Saturday, January 29, 2011

Best of 2010

2010 was another busy year here at Neth Space. The real world has kept me from reading as much as I’d like – but that’s nothing new, just a bit extreme as I dealt with the things ranging from the divorce of my parent to the birth of my second child and a few medical challenges thrown in. I did manage to read 30 books in 2010. A few interesting stats are summed up below.


  • 30 books read
  • 24 Published in 2010
  • 3 Published in 2009
  • 3 Published earlier (2007, 1976 and 1969)
  • 1 was YA (down from 5 in 2009)
  • 20 are part of a series
  • 25 were provided by the publisher
  • I read more books published by Random House (7) and its various imprints than any other – 2 from Del Rey, 2 from Ballantine, 2 from Spectra, and 1 from Pantheon (I suppose you could bounce it up to a total with 8 if you count 1 book from Transworld on the other side of the pond). The next closest were Tor (6), Pyr (4) and Orbit with 3.
  • 3 books were published by ‘small press’ (down from 5 last year)
  • 2 are short story collections (same as last year)
  • 8 are written by female authors (up from 3 last year) and 5 were written by a person of color or other distinct ethnicity from my own (possibly more since this is a difficult thing to keep track of)
  • 6 are what I consider science fiction (up from 4 in 2009)
  • 10 are what I consider epic fantasy (down from 18)
  • Only 1 is what I consider steampunk (down from 3)
  • 8 are what I consider urban fantasy (up from 5)
  • 4 are what I consider sword and sorcery
  • Only  is what I consider alternative history/historical fantasy
  • I conducted 7 Interviews and helped out with a couple of others
  • There have been approximately 57,000 site visits this year (not counting RSS) from 139 countries. Roughly 45% from the USA, 12% from the UK, and 9% from Canada.
  • The Westeros Forums and Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist are the top referring sites (other than Google).
  • My review of Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson was the most popular post by far. The next most popular post was my review of The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, so this year seems to have been the year of Brandon. Third place by less than 100 views went to my review of The Passage by Justin Cronin. I find 4th place very interesting since it is my review of The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie – a series that has been out for a while now and a review that is several years old. This tells me that Joe has a strong staying power (or that my Google-fu for that post is particularly good).
So, the best books I read this year are listed below. It’s not a top 10 list and it’s not presented in any particular order – though my ratings of the books generally get higher as you move down the list – with Who Fears Death as the clear top book of 2010.

Kraken by China Miéville (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

Kraken is the latest from the highly decorated China Miéville and a return to London. It’s a story of religious, cultist and criminal fanatics, it’s the story of a young man awakening to world around him, it’s a story of loss, it’s an apocalyptic, action-packed thriller, it’s magical, it’s squidpunk, it’s all a bad joke…and it’s simply an example of a master at work. Highly recommended. (full review)

The Way of Kings is Sanderson’s most recent original work and the first book in a planned massive series. It’s his best book to date and the start of something very promising. The world is wonderfully creative with a deep history and uncertain future, the characters draw you in and make you care, and it all combines into something very special. Sanderson’s name may have leaped into the spotlight on the coattails of The Wheel of Time (though he was certainly on his way up already), but The Way of Kings proves that he belongs. This is a book that all fans of epic fantasy need to read and it could serve a great introduction for new fans to the genre, both young and not-so-young, as long as they can get past intimidation of 1000+ page book. My final thought can only be this: Brandon, when do we get book 2, because I want it now! (full review)

So, does The Left Hand of Darkness stand up 40+ years later – emphatically, YES! This novel has a timeless feel about it and a wonderful subtly wrapped in important thoughts that are inherent to our society and species. We will always be a gendered society, but just what do these gender roles mean? And the dichotomies within can apply where they weren’t necessarily aimed – the Cold War of the planet Winter now reads much more like an interesting take on the differences between Democrats and Republicans in the US – and I’m sure that those from other places will find their own modern analogs if they wish. This book earns its write to be at or near the top of any ‘best of’ list and easily belongs in a series of Masterworks. (full review)

So, the buzz surrounding The Passage is already huge and I see it only growing. It’s a genre book from a literary writer with potential appeal to a much wider audience than either alone. For us genre readers, a vampire apocalypse novel may not seem like it should be the next great book, but as always, it’s all about the execution – and Cronin executes The Passage with near-perfection. This book earns the buzz, this book should be read and discussed widely, this book is both literary and genre, this is a book I highly recommend. (full review)

So Sleepless is an apocalyptic crime story plus many other pieces that all add up to literary fiction. Yes, this is a book that is both genre and literary (in spite of having a plot). It is very much a discussion on the human condition – it’s just that most of the human conditions viewed are what so many of us would choose to deny exist. This is both a book that I can’t recommend highly enough and a book that I don’t think I ever want to read again. It is excellence, it is depressing as hell, and thankfully, it’s not entirely without hope. (full review)

Erikson has written something I think all authors dream of writing at one point or another but are either too scared or too smart to actually put on paper. Well, as a fan, a critic, and a far from noble knight, I have to say that I loved every juicy bit of Crack'd Pot Trail – I think I’ve developed a taste for it. (full review)

As I keep getting at, Who Fears Death is a lot of things, but most importantly, it’s a beautifully written book in a setting can only be considered unique in the world of fantasy. Okorafor’s writing magically reveals the story, effortlessly endearing characters to the reader, and engineering a story that simply must be read. The African feel of Who Fears Death may be what sets it apart from its contemporaries, and it may be the reason many choose to read or pass it by, but the timeless, human story within is the real reason to pick it up.

The bottom line is that Who Fears Death is the chance that readers should take. It celebrates the true diversity of SFF literature and reveals the struggles of a part of the world often overlooked. It’s a timeless, human tale that I highly recommend. (full review)

Honorable Mentions

Of course there are quite a few very good books that didn’t quite crack the uppermost tie – the 5 below just missed the cut. But really, I only read 1 or 2 books that I wouldn’t recommend for one reason or another.

And for kicks – the worst book I read in 2010

While The Chamber of Ten is a bit of a breath of fresh air in the world of urban fantasy – there’s not a werewolf or vampire in sight – it suffers under the generic feel of feeling like a Dan Brown imitation. The prose is a bit better that Dan Brown, but the storytelling is not. I think traditional SFF fans won’t find it terribly interesting and traditional thriller fans won’t buy into the speculative aspects of the story. This seems to leave The Chamber of Ten without an audience. (full review)


Brenda said...

The only one of those books I've read is The Way of Kings, and I loved it. I'll have to look up the other ones. I know I've already got Kraken on my TBR list since I like Mieville a lot.

Ryan said...

Its nice to see your favorite reads from last year. An interesting array of titles on there.

Brian Lindenmuth said...

Congrats on #2, I had no idea.

You're reading more then me when mine were that little.

Neth said...

Thanks Brian - it's a been a bit of tough road, but worth it. And the only reason I've managed so much reading is that she loves to be held while she sleeps, so I get a bit of extra reading time, though at the expense of my own sleep.


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