Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

First Impressions – Vector #266

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You could perhaps have anticipated the result…

In a change to previous years, for Vector’s review of 2010 I asked reviewers to both vote for their five favourite novels published last year and write a piece on their reading in general. The freestyle pieces start on the next page with Graham Andrews discussing a forgotten paperback but by now I’m sure your eye has already been drawn to the results of the poll.

The triumph of The Dervish House by Ian McDonald was comprehensive; it received twice as many votes as New Model Army by Adam Roberts which came in second. If you’ve read any other end of year articles you probably won’t be surprised, in many corners it seems that The Dervish House is the science fiction novel of 2010. This was also reflected in its appearance on the shortlist for the BSFA Award for best novel. As BSFA members, the results of that award are in your hands. At this point, however, I would be surprised if McDonald didn’t take it home. I would be equally surprised if The Dervish House didn’t turn up on other award shortlists.

There was a strong showing for other novels as well though. New Model Army may have come runner up but, in his review, Mark Connorton hopes that this won’t always be the case: “For the last few years Roberts has been the perennial nominee at SF awards. Hopefully this will be the one to change it for him.” Iain M Banks is another writer whose stature and acclaim hasn’t translated into prizes. After the general disappointment with Matter, Surface Detail was received as a return to form in many quarters, a “classic Banksian synthesis of a sprawling space opera” as Marcus Flavin puts it.

The British edition of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl only came out in December but it has already gained a substantial following. The fact it won both the Hugo and the Nebula last year probably had something to do with that and it is also shortlisted for this year’s BSFA Award. Of the rest of the shortlisted novels, Ken MacLeod’s The Restoration Game and Tricia Sullivan’s Lightborn (reviewed bv Jonathan McCalmont) both failed to make the cut but Lauren Beukes’s second novel, Zoo City, just squeaked in.

The top five was dominated by science fiction – perhaps not surprising given the name of our organisation – but in fourth place was Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, “a reflection of Tang Dynasty China that rings our present world like a bell” according to Niall Harrison. Not far behind was Kraken by China Mieville. After last year’s all conquering The City & The City, this was widely seen as a more modest work but a modest Mieville work is still a substantial beast and his popularity shows no sign of waning.

Completing the list, Patrick Ness concluded what has to be this young century’s finest work of Young Adult science fiction with Monsters Of Men, Richard Powers provided the token non-genre book with his blending of science, fiction and science fiction in Generosity and, at last, Chris Beckett found both a publishing deal and the acclaim he deserves with The Holy Machine.

Finally, tying with Zoo City for tenth place was Finch, the third instalment in Jeff VanderMeer’s Ambergris series. As Paul Raven says: “Don’t be afraid to enter Ambergris without knowing what to expect. But do be prepared to leave with more questions than you arrived with.”

So that is what our reviewers thought. I am one of the judges of this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award so I won’t say what my favourite books of 2010 were. I don’t think it is breaking the Clarke omerta to say I think it has been a very strong year though. This strength was remarked upon by several reviewers in their individual pieces over the next couple of pages and reflected in this top ten.

I hope the pages of this review section have introduced you to lots of new sf over the course of 2010. I’ve enjoyed my first year at Vector and plan to keep bringing you the widest range of reviews possible. Reviews of Under Heaven, The Windup Girl and Zoo City are all forthcoming and, in addition to the end of year pieces, this issue contains its fair share of reviews. I am particularly please to welcome Gwyneth Jones to these pages with a feature review of Animal Alterity, Sheryl Vint’s examination of the animal in sf.

Vector Reviewers’ Poll 2010

1) Dervish House by Ian McDonald
2) New Model Army by Adam Roberts
3) Surface Detail by Iain M Banks
4) Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
5) The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
6) Kraken by China Miéville
7) Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness
8) Generosity by Richard Powers
9) The Holy Machine by Chris Beckett
=10) Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
=10) Finch by Jeff VanderMeer


  • Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (Corvus, 2010) – Reviewed by Paul Graham Raven
  • Lightborn by Tricia Sullivan (Orbit, 2010) – Reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
  • Surface Detail by Iain M Banks (Orbit, 2010) – Reviewed by Marcus Flavin
  • The Technician by Neal Asher (Tor, 2010) – Reviewed by Stuart Carter
  • Version 43 by Philip Palmer (Orbit, 2010) – Reviewed by David Hebblethwaite
  • How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (Corvus, 2010) – Reviewed by Martin McGrath
  • Galileo’s Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (HarperCollins, 2009) – Reviewed by Anthony Nanson
  • Music For Another World, edited by Mark Harding (Mutation Press, 2010) – Reviewed by Dave M. Roberts
  • The Immersion Book of SF, edited by Carmelo Rafala (Immersion Press, 2010) – Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller
  • Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead, edited by Christopher Golden (Piatkus, 2010) – Reviewed by CB Harvey
  • The Loving Dead by Amelia Beamer (Night Shade Books, 2010) – Reviewed by Niall Harrison
  • Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit, 2010) – Reviewed by Alex Williams
  • Tomes of the Dead: Anno Mortis by Rebecca Levene (Abaddon, 2008) – Reviewed by Shaun C Green
  • Songs Of The Dying Earth, edited by George R R Martin and Gardner Dozois (Voyager, 2010) – Reviewed by L J Hurst
  • The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Orbit, 2010) – Reviewed by Donna Scott
  • The Fallen Blade by John Courtenay Grimwood (Orbit, 2011) – Reviewed by Anne F Wilson
  • Animal Alterity: Science Fiction And The Question Of The Animal by Sherryl Vint (Liverpool University Press, 2010) – Reviewed by Gwyneth Jones

Written by Martin

3 May 2011 at 09:37

Posted in sf

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. […] of lists breeding lists and so forth, I have a link to another list for you. Here is a list of the 10 best science fiction books for 2010. It is a good list with some of my favourite authors and some of the books I read and enjoyed in […]

  2. […] don’t think anyone was surprised by Ian McDonald’s victory in the first Vector reviewers’ poll last year. The Dervish House received pretty much universal acclaim, won comprehensively and then […]

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