Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2013: A Reader's Year in Review

     It's a little tardy, but here's my count and analysis of the books I read in 2013. In retrospect, it was a good year. Although the quantity is down a bit from last year, I enjoyed more of them.
     Bearing in mind this is in no sense a best-of list, here's what I read in 2013:
  1. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Jean le Flambeur 1)
  2. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
  3. Pasquale's Angel by Paul McAuley
  4. Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution edited by Ann VanderMeer
  5. Homunculus by James Blaylock (Langdon St. Ives 1)
  6. Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny
  7. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
  8. The Stainless Steel Rat ("Slippery Jim DiGriz" 1) by Harry Harrison
  9. The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge ("Slippery Jim DiGriz" 2) by Harry Harrison
  10. The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World ("Slippery Jim DiGriz" 3) by Harry Harrison
  11. The Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
  12. Desolation Road by Ian McDonald (Mars 1)
  13. Iron Man: Beneath the Armor by Andy Mangels
  14. Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure by Richard Lupoff
  15. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  16. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  17. Night of the Cooters: More Neat Stories by Howard Waldrop
  18. Raylan by Elmore Leonard (Raylan Givens 3)
  19. Enigmatic Pilot: A Tall Tale Too True by Kris Saknussemm (The Lodemania Testament 2)
  20. The Shocking Story of Helmuth Schmidt: Michigan's Original Lonely Hearts Killer by Tobin T. Buhk
  21. The Martian War by Kevin J. Anderson
  22. The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (Tim Pratt) (Pimm and Skye 1)
  23. Infernal Devices by K. W. Jeter (George Dower 1)
  24. Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter (George Dower 2)
  25. John Dies at the End by David Wong (Jason Pargin) (John Cheese and David Wong 1)
  26. Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser 5)
  27. Swords and Ice Magic by Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser 6)
  28. The De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn't Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew by The Editors of
  29. Heechee Rendezvous by Frederik Pohl (Gateway 3)
     I count a total of 29 titles, but three at least were quite short, and seven were re-reads. Six were non-fiction, 20 were science fiction or fantasy, and three were thrillers. Eight, maybe, are steampunk. Three are short story collections or anthologies.
     One thing I hadn't noticed until just now is that almost all of the novels are parts of series, even if the followup book wasn't released (in some case even conceived) until years later.

     There were only three I outright hated: Homunculus, The Martian War and Fiendish Schemes. On paper I should have liked them.
     Homunculus is one of the first steampunk novels by one of the genre's founders, but while its concepts were interesting, it was a mess. I think I have to give up on Blaylock.
     Fiendish Schemes was also by a steampunk founder, and a sequel to one of my favorite steampunk novels, but this was a very unnecessary book that diminished its predecessor. I can only assume it was done for the money.
     The Martian War was a recursive mashup of H.G Wells' life and his major works and characters, but to little effect.

     Favorites include The Quantum Thief, The Gun MachineThe Constantine Affliction and The De-Textbook.
     Quantum Thief is the first in a series (trilogy?) that mixes hard science fiction and literary playfulness with a a sense of mystery. I'm intrigued. The second book is already out, and number three is scheduled.
     Gun Machine is a police thriller, but a weird one. A routine police call leads to a dead cop and the accidental discovery of an apartment filled with firearms, arranged in seemingly purposeful patterns on the walls, every one of which turns out to have fired the bullets in an unsolved homicide. Who and why? The cop assigned to the car, the partner of the dead cop, needs to solve the case to redeem himself, with the help of some equally damaged forensic specialists.
     Constantine Affliction mixes historical and fictional personages in its Victorian/Edwardian setting (minor spoiler alert: one character is the Frankenstein monster, though he's never called that). It's steampunk without supernatural elements per se (zombies and other-dimensional demons are rationalized scientifically) The title disease sometimes transforms men into women and women into men (when it doesn't kill them), which has the potential to harm the social order as women weren't permitted to inherit titles and estates. It's billed as the first of a series, though no further volumes are strictly necessary.
     The De-Textbook debunks what everybody thinks they know about science, history and other such topics. It's not original (Mental Floss has some similar books), but it bears repeating, and this is an entertaining and informative gathering of such facts.


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