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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Top 10 Books at Amazon US/UK with Comments (by Liviu Suciu)

Recently Amazon UK's Top 10 SFF Books of 2010 came out
  1. Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (FBC Rv DC)
  2. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks (FBC Rv LS)
  3. Against All Things Ending by Stephen Donaldson
  4. The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton (Goodreads minireview LS)
  5. The Ambassador's Mission by Trudi Canavan
  6. Kraken by China Mieville
  7. The Passage by Justin Cronin (FBC Rv LS)
  8. The Technician by Neal Asher (FBC Rv LS)
  9. The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding (FBC capsule Rv LS)
  10. The Tree of Seasons by Stephen Gately
****************************************************The Amazon U.S. version is here, while the Amazon Top 100 Books has quite a different selection of sff with only few overlaps.
  1. The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz
  2. How to Live Safely in A Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
  3. Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord
  4. The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman [FBC rv LS]
  5. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin [FBC rv RT, FBC rv sequel The Broken Kingdoms LS]
  6. The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich
  7. The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer [FBC Rv RT]
  8. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
  9. The Fixed Stars: Thirty-Seven Emblems for the Perilous Season by Brian Conn
  10. Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey (FBC Rv RT soon)
Looking at the two lists and their disjointness, one reason is of course that very few of the Amazon US list books have been published in the UK so far, while conversely I think that at least 7 novels from the UK list have been published in the US.

I actually like both lists a lot - the UK list is core-genre, while the US list is more of fringe genre though there are some core genre ones on it like the Gilman, Jemisin and Kadrey books - so in a way it is not surprising I read more from the UK list, but I think that offering exposure to less well known and more offbeat books in such a popular venue as Amazon is great too.

From the UK list I read #2,4,7,8,9 and Surface Detail is the uncontested top sff of 2010 for me, while The Technician and The Evolutionary Void are also in my (provisional) top 20 sff. I am still stuck around page 200 in Kraken, while of the rest I have no interest in 1,3,5 and have not heard of 10, though seeing that is portal fantasy, it has a very low priority for me since I dislike the sub-genre in its fantasy incarnation, though surprisingly I like it to a large extent in its sfnal incarnation as alt-history with time travelers from the present - whether both ways or stuck there...

From the US list and keeping in mind its more taste-specific flavor, I read #4, #5, #7, fast read #10, decided I have no interest in #2, #3, #8, while I would try #1, #6 or #9 if a copy comes into my hands but I am not sure if I would buy them based on the small samples I saw.

Overall, I think that both Amazon US and UK did a great job with these two lists - of course with the caveat of being limited to books published only till early November.


On the Literature and Fiction side, the UK top ten has also five books read by me, with three of them in my provisional Top 5 non-sff novels of 2010 (and provisional Top 25 overall which has 20 sff)

Sister by Rosamund Lupton
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (Goodreads minireview LS)
Fall of Giants (Century Trilogy 1) by Ken Follett (Goodreads minireview LS)
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Room by Emma Donoghue (FBC Rv LS)
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (FBC Rv LS soon)
The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
Sunset Park by Paul Auster
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell (FBC Rv LS)
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myths) by Philip Pullman

While in the Amazon US Top Ten Fiction/Literature there is no book of clear interest to me and I browsed many of them, in the Amazon US 100 extended list there are 7 novels read by me and again three of my top 5 non-sff (Invisible Bridge - FBC Rv LS, De Zoet and Room), while The Distant Hours will be released in the US only on Nov 9, so it could not have been there.

Here the clear UK-list bias of mine is also not of a surprise since as exemplified in the list of 15 awesome literary fiction novels (series) I recommended for the sff reader where there is no US author, but 3 Japanese/UK (including an Anglo-Japanese one)/Russian, 2 German and 1 French, Romanian, Chilean and Canadian each, I tend to overwhelmingly prefer international literary fiction over US literary fiction as I do in music and movies for that matter, though of course I much prefer the US in politics, organization of society and not surprisingly the fiction that deals with that, namely sff.


Anonymous said...

I want to read Surface Detail, but I am confused as to whether that book is part of a series or a stand alone? I figured you'd know so I'd go ahead and ask...

Jamie Gibbs said...

Thanks for this, I enjoy comparing the US and UK Amazon lists. I'm glad to see that the Twilight/Sookie Stackhouse novels are out of both lists too. Maybe we can go back to normality, hehe.

Liviu said...

Sarah: Surface Detail is a Culture book (#9 more or less since Inversions while also Culture takes place on an un-contacted planet only) and has minor references to others but it is readable as a standalone since it has pretty much an all new cast

A primer on the Culture is here:

Jamie: Well, those are editors picks; if you look at the bestseller lists... said...

Overall, this particular list feels a lot less legitimate than almost any “Year’s Best” list I’ve seen since I started reading SF/Fantasy some 25+ years ago. I’ve already read several of these titles myself – the more traditional genre works like the Gilman, Jemisin, Kadrey and the Okorafor – but not all of them by any means. And as I read your comments on it, you have not and do not plan to read most of the titles on this list either. You typically read everything, not just SF/Fantasy, but for some reason you’re not going to read these, and that raises questions for me.

When a list calls itself one thing and is specifically another, there’s a missed opportunity for all involved. The Amazon editors titled the list and thereby propose to define the list members by that title… but unfortunately they then go on to de-legitimize (?) the list by including books that are not “genre-centered” when they have clearly titled the list to reflect its contents as “genre-centered”.

---BTW, I’ve never heard the term "genre-centered" used before myself until Vandermeer started using it in the last few days as a way of armoring himself against the decisions he and the other Amazon editors made when they created and populated this list – he’s been having to swat away the flies on this issue on his own blog as well as a few others and this term has been used repeatedly as part of his defense… ie: if you want a “genre-centered” list go elsewhere---

If you go back and look at the Amazon lists for 2006, 2007, even 2008… those lists include books that are pretty clearly “genre-centered”. But each list also includes a title or two that most of us wouldn’t know about if they were not included - and that’s cool, this should be one of the functions of such lists, to mention a book or two (or three) that deserves some attention but has yet to receive it. But when four, five or six of the ten included titles are not even on the reading radar for most of the SF/Fantasy reading public, then it’s no longer a “genre-centered” list, and thus should not be titled as such… just title it something else that reflects what the list really is!

What really sucks about this whole thing is that when FBC (through no fault of FBC, let that be clear) and all the other genre related blogs start cross posting the lists and their contents, the folks who are really missing out on the fun are the authors who worked their butts off actually producing list worthy “genre-centered” SF/Fantasy novels. They are missing out on the marketing opportunities that such lists should provide to them in return for their efforts.

If you want to acknowledge fringe works, then create fringe lists for them… “the center must hold”.

Liviu said...

That's an interesting point of view - I did not claim I have not read or do not plan to read them since I actually read easily 100 pages from the Yu novel and 50 from the Okorafor one and a little from Indigo too, just that none excited me; the Yu novel read a bit like pseudo-jargon for the literati to make them feel they get science, the kind that was so well satirized in the famous Sokal hoax, but at least it claims to be literature not science so it becomes a matter of taste to a large degree

The Golden Age is on reserve for me since my library system finally acquired it these days, while the other two I will keep an eye from more samples than the little available -

But I understand also your point since for myself I tend to prefer the core-genre too as you can see from my provisional top 20 sff list on Goodreads, headed in sf by Surface Detail and in Fantasy by the Kinden books, Folding Knife, Brent Weeks, Michael Sullivan...

So where do you have the balance? - hard to say but presenting these two lists here seems a fair way imho to achieve it

brainshades said...

Liviu - just for clarity's sake... there's no question on the value of FBC cross posting these lists, and apologies if I made any assumptions about your interest in some of the titles listed. It's just that I noticed right off that a number of them didn't "appear" to be part of your planned reading, and since I consider your reading to be broader and more well rounded than mine, I found that to be significant. And that last statement I made where I mentioned fringe lists and works was merely a capstone comment on the whole issue and wasn't to be indicative of what FBC should and should not post.

Overall there's no sense creating sub-genres within sub-genres for the sake of trying to define a single "Best Of" list - this simply isn't a reasonable goal or task, as any of us that have fun discussing these kinds of things will easily admit to.

I should probably have used a term other than "legitimate" to define my lack of enthusiasm for the Amazon list - "legitimate" doesn't feel right really - but as previously implied, I tend to balk at this seemingly passive recognition of authors and books that are not "genre-centered" because it misses the obvious point, which would be to actually recognize those authors and books which are "genre-centered".

Hopefully what I said was taken respectfully, both towards FBC and the choices of the Amazon.Com editorial staff.

Liviu said...

You have a very good point and I really appreciated your comment.

In a way the "heart of the matter" is what gets coverage where/how much, rather than what kind of coverage since as experience shows, obscurity is the biggest enemy of any book (not bad reviews since well..)

Before the Internet there were "gatekeepers" that had the power on what gets reviewed since after all there were very few public venues - Locus, 3 major sff magazines, the odd sff reviewing in major newspapers, the few encyclopedias of sf and later f - there were fanzines and such but those were and are still little operations in print due to logistical issues.

Only the Internet allowed mass distribution of fan content and opinion and even here it took a while since the first attempts like on Usenet quickly degenerated into shouting matches, so now we are very fortunate that readers' expression is flowering and some former gatekeepers fume about it with derision but cannot do anything anyway.

But I also think that it is crucial that we the readers like myself and most sff bloggers try and talk about the widest range possible of books and not limit ourselves to the "core" either and become a new "gatekeeping" force by sheer weight of numbers...

So as usual, I believe in balance and try to exemplify it concretely as much as I can...

Calibandar said...

It's clear that the big difference between the US and UK list comes because the US list was obviously drafted by Jeff Vandermeer, who has a very "out there" taste and a strong dislike and disinterest for for instance epic Fantasy. The Amazon list is his personal best list, which I find to be very disappointing for such an influential company.


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