It all started – as so many things do – with a proposal on Twitter: what would happen if a group of bookworms had a go at calling the best genre reads of 2017? Well, firstly an explosion of reading lists as our opinions cross-pollinated. Then an outbreak of glee. Finally, much Serious Debate. And now, at last, we can reveal our winners…
Best Novel: Fantasy
Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng
This category caused the most debate in terms of us musing on what we think of as fantasy, and reflecting on how the nominees took us by surprise – but possibly the least debate in terms of picking our winner. If not quite unanimous – and certainly not a given, as there was much soul-searching from several panellists – Under the Pendulum Sun was nonetheless a front runner from the start and handily saw off the competition.
If you haven’t yet read it, this is a tale of Victorian missionaries to Fairyland – expect a Gothic atmosphere, and a setting as haunting as it is surreal. Never trust a fairy.
Best Novel: Science Fiction
An Unkindness of Ghosts – Rivers Solomon
Arguably the toughest category from start to finish, as practically every nominee was championed by at least one judge. In the end, this came down to the narrowest of margins at each stage of voting and discussion – with An Unkindness of Ghosts our worthy winner.
I hesitate to admit that I haven’t read it yet, as I had to drop out of this category; but it is by my bed as I type so that I can correct this!
Best Novel: Blurred Boundaries
The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams
The category that caused the most dissension in opinions, and made me most appreciate just how awesome my fellow-panellists are. This process has been one of open hearts and open minds: the discussions were passionate, subjective (hey, it’s in the name) and respectful of the works in question and the opinions of others. Thank you team, it was a joy.
The first book in Jen Williams’s new trilogy is a magnificent melange of fantasy, scifi and horror complete with fire witches, vampiric elves and an insectile alien enemy. The Ninth Rain must fall, but can the shattered world survive it? And no, this isn’t grimdark.
The Murders of Molly Southbourne – Tade Thompson
While we arrived handily at our finalists, this category saw the panel so evenly split that we had to invite an additional judge in to the final round to break the deadlock. Passing Strange by Ellen Klages gets a Special Mention for winning all our hearts, if not quite – in the end – all our votes.
If Molly Southbourne’s blood is spilled, she is born again from it. And her first order of business will be to try and kill herself. Awkward. This excellent psychological horror won me over entirely, but you might not want to chew over everything it gives you to think about.
The Broken Earth – N K Jemisin
This will surprise precisely no-one, I imagine. What’s left to say about this earth-shattering trilogy? Whilst we found much to appreciate in our other nominees, Jemisin’s masterpiece flattened the opposition.
(sorry, not sorry)
If the words ‘geological apocalypse’ sound outlandish, you haven’t heard anything yet. The Broken Earth uses the end of the world to explore issues of identity and prejudice, fear and power, love and acceptance – in a hauntingly playful tone of voice that will strip your defences.
Just read it, okay? Honestly, this trilogy deserves every award it has won and has earned every plaudit it receives. Staggeringly good.
So what next?
Free-range reading! But watch this space – chaos may return in 2019…