The best of 2011
Posted December 13, 2011on:
The rules for my “best of” post were simple: I had to have read and reviewed the book in 2011, and it couldn’t be a reread (otherwise this list would taken over by Lynch, Powers, Brust, and others).
In no particular order (saving me the impossible task of choosing my utmost favorites), here are my top reads of the last 12 months. I’m surprised so many of them are new-ish books, as that wasn’t really part of the plan. Enjoy the little teaser then click on the title for the full review.
Grey by Jon Armstrong (2007) frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick. This is dystopia like you’ve never read before. This is body modification and mortification, life imitating art to the nth degree, and performance art like you’ve never imagined. This is fashion punk.
The Third Section by Jasper Kent (2011) The third in Kent’s Danilov Quintet, one of the most brilliantly frightening books I have ever read, and brimming with betrayals and violence, seductions and patience, this is the series you’ve been waiting for if you prefer your vampire fiction to be more Bram Stoker than sparkly.
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner, (2003) Light, readable, addictive: absolutely effortless. With a plotline that’s easy to get into, and brimming with all my favorite guilty pleasures: swordplay, banter, revenge, and sensuality, Swordspoint is truly unforgettable.
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (2011) Probably the most impressive debut this year, Lawrence makes it look easy, but he’s pulling tricks and stunts in this book that are near impossible to pull off. A specific trick, in fact, that’s got me rethinking my opinions on a particular convention that’s been popping up in more and more speculative fiction.
Embassytown by China Mieville (2011) You know those utterly alien aliens you’ve been looking for in science fiction? This is them. The entirety of Embassytown is an unforgiving metaphor of the risks of getting lost in translation. Mieville tries his hand at pure science fiction and I like it.
The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente (2010) This was the first Valente book I ever read, and let me tell you, it was love at first read. It is simply sublime. I have never read anything like this before. Intimate and evocative and powerful, the price paid to experience it is that one can never again come to it with innocence, never again read it for the first time. This book was a game changer for me, in more ways than I can put into words.
Deathless by Catherynne Valente (2011) Yup, another Valente. She’s the only author to make it onto this list twice. But this is a love story, and love means trusting someone enough to tell them all your secrets. To give them the power to keep your hostage, to invite them to dominate you. The intensity, almost the danger, of Marya and Koschei’s romance is astonishing. A fairy tale retelling like you’ve never come across before.
Low town by Daniel Polansky (2011) one of those wonderfully subtle books where although the plot is thrillingly compelling, that’s not what makes this book so incredible. Aspiring writers, you wanna know how to create atmosphere and worlds that breathe all on their own? Wanna know how to write characters whose hidden depths ooze out their shadows to gently but surely addict your readers to learning their secrets? Wanna know how risk taking is really done? Read Low Town.
The Thackery T Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Jeff & Ann Vandermeer (2011) After his death in 2003, appraisers made their way through his home, discovering wonder after bizarre wonder, and trying to connect the objects to descriptions and references found in Thackery’s diaries. And then they happened on the secret underground bunker, a cabinet of curiosities that made the upstairs collection look like nothing more than a museum gift shop.
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (2011) Of course this book made the list, how could you think it wouldn’t? Through his Kingkiller Chronicles, Rothfuss has taken the tried and true “hero’s story”, and turned it into what it always knew it could be, something beyond magical, beyond mythical, unwittingly becoming the father of something new and yet unnamed.
And your job, dearest friends, is to post your favorite reads of 2011 in the comments or a link to your “Best of 2011” post. In a few days I’ll send everything we’ve come up with to Large Hearted Boy, who is compiling his master list of best books of the year lists.