At Half Year: The Recommended Books of 2013 To Date (by Liviu Suciu)

Posted by Admin - July 25th, 2013

As for the foreseeable future I will be just sporadically here at Fantasy Book Critic, I will try to present the books I found of interest and comment on the ones that did not go as expected as often as possible. 
Shorter or longer reviews of the books I finish – though not carefully edited as here but more in the form of raw thoughts – can be found on Goodreads and if time allows, I will edit them at FBC standards, if not I will just point you there.

Here is the list of 32 books of 2013 that comprise my current top lists – the positional “Top 25″ which I expect to go somewhere from 25 to 30 titles by year end and the unordered Highly Recommended list which I call T1 (tier 1) on Goodreads.

As a quick analysis, in the Top 25  to date, outside of the 2 non-English language novels (Frontiere Barbare – French SF and Asylant - Contemporary Picaresque Romanian, both though with English language reviews and summaries on Goodreads), there are 7 fantasies (LE. Modesitt 2, D. Wexler, R. Ford, D. Abraham, P. Brett, B. McClellan), 4 sf (C. Priest, D. Weber, K. Lord, C. Gannon), 2 associational (JM Blas De Robles, I. Banks) and 3 non-sff (C. Cameron, L. Santoro, Wu Ming).

In the Tier 1 list there are 4 short story collections/serials (P. McAuley, D. Weber, C. Cameron, A. Roberts), 1 mix of short novel and Honorverse facts from D. Weber and BuNine, 5 non-sff (R. Brook, M. Werner, W. Ryan, A. Espinoza, J. Boyne), 2 fantasies (D. Walton, K. Elliott), 1 Romanian language contemporary and 1 non-fiction about the battle of Kursk by D. Showalter
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Top 25 (click for ordered list on Goodreads)

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Highly Recommended (click for unordered list on Goodreads)

Fantasy Book Critic

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At Half Year: The Recommended Books of 2012 To Date (by Liviu Suciu)

Posted by Admin - June 23rd, 2012

As I will be away from Fantasy Book Critic for the next 10 days or so for a NYC trip that announces itself very busy like the April one – hopefully returning here on July 3rd with the July Spotlight – and as we are already close to the end of the first half of 2012, I am posting the usual collage of covers (courtesy of Goodreads cover view) of my two main lists of recommended 2012 books, the Top 25 and the Highly Recommended
I will note that I have reviewed almost every published books from the 34 there – 24/29 – with planned reviews of Railsea and Bring up the Bodies in July/August, while 5 upcoming books (KJ Parker, Lawrence Norfolk, Peter Hamilton, James Corey, Tom Reiss) will get reviewed more or less on publication except for Caliban’s War which is officially due next week, but is already out, that to be reviewed in July.
Of course these lists are changeable, especially the top 25 which is completely positional so it strongly depends on upcoming books and on how the books in cause wear in time so to speak and I listed some books that should make them HERE and HERE, to which I would add Celebrant (Michael Cisco) and of course Adjacent (Christopher Priest) if it makes 2012.

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Fantasy Book Critic

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2011 Locus Recommended Reading List with Comments (by Liviu Suciu)

Posted by Admin - February 3rd, 2012

On February 1st, Locus Online has released their 2011 Recommended Reading List which most likely will form the basis of the main list for the upcoming Locus Award which I consider one of the two major and relevant awards in the sff of today together with the more UK oriented Arthur Clarke one.

You can find the full list and the names of the contributors on Locus Online and I copy/pasted the choices in the three main categories of interest, SF novels, Fantasy novels and First novels. I will present them below with some comments.

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Novels – Science Fiction

Link

COMMENTS

General: A great list with almost all the major sf novels of 2011 I thought were excellent or very good. In my list of 2011 highly recommended books you will find The Clockwork Rocket (my top sf of 2011 as we can consider 1Q84 to be “mainstream” for genre award purposes), Leviathan Wakes, Embassytown, The Islanders, Vortex, Home Fires all reviewed on FBC HERE.

Disagreements: Here, the two books I thought had some good stuff but were a little far from being on a top list were Firebird and Heart of Iron. I have no interest in most of the rest as I am not a fan of zombies, Stephen King, Charles Stross (outside of his crazy far future sf which was excellent, his near future and alt hist/fantasy are boring), Vernor Vinge, Joe Haldeman etc. The Ian McLeod would be of some interest but I have not seen a copy yet.

Notable Misses: Of the 2011 major sf novels the one missing here is By Light Alone by Adam Roberts. In addition I am strongly recommending the small press Dancing with Eternity by John Patrick Lowrie which quite surprisingly was my #2 sf novel of the year and # six overall.

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Novels – Fantasy

COMMENTS

General: A good list with some of the fantasy novels I thought were excellent or very good but with a lot of divergence from my tastes too . In my list of 2011 highly recommended books you will find A Dance with Dragons (my top fantasy of 2011), The Hammer, The River of Shadows, The Dragon’s Path, The Book of Transformations, The Cold Commands, Heroes all reviewed on FBC HERE.

Disagreements: Here, the three books I thought had some good stuff but were a little far from being on a top list were The Fallen Blade, The Wise Man’s Fear and The Uncertain Places. Kingdom of Gods and Mr. Fox are books I plan to read at some point, while in the rest I have no interest. I strongly disliked the first Magicians book by Lev Grossman which I thought quite poorly written as literary style goes, regardless of the fantasy-nal content and surprisingly I never got into the “Daniel Fox” series despite that I quite liked his fantasy series written under his real name, while Mystification just did not work out for me as style goes but others loved it…

Notable Misses: Major misses here are the novels by Kate Elliott, Jacqueline Carey, Carol Berg, Paula Brandon (aka Paula Volsky) and of course Adrian Tchaikovsky. In addition, I would strongly recommend Scholar by L.E. Modesitt and The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman.

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First Novels

COMMENTS

General: This is the list with the fewest overlap with my preferences as I would recommend only Debris, The Night Circus and for literary style, The Tiger’s Wife despite my objections to some of its content.

Disagreements: The only other books on the list I finished were Mechanique which I found ultimately mediocre despite some great moments and Low Town which I found just bad. I tried a few others like God’s War, Seed and The Desert of Souls but they did not work for me though in all cases it was just a matter of style not matching my taste so I would recommend taking a look at our (FBC) reviews of some of those and Of Blood and Honey which were among Robert or Mihir’s favorites.

Notable Misses: 2011 was not a great year for debuts imho as I found very little to compare with very strong preceding years. There was Dancing with Eternity mentioned above and the one major publisher miss from the list, All Men of Genius by Lev Rosen whose absence here surprises me a little bit as the book should have ticked all the right boxes for the Locus staff…

Fantasy Book Critic

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The 2010 Locus Recommended Reading List with Comments (by Liviu Suciu)

Posted by Admin - February 9th, 2011

Locus has recently put out its annual Recommended Reading List and then followed with the Locus Awards online voting form. Since the magazine purports to represent the sff field, I always pay attention to its list and I vote in the poll.

I posted my full vote list for 2008 HERE and highlights from my vote list for 2009 HERE – I do not remember why I did not post my full list but it may be that I forgot to save it – and once I will vote in the near future, I will post again my full vote list; I urge every sff lover to take 15-20 minutes and vote HERE.

For now I want to discuss the 3 main categories: SF novel, Fantasy novel and Debut novel.

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Novels – Science Fiction

Comments: 17/18 novels with the Willis duo.

Opened 15 – have not heard of Birdbrain until now and I never touch a W. Gibson novel since I do not like his style.

Fully read 5 – Surface Detail (A++, #1 sff and all around 2010 novel of mine), Hull Zero Three (A+, recommended list), The Passage (A, very slow and boring middle third takes away from a better than expected novel), Terminal World (B/A-, disappointment list), The Dervish House (D, dismal)

More-or-less fast-read 2 – the ultra-forgettable Brain Thief and the “interesting premise but poor execution in which my suspension of disbelief got broken fast and I just could not take it seriously” Blackout; from the remaining books, the only one I am sure I will read at some point is Cryoburn, with Zendegi an outside shot if I am ever in the mood for it.

The one big surprise on the list is Directive 51 since I just cannot see how junk like that got included.

In general I found this list ok’ish, more core-sf’nal than I expected though still somewhat away from what is sf today and there is even a Baen book to my surprise, but I guess that Lois Bujold is too big a name to be ignored…

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Novels – Fantasy

Comments: 24 novels

Opened 14 – 4 of the unopened ones are from series I do not follow since the first volume was not for me though I liked some of the respective authors’ other offerings in two cases and I would be willing to try something closer to my taste in the other two (Changeless, Wolf Age, Jade Man’s Skin, Hespira) 5 are from authors I do not touch since I do not like their style – Hill, Holland, McKillip, Straub, Stross, while the Pinborough novel seems far from my taste and being Gollancz, I would need to order it from the UK which I have no interest in doing; if it ever gets a US edition, I may take a look though.

Fully Read 6 – The Folding Knife (A++, top fantasy of mine in 2010), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (A++, top 10 novel of 2010, though I do not really think it’s fantasy, maybe sf if you want to make it sff), The Half -Made World (A++, top 25 novel and top 10 fantasy), The Sorcerer’s House (A+, recommended list), The Desert Spear (A, more forgettable than I expected on first read), Under Heaven (A-, beautiful writing and world building but huge flaws and one of the worst main leads in recent novels, the “boy with the golden spoon”)

Of the rest Kraken (still stuck around page 200) and Shades of Grey – this one I kind of fast read it, but when book 2 appears I may read it carefully too – are the ones most likely to be finished by me.

Here I cannot say I am surprised by any selection maybe except for Changeless, though Locus trying to at least pay lip service to the current trends by including standard UF is a good thing imho. The traditional fantasy is also better represented than I expected though the list is still far away from what core fantasy is today. Here Locus still needs a lot of catch-up to claim being representative.

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First Novels

Comments: 15 novels

Opened 14 – I do not remember having heard of Meeks until now

Fully Read 6 – The Last Page (A++, top 25 novel), The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (A+, recommended list), The Bookman (A+, recommended list), Shades of Milk and Honey (A-, liked the style but too little substance), The Quantum Thief (B, far away from the hype but a mostly entertaining middling sf closer to Scalzi/Sawyer than to Banks/Reynolds, disappointment though mostly due to hype), The Dream of Perpetual Motion (D, the one debut I really wanted to like and it just fell flat for me – Robert has reviewed it for FBC and he liked it more)

More-or-less-finished – Clowns at Midnight (pretty good and I want to give it a more careful read at some point), How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (dismal sf for grad-lits who have no clue about math, I recommend everyone to read this review of it since it says a lot of what I thought, though I would add a recommendation that the author tries to learn what a differential equation is before throwing the term around freely; at least Mr. Huso’s holomorphs/holomorphy makes some sense in The Last Page‘s context and that is supposed to be fantasy not sf)

I am unlikely to read any of the remaining novels here. All in all, a decent list and considerably better than I expected.

Fantasy Book Critic

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