Alright, enough discussing issues of meta-importance or older books; time to talk about some contemporary works. I’m not quite sure how it’s suddenly got to be halfway through 2009 – Christmas was only last month, right? – but I thought I should start recording stuff I’ve read this year that I’ve enjoyed. For the purposes of this post, I’m restricting that to novels of the fantastic published this year. Some lists:
Novels I’ve read that I was impressed by:
- Chris Beckett, Marcher. Very political near-future sf, and therefore not a bundle of laughs. But sensitively written, thoughtful, and not a million miles from the work of, say, Paolo Bacigalupi.
- Lev Grossman, The Magicians. Only out in the UK so far, so I won’t spoil; but an enormously skillful and knowing fantasy. Maybe knowing to a fault, but still a hugely enjoyable read.
- Toby Litt, Journey into Space. A controversial book: Ursula le Guin was very negative about it, but others have expressed more positive views. Much as I admire Ms Le Guin’s writing, I come down in the “pro” camp too. Although there’s some over-writing (and one ten-page risky passage that just doesn’t come off), the story of a generation starship civilisation building up its myths is compelling and accelerates nicely towards the end.
- China Mieville, The City and The City. I have some trouble with the book – chiefly, I think there’s a problem of gearing between the noir story and the concept it reveals – but there’s so much in here that absolutely stunning: the evocation of Eastern Europe, the superb readability, the central idea and its implications.
- Adam Roberts, Yellow Blue Tibia. May be the book in which Roberts has so far best managed to balance his love of sf-as-high-concept-literature with a story that he’s engaged in.
- Catherynne M Valente, Palimpsest. To my taste, pretty much the book of the year so far. Estranging, evocative, beautifully written.
- Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock. Only just finished, though I had a headstart having read the earlier PS Publishing novella Julian: A Christmas Story. Very different from the Spin books, though no less (awful term) a novel of ideas.
Novels I haven’t read that sound good:
- C.C. Finlay, The Patriot Witch (via Rich Horton)
- Felix Gilman, The Gears of the City
- Jay Lake, Green
- David Marusek, Mind Over Ship
- Patrick Ness, The Ask and the Answer
- Kari Sperring, Living With Ghosts
- Bruce Sterling, The Caryatids
- Greg van Eekhout, Norse Code
- Jo Walton, Lifelode
- Sarah Waters, The Little Friend
- Kit Whitfield, In Great Waters
Novels that sound interesting but aren’t out yet:
- Iain Banks, Transition
- Stephen Baxter, Ark
- Rana Dasgupta, Solo
- Cory Doctorow, Makers
- Greer Gilman, Cloud and Ashes
- Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim
- Ken Macleod, The Restoration Game
- Paul Mcauley, Gardens of the Sun
- Nelida Pinon, Voices of the Desert
- Cherie Priest, Boneshaker
- Kim Stanley Robinson, Galileo’s Dream
- Peter Straub, The Skylark
- Jeff VanderMeer, Finch
I should also say that I’m currently reading John Crowley’s Four Freedoms. It’s as wonderfully written and moving as you’d expect from Crowley, but I can’t (yet) find any way in which it’s fantastic. And while I’ll definitely be getting Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice when it comes out, the blurb suggests it’ll be less sf-nal than Against the Day.
So, with those caveats, please use the comments to tell me what I’m missing from these lists. Obvious note I: I’m not omniscient, and have almost certainly missed good books. Obvious note II: these lists do not represent Official Locus Anything. Obvious note III: please try to keep any recommendations spoiler-free. As I say, we’re talking about novels of the fantastic published so far in 2009. (If we were talking about collections, I’d go on for 5000 words again about The Best of Gene Wolfe; and I’m sure no-one wants that….)
ETA: I knew I’d forget some things. Additions to the lists above are in green.