Monday, December 26, 2011

Best reads of 2011

Regardless of publishing date, the following are the best books I read (or re-read) in 2011.

Bulgakov’s testament to the power of the written word over oppressive government contends for the title of greatest satire ever.  Satan, talking cats, and naked witches have never had so much literary bite.

Perhaps top 10 science fiction books ever written...  Science, space, alternative perspectives on reality, adventures, and so, this book has everything that makes the genre worthwhile.

Beethoven - Barry Cooper
The music scholar’s biography, Herr Ludwig’s music takes on new meaning with the subtleties of his major and minor works dissected in technical fashion. 

Life in the cold deep of the arctic has perhaps never been novelized as well as this fictional ending to the lost Franklin Expedition of 1845.

The longest haul I’ve ever made (10,000 pages!!), this series takes fantasy literature in new directions.  Both rolling in and shaking off genre, Erikson transforms Napoleon’s idea to honor the sacrifices of the anonymous in war into a 10 book series that’s got it all, action, humor, magic, drama, and tragedy.

The perfect novella, structure, theme, characterization, prose - everything about this short work, shines.  It is idiomatic for a reason.

Perhaps the most moral of post-apocalyptic novels ever written, the themes of science, religion, technology, and how they are applied remains as poignant today as 50 years ago when the book was written.

Having dug deep to expose what is at the very roots of being, this book will never grow old as long as humans remain human.

An advantage of science fiction is that it can multiply the scale of setting in the blink of an eye.  Clarke uses this to contrast the fragility of the great unknown in unparalleled fashion.

Such a brilliant interweaving of Hindu and Buddhist myth with far-future science, the reader never knows where one begins and the other ends.

On the surface an homage to detective noir, at deeper levels this work addresses cultural pre-conception and the limits is places on society.  Orwell would have been proud.

Heaven, Earth and Man in the Book of Change - Hellmut Wilhelm
Beyond the sense of fate and prophecy typically associated, this scholarly effort went a fair distance toward informing me of the cultural and historical aspects of Yi Jing.  

River of Gods - Ian McDonald
Lord of Light for the 21st century, Ian McDonald adds a social conscience as well as wonderful tech to a mythic storyline jam packed with characters and action.

By creating an alternate history wherein Japan and Germany win WWII, Dick explores the relativity of cultural juxtaposition in terms of art, the self, and worldview.  Stylistically his best work.

Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
WWII, cryptology, and security of modern business all rolled into a big, fat story that pays out in spades.  I hate to include two books by Stephenson on this list, but Cryptonomicon is too good to pass by.

Gateway - Frederik Pohl
A science fiction idea perfectly employed in an otherwise realist narrative, books like this are what make the genre worth reading. 

No comments:

Post a Comment