The OF Blog: 2008 Half-Year Notable Books

Monday, June 30, 2008

2008 Half-Year Notable Books

June 30th is an appropriate time for many to take stock of what they've read so far and to consider what might be finalists for individual year-end lists. It is no different with me. It was difficult selecting books from the 264 I've read so far this year, but when I decided to narrow it down to 2008 releases (original or reprint in one case), it made my list a bit shorter, although it also excluded quite a few non-genre masterpieces that I have finally read for the first time this year. So far, the quality has been enough that I have divided this into an overall category and 8 specific categories. There is no ranking here, since I like to keep some suspense for the December 31st OF Awards...

Non-Fiction:

David Hajdu, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and how it Changed America

Paul Kincaid, What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction

Farah Mendlesohn, Rhetorics of Fantasy

John Rieder, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction


Young Adult:

D.M. Cornish, Lamplighter

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

Isamu Fukui, Truancy

Peadar Ó Guilín, The Inferior


Novella (limited-editions so far):

Jeff VanderMeer, The Situation

Gene Wolfe, Memorare


Graphic Novel:

Tom Corwin and Craig Frazier, Mr Fooster: Traveling on a Whim

David Petersen, Mouse Guard: Fall 1152


Spanish-Language:

Antonio Orlando Rodríguez, Chiquita (2008 Premio Alfaguara Winner)

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El Juego del Ángel


Anthologies:

Ellen Datlow (ed.), The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Ekaterina Sedia (ed.), Paper Cities

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (eds.), The New Weird

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (eds.), Steampunk


Short Story Collections:

Etgar Keret, The Girl on the Fridge

Amanda Michalopoulou, I'd Like


Debut Authors:

Toby Barlow, Sharp Teeth

James Braziel, Birmingham, 35 Miles

Isamu Fukui, Truancy

Felix Gilman, Thunderer

Jo Graham, Black Ships

Francie Lin, The Foreigner

J.M. McDermott, Last Dragon

Peadar Ó Guilín, The Inferior


Overall Best of 2008 as of June 30th:

Tobias Buckell, Sly Mongoose

Maurice Dantec, Cosmos Incorporated

Jeffrey Ford, The Shadow Year

Gregory Frost, Shadowbridge; Lord Tophet

Felix Gilman, Thunderer

Jo Graham, Black Ships

Ursula Le Guin, Lavinia

Francie Lin, The Foreigner

Antonio Orlando Rodríguez, Chiquita

Ekaterina Sedia, The Alchemy of Stone

Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem, The Man on the Ceiling

Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El Juego del Ángel

Zoran Živković, The Last Book


There are a few books on my shelves that are likely candidates for making the final list, just as there are some on this list which undoubtedly will fail to make the December Countdown list. Also, there were two books that I didn't include for two reasons. Scott Bakker's Neuropath did not make this list because I first read it in 2006 and while I am convinced that Roberto Bolaño's 2666 will be on quite a few end-of-year shortlists for various publications, I read the 2004 Spanish edition. Hopefully this list, incomplete as it must be, will inspire some discussion and tempt others to check into them. While I have yet to write reviews for all of them, there are many on this list for which there are plans for reviews in the coming few months.

5 comments:

Liviu said...

The overall is a very interesting list and Foreigner just went on my reserve list at the library since it's the only one there not to have an impression about - outside Chiquita.

I loved Cosmos Incorporated and in a month or two I will read its sequel Grande Jonction which looks great from what I browsed. US edition is scheduled for 09 and I will read that too. And I intend to read both Artefact and Villa Vortex this year at some point - both look great from what I browsed, but as with Grande Jonction they are more effort for me to read being in French.

Thunderer and Shadowbridge are favorites and I am sure Lord Tophet and Alchemy will be too when I will get them on publication.
Zivkovic is a read at some point.

I tried hard to like Buckell but never got into either 1st or 2nd book so Sly is a pass for me. Similarly Shadow Year - this I browsed but it just has no appeal and neither does Stone Gods which I browsed too from the library.

Lavinia and Black Ships are by authors I avoid these days and The Man on the Ceiling again did not work for me.

El Juego is superb. Even with my limited Spanish - I thought it's better than Shadow, darker, more fantastic, Faust in Barcelona with the Zafon double line of events so to speak and the cool tie-in with Shadow. But the darker tone, lack of happy ending and fantasy elements may make it less of a success commercially

For me outside genre sff, The Gift of Rain (07 UK, 08 US), The Gone Away World (UK, Sept/US), Salut de L'Empire (France), The Enchantress of Florence (US), The Spies of Warsaw(US) and Serious Things (UK) are some of 2008 novels that I loved and The Gargoyle looks good from what I read so far.

I will not bore you with genre sff books since there I have quite a few favorites

Larry said...

What is it about Jo Graham that makes you avoid her, since Black Ships is her debut? Just curious. Glad that you enjoyed Zafón's latest, as I too think it's a very dark tale, one that more than fulfills the promise of The Shadow of the Wind, although perhaps you're right and some might not be as enamored with it due to its dark end.

Harkaway and Rushdie are on my list for July reads and hopefully I'll get to them soon. First, however, is a "guilty pleasure" read - the final Mistborn novel by Brandon Sanderson. Enjoyed the first two much more than I thought I would when I was sent review copies a year ago.

And hey, I'm rarely bored by book talk!

Liviu said...

Oops; name confusion - now that you mention it's a debut, I realized I confused her name with another author that does similar books. Just went on my reserve list, so I will pick up a copy later this week, check it out and buy it if I like it

Somehow I discovered lots of new interesting books and because of time constraints I am not doing my homework properly - talking of guilty pleasures I loved a recent sf debut Principles of Angels a lot, a fast sf adventure that I was completely convinced it's a steampunk novel and I was waiting the fantasy elements to appear in the first 10 pages or so, before realizing that I was wrong :)

I loved Ms. LeGuin classics Disposessed and Left Hand and I read some of the other Hainish ? novels and ss, but when she started doing Wizard of the Earthsea and similar books it just did not work for me.

Ordered another book that I was hunting for a long time - got some prizes in France in 2006 but it was way too expensive - now a UK edition appeared and it was about 26$ at BD. Waltenberg by Hedi Kaddour a French/Tunisian poet - that is his novel debut at age 60 - ostensibly a surface spy story, but a historical fresco of Europe from 1917-1991

Larry said...

Well, Lavinia is a different sort of story from the Earthsea or Hainish Cycle ones. It involves an interesting reading of Vergil's Æneid as a tragedy, with most of the "action" taking place after Book XII, but also during Books VII-X and between Lavinia and "The Poet." I'll have a full review written shortly (delays due to house remodeling, etc.), so I won't say more on that.

Liviu said...

I almost finished Black Ships - this one has been published as e too, so I checked an excerpt and bought it as e for 8$ - when it's slow during the day I have a fourth screen I can read on, though I cannot move away from my work stations - and I work for myself so it's on my time :)

It's unexpectedly good, more of a "mythic historical fiction" in the Spring Queen, Corn King or the Mary Renault Theseus books mode than anything else. Very astute observations too and not a false note almost 3/4 into.

And I put Lavinia on reserve to check out since it seems Aeneas is the rage these days :) - we have 36 copies of this one in our library system so I should get mine soon

Got some sf arcs too and with the 2 huge novels (2666 and Waltenberg) to come soon and another big fantasy from the UK arrived today - Empire Black Gold, I am again frustrated - though positively - that I have too many books to "read now", not enough time/energy...

 
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