Top 5 Sci-Fi or Speculative Novels Read in 2013

Day 3 of the year-end “Best of” lists, and today we’re taking a look at what I considered to be the top 5 sci-fi or speculative novels that I read in this past year, regardless of original publication date. I lumped sci-fi and general speculative together because I read very little in the way of science fiction, but there were some titles I wanted to share. And there were some very good novels that fell into a more generic “speculative fiction” category that I felt deserved some recognition here too, but not enough to really warrant a category of their own. So I stuck them together, and this post was born.

Nnedi Okorafor‘s Who Fears Death, reviewed here.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny-to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself.

John Scalzi‘s Redshirts, reviewed here.

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

Madeline Ashby‘s iD, book 2 of the Machine Dynasty series, reviewed here.

THE SECOND MACHINE DYNASTY

Javier is a self-replicating humanoid on a journey of redemption.

Javier’s quest takes him from Amy’s island, where his actions have devastating consequences for his friend, toward Mecha where he will find either salvation… or death.

Cassandra Rose Clarke‘s The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, reviewed here.

Finn looks and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task is now to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion…and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot population, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world, and in Cat’s heart.

Catherynne M Valente‘s The Melancholy of Mechagirl, not reviewed as of yet.

Science fiction and fantasy stories about Japan by the multiple-award winning author and New York Times best seller Catherynne M. Valente.A collection of some of Catherynne Valente’s most admired stories, including the Hugo Award-nominated novella Silently and Very Fast and the Locus Award finalist “13 Ways of Looking at Space/Time,” with a brand-new long story to anchor the collection.

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