Archive for January, 2012

2012 Family Portrait (Family)

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

2012 Family Portrait

Date: March 25, 2012 12:50

SFBC Malazan bindings

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

SFBC Malazan bindings

SFBC Malazan spines

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

SFBC Malazan spines

SFBC Toll the Hounds pages

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

SFBC Toll the Hounds pages

SFBC Deadhouse Gates closeup

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

SFBC Deadhouse Gates closeup

Date: January 18, 2012 23:03

SFBC Deadhouse Gates pages

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

SFBC Deadhouse Gates pages

The 2011 Salty Awards!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Welcome to the first annual Salty Awards! I liked how last year’s “Best of 2010″ post turned out, so that’ll pretty much be the template for these awards. The main difference being, I’ve got a shiny new trophy now! Like last year’s Best Ofs, this is stuff that wasn’t necessarily published in 2011, just what I read the past year. And first reads only; re-reads don’t count. (Here’s a link to my 2011 reading list for reference.)


Statistics

First off, let’s start with some numbers, because who doesn’t love numbers?

Total books read: 51
Re-reads: 7
Non-series reads: 14
Nonfiction reads: 1
Novels by female authors: 3
Short story collections: 9
Reads that were also acquired in 2011: 21
Borrowed (unowned): 10

Interesting stuff, maybe, but not the real reason you’re here. Without further ado:


Best Short Story Collection 2011:

Runners-up:

5. Side Jobs by Jim Butcher
In the first half of 2010, I tore through the entirety of Jim Butcher’s fantastic Dresden Files series. I had to wait until fall of 2011 for the next installment, and decided to check out this short story collection (that I had skipped out on previously) in the meantime, particularly since it contained a story that took place between the previous book and the upcoming one. I’m glad I did, because Dresden shines in the short story format, and it was fun to read about the “side jobs” that take place before and between the books of the series. “The Warrior” might be my favorite Dresden story of all time.

4. Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds
The Revelation Space universe is an amazing place, and a large part of what gives it its charm is the sense of history with which Reynolds has imbued his books. This collection is a bit of an eye-opener in when you get to see just what the scope of his created fictional history is. Copious references to characters and events from his series make these stories mesh perfectly with those books, and perhaps the most impressive part is that main of them were written before the books. Beyond that, though, this is still a solid collection of awesome sci-fi stories.

2. (tie) Storeys from the Old Hotel and Strange Travelers by Gene Wolfe
I chickened out and put both these books in a tie for second place. You know I love me some Gene Wolfe, and ranking two superb collections by a favorite author is always hard, but beyond that, each collection showcases a different form: Travelers features a number of Wolfe’s longer-form stories, 15 in all, while Storeys tackles the shorter form, with over 30 inclusions. They’re two totally different animals, but at the same time, they’re both totally Gene Wolfe. It’s like picking your favorite child (and sure, you might actually have one, but you’ll never tell!)


And the best short story collection I read in 2011 is…

1. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
I adore Gene Wolfe (see above) and one of his largest influences is the Argentinian author Borges. Allusions to Borges’ work abound in Wolfe’s, and I had recently read The Shadow of the Wind which had its own share of Borgesian elements, so I knew I had to eventually get around to reading the original. Holy wow. It’s easy to see the parallels between Wolfe and Borges; Borges is what you might get if you took Wolfe and removed all the sci-fi and fantastical elements, stripped it down to the raw, crystallized ideas. And concentrated it. Mind-blowing stuff, is what it is. “The Garden of Forking Paths” is one of my favorite stories ever.


Best Comic Book 2011:


This might be a one-off category for this year, but I read a fair number of comic book collections, mostly thanks to Half Price Books. There were three worth singling out, and they are…

Runners-up:

3. Last Stand of the Wreckers by Nick Roche & James Roberts
This series had been hyped beyond all belief by the Transformers fanbase, so I was excited to finally lay my hands on a cheap copy of the trade paperback. It did not disappoint. This is the kind of book that shows just how great this franchise can be when put in the hands of people who really care about and understand it. It takes place in IDW’s current series continuity, but besides a couple of scenes, it’s entirely self-contained, and it draws heavily on obscure characters from all throughout franchise history, meaning you don’t have to be familiar with them to enjoy this book. If you’re a hardcore fan, or just interested in seeing how good TF storytelling can get, you need to pick up this book. Besides the original 5-issue series, the trade paperback also collects a related prose story by Roberts titled “Bullets” that’s just icing on the cake.

2. Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher & Ardian Syaf
In the introduction to the graphic novel edition, Butcher explains that when writing the Dresden Files novels, he always pictured them in his mind as comic books. Which goes a long way toward explaining why this 4-issue original prequel series feels just like reading one of the novels. It’s pure unadulterated Dresden goodness, with all the trademark wit, magic, and monsters you’ve come to expect. And Ardian Syaf’s artwork is perfect: comic booky without being overly cartoony, and his characters—especially Harry Dresden himself—are spot-on.


And the best comic book I read in 2011 is…

1. Echo by Terry Moore
I have Tor.com and Stephen Aryan to thank for this one. After his write-up of this series, I just had to check it out, and was able to find 4 of the 6 available collections for cheap on eBay. Later I sold them and sprung for the Complete Edition containing all 30 issues, and let me tell you that is a beast of a book. And it’s amazing. Moore’s black-and-white artwork is gorgeous, his characters—their personalities and expressions and interactions—all fully realized, and he still manages to throw a bunch of slam-bang action into the mix. Almost impossible to put down.


Best Novel 2011:


Man oh man oh man this was tough; I read a lot of really good books this past year. (Titles link to my reviews.)

Runners-up:

5. The Crippled God by Steven Erikson
This was the big one, the final volume in the 10-book Malazan Book of the Fallen, perhaps the most ambitious fantasy series ever attempted, and the series responsible for my participation in various book cataloging sites and online forums, and thus also for my reading habits for the past half-decade. In those 5 years I’d read all of the previous books, re-read most of them, and discussed them all ad nauseum, and this capped it all off. It was exhilarating and bittersweet at the same time, bringing the decalogy full circle and tying (most) things up eventfully, emotionally, and thematically. It wasn’t perfect, but then, that’s fitting, too.

4. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
This was on my “I really need to read books by this guy” list, and I finally picked it up over Christmas of 2009. I haven’t read any Heinlein—outside the fairly crappy The Cat Who Walks Through Walls but people compare this book to Heinlein’s work a lot. It reminded me a lot of Card’s Ender’s Game, but mostly in a “sci-fi you’d recommend to a friend whose never read sci-fi before” way. The first-person narrative is fabulous, hilarious, and moving, and the action is gritty and frantic and very very real. All around, a very enjoyable, very human book.

3. Peace by Gene Wolfe
Yes, I love Gene Wolfe. Shut up. It feels weird to write a book review that basically goes, “I don’t understand this book, but I love it.” So it is with this one. A book of Midwestern memoirs doesn’t seem like it would be my thing, but Wolfe’s writing is so gorgeous, so eminently readable, but also quite haunting; and the sinister undercurrents that never quite reveal their true nature (at least on a first read) make this an absolutely fascinating book.

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Scott recommended this one to me as his favorite book, and I trust his judgement, and hey, I found it for $2, too. It’s worth the cover price, though; this is one lush and luscious novel full of romance and mystery (and a tinge of horror) and absolutely dripping with atmosphere. It’s a book for book lovers, and for lovers of fine storytelling in general.


And the best novel I read in 2011 is…

1. Embassytown by China Miéville
Like Scalzi, I had never read any of Miéville’s work before, but that changed when I won a review copy of his upcoming Embassytown. Talk about being blown away; this book was amazing. All of my favorite sci-fi elements were present: well-developed, alien aliens, cultural clashes, intrigue, mystery, unconventional narrative structure, jaw-dropping revelations, and plenty of Big Ideas and musings on the nature of language and thought. I read a lot of reviews that basically gave it a thumbs-down, and I it’s like I can’t even decipher the words being written; it makes no sense at all to me. This was easily the best book of 2011, and one of the best books I’ve had the pleasure of reading, period.

Honorable mentions: Dissolution by C. J. Sansom, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, The Breach by Patrick Lee, Reamde by Neal Stephenson


Reading Plans for 2012

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

In the next week or so, I’ll be writing up the first annual Salty Awards, looking back at my favorite reads of 2011, but right now I want to take a second to look forward to 2012.

My plans for 2011 didn’t entirely pan out, but that won’t stop me from making plans for the coming year! I’m scaling back considerably, with only four planned projects to tackle, but they’re not necessarily unambitious:

Gene Wolfe’s Solar Cycle

Since 2008, I’ve spent every December reading Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, and this year is no different. I’m currently halfway through book #2, The Claw of the Conciliator, but I don’t plan on stopping with the BotNS this year; rather, I’ll also be reading the related Book of the Long Sun (4 volumes that I’ve read once before) and Book of the Short Sun (3 volumes that I’ve yet to read) as well as various related short stories. The full list (in my planned order, the order of shorter works subject to change) goes like this:

  • The Book of the New Sun
    • The Shadow of the Torturer
    • The Claw of the Conciliator
    • The Sword of the Lictor
    • The Citadel of the Autarch
  • “The Map” (short story in Endangered Species)
  • “The Cat” (short story in Endangered Species)
  • The Urth of the New Sun
  • “The Boy Who Hooked the Sun” (short story in Starwater Strains)
  • “The God and His Man” (short story in Endangered Species)
  • “Empires of Foliage and Flower” (novella in Starwater Strains)
  • “The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin is the Sun” (short story in Innocents Aboard)
  • The Book of the Long Sun
    • Nightside the Long Sun
    • Lake of the Long Sun
    • Caldé of the Long Sun
    • Exodus from the Long Sun
  • The Book of the Short Sun
    • On Blue’s Waters
    • In Green’s Jungles
    • Return to the Whorl

Tolkien’s Middle Earth

I’ve read The Hobbit and the The Lord of the Rings twice; the last time was about 10-12 years ago, and the first was about 10-12 years before that (I figure I was 10-12 at the time) so a reread this years seems in order. But I’ll be also be throwing in some of the ancillary material that I’ve never read before. I’m actually pretty excited about this one:

  • The Children of Húrin
  • The Silmarillion
  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings
    • The Fellowship of the Ring
    • The Two Towers
    • The Return of the King
  • Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth

That Dang Song of Ice and Fire

I’ve slowly been accumulating George R. R. Martin’s infamous series from used bookstores over the years, and have really wanted to get into them, but I also refused to start in until the most recent volume had been published. It will (presumably) be out in mass market paperback later this year, which will be the perfect time to dive in.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • A Game of Thrones
    • A Clash of Kings
    • A Storm of Swords
    • A Feast for Crows
    • A Dance With Dragons

Mistborn!

My wife has been on my case to read Brandon Sanderson’s acclaimed trilogy for a while, now. I keep telling her I’ll get to it next year. Now it’s in writing! I may as well stick the standalone sequel on as well.

  • Mistborn
    • The Final Empire
    • The Well of Ascension
    • The Hero of Ages
  • The Alloy of Law

Well, what do you think? Have I once more bitten off more than I can chew?

2012 Reading List

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

Books read in 2012, listed by month finished. As always, you can follow along with my reading journal @ LibraryThing, where you can also see my complete reading list, or just my 2012 reads.

January

The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
Deep Sky by Patrick Lee
The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe
The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson

February

Magic: The Gathering: Test of Metal by Matthew Stover
The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe
Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson
When She’s Gone by Steven Erikson

March

The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Endangered Species by Gene Wolfe
The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

April

Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover
Caine’s Law by Matthew Stover
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany
John Dies at the End by David Wong

May

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards
Star Wars: Cloak of Deception by James Luceno
The Children of Húrin by J. R. R. Tolkien

June

The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tales from Super-Science Fiction ed. by Robert Silverberg
The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson
Orb Sceptre Throne by Ian C. Esslemont

July

Crack’d Pot Trail by Steven Erikson

August

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Transformers Legends ed. by David Cian
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
The Keep by F. Paul Wilson

September

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Ghost Ocean by S. M. Peters

October

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson
The Tainted City by Courtney Schafer
Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson
A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

November

This Book is Full of Spiders by David Wong
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

December

Vale of Stars by Sean O’Brien
The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock
The Sundered Worlds by Michael Moorcock
Phoenix in Obsidian by Michael Moorcock