The OF Blog: 2011 Debuts Read So Far

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011 Debuts Read So Far

Thought now might be a good time to list the 2011 debut novels and/or collections that I've read so far (counting those in progress as well).  Seems like I've read more debuts lately than I have at any point in recent years and that is a major plus.  Here's the list to date:

Karen Russell, Swamplandia! (at times brilliant, other times sluggish, this was a mostly successful transition over to the novel form from one of my favorite short fiction writers)

Téa Obreht, The Tiger's Wife (one of my favorite 2011 novels; already reviewed)

Ben Loory, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (accomplished debut collection; already reviewed)

Genevieve Valentine, Mechanique:  A Tale of the Tresaulti (very good novel that utilizes circus imagery; second best of such novels read/reading to this point)

Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (this is Riggs' first novel after several non-fiction pieces; it was a mostly satisfying read)

S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep (solid but with a conclusion that weakens the excellent premise of the first 4/5 of the novel)

Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All The Time (Pollock's first novel after an acclaimed collection realized the promise of that earlier work; already reviewed)

Elanor Henderson, Ten Thousand Saints (excellent look at early 80s NYC hardcore scene; moving characters)

Stephen Kelman, Pigeon English (shortlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize; very good in places, yet the whole was less than the sum of its excellent prose and characterizations.  A re-read might improve my opinion of it)

Kevin Wilson, The Family Fang (excellent; already reviewed)

Belinda McKeon, Solace (good, but not memorable for me)

Yvvette Edwards, A Cupboard of Coats (longlisted for the 2011 Booker Prize; decent, but not noteworthy)

Mary Horlock, The Book of Lies (started out rough, but it grew on me until I was fully enjoying it by the end)

Stuart Nadler, The Book of Life (excellent slice-of-American-Jewish-life collection)

Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (I felt like I was reading a book in a foreig...err...geek language.  It was entertaining, but I wouldn't hold it up as being worthy of being considered as more than just a light read for those who love video geek culture)

Justin Torres, We the Animals (excellent, excellent debut)

Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding (although I weary of baseball-as-metaphor tales, this one was actually a moving, poignant look at relationships and how structures can collapse (or improve) as suddenly as a shortstop's attempt to field a wicked hop)

Alexander Maksik, You Deserve Nothing (a teacher-student bond/romance that doesn't irritate me - Maksik captures the emotional bonds and conflicts that develop in certain educational/tutoring relationships very effectively.  Finished this earlier today and was impressed)

Erin Morgenstern, Night Circus (in progress, but very promising so far)

19 debuts read or in the process of reading so far this year.  Looks like I'm going to have a helluva time writing a recap of these come late December.  Hopefully, I've helped introduce you to a few authors that might pique your fancy to the point that you explore their works.  2011 certainly has been a rewarding year for me when it comes to debuts and maybe it'll prove to be the same for you.

Any debut authors (collection, novel, non-fiction) that I might want to explore?


James said...

I usually don't get around to reading debuts until a year or more after their release, but I have managed to read quite a few this year, thanks (I suppose) to Amazon Vine.

Obreht's The Tiger's Wife is not only my favorite debut of the year, but one of the best books that I have read this year.

Pollock's The Devil All the Time was a gamble, but it turned out to be a tightly plotted thriller and I enjoyed it very much.

Although it was good, I do not consider Kelman's Pigeon English award-worthy. It was good, but not something that stuck with me and not something I would want to read again.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One was a hell of a lot of fun, but it was somewhat difficult to get into and can be quite dull when the narrative is removed from the game world in favor of displaying the narrator's everyday life.


Of course, I have read more than just what you have listed here.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi had a lot of ambition, potential, and but it was little more than mediocre. Makes a good argument for magic as tech.

Low Town by Daniel Polanski was predictable tripe that failed to rise above or even to the level of the fantasy-noir blends that came before it.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson was a mediocre affair that doesn't do well as a book, but will likely do wonderfully as a film.

Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Filler comes in the form of bland sexuality and the climax of the novel suffers from a sudden shift in tone that clashes against the rest of the book. As I told a friend who read it alongside me, "If I wanted to read trashy urban fantasy, I would reach for one of the books on my fiancee's shelves and revel in it. I would not go looking in the 'Literature' section of my local book store." This is one of those Lit/Genre mash-ups that tend to go rather well and create something I like, but in this case, it just doesn't work.


I suppose that I should count myself lucky that I managed to read so many good or at least decent debuts, especially when I jumped into half of these books just because they sounded interesting.

Liviu said...

2011 has been a pretty weak debut year for me - almost nothing on par with The Invisible Bridge and Aurorarama of last year not to speak of some great sff series starts - though a recent small press sf debut I've read Dancing with Eternity by John Patrick Lowrie changed a little my assessment as becoming one of those memorable surprises you try new authors for.

I would be curious to see more reactions to Tiger's Wife from people of E. European culture since as mentioned for me while beautifully written, it was in many ways a book written for a Western audience that reinforces the stereotypes about E. Europe and that grated quite a lot.

Though I still liked the book and it did not manage to annoy me as badly as the Booker long listed The last Hundred Days by P. McGuiness, another debut but this time about an era and events I was a live witness too and i could write ten pages on why that book is so distorted and inaccurate to make it laughable as historical fiction, while so-so as fiction

Mechanique though was a disappointment despite my high expectations, while Night Circus was very good - great writing again - but it could have been better with a different structure, eg no predictable love story, more characters than two super-humans that grow in powers constantly becoming distant from humanity in the process; actually the author realized the second weakness as the switch in focus towards the end shows

The Oracle of Stamboul by MD Lukas was a good book, more adult than YA and more historical fiction than sff...

As sff goes i enjoyed some debuts like Debris by Jo Anderton, Napier's Bones by Derryl Murphy and several steampunk and indies, but outside the Lowrie novel above and maybe Debris depending on how sequels go, none was the kind to put the author on my get and read asap list

There is an upcoming Spanish blockbuster translation The Time in Between by Maria Duenas that may or may not be impressive and which I want to get asap and 2-3 more sff debuts of interest I also want to try.

As for the more noticed sff debuts of the year - Low Town - agree with the commenter above, Prince of Thorns - meh, while The Quantum Thief which i read last year from the UK, again agree with the commenter above

Karen A. Wyle said...

Do you accept books for review (debut or otherwise), or do you confine your reviews to books you've discovered without prompting?

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