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Hugo Recommendations - Best Novel

The first of March already... damn, where does the time go?

Only thirty-one days till the third season debut of GAME OF THRONES on HBO.

And only TEN days till Hugo nominations close! So let me make a few more recommendations for your consideration, boys and gals. Resuming with "the Big One," the Hugo for Best Novel.

I cannot claim any great breath of knowledge of this year's top contenders. While I read constantly and voraciously, my bookshelves contain all sorts of things, not just the current year's SF and fantasy. Looking back, now that Hugo time is at hand, I find I read a lot of history and historical fiction last year, some non-fiction, a number of mysteries, and a bunch of older books, published in 2011 or 2010 or 1999 or 1953 or whenever. None of which are eligible for Hugos. I have also dipped into (but not always finished) a bunch of bound gallerys and ARCs of as-yet-unpublished novels that may be eligible for awards next year, but not this year.

Which is not to say that I did not read anything in the field this year. I did, and some of what I read I liked a lot.

Last year I recommended the first book of James S.A. Corey's Expanse series, LEVIATHAN WAKES... and a lot of people agreed, since LEVIATHAN was nominated for a Hugo (to the evident annoyance of one prominent writer who was not) and actually finished third in the final voting, two places ahead of my own A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, which fact Ty does not hesitate to bring to my attention on a regular basis. (("James S.A. Corey," of course, is actually the pseudonym of my assistant Ty Franck writing in collaboration with my friend Daniel Abraham).

Well, in 2012 the second volume of the Expanse series, CALIBAN'S WAR, was published. And far from being a victim of sophomore slump, that bastard Jimmy Corey seems to have done it again. CALIBAN'S WAR is even better than LEVIATHAN WAKES. It's old-fashioned space opera, the kind of SF that I cut my teeth on, a real page-turner set in a vividly imagined solar system, squarely in the tradition of Heinlein and Asimov and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (lacking only Pinto Vortando), superlatively written. Books like this were what made me an SF fan to begin with. CALIBAN'S WAR was the best pure SF I read in 2012, and I will be nominating it for the Hugo.


I read more fantasy than SF last year. Understandably, as the publishers send me just about every epic fantasy they are putting out for blurbs. This is a golden age for fantasy, and there's some great work being done. 2012 was no exception. I enjoyed Saladin Ahmed's THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON, an old-fashioned sword-and-sorcery adventure with an Arabian Knights flavor, rather than the usual "medieval Europe" setting. There was a new Joe Abercrombie as well, and though I didn't feel RED COUNTRY quite measured up to last year's THE HEROES, Abercrombie is always worth reading. No new Rothfuss last year, though, and nothing by Scott Lynch... or that Martin guy, for that matter.

My favorite fantasy from 2012, all in all, was the second volume of Daniel Abraham's Dragon's Path series, this one entitled THE KING'S BLOOD. Like Jimmy Corey, Abraham just keeps getting better and better. It has been said, and truly, that Dragon's Path is perhaps not so innovative as Daniel's first fantasy series, the Long Price Quartet... but innovation is not the only value worth consideration while weighing a work of art. The world of Dragon's Path is considerably larger, older, and more colorful than that of Long Price, the characters are just as well drawn, the prose as rich and evocative, the plotting full of devious and delightful twists and turns. Abraham belongs in the first rank of today's fantastists, I think, right up there with Abercrombie, Lynch, Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, and the like. And THE KING'S BLOOD deserves a Hugo nomination.


Those are my favorite SF and fantasy novels from last year. What were yours?


Scott Oden
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:00 pm (UTC)
I like Howard Andrew Jones' BONES OF THE OLD ONES (sequel to last year's DESERT OF SOULS); top-notch stuff, and right up the same alley as the good Saladin Ahmed!
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
I discovered Bernard Cornwell novels thank to you... can you tell me about others historic novels writers you really like?
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
Maurice Druon. I am going to do a post about THE ACCURSED KINGS soon. HarperCollins Voyager has just started reissuing this classic French series in English.
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
Cecilia Holland writes some pretty good historical fiction.

Also good is Robert Low's Oathsworn series, starting with The Whale Road.
Mark Cooper
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
I just won a copy of The Iron King on Library Thing Early Reviewers, so I'm looking forward to that.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
I second the Druon books, they superbly depicts the era, and since it is a historical novel you can never know if your favourite character sees the next day.

The Robert Merle Fortune De France series is also highly recommended.
Mar. 1st, 2013 08:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
For the people who understand French, the French public television did a TV series adaptation in 2005 that is well worth watching.
Arthur De Per Schlom
Mar. 1st, 2013 11:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
Martin reading and recommending Druon's Les Rois maudits... I just fainted in joy.

Yeah ! Those are marevelous piece of work. One of the best unknown in the English world books of Historical Fantasy.

"Accursed! Accursed! You shall be accursed to the thirteenth generation!"
Chris Upton
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
ext- Plenty of good Historical writers. If you want something easy to get into then Steven Presfield and Simon Scarrow are fun.
Then there's Ross Leckie (Hannibal,Scipio) Robert Nye(Falstaff,Gille De Rais) and of course Hilary Mantell if you haven't already overdosed on Tudor shenanigans.
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
Me also! I got my girlfriend reading a trilogy of books...known as the Warlord Chronicles, Cornwell's Arthur trilogy. I have them too, in addition to all his Saxon Stories novels. I discovered him thanks to the interview between George and Bernard not too long ago.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:44 am (UTC)
Re: Recommendations
I've discovered a handful of very good authors based off GRRM's recommendations, and one guy who he likes that I discovered through a New York Times article (where the likes of Michael Chabon gushed about him).

Historical fiction authors: Nigel Tranter ("Macbeth the King"), Thomas B. Costain ("The Last Plantagenets"), Sharon Key Penman ("When Christ and His Saints Slept"), Cecelia Holland ("The Kings in Winter").

Other authors GRRM has recommended and that I liked (various genres): Daniel Abraham, James SA Corey, Howard Waldrop, Gene Wolfe, Harry Harrison, Roger Zelazny, Paula Volsky, Dennis Lehane, James Tiptree Jr, George MacDonald Fraser ("Flashman"), and Robin Hobb.

The guy mentioned in the NYT - and probably one of the more difficult authors to get into, albeit a very good one - is Jack Vance. In fantasy, try "Lyonesse" or "Tales of the Dying Earth", and for science-fiction try "The Demon Princes" or "Emphyrio".

Hope that helped.

Edited at 2013-03-02 12:45 pm (UTC)
Christopher Estep
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
It's not fantasy in the normal sense of the word, but 14 by Peter Clines was easily my favorite book of the year.
Heather Saigo Weaver
Mar. 1st, 2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
a peek inside the mind of Martin :-)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and recommendations! I'm adding your favorites to my list of "to-read" titles. Have a great weekend!
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:00 pm (UTC)
King's Blood and Red Country were probably my favorites. Although I haven't read Caliban's War.
Alex Rogers
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
I'm just discovering the great Patrick Rothfuss and enjoying it immensely. I'm waist deep in the "Kingkiller Chronicles" and loving the ride.
Matt Stedman
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the recommendations as well. Read Leviathan Wakes a few months ago. Just finished Cornwell's The Winter King. I couldn't get into The Long Price, but I'll definitely check out any other recommendations.
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
King's Blood, of course!

Looking forward to The Tyrant's Law, and the final two books in the series. And your own Winds; Brandon Sanderson's next Stormlight book, Words of Radiance; and the paperback release of the final Wheel of time novel.
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I found this page, some of these sound promising and I always have a hard time choosing my next novel. Especially from the SF/Fantasy genre; when it's good it's great but when it's bad it's real bad. I finished reading "Dance with Dragons" about 20 minutes ago and it was only 10 minutes ago that I realized the next book wasn't written yet. Worst discovery ever. I need a consolation book.
Mar. 1st, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC)
Forge of Darkness
Mar. 1st, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin was a pretty good read. I'm hoping that goes well in the votes. :)

Be interested to know what historical fiction you read last year. I managed to get through Philippa Gregory's The Kingmaker's Daughter and Ken Follett's recent book.

Edited at 2013-03-01 10:01 pm (UTC)
Mar. 1st, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC)

Peter Hamilton, The Great North Road
Fun predictions of our world to come, good detective story with a bit of "Who Goes There" (The Thing for you movie goers) thrown in and a great female "princess" heroian (and crusty male detective too.

Historical Novel:
1356 Bernard Cornwell
If you read it you must promise to read Frossiart's account of Poiters too....

Mar. 2nd, 2013 12:11 am (UTC)
Favorite fantasy novel 2012
My favorite fanatsy novel of 2012 was Brent Weeks' second book of his Lightbringer Serie: the Blinding Knife. I love the world he created, his main characters and the story. Can't wait until Weeks published his next book, Blood Mirror, in 2014. So long to wait. You (GRRM), Weeks and Abercrombie are my favorite authors at the moment and all three won't publish any new books in 2013. That's so unfair. ;-) I hope that at least Scott Lynch will publish his new book of the Gentleman Bastard Series this year.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 03:56 am (UTC)
I'm definitely nominating The King's Blood for a hugo. Like you said, Abraham is just getting better and better.
Mar. 2nd, 2013 11:37 am (UTC)
I haven't read much, but
1. "The King's Blood": this took what made "The Dragon's Path" good and then multiplied. The last third is amazing. Not too dissimilar to "A Storm of Swords", actually. Even if you people find the first book a little slow (and it can be; it's 100% set-up), read this.

2. "Caliban's War". See what GRRM wrote above.

3. "London Falling", Paul Cornell: a good, tense urban fantasy about London cops. It sounds cliche, but Cornell deserves a shout-out for pulling off something so well.

4. "The Rook", Daniel O'Malley: the last sf/f book I read that came-out in 2012 (I've been reading stuff from years past), and what a book. Urban fantasy/cop horror, but quite different to "London Falling".
Mar. 7th, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
Brandon Sanderson likes Daniel Abraham also
I discovered Daniel Abraham when I saw Brandon Sanderson tell people to read him. It was a video of a presentation he made at one of the Jordancon's. The majority of Abraham's characters are the 'every man' character. Most fantasy books have some characters like this, but all of his characters are this way to some degree. I really like this since it is very different. It is easy to identify with these characters because they seem like people I might meet in real life. However, they live in a Fantasy/SF universe. No Aragorn or Rand Al'Thor type hero characters. The SA Corey books work best because Abraham writes viewpoints with regular people and Ty Franck writes the more messed up crazy viewpoints. They each have a distinctive voice, but it seems to work well together. I don't want to get the spelling wrong, but the Indian Grandmother who is a senior Bureacrat in the World Government is my new favorite Sci-Fi character(Avarasala?). She curses like a sailor at one moment, then turns around and goes into grandma mode and plays with her grandchildren the next. I don't remember the exact interview I saw on youtube, but in one Ty was saying that he gets most of his work done in the middle of the night due to a 'day job' then goes and collaborates with Daniel Abraham after having been up all night. Sounds like George is a very demanding boss and forces poor Ty to pull all nighters to work on his writing. I think I saw that Guy Gavriel Kay was an assistant to Tolkein's son. Does anyone know of any other SF/Fantasy writers who were assistants first?
Mar. 7th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
Re: Brandon Sanderson likes Daniel Abraham also
Actually, Ty does not sleep.
Mar. 9th, 2013 11:04 pm (UTC)
Hi George
While I am waiting for Winds of Winter I have been reading Steven Erikson's 'Malazan book of the fallen'. Have you read any of that?


George R.R. Martin
George R. R. Martin

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