Jan 1, 2011

2010 In Retrospect

I read a staggeringly small amount of books this year (you will notice that only two of my choices were actually published in 2010), due to life coming out of nowhere to intervene with my quiet geekiness. Also, this is the first time I've ever actually had to do this kind of thing, so I decided to keep it modest. If - Xenu willing - I'm here next year, I'll probably put more thought into the task.

So, here's

Roland's Random Lists of 2010:

Best books of 2010:

1. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Review)
There is absolutely no competition for my first place this year. Bacigalupi's environmental dystopia is easily one of the best books I've ever read, and I am happy it got all the acclaim it deserved. I am expecting great things from Bacigalupi, and can't wait to read his novella The Alchemist, if only to see what he would do when unleashed on the Fantasy field.

2. Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Review)
After the first slightly uncertain steps Tchaikovsky made in his debut novel Empire in Black and Gold (review here), the second book in his Shadows of the Apt series showed how grand his world really is, and how much more complex it will get in future novels. The totemic relationship between kindens and their insect avatars, as well as the steampunk elements make for one of the most original epic fantasy worlds in a long time. The fact that Tchaikovsky seems to be getting better with each new novel doesn't really hurt either.

3. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Review)
I honestly didn't know what to expect from Doctorow's dystopic YA tale when I started reading it. I am allergic to books that are too "savvy" when it comes to the techno-slang and online culture, but in this case the balance between that and actually good story-telling turned out to be so good that I instantly fell in love with the book.

4. Leviathan Wept and Other Stories by Daniel Abraham (Review)
Although slightly underwhelming - after the hype I'd been exposed to - Daniel Abraham's short story collection was among the events of 2010, and definitely shows an amazing storytelling potential. A name to pay attention to, without a shadow of doubt.

5. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (Review)
Although not the best of the series (that honor falls to Mistborn (review here, and here for The Well of Ascension)), The Hero of Ages was a great and mind-bogglingly epic conclusion to one of the best fantasy trilogies written in a long time. Sanderson's detractors keep pointing out his "shyness" when it comes to the topic of relationships and sex, as well as his two-dimensional characters, but in truth, the Mistborn series was almost a text-book example of how to do high fantasy without being numbingly cliche about it. And of course there is the gloriously good magic system(s) that seems to be Sanderson's trademark.

Author of 2010:

Brandon Sanderson
He may not be the brightest literary star in the fantasy genre (it's hard with competition such as George Martin, Gene Wolfe, Scott Bakker or Steven Erikson), but regardless of whether you're a fan or not, Sanderson's success can't be denied. 2010 saw the publication of three of his novels, and the guy doesn't seem to ease up or slip in terms of quality. To be as prolific and consistent is no small feat, and I believe it deserves recognition. As well as the fact that - my respects to both the late Robert Jordan and his most dedicated fans - he is single-handedly saving The Wheel of Time from an underwhelming and disappointing ending while writing with a speed three times that of its creator. So how was your 2010?

Biggest disappointment of 2010:

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (Review)
Yes, I know this book is on the top places in most other people's "best of" lists, and of course I'm not putting it in this category because I think it's bad. It just didn't connect with me in any conceivable way, and I felt it was completely unequal to the praise it got. And although Ian McDonald is obviously an amazingly talented writer, both this book and the 3/4 of Desolation Road that I read make me think that he just doesn't have the spark that makes the reader actually want to go on reading his work. Or at least he definitely doesn't have the spark that makes me want to...

Discovery of 2010:

Paolo Bacigalupi
There was a pretty big list of names to chose from, considering most of the writers I read this year I had no previous experience with. But Bacigalupi is easily the most promising of all of them, and I can't wait to read his next mature novel. Of course, my mild dislike of environmental themes might ultimately ruin the relationship, but so far it's all going so well...

Most underwhelming new voice of 2010:

Jon Sprunk
I feel slightly penisy for doing that, especially considering that Sprunk's Shadow's Son (review here) wasn't half-bad. Thing is, it was way, way, WAY too predictable and "by the numbers". I'd read it before. Many times. And in some cases more interestingly written. I guess that's the curse of the time we live in - you can only use the classical tropes if you are really amazing with them (Patrick Rothfuss), or if you introduce new elements (Adrian Tchaikovsky). And since Jon Sprunk did neither of those things, Shadow's Son read like something... tired. You don't want that from a debut novel. I am having my fingers crossed for the second part in the series to do better; I think Sprunk has the potential for that.

The books I'm most sorry I didn't get around to:

This is just a list of the titles I really wanted to check out, but couldn't read this year. There's no particular order to it.

Kraken by China Mieville
Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan
The Sorcerer's House by Gene Wolfe
Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham
The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
The Living Dead and The Living Dead 2 anthologies by John Joseph Adams
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Anything by Glen Cook, Michael Moorcock, Alastair Reynolds, Paul Kearney, K.J. Parker and Richard Morgan

Well, that's all folks. 2011 promises to be utterly amazing on the SFF front, and I hope I have more time to dedicate to that, as the amount of forthcoming books I HAVE TO read is slightly scary. But anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and I hope you didn't make any NY resolutions, as those are lame, but I also hope the year turns out to be all you're hoping it to be!

No comments:

Post a Comment