Date:

January 12th, 2008

12 Jan 2008, by

Reading Rainbow

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the year, Volume 1 by Jonathan Strahan. (40) [specfic, anthology]. I checked a raft of anthologies out from the library and they’ve slowed my reading speed down considerably. I didn’t read Gaiman’s “How To Talk to Girls At Parties” because I’d read it so recently, but otherwise I read everything else in there. This volume started out strong and ended weak. I loved, loved, loved the Cory Doctorow story “I, Rowboat”. So clever and funny and even kind of heartbreaking. Just wonderful. I loved the term “uplifted” for sentient ais, with all its spiritual resonance. Great stuff. I really liked the Beagle story too, even though it was a little treacly. Very nicely done treacle, mind you. I also loved Klages’ “In The House Of The Seven Librarians” but I’m sure this surprises no one. A story about libraries? Sign me up! I liked the Christopher Rowe story, but. But my standards are too high, I guess. It wasn’t nearly as emotionally involving as “The Voluntary State” which I love to pieces and unfortunately for Rowe is my measure for him. So yeah, from anyone else that might have been a good story but I demand more, better from Rowe. I liked the Margo Lanagan story, and it had a hard row to hoe because usually stories about the afterlife make my eyes roll like a roly poly on a slide. “Incarnation Day” was awesome, and Walter Jon Williams isn’t a name that I associate with any other stories so he’ll go in my list of authors to keep my eyes peeled for. Benjamin Rosenbaum was twice represented in this volume, and I have loved several stories by him (most notably “Start The Clock” which is crammed full of cool), and I really liked “A Siege of Cranes” but “The House Beyond Your Sky” was just ok (I re-read it, even though I’d recently heard it on Escape Pod, because I wanted to see the words). Also, I will admit to being dissatisfied with the neatness of the final plot resolution in “A Siege of Cranes” but the rest of the world-building more than compensates. Still digging Jeffrey Ford’s style. He really works around my prejudices. I always start one of his stories thinking, “I won’t like this”, and always end up amazed at what he’s done. He’s a truly gifted storyteller, reminds me of R.A. Lafferty. “Cartesian Theater” by Robert Charles Wilson was very nice thank you more of this, please. Also acceptable were “Halfway House”, “Yellow Card Man” and “PolPot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy)”. I have a confession to make about Jay Lake, though. I want to love his stories, and I only just like them ok. I haven’t found the Jay Lake story that has totally blown me away, pried open my head and turned it around. I think I want to like his stuff so much because he addresses politics, which I very much admire, but although I tap my foot to the rhythm of the story he’s never made me get up and dance. I read “Eight Episodes” again (even though I’d heard it on Escape Pod) and I didn’t like it any better the second time around. “Journey Into The Kingdom” had really good atmosphere (Rickert almost always conveys great atmospheres) but the story itself left me cold. Elizabeth Hand is still not working for me. There’s something fundamental about her short stories that comes off as distant and uninvolved and I can’t work around it. I always read her stuff, thinking “This will be the one that speaks to me”, but I haven’t yet found the one that does. It probably goes without saying that I loved the Kelly Link story, though I was seriously trouble by the word “Perfil”. I kept auto-translating it, and then telling myself it was probably meant to be accented on the first syllable in English, and saying it twenty different ways in my head. At every instance. Reader flaw, I’m sure. Loved the Connie Willis story to pieces, and surprised myself for loving it. Really fun reading. “Femaville 29”, “Sob in the Silence”, “The House Beyond Your Sky” and “The Djinn’s Wife” were the four closing stories, and – to me – they were all disappointments. Especially disappointing was the Gene Wolfe story, because I’m such a Gene Wolfe fangirl. Read in October 2007.

The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold. (41) [specfic]. From the library you came, to the library you returned. I love Bujold. I scarfed this one down over a couple of days. Such fun reading. And there’s an opening for more in the same world. Read in October 2007.

Year’s Best Fantasy 7 edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. (42) [specfic, anthology]. From the library. The best story in this collection was, hands down, Laird Barron’s “Hallucigenia”. Man. That story has teeth, I tell you. Other very good selections were “The Osteomancer’s Son”, “Sea Air”, and “I’ll Give You My Word”. Somewhat uncertain of what it’s trying to tell me were “Yours, etc”, “Bea and her Bird Brother”, and “Christmas Witch”, though there was something to like in all of those and they were all well-executed. “Christmas Witch” in particular is a story I might like to re-read, and which has engaged me on a deeper level than some of Rickert’s other work. Utterly forgettable were “Four Fables”, the Moorcock story (was he this bad when I read him in high school and I just didn’t notice? I thought Elric was so cool.), and “Show Me Yours”. As to “Thin On the Ground” I want a moratorium on stories in which bad Spanish appears, especially in the mouths of supposedly native, spanish-speaking characters. I forgive Bradbury when he does it because we go way back, but no one else gets a pass. Poorly translated Spanish makes Anarkey cry, and no one wants a tearful Anarkey. Also in this volume, the award for story I was rewriting sentence by sentence as I read it goes to Sharon Shinn, whose “The Double-Edged Sword” had me wincing more often than engaged. “Ghost Mission” was superficially enjoyable if a little too heavily reliant on trope and stereotype to truly qualify as a “year’s best”. Stories that had moments but didn’t totally win me over: “The Lepidopterist”, “Build-a-Bear”, and “The Bonny Boy”. Finished in either late October or early November.

Jumper by Steven Gould. (43) [specfic, YA]. I acquired this secondhand. I have been meaning to read this book since I went to VP in 2005. I’m kind of glad I didn’t read it before I went. It’s got a driving and interesting plot, and the gimmick is cool enough (they’re making a movie about it now) but it tends a little toward wish-fulfillment for my tastes. I also thought the sentence level work left a lot to be desired. I’m on the fence about reading the sequel. Finished on 11/09/07.

Freedom’s Apprentice by Naomi Kritzer. (44) [specfic]. Just because you can see how the blocks are stacked, doesn’t mean it’s not fun when the tower tips over. This was engaging reading. I really liked how the series got more woman-centered as it progressed, too. Finished on 11/20/07.

Freedom’s Sisters by Naomi Kritzer. (45) [specfic]. Raced through this one. Lots of action. Satisfying conclusions. Possibly not high art, but definitely a good time. Finished on 11/21/07.

The October Country by Ray Bradbury. (46) [specfic, re-read]. I own a battered copy of this book which I bought secondhand. This took me forever to read, because I couldn’t remember all the stories, and there were some that were just dreadful. This time, I marked the TOC, so the next time I go through it I know which ones to skip (looking at you “The Next in Line” and “The Watchful Poker Chip of H. Matisse” which only has title going for it). Yes, I’m finally over the don’t mark up books thing, I think. Finished on 11/22/07.

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. (47) [specfic]. I own this book, bought it secondhand one day when I was trying to find Dhalgren in a used bookstore. Great deal of fun, but some of the plot seemed a little strange to me, like it didn’t quite hold together as much as it should have, especially the relationship aspect. A little literalist on the interpretation of Sapir-Whorf too, but that part was an interesting gedanken experiment. Finished late November or early December of 2007.

Planetes (all five volumes) by Makoto Yukimura. (48-52) [graphic novel, specfic]. We own these. I finally, finally got around to reading the whole Planetes series. I started off by re-reading the first book. This was a really good set of books with some wonderful moments and really interesting nitty gritty space travel stuff. Unfortunately, the work didn’t hold together for me as a whole, just in flashes and moments. The characters I was most interested in were less-developed than the characters that really bugged me and I had trouble with that. Still, definitely worth reading. Finished on 12/30/07

And that’s my booklist for 2007. I made it! 52 books this year! Although, to be fair, I panicked in the last week, and realized that Vellum was becoming a real slog for me, so I paused it and went for something I knew I could get through rather quickly. I wanted to make the goal. Was it cheating? Maybe, but I count it a win anyway.

I really thought, at one point, that I was going to be well above 52, but I blame my end of the year slowdown primarily on the anthologies. I read half of Dozois’ Year’s Best and that always takes me several weeks and then had to return it before I could finish it and count it on the list. Still, I’m halfway there for when I check it out again, so I gave myself a leg up this year. I also spent a lot of time reading online fiction for a couple weeks there, following up on recommendations I found in this thread about great short fiction. Sadly, most of what I tracked down to read wasn’t as great as I had hoped, or I had already read it. One standout gem from that list was Paul Tremblay’s “The Teacher“. The result of the conversation on that thread led me to the conclusion that this business of greatness overlaps a great deal with personal taste.

I’ve finished my first book of 2008, and it’s the aforementioned Vellum, but I think I’ll give it its own post a little later…and maybe even a mini-review. We shall see. That makes me already behind for 2008, since we’re in the second week, and I’ve only read one book so far.

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