Posted tagged ‘Michael Swanwick’

Year In Review: Books

December 15, 2008

A Decent year for the YA market, an awful one for everything else.  I could barely come up with 10 for this list, and two of the books I haven’t actually finished yet (although both of those I strongly feel will prove to deserve their slots by the time I’m done with them).

1) Nation

A labor of love from Terry Pratchett, the world’s greatest commentator on human behavior.

2) Little Brother

Cory Doctorow takes on the Department of Homeland Security and the culture of fear created by the Bush administration.  If you want to don’t want to get off your ass and take action after reading this YA gem than you weren’t paying attention.

3) The Kingdom On the Waves

The brilliant M.T. Anderson finishes his tale of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation.  The classically educated escaped slave heads south to join the British as the Revolutionary War breaks out around him.  One of those books I haven’t finished as of yet (give me another week), by the time I’m finished this could actually move up to the top spot.

4) More Information Than You Require

John Hodgman’s second book of false knowledge, this time supplimented with commentary of his newfound life as a minor television personality (and Battlestar Galactica fan).  It’s a real shame reality can’t measure up to the surreal world Hodgman creates.

5) Vicious Circle

Mike Carey’s second outing in his Felix Castor series is a huge improvement over the first book.  It still feels a bit like a story he didn’t have time to write when he was on Hellblazer, but the end result is a nice creepy supernatural mystery.

6) Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman tries his hand at the Jungle Book, pretty much exactly what you’d expect given the title.

7) The Baum Plan for Financial Independance

My favorite Indy publisher, Small Beer Press, collects many of the best short stories of John Kessel.  

8) The Dragons of Babel

It took forever, but Michael Swanwick has finally completed his sequel to the Iron Dragon’s Daughter, possibly the greatest dark fantasy ever written.  Sadly the sequel, much of which is a series of intertwined short stories, doesn’t nearly live up to its predecessor.

9) Pirate Sun

Karl Schroeder continues his amazing space opera.  The set pieces in the book are as great as always, but I’m starting to suspect that Schroeder doesn’t actually have an end in mind for the story.

10) Philosopher’s Apprentice

James Morrow, the biggest heretic in literature (and yes that’s a very good thing), takes on philosophy in a pseudo-tribute to the Island of Dr. Moreau.

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Conreport: Readercon 19

July 21, 2008

I’m back from this year’s Readercon, and fighting off the effects of sleep deprivation so we’ll see how this goes.  The con was was always the most interesting and rewarding of the year, and yes that includes the library conferences I attend.  In fact nothing else even comes close.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Jonathan Lethem (my favorite author this week) was one of the guests of honor.  Although a disapointingly large portion of the conference seemed to be dedicated to making him defend the path of his career (from a genre author to a literary one according to quite a few critics).  There was even an entire hour dedicated to an interview on the subject (apart from the typical guest of honor interview).  However, the session was very revealing, both of Lethems views and of the regard that fandom holds him in.

Another interesting trend this year was a focus on modern horror, largely due to the inclusion at the convention of the first Shirley Jackson awards.  Hosting the awards ceremony at Readercon was great in that it attracted a number of newer writers to the con, and allowed for one of the highlights for me, namely getting to see Caitlin R. Kiernan recall the words to Come Sail Away (one of the odder panels).

As for other highlights for me.  The large focus on Stanislaw Lem, another of my favorite writers, particularly in regards to both his reoccuring theme of language barriers and the effects translators have on literature, with a lot of input from the great Michael Kandel.  There was a particularly good reading by Michael Swanwick and his wife Sunday morning.  And of course the Saturday night entertainment (two one act plays by guest of honor James Patrick Kelly followed by the annual Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition) were a great cap to the entire thing.  I think I’m going to have nightmare of enduring Yves Meynard’s alphabetic onslaught on Robert E. Howard for quite some time (I think it took a good 10 minutes to fully recover my breathe from laughter after that).