|Books of 2009
||[Dec. 31st, 2009|04:05 pm]
This year I sort of meandered my way through books, mostly at random, reading whatever took my fancy at the moment. |
I read Little Brother on my cell phone. I really liked the realistic, detailed computer knowledge that went into the book, and that it had some very cool teenage protagonists. I also liked its open source orientation, both within the story and in that the book itself was free (as in beer), but included dedications to various cool book sellers. I can testify that it definitely worked for Cory Doctorow, since my recommendation to one of my friends prompted him to actually buy the book.
In keeping with my quest to read all Nebula and Hugo winners and nominees, and because I liked ‘The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay’ so much, I read the Yiddish Policeman’s Union. Michael Chabon can really write, and the alternate Jewish Alaska was interesting, but I found the subject matter a little mundane for the mood I was in.
More in tune with my mood for fiction this year was the Complete Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance. I had read these in high school, and while I have always loved Vance's prose and his magic users, I did not like ‘Cugel the Clever’ as a teenager, because I was a very nice kid, and Cugel is a completely amoral jerk. I really liked Cugel 20+ years later, however, which may or may not say something about my moral development/decay. Really, though, Vance’s writing is a sheer joy. The numerous polite conversations regarding tentacles, the overworld, deodands, terrible and unlikely predicaments, and dubious cons are just so beautiful and fun.
A year with a new China Mieville novel is always an exciting year. The City and the City was not your usual Bas Lag type book, but it was definitely weird and unique.
Also, a year with a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel is a good year. After reading ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III: Century’, I believe I hummed Brecht songs from ‘Three Penny Opera’ for at least a month.
Another treat this year was ‘The Magicians’, by Lev Grossman. If you liked Harry Potter, but wondered where all of the sex and drugs and teenage existential angst went, and if you like to see some of the hackneyed tropes of fantasy literature reflected upon and deconstructed, then this is the book for you. It’s awesome.
I read a number of steampunk novels that I liked: the Somnambulist by Johnathan Barnes, The Annubis Gates by Tim Powers, and Boneshaker, by Cherrie Priest. Of these, I liked the Somnambulist best as it is the most mysterious and has the best characters including a mute albino giant that doesn’t bleed and a man who claims to move backward through time. The other two books are both good too. In Boneshaker, for example, you get air pirates, mad scientists, and zombies.
Most of the science fiction that I read this year was good, but not fantastically great. I read a couple of Robert Charles Wilson novels: Spin and Chronoliths, and liked them both, but not as much as his book Darwinia that I read many years ago. Alistair Reynolds’ book ‘Revelation Space’ was also good, but again not amazing though I really liked the sense of wonder that he builds. Ian Bank’s ‘Use of Weapons’ was my least favorite Culture book so far, though it is perhaps the best written. I liked his book ‘Player of Games’, which I read in 2008, much better. If you are a gamer, you will definitely get into that one.
My favorite science fiction book that I read this year, and one that is close to amazing perhaps (at least for the first 75% of it), is Desolation Road, by Ian McDonald. I liked it up to the giant battle at the end. I must be getting old, because I have tired of giant battles for the most part.
The horror from this year was all pretty good, Lost Boy, Lost Girl was creepy, and I liked the rock and roll sensibility of ‘The Heart Shaped Box’. I found 2 copies of Ligotti’s ‘The Nightmare Factory’ for $5.00 each, which was amazing, and I read some creepy stories from the collection ‘Tales of Pain and Wonder’ by Caitlan Kiernan.
It was Edgar Allen Poe’s 200th birthday this year, and I re-read the poem ‘The Raven’ several times, and especially appreciate the use of the word nepenthe. However, I can’t get the Simpon’s parody where Bart is the raven out of my mind. Quothe the raven, “Eat my shorts.”