The OF Blog: Larry's choices for the Best of 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Larry's choices for the Best of 2006

A few days ago, I posted the "finalists" in a couple of the categories from which I would be choosing my favorites. It literally went up to the last hours of 2006 before I could decide which stories were my #1 favs for the year, especially for the Best Book Released in the US in 2006 category. Many fine books. Anyways, here are my Top 3/5 Choices:

Best Book Released in 2006:

1. Jeff VanderMeer, Shriek: An Afterword - Perhaps this book being the last one I completed in 2006 helped influence the one-man jury here, but what stood out about this novel was how personal it felt. This story about Duncan and Janice Shriek felt so real, which helped make all the other elements about the story feel more vibrant than they otherwise would have been. This was one of those rare examples of fantasy novels that have all the layers of emotional depth that the "mainstream" novels do. I just cannot recall a book released this year in the US that comes close to that.

2. Hal Duncan, Vellum - This was one of the most impressive debut novels that I've ever read in the field. Duncan told a very complex story in a fashion that often felt lyrical, while at the same time making this reader feel like he had some at stake by continuing to read this volume. I am eagerly awaiting the release of Ink in a couple of months, just to see if the promise of Vellum is fulfilled. If it is, then Ink might become the early favorite to snag a Best of 2007 award.

3 (tie) Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tale: In the Night Garden - I will admit to enjoying a well-told fairy tale. I also will admit to loving daringly original takes on traditional Western fairy tale motifs, especially if they are well-written. Add all of these up with a very compelling frame stories and this book served to convince me that I better listen to Jay and a few others on the blogosphere and buy the rest of her work pronto.

3. (tie) Gene Wolfe, Soldier of Sidon - Wolfe is a master of utilizing an unreliable narrator to tell a story that requires a lot of careful attention on the reader's part to catch all the nuances and possibilities that underlie the words that aren't printed. In Soldier of Sidon, the third volume in the Latro/Soldier series, Wolfe has returned to the classical world of the mercenary Latro, who has suffered an injury which causes him to forget the previous day's experiences if he doesn't write them down. In this volume, he matches the work he did with the first two volumes (written in the 1980s), thus earning a tie for the third spot.

Honorable mentions: Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora; Sergei Lukyanenko, Night Watch (English translation); Mark Danielewski, Only Revolutions.

Best Book Read in 2006 (but released in prior year):

For this and the other categories, I'm not going to be elaborating as much, mostly because that would take the rest of the year for me to complete. Suffice to say that these are older books that I enjoyed a lot.

1. Milorad Pavić, Dictionary of the Khazars

2. José Saramago, Las intermitencias de la muerte

3. Ben Okri, The Famished Road

4. Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

5. Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina

Honorable mentions: Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz; Edward Whittemore, Sinai Tapestry; Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist

Best Short Story Collection Read in 2006:

I read three collections that were so good that I felt like I needed to note each of these here. So here they are, different in some aspects, but very similar in quality and in how individual stories moved me:

1. Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

2. Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners

3. Zoran Živković, Seven Touches of Music (English translation)

Most Disappointing Book Read in 2006

I generally am very careful with the books I read, but occasionally there'll be some that just dissatisfy me in some fashion. That is not to say that all of the books that appear below are bad, merely disappointing in respect to expectations.

1. Brandon Sanderson, Elantris

2. Dan Simmons, Olympos

Oddly enough, those are the only two I can think of that fit the criteria for this category.

Best Debut Novel of 2006

This is for American release or for first time in English translation:

1. Hal Duncan, Vellum

2. Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora

3. Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain

Best Spanish-Language Novel Read in 2006:

This is meant to recognize the books that I read in Spanish this year and since they make up the majority of my 2006 reads (64 out of 117), I thought it would be fitting to list three favorites here:

1. José Saramago, Las intermitencias de la muerte

2. Alberto Fuguet, Cortos

3. Manuel Vincent, Son de Mar

And there are my 2006 "awards." Let the discussion begin, either here or elsewhere, as to how inspired/deranged these picks were!

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