Thursday, December 27, 2007

Top Nine Books Published in 2007

Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2007. It may be Elizabeth Bear’s New Amsterdam, which I will not finish before the end of the year. It may be The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

This Top Nine List is sort of / kind of in order. The first two on the list are very much in their proper order, but after that things get a bit trickier. Whichever order the list is in, these are the nine novels published in 2007 which I feel were the strongest titles of the year, popularity be damned.

1: Whiskey and Water, by Elizabeth Bear: I cannot speak highly enough of Elizabeth Bear and her two Promethean Age novels. Whiskey and Water picks up seven years after the events of Blood and Iron and brings us back into a war between humans, faerie, demons, and angels. Always surprising, and stunning in its beauty, Whiskey and Water is easily the best 2007 release I have read.

2: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling: Jo Rowling’s conclusion to her Harry Potter series is certainly the popular choice, and some may feel that its inclusion is not giving people anything new, but this list is not about highlighting books you may not have read, or that deserve extra consideration. This list is about the best 2007 publications I have read. Period. Deathly Hallows is certainly that. It was the perfect conclusion to the series, answered nearly every question that I may have had, and told a satisfying story. That it could have been a couple of chapters shorter is scarcely a knock because it allowed the reader to spend those extra chapters immersed in this delightful wizarding world.

3: Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch: Some readers were less than satisfied with Red Seas, but I thought Scott Lynch hit all the right notes in telling another story of the Gentlemen Bastards. Great pacing, still plenty of scheming and crooked plans of Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, and another great setting for the novel. Between the Spire and the pirates, Red Seas was packed with action, humor, and fun, with moments of heart-wrenching fear and betrayal.

4: Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill: From the first appearance of the ghosts with their eyes scrubbed out with black scribbles, I was hooked. Heart-Shaped Box is a disturbing work of modern horror with touches of those Japanese horror flicks we’ve been importing and re-releasing with American actors, and it is one hell of a debut novel.

5: Softspoken, by Lucius Shepard: Where other novels on this list are large, epic stories of magic, science fiction, and adventure, Softspoken is a quiet (no pun intended) story of haunting and history and family in a small South Caroina town. It is about coming home again and loss, and told as only Lucius Shepard can tell it.

6: Acacia, by David Anthony Durham: I want to call Acacia one of the year’s big fantasy debuts, but this is David Anthony Durham’s fourth novel. His first three novels were historical fiction, so this is his first foray into epic fantasy, but Durham was an accomplished and award winning author before he threw his hat into the fantasy ring. Durham brings that historian’s eye to Acacia, laying out a backstory for his world and the kingdom his thrusts his four protagonists into. All that history and muck comes to the forefront early on in the novel when the Akaran king is assassinated and his kingdom overrun. Meticulously detailed, but somehow Durham does not allow the detail to overwhelm the story. The detail supports the story and forces the reader to pay closer attention while still maintaining the required level of interest to WANT to keep reading.

7: Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology, by Sheila Williams (editor): This anthology covers thirty years of stories originally published in Asimov’s. These are not all the Hugo Award winners, but rather a representation of what Asimov’s is proud to have published over three decades. This anthology skews to the shorter stories as Williams mentions that if she included the novellas, there would scarcely be enough room for to represent the entirety of Asimov’s. The bottom line here is that Asimov’s has had an incredible thirty year run and these are exceptional stories, almost without exception. Octavia Butler, Kelly Link, Isaac Asimov, Robert Reed, Ursula Leguin, Robert Silverberg, and many more grace these pages. This is well worth reading.

8: Ally, by Karen Traviss: This fifth entry in the Wess’har Wars is all about character. Light on major plot moving action (except for momentous events which jump start everything), Karen Traviss’s original fiction (versus her equally excellent Star Wars tie in fiction) is generally outstanding and like coming home. Only, when we get home, we find that home is not a very hospitable place, but that inhospitable home is one which is a pleasure to visit. Traviss gets into the heads of a diverse group of characters and the narrative is fascinating. I don’t know that this is the best book in the Wess’har Wars, but this is a series I look forward to each year.

9: The Sword-edged Blonde, by Alex Bledsoe: While there is something of tradition of fantasy detective novels (Glen Cook’s Garret P.I., for example), I am not very familiar with them. Here’s what I do know: The Sword-edged Blonde is as hard boiled as they come with plenty of nastiness, a trip down memory lane, and a fantastic private investigator in a fantasy setting named Eddie LaCrosse. This is a reasonably short (fewer than 250 pages), fast paced, and filled with entertaining characters talking sharp, and is more than worth the read. I truly hope that Alex Bledsoe writes more Eddie LaCrosse books.

All links are to the original reviews.


Carl V. Anderson said...

Heart-shaped Box is certainly one I want to read, as is Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts. I have to admit that I was oblivious to the fact that he was Stephen King's son until a few days ago. I must live in a bubble. ;)

I have New Amsterdam in my to-read pile for 2008. I've heard nothing but good things.

Hadn't heard of the Asimov anthology, but it sounds wonderful.

Joe said...

I'm most of the way through New Amsterdam. It's good, has a more formal feel to it, and I much prefer Bear's Promethean novels...but I prefer her Promethean novels to most things, so maybe that's not fair.

Anonymous said...

I should be getting to the first Scott Lynch book sometime early this year. And I hope to get to Heart-Shaped Box and Acacia relatively soon as well. I keep reading great things about all of them.