Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best of 2009 at Neth Space

It's that time of year again – when a blog like this one is all but required to produce a year's end post prior to the actual end of the year. So, here we are.
Well it’s been 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. I did manage to read 33 books this year (though by true year’s end I’ll probably be at 34 or 35). I suppose a few milestones were reached – sometime over this year I officially went over 100,000 site visits, though with RSS followers who knows when this actually occurred – I’m up to several hundred followers through various RSS feeds. I took the plunge and joined the Twitter phenomenon and I’m up to nearly 250 followers there. A few interesting stats are summed up below.

So, Happy Fesitivus, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy End of a Decade (though I believe it technically ends next year) or whatever season’s greetings you would like.

  • 33 books read
  • 27 Published in 2009
  • 4 Published in 2008
  • 2 Published earlier (2006 and 2001)
  • 5 are YA
  • 24 are part of a series
  • 30 were provided by the publisher
  • I read more books published by Tor (9) than any other. The next closest were Pyr with 4 and Del Rey and Bantam/Transworld with 3 each.
  • 5 books were published by ‘small press’
  • 2 are short story collections
  • Only 3 are written by female authors and only 3 were written by a person of color (possibly more since this is a difficult thing to keep track of)
  • Only 4 are what I consider science fiction
  • 18 are what I consider epic fantasy
  • 3 are what I consider steampunk
  • 5 are what I consider urban fantasy
  • 2 are what I consider alternative history/historical fantasy
  • There have been approximately 50,000 site visits this year (not counting RSS) from 124 countries. Roughly 50% from the USA, 10% 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 The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson was the most popular post by far. The next most popular post with under half of the views was a post discussing the release of the prologue for Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson.
  • The top referring search phrase (other than ‘Neth Space’ and ‘nethspace) was ‘eon dragoneye reborn sequel’ – but adding up the various combinations of ‘Brent Weeks’ and ‘Black Prism’ would push it to the top.
  • People visited the blog via such varied search phrases as ‘cow skin soup’, ‘deep fried haggis’, ‘how did bloody mary got kill’, ‘giant escape r sub zero aus england’, ‘chicken springs road arizona’, and ‘secret agent game where the guy gets to the door and opens the door and gets to win’
So, the best books I read this year are listed below (the exception is Escape From Hell! which was actually read at the end of 2008 but after the best of list had already been posted). It’s not a top 10 list (you’ll find 11 or 12 entries depending on how you count) and it’s not presented in any particular order – though my ratings of the books generally get higher as you move down the list.

Canticle by
Ken Scholes (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

Scholes’ second book, Canticle, shows significant improvement over his already impressive debut, Lamentation. This is an epic fantasy series that all fans should be reading – this is a series that should be talked about – this is something special. The song that is Canticle demands a response, a response that will come in the forthcoming Antiphon, a response that I cannot wait to see. (
full review)

Last Argument of Kings by
Joe Abercrombie (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

Series come to an end – and I’ve said before how it’s often a bitter-sweet kind of moment. With the Last Argument of Kings, Abercrombie seems to have poured on the bitter – which makes it all the more sweet. Abercrombie hasn’t been writing the standard epic fantasy trilogy – and the proof is in the ending. This series has overwhelmed many and under-whelmed more than few – but it something that fans of epic fantasy simply must read for themselves. (
full review)

Buyout by
Alexander C. Irvine (US, UK, Canada, IndieBound)

Buyout by Alex Irvine caught me by surprise. I was looking for a change of pace and the obvious message behind this book looked to be the thought exercise my brain needed. It proved to be much more. So, science fiction isn’t dead, though it does beg the question of what kind of buyout it could get. (
full review)

World’s End and Darkest Hour by
Mark Chadbourn (US, UK, Canada, IndieBound)

Originally published in 1999 in the UK, World’s End by Mark Chadbourn begins the Age of Misrule trilogy and a series of books that follow. Simply put: it completely blew me away. I was sucked into the fascinating tale of Celtic magic in conflict the modern world, where evil seeks the end of the world, where ‘good’ may be little better, and those charged with saving us all have their own problems to deal with. Highly recommended. (
full review)

Escape from Hell! by
Hal Duncan (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

Escape From Hell! is a wild ride through the literal Hell – a pulp adventure and angry condemnation. I suppose that some may consider it blasphemy – I consider it brilliant fiction. It’s rare for me to think such, but Escape From Hell! would make a great movie, if anyone had the guts to make it. (
full review)

The Hero of Ages by
Brandon Sanderson (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

While part of me triumphs over completing another series, I also lament the passing of a great story. The Hero of Ages shows how well a series can end and has left me greatly satisfied. (
full review)

Twelve by
Jasper Kent (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

Whether your are looking for a beautifully told historical novel, a cunning vampire tale, or a stark war novel, Twelve will satisfy. Kent embraces both genre and history, resulting in a book that defies classification and spans multiple boundaries. Early success has already lead to the expectation of more to come – the Danilov Quintet will span important events throughout 19th and early 20th Century Russia, with Thirteen Years Later coming soon. After Twelve, I can’t wait to see what Kent throws at us next. (
full review)

The Last Hot Time by
John M. Ford (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

So, what is The Last Hot Time? Well it’s an Americana, elf-punk, urban fantasy, gangster tale, love story hiding the classic American coming-of-age story that can serve as a metaphor for so much more. Or more simply it’s a new classic of SFF literature from a sadly deceased giant of genre and a must-read book. (
full review)

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and
Brandon Sanderson (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

In all this, The Gathering Storm comes across as I expected – this is a book that those who are still excited about The Wheel of Time will love and it’s a book that will have plenty to complain about for those seeking it. Sanderson does an admirable job of picking up a series at its climax and staying true to it and its fans. Exciting events occur, longstanding mysteries revealed, plots and arcs come to fruition – some scenes in this book will become iconic to the series as a whole. But, the Last Battle hasn’t yet begun, the characters still haven’t been brought together, and major anticipated events remain. All in all, I couldn’t be happier – reading The Gathering Storm brought back my love for these characters and this world. They’ve been a part of my life for nearly 15 years and getting more was a joy. The series is on the right track and Sanderson has proven to me that he deserves to be in the driver’s seat – I simply can’t wait to read what comes next. (
full review)

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer (US, Canada, Indiebound)

Finch answers many of the mysteries posed in the first two books of the Ambergris Cycle while standing well enough on its own to introduce new readers to Ambergris. It must be described as noir though the setting of Ambergris sets it apart – is it fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, a political thriller, noir, fungalpunk? Is it all of the above, none of the above? Finch is what you make of it – for me, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. (
full review)

Medicine Road by
Charles de Lint (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

In short, I cannot recommend Medicine Road highly enough – though please take note that due to the place I am in the world, it reached me at an exceptionally personal level. I’ve been awed by the writing of de Lint in the past and haven’t read him in some time, and now I feel that it would be a terrible shame to go as long before I read him again. (
full review)

Honorable Mentions

Of course there are quite a few very good books that didn’t quite crack the uppermost tier, but are certainly books that I recommend.
And for kicks – the worst book I read in 2009:

The Sheriff of Yrnameer by
Michael Rubens (US, UK, Canada, Indiebound)

Frankly put, if I hadn’t been in a small Arizona town on a work assignment that gave me the choice of watching other people work or reading while watching people work with a choice only 3 books (all of which I read), The Sheriff of Yrnameer is not a novel I would have finished reading. Of course, this is a humor novel, which means that if the novel doesn’t appeal to your sense of humor, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it. The Sheriff of Yrnameer clearly didn’t appeal to mine – maybe it will appeal to yours, but I won’t bet on it. (
full review)


Mark Chadbourn said...

Hey Ken - Thanks for giving my book such a great reception. It really is appreciated!

Neth said...

No worries Mark - I've really enjoyed The Age of Misrule so far. I just need to find the time to read Always Forever now (and Silver Skull as well).

Fence said...

I guess I'll have to get reading. I've only read one from your list. That was The Gathering Storm, which'll probably make my list too.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Great to read your 'end of year' post, Ken. I'm working on mine now, always a pleasurable part of the year. Love looking back on the year of reading.

I'm seeing Ken Scholes' books in a lot of places. Being a cover art lover I am certainly impressed with the presentation of these books.

The John Ford book sounds great. After seeing it here I looked for it at my local BN last night and couldn't track it down, but I will definitely be looking to pick it up soon.

Neth said...

@Carl - I'm looking forward to your list - you always have good suggestions. Scholes and Ford are both highly recommended.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Ever since I started reading the Ian Fleming books after the film Casino Royale was released, I've become a fan of the detective/noir genre. I've read some good and some meh books in the genre over the last few years but am always looking for new ones. I am impressed with what Alex Bledsoe has done with combining genres and the Ford book, cover and your review, makes me salivate.

Neth said...

I have the books by Bledsoe, so I need to bump them up in priority. I hear good things.

If your liking Noir a lot - read Finch if you haven't already. It's fantastic.


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