Our borg Best of 2021 list continues today with the Best Books of 2021. If you missed them, check out our reviews of the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2021 here, the Best Movies of 2021 here, and the Best in TV 2021 here. And we wrap-up the year with our additions to the borg Hall of Fame tomorrow. We reviewed more than 100 books that we recommended to our readers this year, and some even made it onto our favorites shelf. We don’t publish reviews of books that we read and don’t recommend, so this shortlist reflects only this year’s cream of the crop. So let’s get going!
Best Sci-Fi, Best Tie-In Novel – Moments Asunder by Dayton Ward (Gallery Books). An engaging read and fun-filled start to a new trilogy, full of great throwbacks to all the Star Trek series, with several surprise characters and incorporated events, and a great update to Wesley Crusher. Runner-up: Star Trek: Picard–Rogue Elements (Gallery Books), by John Jackson Miller, provided a great story for a newer character, pulling into the mix the future of some familiar characters including the classic villain Kivas Fajo.
Best Fantasy Read – Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons (Wizards of the Coast). Providing all the lore and stunningly expansive details on everything you want to know about dragons, it’s stuffed full of wonderful dragon artwork and enough worldbuilding lore to open the eyes of anyone interested in fantasy, and everyone who loves dragons.
Best Mystery, Best Historical Novel, Best Holiday Read – Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Algonquin). As reviewed by the Wall Street Journal, “Younger Holmes fans (and older ones too) should be charmed by… the latest entry in her series featuring 12-year-old amateur sleuth Myrtle Hardcastle. In 1893, Myrtle receives a double Christmastime shock: the death, in “The Final Problem,” of her fictional idol Holmes, and the apparent murder of the proprietor of her town’s mercantile store. Tidings of discomfort, indeed.” Agreed!
Best Adventure Read, Best New Edition of Previous Published Work, Best Translated Work – A Heart Divided: Legends of the Condor Heroes 4 by Jin Yong, translated by Gigi Chang and Shelly Bryant (St. Martin’s Press). Yong did the unthinkable by creating a series of books that got better with each volume. Chang and Bryant rounded out a literary achievement re-creating in this final chapter Jin’s rich, powerful prose fully consistent with today’s best action-thrillers.
Best Retro Read (Fiction) – Castle in the Air, by Donald Westlake (Hard Case Crime). This new edition of one of the author’s lesser-known works is brilliantly funny, a complex heist movie-in-the-making full of incredible, odd, quirky characters.
Best Supernatural Novel, Runner-up for Best Retro Read – Later, by Stephen King (Hard Case Crime). The all-new novel by King is a perfect launch pad for a television series; the slow-simmering pacing reflects the perfect make-ready four season series centering on a boy burdened with an ability he cannot walk away from.
Best Retro Read (Non-Fiction) – The Boys, by Ron Howard and Clint Howard (William Morrow). Hollywood’s best loved brothers put together a nostalgic trip through the days of classic television. A treat for fans of the director/lead actor or character actor known for his quirky roles, or anyone who loved even one of their many TV series and movie projects.
Best Horror Read (tie) – Alien3: The Unproduced, First-Draft Screenplay by William Gibson, A Novel by Pat Cadigan (Titan). Cadigan put together a great sci-fi/horror story featuring Aliens favorites Corporal Hicks and cyborg Bishop from the pages of Gibson’s discarded screenplay, resulting in a smarter story with more action and thrills than what audiences saw in the theater; and Halloween Kills: The Official Movie Novelization, by Tim Waggoner (Titan) (also, Best Retro Read (Fiction). A brilliantly told adaptation full of throwbacks from the first film and a true blast from the past.
Best Film/TV Concept Art Book – Flash Gordon: The Official Story of the Film by John Walsh (Titan). The ultimate source book for fans of Flash Gordon, and a great look back at the film production methods of the year 1980, full of concept artwork, original props, costumes, and interviews never before available to fans of this 40+ year old sci-fi/fantasy classic.
Best Star Wars Non-Fiction Book – The Art of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge by Amy Ratcliffe (Abrams). A truly unusual account that reads like a behind the scenes book for an animated movie or video game, taking readers where they’ve never been, a world inspired by the artwork of Ralph McQuarrie just as the movies were so inspired, further springing from 11 movies, three series, and dozens of books. The result is something different and new that fans have never seen before.
Best Star Trek Non-Fiction Book – Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration by Ben Robinson and Mark Wright (Hero Collector). Full of new interviews from the actors, writers, directors, and creative crew–a true look behind the scenes, including stories fans have never read before, and images from the production they probably haven’t seen before. A landmark book for its series that fans have been waiting for, and the ultimate love letter to the series in the words of those who created it.
Best Non-fiction Educational – Saurian: A Field Guide to Hell Creek – by Tom Parker, Chris Masna, and RJ Palmer (Titan). A video game tie-in about dinosaurs with current scientific knowledge direct from leading paleontologists? This illustration-filled companion book is unique, and will certainly drive players to the dinosaur simulation once it arrives as a full release.
Best Book Design – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by MinaLima (Harper Design). MinaLima again offered up its artistry and design to make a new definitive version of a classic–a storybook that could be a new favorite for the next generation of readers. The design duo’s imagination through tipped-in ephemera and even pull-out glasses makes for the next level of the classic pop-up type book.
Best Book on Film – TCM’s Essential Directors by Sloan De Forest (Running Press). It may be De Forest’s best book on film yet. It’s an informative, almost encyclopedic entry about the finest film directors, some who made their marks as household names, others as legendary auteurs, while still others provided a singular film or image that has made them synonymous with Hollywood royalty.
Best Reads for Young Kids (tie) – If You Go Down to the Woods Today (Abrams Books for Young Readers), by Rachel Piercey, illustrated by Freya Hartas, inspiring, interactive fun for kids; and Jim Curious and the Jungle Journey (Abrams Books for Young Readers), by Matthias Picard, eye-popping images that will take your breath away, in a 3D entirely visual sci-fi journey for kids.
Best Comic Book Series, Best Fantasy Comic Book Series – The Last Ronin (IDW). The original creators returned to deliver the most memorable story of the year. Runner-up for Best Comic Series: Stray Dogs (Image). Runner-up for Best Fantasy Series: Hardears (Abrams).
Best Action/Thriller Comic Book Series/Graphic Novel – Smart Girl (Titan). Spanish artist Fernando Dagnino created the best of all worlds in this multiple-genre sci-fi noir.
Best Mystery/Crime Comic Book Series – Gun Honey (Titan). Writer Charles Ardai and artist Ang Hor Kheng delivered a new spy series that feels like an update to Dr. No with a new heroine in charge.
Best Homage Cover – Captain America 80th Anniversary Tribute by Mark Brooks. Great homages don’t just copy an artist. This is a gorgeous salute to Captain America #1.
Best Comic Book Artist – Frank Cho, Fight Girls, and various covers. The leading artist of the female form didn’t let up this year with several variant covers and his great creator-owned series. But he entertained fans all year most with his 2021 convention sketch covers, which beg for their own collected edition.
Best Writer/Artist – Cynthia von Buhler, Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Electrified Tesla. Von Buhler returned this year with her savvy heroine in a world of brilliant color and shadow.
Best Comic Book Cover – Amazing Spider-Man 75, variant cover by Gabrielle Dell’Otto. Cyborg Spider-Man–need we say more?
Best Comic Book Event – Dynamite Begins 50th Anniversary of Red Sonja with several series. From Sonjaversal to The Invincible Red Sonja to Red Sonja: Black and White everywhere we turned there was a new celebration of Red Sonja, who turns 50 in 2022. Runner-up: Green Arrow turns 80 with Anniversary Issue and variant covers. Some of the best story writers and artists got together to celebrate this special issue.
Come back tomorrow as we add several new members to the borg Hall of Fame.
C.J. Bunce / Editor / borg