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Bookworm: Quirky Singletons

Posted on | December 31, 2011 | 1 Comment

[flickr]photo:6606477865[/flickr]The selection of highly recommended stand-alone novels and non-research non-fiction that made me go “wow” this year boils down to a measly six books. I blame the people in the previous post for being so awesome, which is most certainly not to say that these fellows below are not. Although diversity is now mindlessly accepted as a good thing by default in all walks of life, I’m not quite sure if I would have loved more singletons or more of the same, awesome stuff among my fav series. No, I think what I would have liked is, simply, more books. More good books.

The City and the City by China MievilleIt was a hard start. The bleak, vaguely Eastern-European noirish police procedural opening of China Mieville’s The City and the City really put me off. It reminded me of Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union, another highly praised novel in a similar vein that I found rather dull and unengaging.  But friends and relatives prodded me on, and the quirky police procedural unraveled into a gorgeous depiction of a reality far too familiar on so many levels; living in big cities with their parallel, invisible and frequently untouchable societies, living in multicultural melting-pot border towns,  living in the Balkans with its fragmentary, as it is, balkanized countries, states, municipalities, towns and even villages. It is fascinating how the spirit of this fictitious and, obviously, quite absurd place, dreamed up by a dude in London, managed so veraciously to capture the atmosphere of the places I grew up and lived in.

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam RobertsDense as I am, the title of Yellow Blue Tibia, a delightful atompunk (and yes, it’s the first of two *punks on the list) novel by Adam Roberts remained a mysterious jumble of words until the author spelled his clever little bit of wordplay near the end. Much like Mieville, Roberts managed to capture the atmosphere of socialist-communist living in this mashup novel of espionage, adventure, unlikely romance, and perhaps most prominently, hidden history, as we delve into the events behind the Chernobyl disaster wearing oddly gray psychedelic eyeglasses.

Aurorarama by Jean Christophe ValtatAurorarama by Jean Christophe Valtat drew me, I’ll admit, mainly based on its look and title. The fact that it is a steampunk-ish (that would be the second *punk on the list) depiction of life under a somewhat oppressive regime in an arctic city with zeppelins (there it is, right on the cover) just contributed to its appeal, but the main selling point should definitely be the fact that it is beautifully written. If a few of the fellows from a couple of posts back would like to learn how to write engaging and excellent yet pretentious and snotty-nosed prose, this is the book to study.

Crysis: Legion by Peter WattsThe game developers asked Peter Watts directly to write the storyline for the sequel to the original Crysis, and in addition, he also got to put the story into novel form. The fact that, as it would seem, the dude whom I consider to be the hands-down best SF author of today had full creative control over the contents means that Crysis: Legion is something entirely new in the sea of tie-in novels flooding the market; a viciously smart, brutal and engaging book you will actually learn things from. I do occasionally enjoy the guilty pleasure of a Starcraft or Clone Commando or Alien vs. Predator tie-in novel, but this is a book that doesn’t need this type of justification. Get it. Read it. You don’t even have to play the game, the story is, well, identical, but see if you can resist.

I am Spock by Leonard NimoyThe first of two non-fiction titles on this list, I am Spock by Leonard Nimoy is, much like the brilliant alternative video for Bruno Mars’ Lazy Song, a book simultaneously funny and sad. Funny because this biographical sequel to 1975’s I am not Spock is chock-full of amusing anecdotes from the man’s storied life and his work on various incarnations of Star Trek throughout the years, as well as his relationship with the people gathered around that epic franchise. Sad, because they both feel like he’s summing things up as the finishing line draws near… almost like he’s saying, “well, that was that for me, good bye, folks, it’s been a hoot.” I certainly hope he’ll get to write another sequel, through I’m not sure what the title of that one may be.

Supergods by Grant MorrisonFinally, one of those “you need to read this” encyclopedic books on comics. Supergods by Grant Morrison is an overview of superhero comics through the ages, interspersed with autobiographical tit-bits that make the book a delightful read and a rumination of what superheroes, in fact, mean as a cultural phenomenon in our modern and post-modern environments by a man whom you should all be well familiar with by now, eh?

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    Written in minutes and fact-checked in seconds via Google. May contain unsafe levels of self-righteousness. Past cleverness is no guarantee of future results.
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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
    The Ophiuchi Hotline
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Green Eyes
    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

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