This is my end of year review. This is not the top 10 books released in 2011. Mostly because I suspect I have yet to read some of the better books released last year. I tend to not read hardbacks where possible and I always seem to be playing catch up, as I read older novels and a lot of non-fiction too. This, then, is a roundup of the best fiction I read in 2011, regardless of when they were released.
So, in no particular order…
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow is the story of a group of teenagers in San Francisco who are caught up in a terrorist attack. The city is turned into a police state and the protagonists are embroiled in civil liberties, online networks based on Xbox and Linex and, of course, teen love. Doctorow’s usual themes of creative license (indeed the novel is available free on his website under a Creative Commons license), collaboration and community are all on show, but I think this is his best work. It is tight, well plotted and with interesting characters with genuine motivations. It speaks to me, even though I’m 20 years older than the lead characters.
You can read what I think about Hyperion by Dan Simmons, The Islanders by Christopher Priest, Neon Court by Kate Griffin, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Zoo City by Lauren Beukes, Dervish House by Ian McDonald and Generosity by Richard Powers elsewhere. Of the bunch, Beukes’ Arthur C Clarke Award winner was the most original piece I’ve read this year. Super Sad True Love Story is a story that rings very true with modern society, or rather where it’s heading. I actually enjoyed Hyperion the most, in terms of not wanting to put it down, closely followed by the third title of Griffin’s Matthew Swift series. In my opinion (with the caveat that I have lived in London), Neon Court and its predecessors are the best examples of urban fantasy I’ve read. I admire the depth of Dervish House, the imagination of The Islanders and concept of Generosity.
The last two books on my list for 2011 are both very different types of zombie novel. Of course, zombies are the new vampires, blah blah blah, but both these are excellent variations on the standard tale. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion is the only romantic zombie novel I’ve read, and the only one from the zombie’s perspective. It features a zombie who, after biting into the brains of a young man, begins to have very un-zombie-like feelings towards Julie, the man’s girlfriend. There is plenty of zombie apocalypse action and gives an excellent rational for the zombie attraction to human brains. It is a very ‘warm’ piece of fiction. Mira Grant’s Deadline is less of a zombie novel and more of a science fiction tale of how media has changed and of government control. The second book in the Newsflesh trilogy follows Shaun Mason, who is the reluctant head of a news blogging organisation following the death of his sister, Georgia, in the previous episode. However, a CDC researcher fakes her own death and with the zombie apocalypse seemingly in its second wave, Shaun suddenly has reasons to lead his team again, despite the odd relationship he has with Georgia. The back story of why zombie’s are prowling around is intricately detailed and thoroughly believable. The writing is eminently readable. The whole novel is simply great.
I’ve read some great books this year and fortunately, not many stinkers. Mostly because there are some great books around and I’ve not got time or inclination to read anything that hasn’t had a decent review somewhere. So, some honourable mentions include The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (one of the few genre titles to make a Booker Long List in recent years), The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod (it was a shame I guessed the ending early on), The Silent Land by Graham Joyce and Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite (old school vampire story). I was most disappointed my Michelle Paver’s Dark Matter (meh) and Thomas More’s Utopia (less of a story, more of a rant).
Under the same argument, but without any detail, the graphic novels I’ve most enjoyed this year are Walking Dead 1, 1985, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Hellboy. Conqueror worm, The dead boy detectives, Arkham Asylum : a serious house on serious earth, The Authority : relentless, Marvels, Bloody carnations, Akira 6. I liked them. Isn’t that enough? I also thoroughly enjoyed The Strange Talent of Luthor Strode and managed to completely avoid DC’s New52.
In the spirit of the season, although technically outside the remit of this blog, the films I’ve particularly enjoyed this year include Splice, Rec 2, Captain America, Last Night, Thor, Summer Wars, Paul, Wake Wood, Les aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, The Troll Hunter, Frailty, Toy Story 3, Source Code, Hanna, Black Swan, Attack the Block, Super 8, X Men First Class and Never Let Me Go. I think I enjoyed The Troll Hunter, X-Men, and Never Let Me Go the most. I also thoroughly enjoyed BBC3’s The Fades. I was mostly disappointed with this year’s Dr Who, although I did love Neil Gaimen’s The Doctor’s Wife.
So, what am I looking forward to in 2012. Don’t know. I like to see what reveals itself as and when. Clearly, there are some great superhero films coming out this year. I’m looking forward to visiting a couple of conventions too. As for books: Mieville’s Embassytown, Ready Player One by Cline, By Light Alone by Roberts, The Radleys by Haig, Allison Hewitt Is Trapped by Roux and Zone One by Whitehead. I will of course, read the Clarke award shortlist titles if I haven’t already, whatever they may be.