Best Fiction From 2017

My favourite new reads in 2017
I only ended up reading four new novels this year, so these are (by default) my best fiction from 2017.  I would highly recommend the first two to almost anyone , while the second two are possibly more niche reads that will be loved by many readers of science fiction.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
(Book Depository)
Even though I am not a massive Jane Austen fan, I am a huge Connie Willis fan, and this time travel novel was similar in some ways to Connie Willis’s Oxford novels.  It was contemporary in tone, really brought the Austen family to life, and provided wonderful insight into the social history of Regency England.  It also contains a gorgeous easter egg for any fans of A. S. Byatt’s Possession.

Extinctions by Josephine Wilson
(Apple iBooks)
One of the few times in living memory that I have read an entire novel in less than 24 hours.  Fred Lothian’s cramped retirement village unit and his inability to address significant failure of character in his own life sucked me in, and I didn’t come up for air until I was finished.  Deeply satisfying.

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
(Public Library)
While there were lots of things that were far from perfect about this time travel novel (that is actually not in fact a time travel novel, but a novel about the history of science, magic and the systemic failures of bureaucracy), there was an absolutely sublime Viking raid on Walmart that made the hard slog totally worth it.  Mostly, this novel made me miss the wonderful Kage Baker and her Company novels, with their secret society of time traveling cyborgs.

Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald
(Kinokuniya)
As a long time fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars books, I think I can safely say that Ian MacDonald’s Luna books are a worthy inheritor of the kind of epic political science fiction that Kim Stanley Robinson is celebrated for.  An ensemble cast with complex back stories and a fully realised frontier setting sucked me into the first book, Luna: New Moon, but it was the civil war in Luna: Wolf Moon that made this one of those books you just couldn’t put down.  Game of Thrones on the moon, indeed.

Best Reads of 2016: Not Actually 2016 Books

Three World War II novels, two modern classics, and one newish post civilisation novel (I can never get enough utopia/dystopia/post-apocalypse) rounded out my list of favourite not so new books read in 2016.

Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
(Kinokuniya)

California by Edan Lepucki
(Readings)

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
(Public Library)

High-Rise by J. G. Ballard
(Public Library)

Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
(Public Library)

Best Fiction from 2016

2016 was extremely busy.  There was a brand new library that opened in May, and it definitely felt like work took over most of my life for the better part of the year.  I also went back to university and spent a lot of time reading for study rather than pleasure. And I (finally) got my drivers licence and started driving to and from work most days, which put an even larger dent in my leisure reading.

Goodbye reading on the bus! (but I have tried to ensure I have more time for reading at home and love a good cafe date with a book when I have a day off work).  There was a lot of comfort reading this year, and I discovered some wonderful new novels – especially Ann Patchett.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A pitch-perfect reboot of Pride and Prejudice, in which the plural ways we can find love and happiness in the 21st century are celebrated.  I wrote a review of Eligible in March.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
(Public Library)
An intensely compassionate portrait of the many ways casual neglect and difficult circumstances impact a generation of children in one blended family.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
(Public Library)
An engrossing novel that bridges the historical and contemporary genres, connecting a female artist in the Dutch Golden Age with a female art forger in New York and Sydney 400 years later.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis
(Publisher Advance Copy)
A highly original and entertaining look at connection fatigue in our modern world.  A romance novel disguised as science fiction or a science fiction novel disguised as chick lit?  I wrote a review of Crosstalk in October.

Good on Paper by Rachel Cantor
(Public Library)
A quirky literary mystery, with many messy layers of personal complexity and a gorgeously casual narrative vernacular.  I loved the New York setting and all the nerdy Dante detail.

Honorable Mention:
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
(Book Depository)
Not quite in my top five favourites as far as new releases go, and far from my favourite Kay, but any new novel by Guy Gavriel Kay is cause for for celebration.

Best Reads of 2015: Not Actually 2015 Books

I did have a great year reading lots of not so new books, with Station Eleven being my absolute favourite read in 2015.  I also discovered Barbara Trapido, found a potential new favourite urban fantasy author in Jo Walton, and finally read a classic I had been meaning to read for years.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
(Public Library)

Among Others by Jo Walton
(Interlibrary Loan)

Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
(Purchased from Kinokuniya)

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
(Public Library)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
(Public Library)

Best Fiction from 2015

I was running a couple of book clubs this year and, with all that reading, I didn’t actually get through much new fiction.  It was a great year for Science Fiction releases, however.  I also enjoyed the new Sarah Waters and tore through Fates and Furies, which seems to be shaping up to be one of the big reads in Australia this summer.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
(Public Library)

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
(Public Library)

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
(Public Library)

The Chimes by Anna Smaill
(Public Library)

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
(Public Library)