"2005: SF Novels Summary" by Richard Horton

This includes only those SF or Fantasy novels that I read that were first published in 2005.

The list below includes 44 novels, and is up to date through my reading as of April 2008.

Tony Ballantyne, Capacity. Sequel to Recursion, addressing the issue of "natural" vs. "artificial" intelligence. I don't think it worked very well. My SF Site review is at . 110,000 words.

Damien Broderick, Godplayers. Fun and SFnally adventurous novel that reminded me a bit of Zelazny's Amber and Stross's Family Trade, though this book is definitely SF. A young man finds that he is a member of a powerful family engaged in something called the Contest of Worlds, which involves a lot of universe-jumping. My SF Site review is at . 93,000 words.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Hallowed Hunt. Pretty good but not great entry in her Chalionverse, though not set in Chalion itself. The hero is Lord Ingrey, who happens to bear a wolf-spirit as a result of a botched experiment of his father, who was trying to recreate an old magic of the Weald that had been made illegal long since. Ingrey ends up defending accused murderess Lady Ijada, who also bears an animal spirit, a leopard, and who killed their prince in self-defense -- he was trying to rape her -- or something worse. Ingrey escorts Ijada to the capitol, and quickly falls for her, while worrying that she is twice condemned -- for the murder of the prince, and for illegally bearing an animal spirit. But it soon turns out that some much more elaborate issues are involved, concerning the succession to the Kingdom, and especially the claims of the long displaced former rulers of the Weald. Probably the weakest of this series of novels, but still enjoyable. 133,000 words.

Michael G. Coney, I Remember Pallahaxi. A sequel, set generations later, to his lovely 1975 book Hello Summer, Goodbye (aka Rax aka Pallahaxi Summer). This is one of three novels (along with five short stories) that he posted on his website after learning he had terminal cancer. He has since died. The novel was published in book form by PS Publishing in 2007, along with a reissue of Hello Summer, Goodbye. This sequel is a fine piece of work, explaining much about the earlier novel, with some neat SFnal ideas, and actual real live Alien Space Bats. I reviewed it at rasfw, and Google Groups has my review here: . I also did a review of the combined rerelease of I Remember Pallahaxi and Hello Summer, Goodbye for Locus. 102,000 words.

Avram Davidson, The Scarlet Fig. The third of his Vergil Magus novels. It was mostly finished at his death, and Grania Davis and Henry Wessells have edited this edition, published in quite beautiful (and expensive) form by The Rose Press. Vergil leaves Rome in fear of accusations of having corrupted a Vestal Virgin, and travel around the then known world, encountering many wonders. Excellent stuff, very Davidsonian. 95,000 words.

Paul Di Filippo, Harp, Pipe, and Symphony. Di Filippo's first written novel, not published until now. It shows signs of being a trunk novel, but it's definitely worth publishing and reading. It's a Thomas the Rhymer story, in which Thomas must confront the lures of both dissipation and excessive piety, and eventually choose the middle course (which conveniently includes plenty of sex). Not great but interesting, as I said worth reading. 70,000 words.

David Drake, The Way to Glory. Fourth in Drake's enjoyable series that translates (sort of) Aubrey and Maturin to space, with Lt. Leary as Aubrey and Adele Mundy as Maturin. This is one of the lesser entries in the series. 150,000 words.

Carol Emshwiller, Mister Boots. Good YA novel about a girl whose abusive father returns after her mother dies, and who has a friend who is really a horse, and who can do magic. 43,000 words.

Gregory Feeley, Arabian Wine. The novel version of the well-received 2004 novella. The novel was actually the original version, which was cut for its Asimov's appearance. Very strong story about Venetian politics, the introduction of coffee to the West, the meeting of Islam and the West ... My full review appeared in Locus. 42,000 words.

Charles Coleman Finlay, The Prodigal Troll. Finlay's first novel, one of the best first novels of the year. A boy is lost after his father is overthrown in war, and is raised by trolls. Coming to adulthood, he encounters other humans, in particular an alluring woman, but he learns that trollish courtship methods don't quite work. He ends up entangled again in human war and politics. 110,000 words.

Jeffrey Ford, The Cosmology of the Wider World. This short novel was published by PS Publishing in a format like their novella chapbooks. It's about a minotaur, disappointed in love, who moves to the Wider World complete with talking animals, and the attempts of his friends to treat his malaise. Good stuff. 50,000 words.

Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys. I enjoyed this novel but in retrospect it seems slight. Fat Charlie Nancy is the son of the god Anansi, but he doesn't know it. When his father dies, he is shocked out of his staid existence, especially when he meets the brother he didn't know he had, and when he meets a pretty cop investigating a crime he's been accused of. 110,000 words.

Joe Haldeman, Old Twentieth. Joe Haldeman has been producing, with extreme regularity, engaging and thoughtful novels. This one is set a few centuries in the future, after immortality drugs led to a devastating war, followed by a recovery to a fairly pleasant and stable world situation. Now a ship is being sent to Beta Hydrii. One of the ways the passengers enjoy themselves enroute is by immersion in a Virtual Reality simulation of history, concentrating on the 20th Century ("Old Twentieth"). But then people -- immortals -- start dying while in VR. Haldeman examines the nature of VR and AI on the one hand, and revisits and reflects on 20th Century history on the other, while telling a good story about interesting characters. Right on the cusp of my Hugo nomination list. 82,000 words.

Diana Wynne Jones, Conrad's Fate. Quite enjoyable return to the Chrestomanci universe(s). Conrad, with the help of young Christopher Chant (and Millie), must unravel a scheme to alter probabilities for the benefit of a local aristocratic family. 80,000 words.

James Patrick Kelly, Burn. Actually a very long novella, a couple hundred words short of official novel length. Very good story, in my view clearly worthy of a novella Hugo nomination (and, it turns out, eventual winner of a Nebula for Best Novella). It's set on Walden, a planet deliberately restricted to simple technologies in an attempt to recreate something like the wooded Northeast of Thoreau's time (as idealized in memory), but threatened by people who want more contact with future tech, and who are setting forest fires to make their point. 40,000 words.

Angela Knight, Mercenaries. A romance novel actually, featuring very explicit sex of the SM variety, but also SF, though not very good SF. It's about a group of space mercenaries who rescue a woman from an oppressive society. The Captain demands "favors" from her but naturally falls for her quickly. The book actually includes three closely linked novellas. 70,000 words.

Jay Lake, Rocket Science. Lake's first novel. Very enjoyable, satisfyingly twisty and action-filled novel about a young man just after World War II and a very mysterious airplane that has been "liberated" from the Nazis. I don't think this is as good as Lake can do, but it is a pretty fine first outing. 76,000 words.

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Sword of Orion. First of a new series of novels, not set in their Liaden universe. A revolution against the Oligarchy ruling a star-spanning civilization (bound by matter transmitter gates) ended ambiguously, with both fleets disappearing. Years later, the child of the scientist who developed a key weapon for the revolutionaries finds herself an object of interest for both sides in a possibly renewed conflict, and ends up on the run from world to world, trying to figure out what her goals are. It's OK, and the characters are fairly engaging, but it doesn't quite have the "spark" the best Liaden stories have. 80,000 words.

Ian R. MacLeod, The House of Storms. Fine novel, something of a sequel to The Light Ages. An aristocratic boy and a shoregirl fall in love but are separated by the machinations of the boy's scheming mother. As adults, both are central figures in a war between the richer Eastern part of Britain and the slaveholding West, as is their lost son. Once again, a new Age seems upon this world. 165,000 words.

Ken MacLeod, Learning the World. Strong and original first contact novel. Humanity has expanded to a number of worlds, usually by colonizing asteroids and such, making habitats. Then they make a spaceship and head to the next star. As people are nearly immortal, the journey times aren't a problem. But the newest system has a surprise: the first ecosphere with multicellular life, including an intelligent, batlike, species. Told from both sides, primarily a young settler girl with the humans, and a bat scientist. Lots of surprises, as the bats discover the humans before they are expected to, while the humans can't really decide how to handle the situation. All very good except I thought the ending rather forced. 107,000 words.

Wil McCarthy, To Crush the Moon. I liked this a lot, as I have liked this whole underappreciated Queendom of Sol series. Conrad Mursk returns to Sol from the failed Barnard's Star colony, and witnesses the ultimate destruction of Earth and most of the civilized Solar System, eventually finding Bruno de Towaji for a last attempt to resist the misguided enemies of the Queendom. I reviewed this for Locus. 102,000 words.

Patricia McKillip, Od Magic. Very slight novel, enjoyable enough but McKillip at no more than half-throttle, about a school of wizardry and a kingdom that may have become a bit too hidebound, and a wizard outside their control, and about the old magic ... and about a bunch of nice but sometimes slightly misguided people who need to be set right. 90,000 words.

Paul Park, A Princess of Roumania. First in an interesting series of (I believe) four books, about a girl who grows up in our world but is really a princess in a strangely alternate Roumania. 135,000 words.

Tim Pratt, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl. Urban fantasy with a distinct Western flavor. A comic book artist in Santa Cruz must deal with the attempts of evil to intrude into our world, in a way somehow related to her comic books. 112,000 words.

Kit Reed, Bronze. Quite a disappointment. Southern Gothic Fantasy/Horror, about a family of artists and a dark secret and a scheming woman and an innocent young couple and -- let's just say, not Kit Reed at her best at all. 110,000 words.

Alastair Reynolds, Pushing Ice. Strong novel about an asteroid/comet mining ship which is diverted to chase a runaway moon of Saturn -- obviously an alien spaceship. Combines a slightly overwrought human story of survival plus bitchy rivalry with a neat "deep time" meditation about the place of intelligent life in the universe. 225,000 words.

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The penultimate novel in the series. Harry deals with further turmoil in the wizarding world, with his belief that Draco Malfoy has become a Death Eater (i.e. a henchman to Voldemort), and with such mundane concerns as his Captaincy of the Quidditch team, his concern about Ron and Hermione's falling out, and his own attraction to Ron's sister (something most readers knew was coming from at least the second book). Plus Dumbledore reveals some important secrets about Voldemort's past. Certainly one of the darkest of the series. I liked it quite a lot, and in particular the end made we wish to be reading the next book already. (Which of course I have since read!) 190,000 words.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Buried Deep. The latest in Rusch's SF/Mystery series about Retrieval Artist Miles Flint and lunar detective Noelle Ricci. An alien race gets terribly upset when a bunch of dead human bodies are found buried beneath their living quarters on Mars, and as a result they apparently think they have the right to kill any human even remotely connected to this, and the human authorities seem to think this is all OK as part of human/alien relations. Once you get past the always hard to believe premises of these novels, they are nicely written, fast moving, involving stories. 113,000 words.

Robert J. Sawyer, Mindscan. Inexplicably won the Campbell. Treats an intriguing subject -- the legal rights of uploads to android bodies -- unconvincingly. 110,000 words.

John Scalzi, Old Man's War. Something of a surprise as a Hugo nominee last year. It's quite enjoyable, about a future in which old people are recruited to the human army, and are paid by getting a new body. 100,000 words.

Karl Schroeder, Lady of Mazes. One of my favorite SF novels of the year. Set in a future where people live in essential virtual worlds, interacting only with those others who choose the same "rules". An isolated "Coronal" which uses fairly strict "tech locks" is threatened, and a small group escapes to the less restricted solar system looking for help. My full review is here . 130,000 words.

Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril. Second to last of Snicket's 13 book "Series of Unfortunate Events". One of the better recent entries. The three Baudelaire children come to a hotel disguised as concierges, trying to figure out the good guys and bad guys among the schismatic members of VFD. 53,000 words.

Charles Stross, Accelerando. This is the long-anticipated novel version of his nine "Manfred Macx" stories, of humanity in a post-Singularity world (though his characters, albeit much changed from us, our still just pre-Singularity, as I read it). Clearly one of the best novels of the year -- for me, just behind Spin as the top choice. Roughly 160,000 words in this version.

Charles Stross, The Hidden Family. Second of his books about Miriam Beckstein, who is one of a family that can travel between three (at least) different worlds at widely varying tech levels. Miriam grew up in our world but is pushed into dynastic politics and the fallout from various betrayals when she finds her way to her "original" world. Enjoyable, but I think I rank this series about fourth in the four novels series (ongoing or not) that Stross has produced so far. 120,000 words.

Steph Swainston, No Present Like Time. A sequel to her first novel, The Year of Our War. I thought it had many of the same problems as the first one. (I am a Swainston skeptic -- I think she shows plenty of promise but neither of her first two novels comes close to realizing her promise.) In this one, the integrity of the Eszai (immortals) is threatened by rebellion, while Comet Jant is part of an expedition to an isolated somewhat utopian island. My full SF Site review is here: . 145,000 words.

Anna Tambour, Spotted Lily. This is the first novel from this very interesting new Australian writer, who has been nominated for the Crawford Award. It's a quite original Deal with the Devil story, about an Australian woman who wants to have written a bestseller, and about her life with the Devil as he works at fulfilling her request. My SF Site review is at . 110,000 words.

Carrie Vaughn, Kitty and the Midnight Hour. Another first novel. Pretty enjoyable, if nothing really special, about a late night disk jockey who starts a show ministering to people who think they are werewolves and vampires and the like. The kicker is, she really is a werewolf. 75,000 words.

Andrew Weiner, Getting Near the End. Not sure this is officially a 2005 novel -- for one thing, it has an earlier French publication. But the book I saw came out in 2005. Not bad, but vaguely old-fashioned -- almost 70s-ish, novel about the end of the world as predicted by a Canadian pop singer. (Not to be confused with predicting the end of the world based on the inexplicable popularity of Canadian singers like Avril Lavigne.) 84,000 words.

Liz Williams, Snake Agent. Enjoyable SF/Fantasy/Mystery combination, set in a future "Singapore Three", and featuring a policeman married to a demon freed from Hell, who has to cooperate with a detective from Hell in solving a case involving young women sent to Hell by mistake (or by bad guys!). 100,000 words.

Walter Jon Williams, Conventions of War. The conclusion to his Dread Empire's Fall trilogy. Probably the least of the three books, but still very enjoyable. The problem here, such as it is, is that Williams has no real surprises for us: he's just unwinding the story of Sula and Martinez and the Naxid Rebellion pretty much as we know it must play out. Still and all, it's very well done exciting space opera. 220,000 words.

Jack Williamson, The Stonehenge Gate. I read this in the Analog serial, unfortunately a corrupt text due to a foulup at the magazine. Still, it was clear enough that this novel, Williamson's last, is a mess, a silly thing about traveling through matter transmitters to other worlds, race wars, etc. Roughly 75,000 words in the serial version.

Robert Charles Wilson, Spin. Probably the best SF novel of 2005. A fascinating and involving story, both at the personal level and the cosmic level. Earth is all of a sudden enclosed in a field such that time runs slowly, and people realize that the world will end in decades (due to the Sun, outside the field, aging). Tyler Dupree is the hero, in love with his much richer best friend's sister. His friend is at the center of efforts to understand the Spin, and so through Tyler's eyes we learn about this strange "device" -- and, mirabile dictu, the eventual explanation is actually worthwhile! I reviewed it at rasfw, and a copy is here: . About 160,000 words.

Timothy Zahn, Dragon and Slave. Third in Zahn's YA series about a young man and his dragonlike alien companion Draycos, who can become 2-dimensional and live on the young man's back like a tattoo. In this one the twosome willingly become slaves in order to track down more information about their adversaries (ultimately, bad aliens who are trying to exterminate Draycos's people. Fairly enjoyable but I think it's time for the series's overall plot to move faster. 82,000 words.

Timothy Zahn, Night Train to Rigel. Not bad if slow-starting novel about an alien-run interstellar travel system that resembles trains through hyperspace, and about a nasty plot threatening the Galaxy. I ended up enjoying it, with reservations. My full review is at SF Site, here: . 114,000 words.

My personal Hugo nominations: 1. Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson. 2. Accelerando, by Charles Stross. 3. To Crush the Moon, by Wil McCarthy. 4. The House of Storms, by Ian R. MacLeod. 5. Arabian Wine, by Gregory Feeley. (With Lady of Mazes, Godplayers, and Old Twentieth still in play.)

For Locus, there are four lists: SF, Fantasy, First Novel, and YA, but I don't think I read enough YA candidates to plausibly vote.

SF: 1. Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson. 2. Accelerando, by Charles Stross. 3. To Crush the Moon, by Wil McCarthy. 4. Lady of Mazes, by Karl Schroeder 5. Godplayers, by Damien Broderick.

Fantasy: 1. The House of Storms, by Ian R. MacLeod. 2. Arabian Wine, by Gregory Feeley 3. The Scarlet Fig, by Avram Davidson. 4. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. 5. A Princess of Roumania, by Paul Park.

First Novel: Tie: 1. Spotted Lily, by Anna Tambour. 1. The Prodigal Troll, by Charles Coleman Finlay. 3. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi. 4. Rocket Science, by Jay Lake 5. Kitty and the Midnight Hour, by Carrie Vaughn.

In the end, the Hugo winner was Spin -- Hurray!