The OF Blog: Thoughts on some of my favorite reads in 2006

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thoughts on some of my favorite reads in 2006

It's around that time of year again, the moment where people on the blogosphere stop and post about some of the books that "connected" with them. Although I'm going to be posting in a ranked format my favorite reads of 2006 on Sunday as part of the Admin Choices for the 2007 OF Awards held at wotmania, I thought I would take the time to post in no particular order the top reads out of books released in 2006, those released in previous years, and those I read in Spanish this year. So without further ado, the "finalists" for My Favorite Reads of 2006:

Best Books Released in 2006:

Here are the books released in the US for the first time in 2006 that I found to be the most enjoyable (as of 12/26):

Hal Duncan, Vellum - This finalist for the 2006 World Fantasy Award was released in the US in April. I am one of those readers who believe that a good, consistent style is an essential element of making a story work and in Vellum, Duncan does a masterful job in using word tone and pitch to craft a story that spans 3D time/space but yet in the end boils down to a very personal struggle of a small group of Unkin who are trying desperately to live their own lives. A very moving work and one of the more challenging ones that I've read in English this year, so no award ballot would be complete to me without mentioning Vellum here.

Gene Wolfe, Soldier of Sidon - Gene Wolfe is one of my favorite authors, not just in the speculative fiction realm, but in all of late 20th/early 21st century literature. His stories have layers upon layers of meaning and possibility to them, but out of all his creations (with the possible exception of Severian from The Book of the New Sun), none are as conflicted and intriguing as that of Latro, the partially amnesiac mercenary who "sees" the gods of the classical world and has been directed to find a certain temple so he can regain his memory. Wolfe utilizes the unreliable narrator trope to full effect here and this book, the third in the Latro series, is just as strong as the first two, despite being written almost twenty years afterwards.

Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden - This was a remarkable undertaking. Now I have yet to read her other works (such an oversight I'll correct soon), but in this book, she takes the traditional fairy tale format and weaves a complex interaction between the stories that not only fascinates the framework story's young boy (in a mode similar to that of The Arabian Nights), but also the reader. As "traditional" as the stories feel (and I found myself drifting back in memory to my first encounters with written versions of fairy tales, 25+ years ago), there are a great many surprises to them, surprises that serve to build interest and anticipation among the reader. Valente did more than just utilize the form of the fairy tale - she recreated the emotion behind those. For that alone, she has earned a spot on this "finalist" list.

Sergei Lukyanenko, Night Watch (English Translation) - For many, including myself, one of the hallmarks of a good fantasy is the sense of something other interacting with the familiar. In this excellent translation of the bestselling Russian urban fantasy, Lukyanenko has established a world in which witches, wizards, vampires, werewolves, and shapeshifters move among us, unseen, checked only by a Cold War-like pact between the Light and the Dark, with said pact being managed by the Day and Night Watches. There are three connected stories within this 450 page book and the questions raised by the actions perpetrated by both sides make this book much more than just a simple good/evil morality play. I eagerly await the 2007 translated publications of the sequels Day Watch and Twilight Watch.

Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora - A lot of electronic ink has been used elsewhere to describe the joys that other readers have had in reading this opening volume to The Gentleman Bastards series. Suffice to say, I found this book living up to its hype and being one of the more enjoyable books of the year. Lynch writes very well, the dialogue is crisp and often funny, and the action flows very well from stage to stage, with few transition problems. The second volume, Red Seas under Red Skies, is due out in the Summer of 2007.

Jeff VanderMeer, Shriek: An Afterword - This Ambergris book (VanderMeer's first true novel) might be the most emotional read out of the books I've read this year. VanderMeer uses very evocative images that seem to come straight from his own experiences (whether that's true or not, it certainly feels authentic). If this book isn't up for the major 2007 awards, then I want to know what books out there are better than this.

Mark Danielewski, Only Revolutions - This is not House of Leaves Part II. Thank God for that, as the style and the way the story (stories) are told show that Danielewski is not content to revisit what worked for him in the past. While the story isn't what I'd call "accessible", it certainly is breaking new ground. For that alone, it merits mention here.

Best Books Read in 2006 but Released in Previous Years:

I won't elaborate as much here as I did above, but this is an unranked listing of my favorites that I read in English this past year that were released at some prior point:

Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, The Tale of the Rose

John Steinbeck, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights

Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

Umberto Eco, The Island of the Day Before

Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

Ben Okri, The Famished Road

Thomas Wolfe, The Web and the Rock

Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist

Walter M. Miller, Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz

Milorad Pavić, Dictionary of the Khazars

Edward Whittemore, Sinai Tapestry

V.S. Naipaul, A Way in the World

Danilo Kiš, A Tomb for Boris Davidovich

Ivo Andrić, The Bridge on the Drina

Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners

Libros en español que leí en 2006:

José Sarmago, Las intermitencias de la muerte; Ensayo sobre la lucídez; Todos los nombres

Gabriel García Márquez, El otoño del Patriarca

Rubén Darío, Azul.../Cantos de la vida y esperanza

Manuel Vincent, Son de mar

Manuel Mujica Lainez, Misteriosa Buenos Aires

Alejo Carpentier, El siglo de las luces

Alberto Fuguet, Cortos

José Eustasio Rivera, La vorágine

Hopefully, some of these books will appeal to readers here. On the 31st, I'll try to sit down and choose which books will be in my Top 3 in each of these categories, as well as listing the remaining books that I have read in 2006. It has been a quiet year for me, but also a year full of quality reads. Thanks again to those whom I've heard about your favs, as sometimes they have influenced me in my purchases. It would be an honor to return the pleasure.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites