Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year in Books: 2013

So, I read 65 books in 2013, all SF and fantasy. I kept track, because otherwise at the end of the year I only remember the last five or six that I finished recently. Actually, I read a few more—my count doesn’t include George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I began in the summer of 2012 and read mostly on my iPad while commuting by bus. I finished up A Dance with Dragons in July, and officially joined the throngs demanding: “Write faster, George R.R. Martin, write faster!”

The list of books doesn’t include those I started and decided not to finish. I’m not in graduate school anymore, and I don’t have to slog through novels that I don’t really like, darn it! I doubt if any of them were really bad—just not what I needed to be reading at the time.

To cite one example, I began Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys and got about a quarter of the way through before getting bored and frustrated with the protagonist (or one of them anyway) who was getting pushed around by his long-lost brother—they’re both sons of an incarnation of Anansi, the West African Spider god.

Neil Gaiman’s a fine writer, and it’s probably a good book, but I couldn’t see making my way through the whole novel to find out if the brother was ever actually going to grow a spine. (I can recommend Gaiman’s novel Neverwhere, by the way, which I read a couple of years ago. It has kind of a similar structure—wimpy protagonist is forced to eventually become a hero—but with more action and more interesting characters.)

The one book I read that wasn’t a novel was the biography Robert A Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, by William H. Patterson, Jr. It’s a very good look at the first half of the life of one of the 20th century’s most influential science fiction writers. I think Patterson oversells his case a little in the Forward as he tries to argue for Heinlein’s significance in American culture, and I could have stood to read a little less about Heinlein’s attempt at a political career in 1930s California, but aside from those minor quibbles, I found it an entertaining and informative work. I love reading biographies about writers.

Anyway, I’ll attach the complete list in a Page on the right. Here, I’ll just list my favorites. I used a highly rigorous five-star system that mostly consisted of: “Did I like this? Did I like it a lot? Did I really really like it A LOT?” In chronological order:

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold
The Apocalypse Codex, Charles Stross
The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M. Banks (final book)
Spin, Robert Charles Wilson
Fathom, Cherie Priest
Great North Road, Peter F. Hamilton
The Daedalus Incident, Michael J. Martinez
Gradisil, Adam Roberts
The Explorer, James Smythe
Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

I know, I know: I should probably broaden my reading a bit and occasionally open a book that doesn’t feature space travel, aliens, or magic. Maybe next year.

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