Monday, December 30, 2013

Ten Books I Really Liked in 2013

Some published this year, some older. In the order I read them. You can find my reviews of the last seven on Amazon in the unlikely event you want more commentary.

1. Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy: the perfect example of the pleasures of the predictable. You wouldn't think I'd like, let alone love, a period romance where the sassy heroine sweeps in and shocks but ultimately wins the love of the stodgy hero, but Heyer's witty prose is such a joy to read that I've since bought dozens more of her books.

2. M. Rickert, Holiday: dark, haunting modern fairy tales about guilt, despair, and other big emotions. It's hard to say whether Rickert's imagination or her understanding of human nature is the more impressive trait.

3. Nick Mamatas, Under My Roof: a genuinely intelligent and quite funny near-future political satire, with a telepathic preteen narrator. At this stage my memory of it is blurry (time to buy and reread), but I remember particularly liking its insight into the way mainstream society co-opts dissent.

4. Jake Arnott, The House of Rumour: a rich set of linked stories about mysticism, science fiction, and the dangerous power of belief. At once an exercise in stylistic breadth, a narrative puzzle box, and a study in the near-universal yearning for something larger than oneself.

5. Linda Nagata, The Red: First Light: military SF, but not at all what that phrase summons up. Well, maybe some of what it summons up: taut first-person narration and some gripping action, but with a set of political assumptions opposite from what the subgenre typically involves. A smart but accessible book; I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

6. Patricio Pron, My Fathers' Ghost is Climbing in the Rain: an exploration of the mystery that is the life of one's parents, and also a call for Argentina to come to terms with its recent past. A compelling read, and an important novel.

7. Derek B. Miller, Norwegian by Night: an off-kilter crime novel that weaves its larger ethical questions into a narrative that, in its combination of elegaic melancholy and unexpected humor, captures the wonderful, terrible experience of living in the shadow of recent history.

8. Matt Bell, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods: the best kind of mythic fiction: it echoes recognizable human dramas without reducing the strange grandeur of fantastic storytelling to pinched symbolism.

9. Margaret Atwood, MaddAddam: confronts large questions about what it means to be human, the cost of intelligence, and the nature of social evolution in a way that's neither reductive nor ponderous. Able to satirize corporate excess and touchy-feely ecoreligion without abandoning wide-ranging sympathy.

10. Hanya Yanagihara, The People in the Trees: that rarity of rarities: a novel that balances weighty political and ethical themes and powerful character study, and does so without making either element unbearably overt. Colonialism, scientific ethics, and unreliable narration. Great science fiction, in the broader sense of that term.

For a list of everything I read this year, click here.

I've neglected this blog in 2012 and particularly 2013, but I hope to pay much more attention to it in 2014. Look for a review of Reggie Oliver's latest collection soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment