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The best science fiction novels of 2004?

08/01/2005. Contributed by Jessica Martin

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Barnes & Noble's Explorations editor, Paul Goat Allen, presents his picks for the best science fiction/fantasy reads of the past year.

This just in from the 'Goatmeister' over at BN.com - his pick of the best SFF novels of last year.

1. "Frek and the Elixir"
Rudy Rucker's "Frek and the Elixir" - an unusual blend of George Orwell's "1984" and Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" - is a brilliantly wacky cautionary tale about the homogenization of society, as only Rucker can envision it.

2. "Dune: The Battle of Corrin"
From Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson comes the spectacular conclusion to their Legends of Dune trilogy ("The Butlerian Jihad" and "The Machine Crusade"), an epic saga that takes place 10,000 years before the events in Frank Herbert's classic "Dune".

3. "The System of the World"
"The System of the World", the third and concluding volume of Neal Stephenson's shelf-bending Baroque Cycle, brings the epic historical saga to its thrilling - and truly awe-inspiring - conclusion. Fans of historical fiction should not miss this monumental series.

4. "The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad"
Minister Faust's debut novel is a hip literary treat for aficionados of science fiction pop culture. Packed with references to cheesy sci-fi movies, comic books, and TV shows, this delightfully original novel revolves around two young slackers' supernatural adventures.

5. "Singularity"
Bill DeSmedt's debut novel, "Singularity", is an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that revolves around a submicroscopic black hole in a decaying orbit deep inside the earth's mantle that will end only when it has devoured the entire planet!

6. "The Skinner"
"The Skinner" by Neal Asher is a wildly bizarre science fiction adventure that takes place on a nightmarish oceanic planet (reminiscent of the realm in Harry Harrison's "Deathworld" saga) where the planetary ecology has evolved into vicious predators existing solely to consume.

7. "Monument"
British author Ian Graham's debut novel - a brutally violent and unexpectedly compelling story about a mysterious vagrant ruthlessly pursued by churchwardens - is not only one of the best fantasy novels to come along in years; it also has one of the most mind-blowing endings ever written!

8. "To the Stars"
Originally published by Astounding Science Fiction magazine in 1950, L. Ron Hubbard's "To the Stars" - an epic that has been called one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written - has been re-released in a visually stunning hardcover edition. As described in the September 2004 edition of Explorations, "'To the Stars' has astonishingly beaten back Time, the relentless enemy. After more than half a century, 'To the Stars' is just as timely, just as awe-inspiring, just as profoundly moving as it was in 1950. Anyone who doubts the sheer creative and visionary genius of L. Ron Hubbard need just read this novel."

9. "Counterfeit Kings"
Adam Connell's debut novel, a down-and-dirty game of deep-space hide-and-seek, is the antithesis of space opera. There are no majestic armadas, no epic battles, just dirty, ruthless outcasts searching for a lost king before the waste matter hits the rotating oscillator...

10. "Heaven"
From the authors of the science fiction thriller Wheelers comes this chilling cautionary tale of a species-transcendent religious movement that is spreading across the galaxy espousing its philosophy of universal equality and acceptance - with hellish consequences.

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