After 47 books reviewed (including unreviews) on Next Read it’s that time again to look back and present my selection of the books of the year.
This year I’m biting the bullet and making a Top Ten as well as making some other awards like I did last year. I made a mid-year post called Year Review: Halfway in July and three of my choices make the Top Ten but where to they come?
The Reads are the books that have most effected me, have stuck with me and that I’ve enjoyed this year with all bar one first published in 2009.
Without further ado here, in reverse order, are:
The Reads Top Ten 2009
This isn’t perfect but what grabbed me was Berry’s attempt to mirror a handbook’s contents with chapters in a novel. He creates a strange little world which is stylised and does feel artificial but not false. There is a good mystery element that keeps both the reader and the main character, Charles Unwin, moving along trying to figure out why his boss, Travis Sivart, a detective at the agency where Unwin works, has mysteriously vanished.
If you have ever had a boring office job have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk into your office one day to find out that your life isn’t as it seems? That’s just what Henry Lamb does. He has to save the world. And it seems that the Queen is keeping secrets. Barnes tells a world altering event through the eyes of the key people that make it happen without limiting the scale or the scariness.
I’ll admit this book is here because while reading it it crept into my consciousness and caused a certain level of paranoia. Williams shows how reality and online role play, that is quickly becoming some quasi-reality, can merge and combine. The events of ARG – Alternate Reality Game – has no boundaries and that seems to include figuring out how to extract people from a coup d’état when the US government can’t and finding a murderer. A dangerous game all round.
This is book five and the penultimate book in current adventure of Felix Castor. And his worse nightmare has come to pass. This isn’t a stand alone book and can’t be. The routines, for the main cast that Carey has set up, has been set aside as each is placed outside their comfort zones. The balance of the world is finally twisting away. Human’s are loosing against the ghosts, demons, and zombies that has been slowly rising in the world over the last few years. I really can’t wait for the next one.
Gary Gibson is one of this years finds for me and along with someone later in the list has reminded me what I’ve been missing in science fiction. This continues straight from Stealing Light but manages to immediately to expand the scope of the story and it’s characters. Nova War only cements the fact that Gibson has a devious imagination, a sense of bigger picture and a more twists than a corkscrew.
This is one of those surprising reads that occasionally happens when books drop through the door. Vargas brand of crime relies, from what I’ve seen, on slight of hand. All the clues are there but the penny doesn’t seem to drop until Vargas wants it to. She centres this story about a small group of people that have more links than you first imagine. This is the first appearance of detective Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg although, strangely, it’s not his first appearance in the UK. And is a wonderful introduction to both Adamsberg’s unique brand of detection and Vargas’s own way of storytelling.
4) Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett*
I’ve been a Pratchett fan since I got hooked on this reading lark and I credit him and his Witches Trilogy on getting me hooked but I haven’t read an adult Pratchett since the Night Watch in 2003 though I read everyone one up until then. I have been enjoying his Tiffany Aching YA series in the gap. I’m a big Witches fan. If one thing can attract me back it’s the Wizards rather than the football. I’d forgotten how intelligent, funny, and enjoyable he can be. And 2010 I’m going to fill in the gap and read Monstrous Regiment, Going Postal, Thud, and Making Money.
I’ve decided this is my ideal form of a short story collection. Like A Touch of Dead (but in a completely differently league) This collects together stories set in the Polity universe. I found it a wonderful introduction to both Neal Asher and the Polity. I am now a firm fan of Gabbleducks and think that you should be too.
2) Hell’s Belles by Paul Magrs *
Paul Magrs’ Effie & Brenda Mysteries have been a real joy to read. I read the first, Never the Bride, in October 2007 and stupidly waited 2 years before reading another. Hell’s Belles is the fourth and most ambitious so far. Not only to we get to see events from a slightly outsiders view. Whitby comes under the spell of someone who isn’t Mrs Claus, who we also get to know better and see another different aspect to. That woman is full of surprises. But the two main characters. Effie, who has magic running through her family and Brenda, who is so much more than the sum of her parts, make this worth reading. I’d read their next adventure in an instant.
I had to force myself to read the 877 pages that is Stephen Kings latest epic and I’m so glad I did. A dome gruesomely cuts off the town of Chester’s Mill and it’s not long before all hell breaks loose. I don’t mean supernatural hell though there is a touch of otherness throughout. It’s the people that turn it into hell and you’ll be shocked and saddened by Kings looking-glass inspection of human nature. Thankfully there are people who try their best to intervene. But you’ll need to read it to see if they manage to save themselves. I was truly blown away by the scope and scale that this tale brings. It’s going to be very hard for King to come close to this again for a long time.
And there you have it. My top reads of 2010 but I can’t leave it there. There are some more books that deserve a special mention:
Griffin really challenged the idea of Urban Fantasy. Madness is chaotic and amazing though it didn’t quite beat those in the top ten. I am very much looking forward to Midnight Mayor and taking Griffin’s hand through another adventure in her unique and magical version of the unseen places in London.
This is a book that I purposely didn’t include in my top ten. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed reading it, Newton has a great story to tell and has a strong imagination that makes a textured and colourful read. But it is a debut novel and as such serves as an introduction to him and his writing. I just feel that Nights showed that he’s got a lot of potential and I couldn’t help feeling that this is just the beginning. I have high hopes for City of Ruin.
I’m cheating slightly as I didn’t directly review this on NextRead but as my first official guest review for the prolific and amazing Book Smugglers. I couldn’t have an end of year post without remarking on it. Now here is a book that deserves the world classic. The wood that surrounds an isolated house contains a world within a world within a world. Robert Holdstock takes fantasy back to it’s roots combining myth and love and madness making a wholly enchanting tale. A true classic in every sense of the word.
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
I’ve read more books in this series than any other this year. Jim Butcher has come up with a character, setting and story that has so many possibilities. It allows him to keep Harry Dresden going from case to case saving himself and others over and over again. I’m trying to finish Turn Coat before the end of the year (not going to make it though) and that brings me up to do date until Changes is released. It’s a comfort read because there is a a rhythm and a pattern to them. Not formulaic as Butcher has lots of twists and turns and surprises but I know I’m going to like them as I love the cast he uses. A wonderful series.
And I don’t like leaving on a bad note so I’m going to leave you with just a link to my:
Most Disappointing Read
Twelve by Jasper Kent