IoS Books of the Year 2012: Sci-fi, fantasy and horror

Probably the best books in this world – and the others

Iain M Banks celebrates 25 years of his advanced intergalactic society The Culture with his ninth book in the series, The Hydrogen Sonata (Orbit, £20). It is epic in scope, ambitious in its ideas and absorbing in its execution, and more fun than you'd expect an ultra-liberal space utopia to be. Another pair of big names, Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, teamed up for The Long Earth (Doubleday, £18.99), a rollicking tale of almost endless multiple Earths, that neatly combined the big picture with personal stories.

From the near future to the 19th century, and Cherie Priest's wonderful steampunk adventure Boneshaker (Tor, £7.99), which is the tale of a determined mother venturing into a zombie-infested Seattle to find her errant son. Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway (Heinemann, £12.99), is a high-octane pulpish spy thriller with more ideas per page than most novelists can dream up in a lifetime. It is highly recommended. And Danie Ware's Ecko Rising (Titan, £7.99) is a curious genre-bender that thrusts its anti-hero from a dystopian future into a traditional, Tolkienesque fantasy world. It is more successful than not and marks Ware as one to watch.

Joe Abercrombie's Red Country (Gollancz, £16.99) doesn't just tear up the fantasy rule book, it hacks it to pieces. Epic fantasy redrawn as a Wild West revenge story, it is a book that everyone should read, if only to blow away any preconceptions they might have about the genre.

Ben Aaronovitch's Whispers Underground (Gollancz, £7.99) and Paul Cornell's London Falling (Tor, £12.99) tread similar ground but are very different. Aaronovitch's book is the third outing for his "trainee police wizard" Peter Grant, and is easy to read but fulfilling. Cornell, who is primarily a comic book and TV writer, turns in a far darker, more violent book – The Sweeney to Aaronovitch's The Bill, perhaps – which shows Cornell to be a master of yet another discipline. Sarah Pinborough's cracking The Chosen Seed (Gollancz, £7.99) closes her Dog-Faced Gods trilogy. It, too, features a detective as the central character, but her urban fantasy world is more apocalyptic and the story unfolds at an unrelenting pace.

Chuck Wendig has created a memorable protagonist for Blackbirds (Angry Robot, £7.99): Miriam Black, who can foresee people's deaths. Wendig writes hard and fast and this is a slick noirish thriller. Far more cosy is Brenda and Effie Forever! (Snowbooks, £7.99), the sixth and sadly the final book in Paul Magrs's series about two women of a certain age dealing with supernatural shenanigans in Whitby and beyond. It's a fitting and moving conclusion to the saga.

From cosy horror to horror proper: Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, writing as S L Grey, present The Ward (Corvus, £7.99), a follow-up to their debut The Mall. Set in the same twilit subterranean world, it equals – if not trumps – the disturbing, creepy horror of their first, while shining a harsh light on real life.

Possibly earning itself the Book of the Year title is Jo Walton's thought-provoking Among Others (Constable & Robinson, £13.99), which stays with you for a long time after reading. It is the story of a young girl from a magical family who is sent to a mundane boarding school and, through her discovery of classic SF novels, has her mind and world expanded.

Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore