Top Five Books Not From 2008

And my second list, the five novels I read in 2008 which weren’t written in 2008:

1. Stay, Nicola Griffith
This is a book so fantastic that not only did I not realise I was reading a sequel without reading the previous installment (The Blue Place), but it didn’t matter that I hadn’t. Aud, the main character, is absolutely fascinating – a broken, grief- and guilt-stricken woman rebuildling herself after the death of a lover, capable of brutal violence but still able to help the two women she comes across while investigating a missing girl. While the strong, intelligent, female character is a big part of the appeal, it’s also gorgeously written, especially when descrbing Aud’s cabin in the woods, and the minor characters are never ciphers or cliches.

2. Look to Windward, Iain M Banks
It’s a little more thoughtful and less violent than some of the other Culture novels, but it’s probably my favourite because of the way it explores the morality of the Culture, and delves into the long-term implications of their decisions. PLus it has megafauna and I am a sucker for those.

3. White Queen, Gwyneth Jones
This makes my list purely on the strength of the thoroughly alien aliens, which may be superficially physically similar to humans, but soon turn out to be as strange as I’ve ever encountered, with different approaches to communication, gender, birth and death, and which affect all the humans they encounter. I usually find Jones’s books a difficult read to follow, but this one was worth it, and I enjoyed the complexity of Braemar and Johnny and their strange relationship.

4. On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers
I didn’t like The Anubis Gates, so James persuaded me I should give Powers another go by giving me a copy of On Stranger Tides. It’s a joyous adventure full of pirates and voodoo and ghosts and the Fountain of Youth and rampaging around the Caribbean, madness and obsession and a severed head in a box. Plus it inspired one of the greatest video games of all time.

5. Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
Starts off as a light, funny, crime novel in a weird and fascinating cty (about as close to Douglas Adams as anything I’ve read), but turns into something sad and moving and even more interesting, and somehow the mixture of the two works incredibly well. As a bonus it also features one of the few science fictional cats which I do not hate.

Next year’s reading resolution is to keep a list of all the books I read so these best-of posts aren’t quite so difficult to write.

6 Responses to “Top Five Books Not From 2008”

  1. SomeGuy Says:

    I just empty out a shelf or two at the beginning of the year. Then, everything that I read that year gets put on the shelf. At the end of the year, I know what I’ve read, and I can sort through the keepers (the best), the sellers (the OK and the crap).

  2. Martin Wisse Says:

    Next year’s reading resolution is to keep a list of all the books I read

    Which is why I started a booklog back in 2001, because I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I’d read and what I thought of it.

  3. Liviu Says:

    Since a friend pointed me to it in mid-08, Goodreads.com has been the best place to keep track of books read, plan to read, started, browsed – I finished about 230 novels/ss collections in 08, of which about half were 08 releases – with 78 sf, 66 f, and 46 mainstream fantastic

    Free, customizable, easy to add books to, I update my Goodreads page constantly with mini-reviews and with what books I buy, get.

    Try it if you want an easy free way to keep track of books, and you can print your lists, or save them on your PC for backup…

    Regarding the books above – I was lucky to get an arc of Spirit by G. Jones and it impressed me so much – got to be #2 sf novel of the year just below the once in a decade Anathem – that I went and bought the 3 earlier Aleutinian books, and read and enjoyed a lot White Queen, while I plan to read North Wind and Phoenix Cafe sooner rather than later.

    North Wind is almost a direct sequel as far as I can see after a bit of reading from it – same difficult but superb style as White Queen.

    Spirit is much more accessible and fun and I loved The Count of Monte-Cristo :) so having Countess of Monte-Cristo in space is an additional bonus. I even wrote a review for Robert at Fantasy Book Critic, though John Clute’s one in Sfweekly.com is superb while I am just a book-lover who wants to help spread the word…

  4. Niall Says:

    #2 sf novel of the year

    #1 (possibly) of 2009, surely?

  5. The Best of 2008, Redux « Torque Control Says:

    […] Top Five Books Not From 2008 […]

  6. james Says:

    I loved on Stranger tides, but understand what you mean about anubis gates. have you tried Drawing of the Dark, a rollicking fantasy by Powers.

    MMS is amazing, I yearn for more of his SF, I loved Spares, and One of Us, but Only Forward gives Spares a run for its money.
    There is a free story here
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/vampires/newstory/smith_p1.shtml

    haven’t gotten to Th Servants yet, but will.

    J


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