The OF Blog: Best of 2007: A look back at the Best of 2006 Debut Novelists

Friday, December 28, 2007

Best of 2007: A look back at the Best of 2006 Debut Novelists

There were three authors making their fantasy novel debuts in 2006 that I lauded in my Best of 2006 review. I thought before I announce the top three for 2007 that I would take a look back at these three novels (Hal Duncan's Vellum; Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora; and Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain) and see what each author managed to accomplish this year with their 2007 releases.

Hal Duncan, Vellum.

This book also made my overall Best of 2006 list at #2 due to its rich, multilayered prose. A complex but yet mostly rewarding story of a near-future event in which certain individuals gain the ability to travel here and there through a Multiverse-like setting of 3D time and space called the Vellum. Each is looking for the fabled Book of All Hours, which permits its holder literally to rewrite history by an erasure here, a scribble there. Over the course of the novel, we are introduced to archetypical characters such as Jack, Phreedom, and Seamus, among others. What each means in the end is revealed in Ink.

While I loved Vellum, I was not as enamored with Ink. Although a re-read almost certainly will improve my opinion of the work, when I read it soon after its February release, I couldn't help but feel that Duncan lingered a bit too much on the exploration of the Vellum at the expense of developing the end story and concluding this truly epic battle of Heaven and Hell under other guises. However, the characters continued to develop and ultimately we get to see more of the archetypes behind the seven characters that appear in this duology.

Ranking of 2007 Effort: Second

Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora

This was more of a "popcorn" read, in that it is best to be read without trying to think too much about the characterizations or the plot development, since invariably there would be quite a few places for the nitpickers to go to work. It was apparently intended to be a "fun" read and using that as the main criteria for judging it last year, it mostly succeeded, despite a few ragged places around the middle and the choppy ending that perhaps ought to have been revised further to make it flow better. That being said, I enjoyed this novel.

The second novel in The Gentleman Bastards sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies, I did not enjoy much at all. The "fun" elements were repeated too much for my liking, making for a duller and less enjoyable experience. Add to that the interminable plot to steal from the Sinspire and the ultimate downer of yet another pirate cruise, and I was very underwhelmed by this effort.

Ranking: A very distant third

Tobias Buckell, Crystal Rain

While at first glance this might seem to be the most shallow of the three (due to its relatively slender page count of roughly 350 pages compared to the 500+ page counts for the other two), Buckell displays a nice ability to cut to the chase and to lay out the story and the characters in a quick fashion without skimping overmuch on developing both. This is an adventure/mystery story (the mystery revolving around the lost memory of the main character) and the ending was satisfying. I thought back a year ago that this was a good, solid opener that held promise for future development in succeeding novels.

Well, my expectations were met and even exceeded a little bit when I read Ragamuffin this June. Expanding the story far beyond the planetwide scope of Crystal Rain, introduces a whole new layer of backstory and a host of new and interesting characters. While events here ultimately are tied into the events and characters of the first novel, I felt that Ragamuffin itself is little more than just the first true showing of what seems to be a very promising SF series. Of the three 2006 debuts that had 2007 follow-ups, this was the only one to show improvement over the first.

Ranking: First

And what about the candidates for the 2007 Debut Novels? Here are the names I'm toying with listed below. Keep in mind that I'm going to be thinking of a spec fic debut and not a general one, in case one wants to ask why a certain author made this list despite having three previous award-winning novels:

David Anthony Durham, Acacia: The War with the Mein

Jeffrey Overstreet, Auralia's Colors

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

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