Also notable are the books I read for my various challenges in 2013. There was the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and two challenges I set myself: Aussie Science Fiction and Aussie Horror. Almost all of them were excellent reads. I feel like Aussie (spec fic) authors are a bit underrated, especially outside of the community. So if you're wondering how I managed to read 49 books by Australians, I encourage you to have a look at those summary posts. But only 48% of the books I read were by Australian authors, and of course some of the others were excellent reads too.
Jumping in with no particular order in mind, and tongue firmly in cheek...
Most surprisingly good science fiction book
Trader's Honour by Patty Jansen — not because I was expecting a bad read from Patty, but because I couldn't get into the prequel and ended up not finishing it. But I will be continuing on with the series!
Best collection by an American woman
The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories — she really is an excellent writer. Although I didn't love every single story (I still remember it was the first and last stories I was least impressed with, although I still remember what both were about so they weren't unmemorable), the collection overall was excellent. An honourable mention in this category goes to In The Company of Thieves by Kage Baker (posthumously).
Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes — not only is the main character is autistic but the worldbuilding turned out much more complex than it appeared on the surface. Not only was it a post-epidemic world with a significantly reduced population, but there was also time travel, which I really didn't see coming. I am deeply curious to see where this goes in the sequel(s).
Most surprisingly good YA fantasy début
Chasing the Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner — again this was one I had underestimated, mostly because of the cover. Once I started reading, it became clear that the author was onto a good thing. In the realm of YA, it had a lot of unique elements. And who doesn't like steampunk-flavoured magic?
Asymmetry by Thoraiya Dyer — this is the book that introduced me to Thoraiya's writing and I was very impressed. I will definitely be trying to keep up with other work she produces.
Best collection of horror and dark fantasy stories
The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton — I had mainly only read her novels before and a few isolated short stories. This collection really brought home to me how complex Jo's worldbuilding is, even in the space of a short story. Impressive and recommended.
Fairytales for Wilde Girls by Allyse Near — this would have been an impressive book for any author, but for it to also be a début was stunning. I will be keeping a close eye on Allyse's future output. In many ways her style reminds me of Margo Lanagan but with a thematically younger bent to it.
Most consistently funny author
Simon Haynes — in 2013 I read Hal Spacejock: Baker's Dough, Hal Spacejock: Safe Art and Hal Junior: The Gyris Mission. If you're looking for hilarious science fiction, this is it.
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke — if you don't require your SF to be full of action, then you must give this a shot. A ponderous story of a girl and her robot. It's more or less her life story in a not-too-distant future.
Best new-to-me horror author
Kirstyn McDermott — I read both her novels this year: Madigan Mine and Perfections (although not in that order)
Valley of Shields by Duncan Lay — Looking forward to the concluding volume of this series in 2014. Duncan Lay's books (both series) are among very few (the only I can think of...) which focus on father-child relationships in a positive light and from the father's point of view.
Best hard science fiction novella
Flight 404 by Simon Petrie — I was very impressed with this, with the physics and the characterisation, neither of which were done lazily. I am very much looking forward to reading more of Simon's stories in 2014.
One Small Step edited by Tehani Wessely — the rest of it was good too, but that first story by Michelle Marquardt really stuck in my mind. Like a lot.
Narrelle M Harris — a fresh take. Narrelle's undead lack creative thinking and problem solving skills, because their brains are dead and can't make new connections. The books were also quite humorous. Oh, and the human lead was a librarian. What's not to like?
Best book about running away to join the circus
Pantomime by Laura Lam — goodness this was a good read. Not only was it "noble girl runs away to join the circus", it was "noble intersex girl runs away to join the circus as a boy". Also, other things happened. Looking forward to reading the sequel very soon.
Redshirts by John Scalzi — no competition. Narrated by Wil Wheaton. Also, a great story.
Best non-spec fic book
A Trifle Dead by Livia Day — crime and food and geekiness. Special mention to Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein but Tansy wins by dint of being very significantly more upbeat.
Best medical SF novel
Parasite by Mira Grant — I could also have called this "best novel about something living inside people". Anyway, definitely worth a read if that's your sort of thing. (And there's less blood than in her Newsflesh series!)
Most mainstream popular book I read
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green — which is popular for a reason, but I probably wouldn't've picked it up if not for all the hype. First choice for reading while moping alone in a hotel room. Not sure about the upcoming movie, but I'm glad I read the book first.
Favourite camp fire stories
The first three stories in Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren —"Mountain", "Creek" and "Road". I think "Creek" remains my favourite, looking back.
And finally, because I could not choose just one,
My top two BFF (Big Fat Fantasy) books/series of the year and the two runners up*
And close runners up:
- Reunion by Jennifer Fallon
- The Dark Griffin and The Griffin's Flight and The Griffin's War all by KJ Taylor
All excellent. Go have a look at the reviews for more details. (Also, all no book ones, except for The Dark Griffin, but that's only because I read the entire series this year.)
*three runners up if you count Valley of Shields by Duncan Lay which already got its own award above.
Finally, don't forget to have a look at all the 5-star books in my side bar/on my favourites page.