Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Nine Best Reads of 2007

At first glance this list is awfully similar to the Best Of 2007 list, but the distinction is that the previous list is limited to those books published in 2007, and this list is limited only to the 226 books I have read in 2007 (assuming I finish Dreamsongs: Volume 1 before Tuesday).

In some cases I have read multiple volumes of a series this year and I would like to recognize the entire series rather than having the list taken up by three authors (Elizabeth Bear, Scott Lynch, and Glen Cook).

1: The Promethean Age, by Elizabeth Bear (Blood and Iron, Whiskey and Water): What can I say, the best and most memorable reading experience I had during 2007 was Elizabeth Bear’s first two Promethean Age novels. Considering that Bear will be releasing two more Promethean novels in 2008, the top spot next year may very well be The Promethean Age once again.

2: The Black Company, by Glen Cook (The Black Company, Shadows Linger, The White Rose): While I have read the first eight Black Company novels this year, it was the opening trilogy which was truly outstanding. Military fantasy with quite a bit going on behind the scenes; it was obvious that Glen Cook had directly influenced Steven Erikson and that the Black Company is a direct ancestor of Erikson’s Bridgeburners. Those first books with the sense of discovery were something special. The series has been on something of a downswing with the first two Glittering Stone novels, but overall this has been one of my favorite discoveries

3: The Company, by Kage Baker (In the Garden of Iden, Sky Coyote, Mendoza in Hollywood, The Graveyard Game): With the introduction of Mendoza in a 16th Century English romance, and the introduction of cyborgs with immortality and some time travel, Kage Baker has put together an odd series spanning centuries which slowly reveals more and more of a conspiracy about the Dr. Zeus Company and what happens to the immortal cyborg operatives when they are no longer useful to the company. Each novel (except The Graveyard Game) tells its own story which happens to feature the immortals, and set in different eras and locations, The Company is a series of absolutely fantastic novels and I expect The Company to take a slot on next year’s list as I expect to finish off the series during 2008.

4: The Stories of Ted Chiang (Stories of Your Life and Others, The Merchant and the Alchemists Gate): Between the eight stories in Chiang’s collection and the 1 story novella from Subterranean Press, Ted Chiang has a total of nine stories which pretty well beats the pants off of everything else published in this, or any other year. A new Ted Chiang story is an event, and while I only just discovered him this year and I wish he was far more prolific, it only makes a new story all the more special.

5: The Gentlemen Bastards, by Scott Lynch: Between The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies, this is one of the most exciting NEW fantasy series I have come across. It may be an obvious entry, but I doubt I have had more fun reading a new popular novel than I have these two Scott Lynch novels.

6: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by Jo Rowling: I would be remiss if I did not include HP7 on this list. It was essential reading in 2007 and delivered everything I could have hoped for. Plus, it gave me the answer I hoped for regarding Snape.

7. Dark Harvest, by Norman Patridge: Easily the shortest work on this list (160 pages), Dark Harvest was a World Fantasy Award nominated Novella about a small town’s Halloween tradition. Violent, creative, and exciting, Dark Harvest was a great 2007 discovery.

8: Heroes Die, by Matthew Stover: I first knew Stover as the author of some of the best Star Wars novels out there, novels which could hold their own against anybody’s work. But Heroes Die is its own animal and it’s a beast. It is a mix of virtual reality, fantasy, and science fiction (depending on which aspect of the novel we are dealing with), and it is a brutally honest and superb work of fiction. Heroes Die is a novel which should be read far more widely than it is.

9: Dreamsongs: Volume 1, by George R. R. Martin: Inclusion on this list assumes that I will finish the book by Monday night. I think I will. This first collection, of two, covers much of George Martin’s early short stories and award winners (“A Song for Lya”, “Sandkings”, “Nightflyers”, and more). This is an exceptional collection and would merit a place on the Best Of 2007 list, except for the fact that it was originally published in 2003 as a limited edition from Subterranean Press. Nothing has changed in the content, the RRetrospective was cut in half for wider publication from Bantam. Because of that, I can’t include this in a list of best books published in 2007. Not if I am being fair.

My honorable mentions here are Kitty Takes a Holiday by Carrie Vaughn and Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. Both excellent novels. The Vaughn is the third Kitty Norville novel and the series continues to surpass what I’d expect from a “werewolf” book. Four and Twenty Blackbirds is the opening entry of three Eden Moore novels where Eden can see ghosts. Southern, gothic, haunted, fantasy. Exceptional. Either novel could easily take a place on this list.


Carl V. Anderson said...

Cherie Priest is another of those authors that I just have to get to in 2008! I can't believe I haven't picked up any of her books.

Joe said...

You've got to give her a try. I have Wings to the Kingdom of Dreadful Skin out from the library right now.