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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Liviu's Top Novels of the 00's Decade

Inspired by this sffworld thread I decided to do a post with my choices considering that it is mid-November 09. As usual I separate the novels in categories, this time just three: mainstream, fantasy and sf.



1. Les Bienveillantes/The Kindly Ones - Jonathan Littell (French 2006, Engl 2009)
- memoirs of fictional SS officer Dr. Maxiliam Aue; evil that will fascinate and maybe even insidiously seduce you; page turner, engrossing, dark, horrifying at times, with passages that will make you cry.
FBC Capsule Rv - this one I should extend into a full review sometime)

2. 2666 - Roberto Bolano (Spanish 2006, Engl 2008)
-mosaic novel in 5 interconnected parts about a mysterious German writer, serial murders in a Mexican town and much, much more; funny, then dark, then ultra-dark and then back to lighter, more adventurous stuff; published posthumously and with an unfinished feel, a sixth part has been found and will be published soon.
(FBC Rv tbp sometime)

3. The Dream of Scipio - Iain Pears (2002)
-this one has an opening page that is for the ages - Amazon inside has it HERE; love, destiny, historical responsibility in the context of turbulent eras in Provence of the late 400's and the barbarian invasions, the mid 1300's and the Black Death and the 1940's and the Nazi occupation - 3 men, 3 women, intertwined stories.
FBC Rv of Stone's Fall by I. Pears)

4. Europe Central - William Vollmann (2005)
-the largest and most devastating land war in history, the 1941-1945 one between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia in 800 dense pages of vignettes; Shostakovich and Akhmatova are among the main protagonists and the novel extends to the 60's as well as starting in 1918; brilliant but very hard.

5-tie The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood (2000)
- another novel that starts with the dramatic ending like The Dream of Scipio and unravels the story on the way, this one is just superb; two sisters, two men and many secrets; also an epic tale of Canada from the 1910's to the 1940's with vignettes from the present.
FBC Rv of The Year of the Flood by M. Atwood)

5-tie Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (2004)
- a six part novel, each part divided into two and connected with the next, with the first half chronological, the second half inverse chronological, so the middle of the novel is the whole sixth tale; tour de force combining historical fiction with contemporary noir/horror and with sfnal dystopia.

5-tie The Vengeance of Rome - Michael Moorcock (2006)
- the ending of the Colonel Pyat saga; another memoir of an evil man, but this time he is small potatoes compared with Dr. Aue as actual rather than imagined actions; Pyat is a buffoon to boot, though he still manages to thoroughly disgust but also fascinate the reader; also like The Kindly Ones the novel contains graphic stuff that is definitely not for everyone



1. The Scar - China Mieville (2002)
- a masterpiece of sff, inventive and absorbing; second in the loosely linked New Crobuzon novels, it leaves more mysteries than it solves so I am still hoping for a sequel-like novel .
(FBC RV of the author's City and the City HERE and HERE

2. Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey (2001)
-the beginning of the most beguiling and fascinating fantasy universe - it's actually an alt-Earth one - the whole series standing at 6 novels and now continued some hundred years later in a new series is just a treat.
(FBC Rv of Kushiel's Justice #5, Kushiel's Mercy #6 and Naamah's Kiss #1 in the new series; FBC Interview with J. Carey)

3. The Darkness That Came Before - Scott Bakker (2004)
- the beginning of the superb Prince of Nothing trilogy; some of the most fascinating characters in fantasy in Kelhus, Cnaiur, Achamanian; also the best original (ie no pseudo-medieval) world building in fantasy.
(FBC Rv of Judging Eye the promising but more introductory than anything else start of the follow up series to PoN; FBC Rv of Neuropath)

4. Before They Are Hanged - Joe Abercrombie (2007)
-intrigue, great characters and superb plotting make this second installment in the First Law trilogy a novel to remember; it also ties perfectly with the standalone Best Served Cold.
(FBC Rv of The Blade Itself, FBC Rv of Before They Are Hanged by Robert Thompson who disagreed somewhat with me here, FBC Rv of Best Served Cold; FBC Interview with J. Abercrombie)

5. Storm of Swords - George RR Martin (2000)
-while powerful, I liked this novel less than the first two in the series; I thought that it was too sprawling and that the series is losing focus here so despite some great scenes, the whole is less than the sum of its parts; still a superb novel overall.
(FBC Rv of co-authored Hunter's Run)



1. Anathem - Neal Stephenson (2008)
-masterpiece of sff and a once in a decade novel - I reviewed it fully HERE.

2. Pandora's Star - Peter Hamilton (2004)
-excellent start to the Commonwealth series; trains in space, great characters and everything that made PFH the "king of space opera"; the sequel Judas Unchained did not quite live up to my ultra-high expectations so the series overall is below the superb and still my #1 finished sff series of all time Night's Dawn; continued in the Void trilogy of which the first two volumes have been published.
(FBC Rv of Void 1, FBC Rv of Void 2)

3. At All Costs - David Weber (2005)
-the best large scale Honorverse novel and self-contained in so far that is possible in a 19 books and counting saga; powerful and gut-wrenching with an ending that literally made me cry; the (real, published 1955) children book that's on the cover and that Honor reads to her baby and the rest of the kids at the end became also a favorite.
(FBC Rv of Safehold 2, FBC rv of Safehold 3 by D. Weber; FBC interview with David Weber, Honorverse overview tbp)

4. Stone - Adam Roberts (2002)
-"counter" space opera or maybe space opera reexamined, this is the shortest of all the novels mentioned here and is a must read for anyone that loves that sub-genre; the memoirs of an aberrant genocidal psychopath of indeterminate sex in an Utopian society; or was he/she genocidal??
(FBC Rv of Yellow Blue Tibia by A. Roberts)

5. Omega - Christopher Evans (2008)
- small press novel that is almost perfect in execution; it's of more limited scope than the rest of the sff novels above but it works flawlessly; I reviewed it fully HERE and I wish it will be released in an easily available edition


Anonymous said...

Hi Liviu

Quick question what made you pick A Storm of Swords over Game of Thrones & The Darkness that Comes Before over The Thousandfold Thought?

I can understand with ASOS as the plot culminations in it are terrific. But with TTT Bakker really got the PON trilogy to a terrific end!


Liviu said...

I liked the whole PoN trilogy and I cannot say TTT is not excellent but the one novel from the series that stuck the most with me was the first where everything is introduced. Both Warrior Prophet and TTT may be a little better technically, but not so much to negate the overwhelming advantage a first novel has imho.

In a sense the same is true for ASoIF where the first two novels were so good that the third (SoS) while again excellent did not blow me away, same with Kushiel series...

On the other hand in Joe A. series, I thought the second novel much, much better and same with The Scar over PSS

And regarding some of the elements that in SoS that seem to pop up when people talk about it in superlative (eg killing off main characters, emotional scenes...), while they may have been original in epic fantasy, IM Banks or David Weber for example have been doing them years before in sf; Mary Gentle even has a duology (90's) where she kills off everyone at the end...

Unknown said...

hey thanks for the props for my thread!

im honored because your blog was the first SFF blog i ever read and has introduced me to many great works. for that i am gratful

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words - I love sffworld where I've been posting for a while now and it's a great place for longer, more varied discussions than a blog offers

David Wagner said...

Guess that just shows how people are different, eh? I thought the Darkness that Comes Before was lame - the first third was so poorly written, I was surprised I kept reading. It mellowed into adequate writing about the half-way point, but before that, I nearly injured my eyes from rolling them so often over the corny dialog and all the ridiculous names and characters. I finished the first book, but felt no desire to keep reading the series.

And I thought Storm of Sword was the best of the first three SOIAF books. I loved it (and hated it, for the Red Wedding). I obviously loved the first two books, but Book 3 was awesome to me.

Then again, I don't review books for a living, I just read, so what do I know?

Ron Buckmire said...

How often do you guys review science fiction here??

I love The Scar and Peter Hamilton is my fave author (of any genre).

Liviu said...

I review sf often and PF Hamilton is one of my two co-#1 sff authors of all time, while The Scar is my top standalone fantasy of all time as mentioned here - top standalone sf is Use of weapons, top finished sf series Night's Dawn.

Of the top 20 2009 sff novels I listed in my top post for 09, 9 were sf, of the top 10 mainstream at least one was sf-nal, of the top anthologies, novellas, most were sf...

So I cover sf extensively and in 09 I read some 73 "sf-nal" titles, while in 2010 I have an extensive list of sf titles I plan to read as mentioned in my Anticipated 2010 post linked here on the left

Skron said...

First off, I like your blog. I've been looking for a SFF book review site for a while now in order to keep myself updated with new books. I think your blog do really well with that. Thank you in advance.

Secondly, I also stumbled on your site while I was searching for "best fantasy books of the 00's". I was going to post something like that on my blog and I wanted to see what other bloggers are putting on their list.

While I haven't read half of the books you've listed. I've considered some of those books on my list as well. Like Kushiel's Dart, 2666, Europe Central, The Blind Assassin, Anathem and The Storm of Swords.

Liviu said...

Thank you for your kind words


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