Best Reading of the Year 2011 (so far)September 25th, 2011 at 16:03
These are mine. It’s entirely personal, of course, and based what I’ve actually read (as opposed to the towering To Read pile that will one day cause me major injury) but given that I haven’t done nearly enough this year of reviewing the books I love, I think it’s worth doing.
A wonderful, wonderful book about the reading habits of young girls, with subtle magic and a fabulous theme of iconic SF books. At some point I hope I will write that essay I want to, about my lifelong relationship with Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and how that book trained me to get the most out of this one despite the fact that I’ve never read Delaney, Zelazny or more than two novels by Heinlein.
The Courier’s New Bicycle
Utterly crunchy genderqueer dystopian thriller-mystery with an androgynous protagonist, and a fascinating pretendy future Melbourne. Particularly interesting (and chilling) is the portrayal of a society embracing conservative politics in response to trauma and crisis.
Impressive debut novel – my favourite kind of fantasy, in that it’s about the professional lives of urbanites rather than anything involving bracken, horses or dwarves. It has a contemporary feel about it, and it is to the credit of the novel as well as the author that I spent most of the book trying to figure out for myself whether it was science fiction that feels like fantasy, or fantasy that feels like science fiction. The magic system (pions!) is rigorous and I love the application of it to architecture.
The third in a fantasy trilogy so good that I regularly pounce on people in the street, pressing battered paperbacks upon them. Like Jo’s work, this has a rigorous magic system, and I adore the use of the geography of the desert cities and dunes, the emphasis on politics, social lives and art alongside battles and other military detail, the subtle interweaving of gender issues in amongst the epic drama and the tight, fast-paced story. It’s just that good. If you haven’t read epic fantasy in a long time, or have wandered away from the genre, this is one worth coming back for.
The Business of Death
Another great third book of a trilogy, this time a Brisbane urban fantasy series with a blokey sensibility and a distinct, easy-to-read author voice. I love where Trent took this book, which is my favourite of the three, and the epic, utterly satisfying end (if it is an end) he wrote for Steve.
I am so bad with reading anthologies and collections this year! As in, seriously incompetent. I’m somewhere in the middle of about a dozen. But this one I not only read over two days (hooray for short, excellent books) but am still completely in love with. Sue builds a fascinating future Perth, brought to its knees by climate change and a population that has mostly abandoned the city, and tells its story through some quite intimate character explorations. The world has gone to hell, but it’s the personal tragedies and dramas – a girl betrayed by the woman she thinks of as a mother, a teenager desperate to access gender reassignment surgery, a lost treasure of a script that reminds them of a different time, a teacher worried what will happen to her students when she gets too old to be there for them – that Sue writes with such depth.
Catherynne M Valente
A powerful, mighty novel which takes the role of women from traditional folk tales and turns it upside and and inside out, not only inverting it but reinventing it. I admired the prose and the themes but was certain I wasn’t emotionally touched by this book until the last few chapters when it broke me, utterly. I’m still not sure I’ve put all the pieces back together. A masterwork by one of our great modern fantasists.
Keith Giffen & Judd Winick
Justice League: Generation Lost Volume One
A graphic novel (half of a mini-series of 12 titles) which made me unreasonably happy. All those mates of mine who came out of the woodwork since the last Galactic Suburbia to admit that they, too, belong to the secret fandom of Maxwell Lord, Blue Beetle, Fire and Ice, Booster Gold et al… you need this book. So very, very much. It’s what I wanted the new JLI #1 to be, and then some.
Only Ever Always
Gorgeous, intense YA that shows a deft hand at all manner of writing techniques, and pulls the reader in and out of suburban tragedy and a surreal otherworld.
A collection of Margo’s YA-friendly (well, in some cases not exactly FRIENDLY) stories, beautifully packaged. I’d read most of these before but it was a reprint collection I absolutely had to have! Probably one of the best introductions to her work, for those who haven’t yet made the step into Lanagan territory. Here be monsters.
I really enjoyed Karen’s first book, Guardian of the Dead, but I feel more emotionally connected to this one. The friendships at the core of the story are compelling and wonderful and so utterly lacking in the kind of teen cliches I’m used to seeing. So many issues addressed sensibly and sensitively here, including teen suicide, anxiety disorders, bullying, coming out to your family, and so on, and yet this never feels like an ‘issue book.’ It’s a rollicking, angsty adventure immersed in New Zealand culture, with a kick-ass climax.
Sarah Rees Brennan
The Demon’s Surrender
Another third book in a trilogy – a wonderful series that has gripped, amused and surprised me since it first came out. A sharp, clever example of how you can write a trilogy that is three complete, self contained novels with their own unique identities and protagonists, that is still better than the sum of its parts. I didn’t think I could love this book as much as its precedessors, or be as invested in its concerns and romance, but it far surpassed my expectations.
The rarest creature imaginable: a paranormal adventure set in my own home town of Hobart, Tasmania. Using were-versions of our most iconic native animals, the Tassie tiger and devils. Yes, really. It’s hard to believe that this is only Kate’s second published novel, and her first fantasy. She takes some great narrative risks with this novel, and it takes off.
Marianne de Pierres
a gorgeous gothy novel which does something very different with the vampire mythos. She sets up a city of clubbing and decadence, designed to feed the wildest desires of wild teenagers everywhere, then introduces a protagonist for whom that is basically the idea of hell. Very modern and of course, this being Marianne, there are SFnal elements hidden amongst the velvet, the cute boys and the bats.
Tags: catherynne m valente, glenda larke, jo anderton, jo walton, justice league, karen healey, kate gordon, margo lanagan, marianne de pierres, penni russon, reading, sarah rees brennan, Sue Isle, trent jamieson, year's best