Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Best books I read this year

It really is tough finding time to do anything productive in December, isn't it? The SSWriMo debrief that I promised is coming -- I have re-read two of the three stories I wrote during November, and the good news is they're not as bad as I feared they might be. I'm plugging away at some edits to the first one, "Beacons". I don't think it will be long before I'm ready to unleash it on anyone who will promise to read it and give me feedback.

For now, I thought I'd give you my picks for best books that I read this year. It was a good year all round -- I read lots of stuff, and lots of it was good.

Science Fiction: The Quantum Thief, by Hannu Rajaniemi

I've already spoken at length about this one, so I won't go on about it too much again. I'm not sure if it was actually the best SF book I read this year, but it was certainly the one I had the most fun reading. It was full of the sorts of things I like in my science fiction. I'm excited for more novels from Rajaniemi.

Honourable mentions: The City & the City, by China Mieville, and The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. Both deserving Hugo Award winners this year.

Fantasy: Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer 

This one is about a detective called Finch, living in the conquered city of Ambergris. The city is falling apart, infested by the fungal technology of its conquerors, the equally-fungal gray caps. Finch, who is technically a gray cap collaborator, is called in to investigate the unusual murders of one of the invaders and a human man. Things spin wildly out of control from there.

This book just drips with atmosphere. It is beautifully written, almost post-apocalyptic. Grim, but really compelling. It reminded me a little of Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. If the New Weird exists as a genre, Finch certainly sits well within it.

Honourable mentions: Sun of Suns, by Karl Schroeder, and Kraken, by China Mieville. I expect to see Kraken do very well at next year's Hugo Awards.

Literary Fiction: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer 

Typically I steer well clear of 9/11 fiction. I only read this one because I joined a book club, and I'm glad that I did. It's about a young Jewish kid called Oskar trying to deal with the death of his father in the World Trade Center attacks. Oskar finds a key in his dad's stuff, and sets about trying to methodically work out which lock in New York it opens. Scattered throughout Oskar's story is the story of his grandparents, both Holocaust survivors.

I doubt I can really explain how lovely this book is. It's sad, and charming, and hopeful, and I think you should read it right now.

Honourable mention: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. One of those few cases where the film adaptation actually does the book justice.

What did you read this year that you really enjoyed?

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