Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Witty's Year End Book Review 2014

It's December 24, last year I did this on that day and today seems like as good a day to do it as well.

The rules are simple: these are from the books I've read - sometimes re-read - during this year.  While I kept it last year to current books - in honor of having a job again in a library filled with books - this year I feel I can go back to the books I've re-read as part of the review.  Hope you don't mind.

Best Fiction

Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

I've made a decision to try and get into new science fiction authors, as waiting on anything new by Douglas Adams, Ray Bradbury, Iain M. Banks or Arthur C. Clarke is going to be a bit of a problem.  I saw this title as a Nebula award winner and so made the jump.
Breq is the only survivor of a missing, possibly destroyed sentient spaceship of which she - and gender pronouns get to be an issue as the story progresses - was mentally part of, meaning half her memories and identities are a mess.  She becomes embroiled in a bizarre galactic civil war within Breq's empire that leads to sequel hooks aplenty.  Leckie's work is very similar to Banks' Culture series, with a well-designed 'verse that plays with the conventional tropes of space opera (which means it delves into a mess of human identity issues in-between all the laser fights).  It is one of those books that requires re-reading to make certain you didn't miss a plot point.

Best Non-Fiction

What If? Randall Munroe

The creator of xkcd, a webcomic of absurdist thought, puns, and scientific accuracy, kept getting all of these weird science questions to answer and so started a secondary blog that would answer "What If We Did This?"  Ranging from such crazy ideas as "what would happen if we drained out the oceans" or "what would happen if a pitcher threw a baseball near the speed of light", Munroe applies actual (and sometimes theoretical) physics and engineering to the question to bring up some of the more bizarre - and world-threatening - consequences of such events.
For example, pitching a baseball at the speed of light would cause a nuclear reaction of such intensity that it would wipe out the baseball stadium and the city it was in... and when you throw in the rules of baseball, it means the batter was hit by the ball and advances to first base.
If you want your mind blown, you gotta read this book.

Best Non-Fiction I Praised On My Political Blog

The Selling of the President, Joe McGinniss

As I noted on my Notice a Trend blog: this book was the first one from college I kept, rather than trade back in after my classes were done.  It's short but exposes so much of the sins of our current political culture.  I still feel this is one of those books everyone needs to read once in their lives, if only to realize how corrupt our election/campaigning system has become.  I wrote about the book due to McGinniss passing away this year, and I feel it deserves special mention here.

Best Graphic Novel Series

Sandman: Overture, Neil Gaiman with JH Williams

Gaiman returns to his breakout graphic series Sandman with a prequel tale about how the human personification of Dream, Morpheus, was captured and broken by a dark magus in the early years of World War I (from the first volume Preludes and Nocturnes).  Like all Gaiman works, it hits the tropes early and hard, and can get confusing for anyone who hasn't read the original series back in the 1990s.  But the series promises to answer several of the mysteries and secrets from Gaiman's back-history of his magnum opus, including the reasons why Dream must destroy any dream vortexes that arise among us dreamers...

Best Mystery Anthology That Includes a Short Story I Wrote

Mardi Gras Murder, Sarah E. Glenn (editor)

Another anthology, this time more of a straight up mystery/thriller type tale called "Why The Mask."  It's less "Whodunnit" and more "Howdunnit", about a woman seeking revenge in 1930s New Orleans, but I hope it appeals to the mystery/thriller crowds.

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