“There has been an ongoing debate for the last few decades about whether science fiction is dead but if this year’s bumper crop of exciting new novelists is any indication,

I’d say that there is a glorious renaissance just over the horizon…”– Paul Goat Allen


2011 was a surprisingly – I would say even shockingly – good year for science fiction. There were solid releases from genre giants like Ben Bova, Robert J. Sawyer, Vernor Vinge, etc. but the most remarkable aspect of the year was the quantity and quality of debut novels: my top five picks were all written by first-time novelists!



Will McIntosh’s debut novel, an unconventional work of apocalyptic fiction entitled Soft Apocalypse, was so good, I stated in my review: “If Soft Apocalypse isn’t nominated for a Hugo or Nebula Award, I will eat the entire book page by page…



Hannu Rajaniemi’s debut novel The Quantum Thief was an intriguing fusion of hard science fiction à la Greg Egan, Stephen Baxter, etc. and labyrinthinely plotted Hitchcockian cat-and-mouse mystery that features a master thief and an intuitive, young amateur detective against a breathtaking backdrop of a colonized Mars.



“The effects of dumping tons of chemicals into the soil to produce vast swaths of monoculture corn and cows finally combined with the effects of dumping garbage in the water, air, and everywhere else. The result made the old hype about Global Warming seem like worrying about getting gray hair and then finding out you’ve got lung cancer. The environment couldn’t have gotten more messed up if God himself grabbed the Earth and gave it a good hard shake…”


 There has been an ongoing debate for the last few decades about whether science fiction is dead but if this year’s bumper crop of exciting new novelists is any indication, I’d say that there is a glorious renaissance just over the horizon…


So, without further ado, here are my best science fiction releases of 2011…






















































































































































Leviathans of Jupiter  by Ben Bova

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

Embassytown by China Mieville

Basilisk by Rob Thurman

The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell

Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright

The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle and Carlyle Clark







Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. 


 Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!

by Chomp on ‎12-18-2011 01:50 PM

Thanks, Paul, for adding some new books to my wishlist. :smileyhappy: Some of them I will get to sooner rather than later, but I so much appreciate you taking the time to put together and post your lists.



by BryanThomasS on ‎12-18-2011 07:23 PM

Humbled and honored. Thanks so much, Paul!

by on ‎12-19-2011 07:18 AM

Ready Player One was just excellent. Tattoo was one of my favorites. I have several books to read from this list. Thanks for the list.

by BrandieC on ‎12-19-2011 10:41 AM

Surprisingly, I'm doing better with this list than with those for the paranormal fiction I thought I read more often; I've read three of your top five (Ready Player One, Soft Apocalypse, and Revolution World), and I thought all three were excellent.  I've also read Divergent and the first two of the WWW series, with WWW:  Wonder on my "to be read" pile.


I think it's interesting to note that, at least in my experience with my home library in Atlanta, I was only able to get Ready Player One from the library; the others I had to purchase for my NOOK.  I wonder if the relative dearth of SF titles at the library is common throughout the country, or if we're just behind the times (and no smart remarks about Georgia or the South, please :smileyhappy:).  Or maybe our library is just not as familiar with Night Shade, which published both of the other two?

by I_Solitaire on ‎12-19-2011 01:48 PM
Arghh! At this rate I'll go broke. Only read one of the above--Soft Apocalypse--an excellent read. If the rest are as good, I will need all of them. I already have over 700 Nook Book. Thnx for all your efforts to keep us apprised of the best out there.
by on ‎12-20-2011 12:11 AM

I love the variations in your Sci-Fi list Paul.


I've got Soft Apocalypseand I'll be reading it in the very near future. I'm also going to get The Quantum Thief and Seed (11/15/2011).


Your number one choice, Ready Player One, is also looking pretty irresistible to me right now.

by B&N Bookseller melissas on ‎12-20-2011 09:03 PM

Now that school is out, I can read again! Ready Player One is two books away from the top of my TBR pile, and I'm really looking forward to that one. By the way, it's awesome to see a Teen book on your list of Honorable Mentions. So many great Teen books get overlooked, even when they really do appeal to a much larger audience.