Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2021

Every year we’re blown away by the consistently amazing book releases in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, young adult, and beyond—and 2021 raised the bar even further. Our reviewers each picked their top contenders for the best books of the year, ranging from hopepunk to fantasy romance, and alternate history to gothic horror. We’ve got high society magicians, retired starship captains, family ghosts, and much more.

Below, Tor.com’s regular book reviewers talk about notable titles they read in 2021—leave your own additions in the comments!

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Announcing the Table of Contents for Some of the Best from Tor.com 2021

We are excited to share the Table of Contents for the 2021 edition of Some of the Best from Tor.com, an anthology of 22 of our favorite short stories and novelettes selected from the stories we have published this year. The eBook edition will be available for free from all your favorite vendors on January 25, 2022. Of course, you can enjoy all of these stories right now at the links below.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Meets The Bourne Identity in Stringers by Chris Panatier

A genius is abducted by an alien bounty-hunter for the location of a powerful inter-dimensional object. Trouble is, he can’t remember a thing…

We’re thrilled to share the cover for Stringers by Chris Panatier! Stringers will be published on April 12, 2022 by Angry Robot Books—and features the publisher’s new logo!

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A Little Alien Adventure: Andre Norton and Michael Gilbert’s The Day of the Ness

This is a nice little a palate cleanser after a series of long and intricate adult novels. It’s short and concise, tightly plotted and narrowly focused, but in a good way. As middle-grade books go, it’s solid.

What’s interesting about it is that the co-author, Michael Gilbert, was (is?) an artist. The illustrations are his. Mostly they’re fairly timeless, though young Hal’s father has a classic Seventies mustache, which is appropriate enough for a book published in 1975. There’s no way he could have known that 2021 would call it a “porn ’stache” and see a distinct resemblance to Freddie Mercury.

The story is set sometime after 1975. Lasers are a fully developed form of weaponry, and there are flying cars. Flying cars were The Future in 1975. Instead we have supercomputers in our pockets. I suppose it’s a worthy tradeoff.

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A Marvellous Light Sweepstakes!

Red, White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies—and we want to send you a copy!

 

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

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A Fresh Take on Old Tropes: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

Makiia Lucier’s latest young adult fantasy novel Year of the Reaper blends fantasy and mystery into one captivating tale. This story about two warring kingdoms hit hard by a plague is thoroughly engrossing and impossible to put down. I had planned to savor it over a weekend, and instead read it in a single afternoon. And as soon as I’d finished, all I wanted to do was go back and read it again.

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Maybe The Matrix Resurrections Isn’t the Story We Think It Is

There’s a new trailer for The Matrix Resurrections, and it’s full of meaningful dialogue and suggestive imagery that adds up to… to be honest, I don’t know what. It’s hard to even guess what to expect from Lana Wachowski’s dive back into the Matrix, except that the cast is great, the familiar scenes are eerie as heck, and it’s pretty clear the world didn’t wake up after the end of the third movie.

Alas, this one doesn’t include Keanu Reeves with a rubber ducky on his head, but we can’t have everything.

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Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Unexpected”

“Unexpected”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode 005
Original air date: October 17, 2001
Date: unknown

Captain’s star log. Enterprise is suffering several malfunctions, including the artificial gravity going out and the drinks dispenser not providing what is asked for. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s an issue with their plasma exhaust. Archer orders Reed to ignite the plasma exhaust, and they find the silhouette of a cloaked ship in the flashpoint of the exhaust’s being ignited.

[I can see my house from here!]

Series: Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Beyond the Beatles: George Harrison’s Unexpected Connections to SFF

Marking the twentieth anniversary of George Harrison’s death last week, I recalled a line from an obituary I read at the time—something that’s stuck with me for years. I knew it had the word “subtract” in it, so I went to the source, and searched for the term. And there it was, in all its brutality, and slightly more bitter than I remembered:

Harrison’s death, however premature, feels different [from John Lennon’s]. It is more in the ordinary course of things, a reminder that the simple passage of time is all that will be needed to complete the work that Mark David Chapman [Lennon’s assassin] began, subtracting the Beatles from the world.

The author goes on to say that Harrison’s death occurred in a season of loss, in the midst of mourning and war. “We have seen things pass,” he says. “We listen to his song differently now, cherishing it as a warning against old complacencies and a promise that the darkness of this moment too shall pass.”

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Charlie Cox Is Still Daredevil, and Not Just in Our Hearts

Don’t get too excited, Daredevil fans: There’s no confirmation any which way that Daredevil is set to appear in any upcoming Marvel properties, no matter how many times we stare very closely at the forearms in that Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer. What is confirmed is that if Daredevil were to appear, he’d still be played by Charlie Cox.

As they say, no news is good news, and this is sort of… almost news? Sideways news. News adjacent. And definitely good.

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