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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Five Books of 2012 in a Few Categories (with comments by Liviu Suciu)


Top Five Overall:

1. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
2. Sharps by KJ Parker
3. The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
4. The Hydrogen Sonata by IM Banks
5. (tie) The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks
5. (tie) Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Comments: - the actual split is top 3 as any of those could have been my #1, then #4 and Banksian sense of wonder in an ok but not great story that is less than the sum of its occasionally outstanding parts and then the 2 fantasies where the extraordinary talent of Anthony Ryan in a traditional tale versus the exuberant, cannot put down, twists and turns style of Brent Weeks makes it hard to choose.

- coming back to 1-3, we have the stunning book of Kate Morton which is the first book in quite a while to truly surprise me and acquire a completely different meaning once you know what's what, while being otherwise her usual past-secrets fare, well written but somewhat limited as scope goes, versus the multifaceted Sharps with its own twists, versus the beautifully written The Garden of Evening Mists (2012 Booker shortlisted) which has its own share of surprises. Ultimately the lack of one dominating character in Sharps in the mode of Gignomai or Basso, and the missing 50-100 pages in The Garden of Evening Mists which would have made it a masterpiece for the ages, left me with The Secret Keeper as #1 for truly surprising me in a novel is hard and very rarely achieved, while otherwise the novel is well written too.

- since I started keeping more detailed records in 2008, this is the first year #1 is not an epic story of some kind (2008 right now #1 is By Schism Rent Asunder which is another book with a stunning surprise though it is also an epic sff, 2009 it's either The Kindly Ones (English edition - as I read the French in 2007, so it's a bit of cheating) or The Children Book, 2010 Surface Detail and 2011 Parallel Stories and its 1000 pages and many threads...)


Top Five Fantasy:

1. Sharps (#2) by KJ Parker
2. (tie) The Blinding Knife (#5/6) by Brent Weeks
2. (tie) Blood Song (#5/6) by Anthony Ryan
4. The Air War (#8) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
5. Princeps (#11) by LE Modesitt

Comments: in addition to the top 3 discussed above, another winner from Adrian Tchaikovsky in a novel that I feared would be marred by the lack of my favorite characters who starred in Heirs of the Blade (taking place simultaneously) but actually surprised me with lots of great stuff, especially from Seda and her storyline which is outstanding, while the Imager second series and a prequel at that keeps getting better and better, and this while knowing the general outline of what will happen to boot...


Top Five SF

1. The Hydrogen Sonata (#4) by IM Banks
2. The Sacrifice Game (#8) by Brian D'Amato
3. Jack Glass (#10) by Adam Roberts
4. In the Mouth of the Whale (#12) by Paul McAuley
5. The Eternal Flame (#13) by Greg Egan

Comments: another winner from Brian D'Amato where Jed the narrator (well it's more complicated than that but too much detail would be spoilery) makes a run of the mill thriller a huge favorite though of course the outstanding Maya storyline helps a lot; the usually superb books from Adam Roberts, Paul McAuley and Greg Egan round the top 5 sf.


Top Five Series Debuts:

1. Blood Song (#5/6) by Anthony Ryan
2. (tie) The Red Knight (# 14/15) by Miles Cameron
3. (tie) Mage's Blood (# 14/15) by David Hair
4. The Red Knight (#23)by KT Davies
5. Dark Eden (#28) by Chris Beckett

Comments: here I will refer to the earlier post on the top 3 debuts, while adding that KT Davies' debut (titled Red Knight too while as mentioned earlier, here the knight is a lady and the love interest is a prince rather than the more usual the other way around) stayed with me much more than I expected, while Dark Eden has great style in an otherwise fairly standard sf piece - the author has just signed a contract for the sequel so the series part.

I woud also want to add that Blood Song with its mainstream hc Ace release in July 2013 (though of course you still can buy the ebook today) is one of the debuts that has the chance to be remembered the way The Lies of Locke Lamora or The Name of the Wind are, namely as a book that automatically catapults the author to the first rank of today's fantasists.

And just in - on a post on his website, Anthony Ryan has just announced that the success of Blood Song allowed him to quit his day job and dedicate himself to full time writing!


Honorable Mentions (sff):

1. The Night of the Swarm by Robert Redick
2. A Rising Thunder by David Weber
3. The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham
4. Midst Toil and Tribulation by David Weber
5. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
6. Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds

All top 25's of mine and simply the fact that in the top 5 there have to be 5 books so to speak prevented them from being there. 

The Night of the Swarm has what I consider the perfect ending for a sff series and I would love to see something like this more often; this ending made the rather boxed-in first 500 pages - with some interesting stuff and twists but way too predictable and with the feel of "gotta cover this" as opposed to the exuberance of the first 3 volumes - acceptable and raised the novel to my top 25.


Major unread/unfinished 2012 books:

The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
Celebrant by Michael Cisco
Empty Space by MJ Harrison
The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Opened all and read some pages from them, but I put them down for various reasons and will come back to them eventually as these are books I do not want to rush just to check a box.


lior said...

I usually love your taste in books, but I just finished Sharps and it was horrible. The action scenes were poorly written and far between, the characters were... pathetic. Sorry, I really actively disliked it :o)

Karen Davies said...

Gosh, thanks. Most honoured:)

Liviu said...

@lior - well, hope other books from here work better for you

@karen davies - thank you for the comment; looking forward to the second volume and will spotlight as soon as is listed

shaneo52 said...

Hey Liviu! A good friend of mine from Australia is getting me The Secret Keeper for Christmas, but its the US cover I guess shes gonna use Book Depository.

EtherOr said...

Hello, Liviu. I have to take exception to Lior's comments and state I agree with your selection of Sharps as one of the year's best, if not a greater time period. I loved this book. It is so well written, well plotted, has interesting characters and subject material (fencing). I couldn't put it down and feel after finishing I'd like to start over again at page 1. I will definitely be looking for more of K. J. Parker's work.


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