The OF Blog: 2008 Quarter-Year Discoveries

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

2008 Quarter-Year Discoveries

Since the 1/4 mark of 2008 has just passed, I thought I'd mention a few books (in the order read), both 2008 releases and older, that have stood out in my mind. Sorry if this is little more than a list with little in the way of images or words, but I have more planned later for some of these:

1. Michael Cisco, The San Veneficio Canon (2004 omnibus) - this is a very visual, haunting collection of two of Cisco's earliest novels. It'll take multiple reads over the next few years before I firmly decide what I liked and disliked, signs of a book that differs from the norm.

2. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, The Shadow Speaker (2007) - YA book that explores some weighty issues without seeming weighty itself. Excellent read, need to review it sometime.

3. Ekaterina Sedia, The Secret History of Moscow (2007) - I reviewed this back in January, so do a search there for my thoughts regarding this wonderful book.

4. Christopher Barzak, One for Sorrow (2007) - Also reviewed back in January, very moving read.

5. Edward Carey, Observatory Mansions (2000) - Odd book with a narrator who is so distinct in voice as to make this tale all the more strange and delightful to read.

6. Gustave Flaubert, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874) - Reviewed back in January, this prose/play is visually stunning, to say the least.

7. J.M. McDermott, Last Dragon (2008) - Reviewed back in February, this debut effort is an early favorite to make it at least on my 2008 Debut Authors shortlist in December, if not on the year-end Best Reads of 2008. Loved how the storytelling style highlights and accentuates events that might otherwise have been deflated if there had been more explication.

8. Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) - The narrative voice is strong and intriguing and the story told via such an unconventional narrator is quite moving. Well deserving of the plaudits it's received over the past five years.

9. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, The New Weird (anthology, 2008) - Reviewed back in February, this anthology aims to (and mostly succeeds) capture the moment that was the New Weird. The reflective pieces that appear in the third section place the New Weird in its historical place quite effectively in my opinion, and I believe that the stances provided, as well as the inherent differences of opinion regarding the New Weird itself, will provide a lot of food for thought for readers and reviewers over the course of this year.

10. Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem, The Man on the Ceiling (expanded edition, 2008) - This is a touching and deeply personal story told in a very creative way. I hope to review this one after a re-read, as this is yet another story that demands a re-read for the full effect to sink in.

11. Julio Cortázar, Cuentos Completos I & II (1995, Spanish, Alfaguara two-volume edition) - This collection of the short stories by one of Latin America's most talented fiction writers of the 20th century is a must-read, as there are many apocalyptic scenes that are told with a beauty and with an economy of prose as to make for short, elegant fictions.

12. Joe Abercrombie, Before They Are Hanged (2008 American edition); Last Argument of Kings (2008 UK edition) - Any epic fantasy trilogy that stirs up such conflicted feelings within me on a re-read bears at least some mention here. There are some scenes that are written well, but which seem so targeted towards a particular audience that I cannot help but to wonder if the broader target might be missed. Still, there is much to recommend this trilogy to fans of epic fantasy stories that the positives do outweigh the negatives here.

13. Felix Gilman, Thunderer (2008) - Debut effort that ranks with McDermott's as an early co-favorite for Best Debut Author. Nice mixture of secondary world and urban fantasy story motifs with smooth, excellent prose. Too bad there is a paucity of hamsters in this story, considering recent tragic events...

14. David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague (2008) - Pop cultural history book on the 1950s corollary to the McCarthy hearings, considering the negative reaction to the comic book craze of that time period. I found this to be a well-researched and enjoyable non-fiction work to read and I will try to review it at length later this year.

15. Adolfo Bioy Casares, Borges (published posthumously in Spanish in 2006) - Mammoth 1600+ page diary entries of Bioy Casares' that reference conversations he and Borges had about world matters, literature, and people they knew. Much of interest to fans of both Argentine authors.

16. Thomas Ligotti, The Nightmare Factory (graphic novel version, 2007) - Outstanding adaptation of four stories whose horror levels were quite creepy and unsettling to me. Going to buy more of Ligotti's work in the coming months as a result of this.

17. Brian Francis Slattery, Spaceman Blues (2007) - Loved the prose style, which made this journey of search and exploration all the more immediate-feeling.

18. Tom Corwin, Mr. Fooster: Traveling on a Whim (June 2008 release) - Sometimes profound reactions can be sparked by the most whimsical and seemingly simple of stories. This is one of those stories for me.

19. Steve Erickson, Arc d'X (1993) - Outstanding prose, plus the story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Heming is told in such a symbolic, time-shifting sense as to make for a very powerful read.

20. Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods (2008 American edition) - This slender 207 page novel contains so much within its pages that it'll be hard for me to sum it up in a 1000-1500 word review later this month as I plan on doing.

21. Brian Evenson, The Wavering Knife (collection, 2004) - Outstanding story collection that straddles the imaginary, porous line between "mainstream" and "genre" fiction.

22. Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984) - This story moved me and made me think at the same time. Not many fictions have managed to do that.

23. Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth (2008 American edition) - Prose/poem about werewolves (or just really, really big and nasty dogs) in L.A. Will review this one shortly. Guess there's a triumvirate now for Best Debut Author consideration.

24. Susan Palwick, Shelter (2007) - This story about a near future situation involving gene therapy, condemnation of "excessive altruism," and of a mentally-damaged child hit really close to home for me, considering where I work again for a living (I teach troubled teens in a residential treatment facility, if you must know). Might review this one later, once I've given it some "distance."

25. Steven Hall, The Raw Shark Texts (2007) - This Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist is damn good, halfway into it now. Will write a review in the next few weeks on this text, although I think it'll be like Mark Danielewski's work and require a team of researchers re-reading it a dozen times or more to glean everything that is buried within the text.

So there you have it, 25 first-time reads that captured my attention for whatever reason. If this is true for the first 93 days of the year, I wonder what the remaining 273 days will bring for me.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the 'coverage' Larry, I enjoyed reading it (although I not necessarily agree with every pick, but to each his own :))

Lsrry said...

I wonder which book (or books) that could be with which you disagree ;)

Robert said...

Very impressive list :)The debuts by Felix Gilman and Toby Barlow are definitely in the running for my 'Best Of' list and I also enjoyed that Nightmare Factory graphic novel.

Still plenty I need to check out though like One For Sorrow, The Stone Gods, The Shadow Speaker, Last Dragon, Man on the Ceiling, The New Weird, etc. I also have a copy of that Mr. Fooster 'visual novel' which looks interesting.

A couple of recommendations for you that I think you would enjoy:

"The Magician and the Fool" by Barth Anderson
"The Resurrectionist" by Jack O'Connell
+ "In the Small" (a graphic novel) by Michael Hague which looks fabulous!

Daniel Ausema said...

Many of these are on my to-watch-for list, with The Secret History of Moscow up there at the top. I have New Weird and have started reading that as well, and I read Curious Incident... last year and definitely enjoyed it.

I remember you mentioning Los Dias del Venado once (might have been last year still)--did you ever get around to picking that up? I just picked up a copy from the library yesterday. What little I've read has been entertaining.

Lsrry said...

Robert, those are indeed some books that I've been considering for some time, but it'll be at least another month or two before I get around to buying them (or any others).

Daniel, I did indeed read that last year (and re-read it a month or so ago). It was quite enjoyable. Will get around to buying the sequels later this year, once the big bills have been paid off.

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