Sunday, December 23, 2007

Witty's Year End Book Review 2007

'Cause, you know, as a librarian I tend to read a few things...

This isn't so much the best of the best books that came out this year. And it's not necessarily books published this year: sometimes you just gotta reach back for a few oldies but goodies. This is the best books I've read. So if I didn't read ya this year, you ain't making the list. Siddown, Delillo.

Best Fiction book
Stingray Shuffle, by Tim Dorsey. I really discovered Dorsey last year, when my twin brother suggested his wife enjoyed reading Florida fiction including the stuff by Dorsey. The series is basically about an obsessive-compulsive Floridian psychopath, Serge A. Storms, and his eternal quest for all things relating to the Sunshine State. Along the way, if anyone comes along to disrupt his attempts at travelogue, or restoration of local historical artifacts, he ups the body count. Seriously, more people die in a Tim Dorsey book than in all WWII movies combined. If you ever show up as a character in one of those books, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. But still, Dorsey knows his stuff, especially all the crazy stuff about Florida, which is indeed truly one of the craziest places in the world to live/visit/engage in epic battles on. One of the bits I liked about Stingray Shuffle is one of the small subplots about a long-time Floridian who's also a cult-fave pulp writer who didn't write the Great American Novel, he just wrote a series of sorta-bad mystery thrillers. I have sympathy for such characters, mostly because *I'm* trying to write pulp novels too. So during the NaNoWriMo period past November, I reached back for this book, just to thumb through and get some inspiration from a fictional bard who didn't suffer from writer's block, just lousy timing.

Best Non-Fiction book
Tragic Legacy, by Glen Greenwald. Greenwald has become over the past 4 years the preeminent critic of the Bush Administration's War against the Constitution, documenting both the blatant and subtle attempts by George W. Bush and his lackeys to shred the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Fourteenth, and lord knows how many other amendments as well as the whole concept of the Checks and Balances between the three branches of federal government. Greenwald focused this book mostly on the Bush Admin's failure to think through the War on Terror, and how the political leadership set itself up for a disastrous invasion of Iraq while at the same time violating many of the precepts and core values of American governance at home and abroad. I got this book on my own the second it was published, and when finished I donated it to my library system (budget crunch is preventing us from getting as many books as we'd like). And the good news is, people are checking it out. ;)

Best Graphic novel
New Frontier, Vol. 1, by Darwin Cooke. An interesting trend in American comic-book storytelling the last 20 years has been special offshoot storylines retelling tales and placing existing characters into historical contexts. It's a reflexive reaction to Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' epic Watchmen - which might not be the first story to place heroes and supermen in a real-world setting, but it is certainly the best. It's combined also with both nostalgia for a long-lost period (the Twentieth Century) and a desire to address in hindsight many of the sins of that period. These revisionist Graphic Narratives (Golden Age, Kingdom Come, just to name two) don't mesh with the ongoing timelines of the current series, merely a "What If?" using familiar characters in new, sometimes darker ways. This one came out in 2004 originally, an alternate-universe retelling of DC Comics' during what was known as the Silver Age: the period just after the near-collapse of the comic book industry during the post-World War and early Cold War years. Cooke has the Golden Age heroes either hiding in the shadows to avoid McCarthyism, or hired on as field agents on the front lines of Vietnam by the late 1950s. Meanwhile, alien and demonic threats are lurking on the edges, as Hal Jordan (a Kennedyesque figure) gets recruited into the Space Race that is aiming in this universe for Mars and not the Moon, and as an actual Martian, J'onn J'onzz (who laughs at cheesy scifi invasion movies and thinks police tv shows are real), uncovers a mystical cabal unleashing dark forces that could consume the whole world. The book is all setup for the following volume, which I haven't read yet. The artwork makes you think bebop and early 1960s art design: the storytelling far more blunt and cynical than the tales actually written during that era. I'm getting the next volume once I'm certain I'm not getting it as a Christmas present. ;)

Best Unavoidable Book of Ultimate Destiny
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. The most anticipated novel since Dickens. The most hyped book sale of all time. Of COURSE I read the book: name me three people who didn't!

Best Book by Someone I Know and Corresponded with via Email on an Occasional Basis

There's pretty much only two contestants for this one: Stefan Petrucha and Sheryl Nantus. Here's hoping they don't find out they're the only two - last thing I want is a sword battle in an abandoned factory between them. Ahem.
Second Line, by Sheryl Nantus. Sheryl's first regular fiction novel is your standard Girl Meets Vampires, Girl Teams Up With Vampire Hunter to Save Her Neck (literally), Girl Uncovers Diabolical Vampire Plot, Girl Saves Vampire Hunter, Girl Destroys Chocolate Factory to Save the World. Wait, what? Did I read that part about the chocolate factory right? Okay, maybe it's not that standard then. The novel did have its weaknesses: the heroine Jackie St. George, transferring over from the fanfic universe, gets out of a few scrapes with the vampire horde a little too easily when you consider how ruthless and lethal the vampire boss had behaved in the backstory. What saves the novel is the banter, the ear for dialog that Nantus has. Now only if those two FBI agent friends of Jackie would show up...!

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