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Friday, January 16, 2009

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Liviu C. Suciu


2008 has been a great year in reading for me. Robert introduced me to
Goodreads which became an invaluable tool for me to catalog and mini-review the books I read or tried to, so the full list of books is there. Of the roughly 230 total novels/collections read in 2008, about half are 2008 releases and 10 or so are 2009 releases. The highlights are below.

Top 2008 Science Fiction Books—Finished 78 novels/collections (55/2008 and 2/2009):

1)Anathem" by
Neal Stephenson. A once in a decade novel for me, the essence of sf. Reviewed HERE.
2)Spirit: The Princess of Bois Dormant” by
Gwyneth Jones. Count(ess) of Monte-Cristo in space. Reviewed HERE.
3) By Schism Rent Asunder” by
David Weber. Epic fantasy with an AI wizard. Reviewed HERE.
4)The Quiet War” by
Paul McAuley. Solar system space opera with a hard sf tinge. Reviewed HERE.
5)The Temporal Void” by
Peter F. Hamilton. Urban fantasy within a space opera setting. Reviewed HERE.

Books that would have made my Top 5 in other years, in no particular order:

House of Suns” by
Alastair Reynolds. “No ftl” space opera spanning millenniums and the Galaxy. Reviewed HERE.
Line War” by
Neal Asher. Superb ending to the Ian Cormac Polity sequence. Reviewed HERE.
Incandescence“ by
Greg Egan. Popular General Relativity: the novelization.
The Martian General's Daughter” by
Theodore Judson. The Fall of the Roman Empire: novelization in space. Reviewed HERE.
Galactic Empires” by
Gardner R. Dozois. Best novella anthology in a long time.
Swiftly” by
Adam Roberts. Gulliver's fantastic creatures coming to England and France.
MultiReal” by
David Louis Edelman. The Matrix as sold by Donald Trump. Reviewed HERE.
Principles of Angels” by
Jaine Fenn. Angels and killers on an orbital, Reviewed HERE.
The January Dancer” by
Michael Flynn. Artifact moves people around. Reviewed HERE.
Implied Spaces” by
Walter Jon Williams. Swords and wormholes. Reviewed HERE.
The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann. Sir Maurice Newbury super steampunk agent. Reviewed
Winterstrike” by
Liz Williams. Mothers, daughters, unsuitable males on future Mars and Earth. Reviewed HERE.
Chaos Space” by
Marianne de Pierres. “God” causes mischief. Reviewed HERE.

Top 2008 Fantasy Books—Finished 65 novels/collections (32/2008 and 5/2009):

1)Caine Black Knife” by
Matthew Stover. Caine as a promising young star and his life 25 years later. Reviewed HERE.
2) Night Angel Trilogy by
Brent Weeks. Individually, none of the books would make it in my Top 5, but as a whole it’s the best debut trilogy since Joe Abercrombie’s the First Law. "The Way of Shadows" reviewed HERE.
3)The Engine's Child” by
Holly Phillips. Most surprisingly superb genre novel for me; magical engineer girl lies, builds, loves. Reviewed HERE.
4) Thunderer” by
Felix Gilman. Music, gods, strange city, flying sea vessel. Reviewed HERE.
5)The Kingdom Beyond the Waves” by
Stephen Hunt. A sense of wonder adventure sf as epic fantasy. Reviewed HERE.

Books that would have made my Top 5 in other years, in no particular order:

The Red Wolf Conspiracy” by
Robert V.S. Redick. Inventive, fun and showing great promise. Reviewed HERE.
Last Argument Of Kings” by
Joe Abercrombie. Superb ending to one of the best fantasy trilogies I have ever read.
The Alchemy Of Stone” by
Ekaterina Sedia. Mechanical girl with a windup heart shows more soul than flesh and blood humans. Reviewed HERE.
Empire in Black and Gold” by
Adrian Tchaikovsky. Insect-kinden humans intrigue, fight, love and invent things. Reviewed HERE.
The Ten Thousand” by
Paul Kearney. Anabasis in space as epic fantasy. Reviewed HERE.
The Magicians and Mrs. Quent” by
Galen Beckett. Is it Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte with magic? Reviewed HERE.
The Painted Man” by
Peter V. Brett. Demons, glyphs and tattoos. Reviewed HERE.
Deep Water” by
Pamela Freeman. Magic, racism and historical revisionism. Reviewed HERE.
The Immortal Prince” by
Jennifer Fallon. Magic-less immortal wants to die, but finds girl and magic so he may reconsider.

Top 2008 Mainstream Fantastic Books—Finished 46 novels (19/2008 and 3/2009):

1) Memoirs of a Master Forger” by William Heaney (Aka
Graham Joyce). Fairy tale for adults; superb, heart warming antidote to sadness and depression. Reviewed HERE.
2)El Juego del Ángel” (Spanish language) by
Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Dr. Faustus in Barcelona.
3)The Gargoyle” by
Andrew Davidson. Love and third degree burns across space and time. Reviewed HERE.
4)The Ninth Circle” by
Alex Bell. Redemption by forgetting.
5)Ghost Radio” by
Leopoldo Gout. DJ loves the supernatural and the supernatural likes him back. Reviewed HERE.
5) (tie) “Black Ships” by
Jo Graham. Trojan priestess helps Aeneas found Latium. Reviewed HERE.

Notable Indie Books:

1)In Her Name” by
Michael R. Hicks. Space opera, military sf and magic. Reviewed HERE.
2)The Riddler's Gift: The First Tale of the Lifesong" by
Greg Hamerton. Girl discovers her magical powers; superb style and a page turner to boot. Reviewed HERE.
3)The Crown Conspiracy” by
Michael Sullivan. Adventures of a fighter/thief duo—Scott Lynch move aside! Reviewed HERE.
4)The Pilo Family Circus” by
Will Elliot. Think being a clown is fun?
5)Other People's Children” by Christopher Lucas. The most surprisingly good non-genre novel for me; young Irish-American aristocrat is fascinated and repelled by Adolf Hitler, using his Nazi connections to save thousands of children.
6)Soldier of Rome: The Sacrovir Revolt” by
James Mace. The Legions of Rome: novelization.

Notable Mainstream Non-fantastic Books—Finished 39 novels (17/2008):

1)2666: A Novel” by
Roberto Bolaño. Another once in a decade novel; masterpiece of world literature.
2)The Good Thief” by
Hannah Tinti. Darker, adult version of Hector Malot’s classic “Nobody's Boy”. Reviewed HERE.
3)Le Salut de l'Empire” (French language) by Claude Schote. The missing half of
Alexandre Dumas' last novel finished by noted Dumas biographer Claude Schott based on the original outline, including some chapters written by Dumas. Hector fulfills his destiny.
4)Sashenka: A Novel” by
Simon Montefiore. Decadence and revolution in Tsarist Russia, romance and torture in Stalin's USSR.
5)The Minutes of the Lazarus Club” by
Tony Pollard. Victorian science and technology to kill for. Reviewed HERE.


Gears of the City by Felix Gilman
Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts
The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker
The Sharing Knife: Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold
Dragon In Chains by Daniel Fox
Dragonfly Falling by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Drood by Dan Simmons
Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress
Storm from the Shadows by David Weber
In the Courts of the Sun by Brian D'Amato
Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas
Hand of Isis by Jo Graham
The Dakota Cipher by William Dietrich
The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
Corambis by Sarah Monette
Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield
Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins
Fall of Thanes by Brian Ruckley
The Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams
Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn
The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel
Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
Jasymn by Alex Bell
The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding
Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Blood of the Mantis by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Red Claw by Philip Palmer
By Heresies Distressed by David Weber
Avempartha by Michael Sullivan
The Juggler by Sebastian Beaumont
Amyrantha's Gods by Jennifer Fallon

Update - December 2009

Here is a discussion of the list of 2009 anticipated novels above; in short I read 32 of the 36 books above, 2 were not published, one I started but postponed it for later and one I have and plan to read relatively soon.

Of the 32 read books, I rated 21 A's or better (eg A+/A++) and 6 made my top 10 sff list and 4 more I ranked on the 11-20 runner up list; 3 were A-, 3 were B's, 1 C and 4 disappointments I ranked D.


Anonymous said...

Liviu, you put me to shame! Yours is a very nice list!

Liviu said...

Thank you for the comment.

I enjoy a lot seeing what other people recommend since this is how I found about many new books, so I am happy to contribute too, and give some ideas in returns

Anonymous said...

This is such a great article
Name A Star In The Galaxy As A Gift

Anonymous said...

Great list but I noticed that "The City of Dreaming Books" was notably absent, as is anything by Moers. He is the most creative fantasy writer I've ever read, and also the most underrated, probably because his books take forever to get to the states. You should really take a look at the Zamonia books (last one dropped April 09 in England). "The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear" is a near 800 page tome of awesomeness.
Check it out.

Unknown said...

i can appreciate some of these authors, however i am astonished that Stephen Erickson is not on thee list when he got accreditation from Steven Donaldson

Liviu said...

The 2009 preview is about *my* anticipated novels so it does not claim to be exhaustive in any way; sadly I an not a fan of S. Erickson the fantasy writer since I simply do find his writing style compatible with my taste at least as of now - my reading preferences do evolve so who knows, in the future I may change my opinion since due to his reputation I keep giving his work a try occasionally - I actually read the first 2 Malazan novels and I found Gardens of the Moon interesting to some extent but the next one was boring to the n-th degree for its huge length

I like to a large extent S. Erikson the US mainstream fantastic writer (Arc d'X, Tours of Black Clock)though...

Henry Lawson Books said...

What a wonderful list, I have added some to my Christmas list. Thanks Liviu.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words; regarding the 2009 novels previewed here, I just finished a post - will be up later this week - with short takes on all 36 and links to our reviews of them - of the 34 actually published, I read 32 and we have reviews of maybe 28

For 2010 I will keep updating the anticipated books post while my Top 10 SFF list for 2009 will go up soon also


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