Thursday, December 27, 2012

Best reads of 2012

In fact only one actually published this year, the following are the best speculative fiction books I read or re-read in 2012.

Nightwings - Robert Silverberg
Tying together history, spirituality, and the future of humanity, Silverberg’s three novellas collected in Nightwings are gloriously transcendent.

If there is a list of ‘best of’ writers in the world today, Chabon is on it.  Able to take such disparate ideas as Alaska, Jewish culture, detective noir, and mix them in a poignant tale, his audience--and my--praise is deserving.  

Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
Notes taken from the five months Orwell spent living, reporting, and fighting in Spain's civil war, the writer's non-fiction is every bit as sharp and perceptive as his imagined stories.  This book is the primer for the world's political schemes--anarchy, socialism, capitalism and all grades between--in practice.

The Affirmation - Christopher Priest
Using the tropes of sci-fi to full, human effect, Priest examines how mankind perceives the world and the subjectivity inherent.  All too real.

Excession - Iain M. Banks
This book just oozes sci-fi.  From the drone perspective prologue to the tsunami of a conclusion, Banks takes his imagination to strange and weird depths of space imagination.  This is the best Culture novel.

Foreigner: First Contact - C.J. Cherryh
Now a lengthy series, the first three books (called Foreigner, Invader, and Inheritor) possess a subtlety of cultural insight the vast majority of sci-fi does not.  Slow but worthwhile.

Helliconia - Brian Aldiss
Aldiss’ ‘big one’, these three books (Helliconia Spring, Summer, Winter) are unlike any I’ve come across.  Each book a window of time into the orbit of one planet within a larger orbit, Aldiss looks at the evolution of humanity (life in the long term) in Helliconia, his magnum opus. 

Crackling with nano-teched Los Angeles imagery, from the kickstart of the Harleys to the alley hunts, this look at post-human existence (literally and figuratively) focuses on existentialism with a new potential: the living dead.

Shah Jahan:  The Rise and Fall of the Mughal Emperor - Fergus Nichol
Princedom to fraticide, the Taj Mahal to jewelled harems, Shah Jahan lived a soap opera life, and paid the price.  Adding more fuel to the "it's better to burn out than fade away" debate...

Superb usage of tropes of the genre, Wolfe’s look at identity, post-colonialism, and myth in a sci-fi setting is far more insightful than its simple setup belies.  Worth the thought Wolfe has invested.

The Epiphanist - William Rosencrans
A self-published work that deserves market attention, this bildungsroman of a young man growing up in a post-apocalyptic world is a mesmerizing tale as reminiscent of Siddharta as much as any sci-fi work.

The Silmarillion - JRR Tolkien
Tolkien’s best work, this mythic history of the Middle Kingdom possesses all of the salt of humanity many critics claim The Lord of the Rings does not.

City of Saints and Madmen - Jeff Vandermeer
A smorgasbord of story, muse, and wordplay, this collection of… writings about the fictional city Ambergris and all of its fungal-ity is a pure delight for the artistic side of fantasy.

Stand on Zanzibar - John Brunner
Deserving of mention in the same breath as Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World, this novel has foreseen our world in ways we’d rather it wouldn’t have.

The Wisdom of India - Lin Yutang

The majority of the Indian canon of religious/spiritual/mythic thought collected in one volume. There may perhaps be no better representation of Indian perennial wisdom.

Reviews will come in 2013 for those currently missing above...

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