Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008 - A Year in Review

So, it’s once again time for a year-end roundup of favorites, and it’s once again a bit before the new year as well (see the best of 2006 and 2007). This year has been a busy year for me – my 14 month old son has more or less completely consumed my life and we moved from the relative hell of the desert to the tranquility of the mountains – which included the stress of buying and selling a house in the early stages of what seems to have become some sort of financial armageddon. But, I digress.

A major impact is that this year, I’ve only read about 25 books, which is about half of what I generally aim for (I’ll probably knock out 1 or 2 more before it officially becomes 2009). Of those, 16 were 2008 releases, 8 were earlier than that, and 1 is a 2009 release.

The following 10 stand out above the rest (scoring around 8 or above on my rating scale). Furthermore, the top five stand out even more and are truly outstanding books. Of the top 10, 5 are 2008 releases, 4 earlier, and 1 is the 2009 release. In the top 5, 2 are 2008 releases, 2 are earlier, and 1 is the 2009 release.

Anyway, this year’s best reads at Neth Space:

The Best

Neuropath by Scott Bakker. Bakker branches out into the near-future thriller world with Neuropath, and I have to say that he does so in a big way. The disturbing audacity of this book alone is enough for it to appear on this list.

Already Dead by Charlie Huston. Already Dead is the first book in Huston’s Joe Pitt series. Pitt is your standard PI in a noir world, only he’s a vampire. This book is fun, fast and refreshing. I really need to read more of these.

The Lees of Laughter’s End by Steven Erikson. I believe that in spite of his fame for the mammoth Malazan Book of the Fallen big fat fantasy, Erikson really excels with his shorter fiction. The Lees of Laughter’s End is the best of these that I’ve read.

Lord Tophet by Gregory Frost. The concluding volume of the Shadowbridge Duology, Lord Tophet is the second half of a beautifully written story about stories.

Zoë’s Tale by John Scalzi. Scalzi cracks into the list with his best written book to date. Zoë’s Tale straddles the line between YA and adult oriented fiction and has all the usual charms of a Scalzi book with a bit of something extra.

The Best of the Best

The Final Empire and The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is turning out to be a real breath of fresh air. It both subverts and embraces the typical epic fantasy genre and it does both well. Fans of epic fantasy should run out and read these now if they haven’t already – and the final book is already published.

Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson. Toll the Hounds is Book 8 in Erikson’s massive series The Malazan Book of the Fallen and perhaps the best one so far. With the strong thematic presence, this entry isn’t for the faint of heart, and I stand by my minority opinion about just how good this book is.

Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover. It’s been 10 years since Heroes Die was originally published and it stands that time well – in fact this is one of the first of what has now become the common, gritty fantasy. And it can kick the ass all those Johnny-come-latelies.

The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick. Along with the book below, The Dragons of Babel stands as my favorite read of 2008. Swanwick beautifully subverts and satires epic fantasy as it tackles both light and weighty themes. Swanwick is an author I need to read more of.

The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker. Sharing the top spot, Bakker offers a great preview for 2009. The first book in a new trilogy following his much-acclaimed The Prince of Nothing Trilogy, The Judging Eye is more accessible to the average reader without sacrificing the depth that gained Bakker so much acclaim. A powerful start to a new trilogy.


Plinydogg said...

Great list, although I haven't read too many of them...after all, not all of us have access to The Judging Eye already :)

And don't feel bad about posting your favorites list this early...I posted mine three days ago and haven't looked back.

Happy Holidays!

Neth said...


thanks. It looks like you've some good reading ahead of you then.

Brian said...

I was surprised to see Neuropath make the cut.

Neth said...

honestly, so was I.

I find when I look back, there are some books and their reviews that I would treat differently after some distance. While my instinct was to rate it fairly highly after reading it, as time goes on, I'm less impressed with Neuropath. In the end, I let it stand in the top-ten list because by using my numeric score as a guide there was a clear divide.

I'm not sure if I allowed myself to get caught up in the pre-release buzz and hype or if this is simply a case of distance providing further insight.

Carl V. said...

I was quite impressed with Zoe's Tale. Initially I wasn't sure I would be since so much of it was covering similar ground but once I got into it I was lost to vintage Scalzi. He is another author who simply cannot write fast enough for me.


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