D&D stories on steriods.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:26 PM) : 

why coward?If I say my name you're gonna come to my house and kick my ass,Mike V?
I'm just saying my opinion.Please don't tell me you got mad because of what I said about wheel of time.I'm not the only one who thinks it sucks.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:07 PM) : 

I didnt find thing that i need... :-(


Blogger Race said ... (10:17 PM) : 


It seems you are the one who is unfamiliar with the history of Erikson's and Esselmont's development of MBOTF. It is based on their old D&D campaign. So to say comparing it to D&D is wrong, is misinformed.

As for Jordan, he has his weaknesses for sure, but his contributions to epic fantasy far outweigh Erikson's to this point.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:33 AM) : 

Race, I am aware of how the malazan world was developed.But when Lexner says that erikson's books are d&d,I'm sure he's saying it in a derrogatory manner,and that I can't agree with.To me d&d books are books with elves,dwarfes and halflings where a farm boy grows up to become a great hero,marry the princess and saves the world(I know I'm being unfair,but I'm trying to make my point).You won't find none of that in a Erikson book.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (6:56 PM) : 

Well, Anonymous Coward, you must be afraid of something if you're going to hide behind a mask of obfuscation. I just wonder if you would say the same rude things to people's faces, under your real name, as you seem to be content to spew from under cover.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:41 AM) : 

Please remind of the "rude thing" that I said.I'm not the "anonymous not scott lynch" that insulted lexner.My first post was the one where I complained when he said that he didn't like convoluted stories.I don't see how that can be rude.BTW,what's so coward about putting anonymous?You sign your posts as Mike V. but who gives a shit about that?I still don't know who you are.It's the same thing as putting anonymous


Blogger William Lexner said ... (9:57 AM) : 

Anonymous Person,

I stayed out of this, because -- why bother? When you're anonymous, you're not anyone.

However, I know exactly who Mike V. is. I even know what the V stands for. He's not anonymous. (Neither is Mr. Scott Lynch, BTW.) I suppose if you live in constant fear of internet denizens acquiring and abusing your patronym, well, feel free to remain anonymous. But don't for a second expect people to take you seriously.

As for not liking convoluted stories -- this is not to insinuate in any way that I do not like complex stories. (Hell, a passing glance at my list would inform you of that -- Erikson is to Danielewski what picking boogers is to molecular biology.)

I think Erikson has these cool stories in his head and has no fucking idea how to translate it into a readable story. I simply can not get past his horrible writing skills to get to the creamy nougat of demi-Gods and insect demons and super sword slinging General-turned-Sergeants.

But then, why would I want to? I already played that campaign -- when I was 12.


Blogger Adam Whitehead said ... (12:41 PM) : 

@ Anonymous, I am a bit puzzled by this dislike of someone else's opinion. I enjoy Erikson's books enormously. William has repeatedly said why he doesn't enjoy them and I respect his opinion, even whilst I disagree with it. I fail to see why you are taking it so personally.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:04 AM) : 

My friends,I feel your scorn and I accept it.But please don't put words in my mouth.I'm not taking anything personally.I only started these posts because of Mike V claim's that I was a coward just because I write as anonymous(I still don't see what the big deal is).

As for mr.Lexner,I think he made a really good list and I completely respect his opinion of erikson but I'd wish he'd give it another shot.Most people that don't like Erikson base their opinion on the 1st book Gardens of the Moon, which I'll admit isn't very good.But they get much better after that.

That's just the humble opinion of a nobody so I don't expect it to be taken seriously but it's worth a shot


Blogger Race said ... (9:30 AM) : 

Well maybe the derision was that you called him an idiot in the seconf comment, or perhaps that was a different anonymous. Tastes of course differ.

Regarding Erikson, I've been told many times that he gets much better after GotM. I read DHG too, and I think I prefered GotM better. Didn't like either of them. I suppose I'll eventually read MoI someday. Perhaps that will change my mind.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:25 PM) : 

Anyone who insults people gratuitously (or uses insulting language, as in the post that immediately preceded my original "anonymous coward" post) from under cover of anonymity is, as far as I'm concerned, a coward.

You may not be taking anything personally, but the anonymous coward to whom I refer -- who I suspect, but of course cannot prove is you -- certainly seems to be getting rather unnecessarily personal.


Blogger Wolfgang "LRH" Ă–ller said ... (3:01 PM) : 

A nice list.

The Carpet Makers is not selling very well in the US according to Eschbach though. I doubt that they will translate his other books.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:27 PM) : 

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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:59 AM) : 

Mike V,my first post was the one where I criticised lexner for saying that erikson's books were convoluted.I didn't call him an idiot or any other insult.I honestly can't see what part of my post you found rude or offensive but I apologise anyway.
Race,I find Deadhouse Gates to be the best Erikson book so far but Memories of Ice is just as good.


Blogger CyLowe said ... (4:42 PM) : 

Thanks for the reading suggestions and the link to the Tomio list. Always love lists like yours. Makes wandering the library and book stores a lot of fun.


Blogger Unknown said ... (2:16 AM) : 

I suppose I should be ashamed to say I've only read three out of those 50. But what can one do.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (12:44 PM) : 

I will stay out of the Erikson debate - I have picked up GotM but not started it. Though Mr. Anonymous really stands out as a coward after his first comment wherein he states that by omitting Erikson you must be an idiot.

I have only read nine of the listed books, and have a few minor quibbles on how those nine stand, but there is one case where I disagree strongly.

But I am surprised that you put TLOLL behind PSS. I liked PSS well enough, but not more than Spin, American Gods, Temeraire, KoD or especially TLOLL - which I think belongs in the top 5-10 works I've ever read in the genre. It has held up for me magnificently in five re-reads.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:41 PM) : 

I already said that I wasn't the one who called him an idiot.
I just can't understand how he doesn't like Erikson but wheel of time manages to be on the list!


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:33 AM) : 

I respect Stego's right to his own personal taste, that said, I'm as boggled, if not more, than Anonymous is by Stego's inclusion of Robert Jordan's book while simultaneously proffessing distaste for Erickson. I work in a book store selling SFF to people. That said, Erickson is the authour I most frequently reccomend to people waiting for Jordan's next book and looking for another similar authour who doesn't babble on as much with meaningless details and is more adept at characterization. To date, I have recieved no negative responses regarding these reccomendations.

I enjoyed WoT personally before giving up 3/4 through Winter's Heart in disgust at the sheer amount of filler. Erickson, to date, has never approached Jordan in this regard. As well, his characters are far more ineresting and dynamic compared to Rand, Matt, and the vast majority of the WoT cast.

All of that said, I sincerely hope you're right about a few of these books - most notably Bakker's and Duncan's. They're next in my TBR pile.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:42 AM) : 

Thank God someone agrees with me.:-)

To be honest, I have to say that I haven't read Knife of Dreams,but after Crossroads of Twilight(that still holds the honor of being The Worst Book I've Ever Read), I swore that I wouldn't spend one more dollar(euro in my case) on Robert Jordan.

For those that don't like Erikson, all I can say is to don't judge the series based just on Gardens of the Moon.Read at least the first 3 books and then make up your mind.



Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:46 PM) : 

martin is def worthy but i like stovers heroes die and blade of tyshalle, also i gotta add goodking with the sword of truth saga


Blogger Anastasia said ... (1:48 PM) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger Anastasia said ... (1:52 PM) : 

Can you comment on the fact that only 9 entries (please correct me if my math is wrong, I made a mistake the first time around) out of 50 - that's 18% - are by female authors?


Blogger William Lexner said ... (2:19 PM) : 

Yes I can.

Men are obviously far superior writers.

No, really! That's what you wanted me to write, isn't it? That's what you were inferring with your angry tone.

I honestly had not considered the sex of the authors on this list until your post.

Because I'm not a sexist.

But you saw a list, and instead of considering the art, you looked at genitalia.

So what does that make you?


Blogger Ethan said ... (11:28 PM) : 

Great List. Totally agree about Kelly Link. I would like to point out, however, that RR Martin is more overrated than Susannah Clarke will ever be.


Blogger Monster Paperbag said ... (4:03 AM) : 

I was hoping to find Franzen's "The Correction". Anyway, great list! :)


Blogger OsRavan said ... (10:07 PM) : 

was it implied that you only put down one book per a series? If not... I find what you didnt include to be interesting. Specificly (unless i am going blind) Feast and Red Seas under Red Skies. MY list would be ordered a bit differnt but mostly everything you had on it would remain on it. One glaring overlook imo (unelss im going blind again) woudl be name of the wind. I was MAJORLY impressed with that book. Specialy for an authors first try. Something special there.


Blogger OsRavan said ... (10:07 PM) : 

was it implied that you only put down one book per a series? If not... I find what you didnt include to be interesting. Specificly (unless i am going blind) Feast and Red Seas under Red Skies. MY list would be ordered a bit differnt but mostly everything you had on it would remain on it. One glaring overlook imo (unelss im going blind again) woudl be name of the wind. I was MAJORLY impressed with that book. Specialy for an authors first try. Something special there.


Blogger OsRavan said ... (10:07 PM) : 

was it implied that you only put down one book per a series? If not... I find what you didnt include to be interesting. Specificly (unless i am going blind) Feast and Red Seas under Red Skies. MY list would be ordered a bit differnt but mostly everything you had on it would remain on it. One glaring overlook imo (unelss im going blind again) woudl be name of the wind. I was MAJORLY impressed with that book. Specialy for an authors first try. Something special there.


Blogger Harriet Schultz said ... (2:30 PM) : 

I was overjoyed to see your inclusion of Kazuo Ishigiro's "Never Let Me Go". I took a speculative fiction course in graduate school last semester and this was on the reading list. It stood, by far, head and shoulders over the rest of the list. Unfortunately, I haven't run across very many lists of excellent speculative fiction that includes this... so I reiterate, I was overjoyed.


Blogger pissedbro said ... (12:38 PM) : 

Excellent list but I am dissapointed by the lack of liebowitz. I find it hard to believe a reader of your caliber hasn't read one of the greatest masterpieces of modern speculative fiction, so I am curious why you omitted it.


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