One of my friends did a list of her top 12 books from 2012 for her library. I saw her list and went, man, we read very different stuff. I’d heard of four of her books and read none (though a few are in my interminable and not written down anywhere “to read” list). But here’s my list of books I really liked that were released this year. All the links go to my reviews if you want more information than might be conveyed in the specific prize each won.
- Best book about art: The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan
- Best book about love: Ask The Passengers by A.S. King
- Best book about politics: The Five Nations of New York by Brian Wood (Technically this is only the end of a much longer tale spanning many years of story, but it was a damned good ending.)
- Best book about sex & politics: The Complete Lockpick Pornography by Joey Comeau (Technically these are older books than 2012 but putting them together in one volume, as was done this year, makes the experience different enough to make the list.)
- Best book about war: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Best book about mechanical bees (with spies): Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
- Best book about giant moles (with philosophies): Railsea by China Miéville
- Best adaptation of a book: A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson and Madeline L’Engle
- Best adaptation of that feeling you get from the best episodes of the Twilight Zone into a book that isn’t really an adaptation at all: The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
- Best book about a society I would no-shit never ever ever want to live in: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
- Best book about high school (with ghosts): Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
- Best book about books (with immortality, data-visualization, friendship and epic fantasy quests): Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
What were your favourites?
Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World is kind of a gonzo post-apocalyptic novel. One of the main characters is, in fact named Gonzo. But it’s also the story of how the world came to be this way, through the use of Go Away bombs that destroyed the world with no pesky fallout. Except for making the planet a place where nightmares become real.
The story starts with the narrator and Gonzo’s company of truckers and general bad-asses being called in to do a job, put out a fire, save the world. There’s a cataloguing of the various kinds of pencil-necks one finds in the world, ranked according to their dangerousness, and the idea that resonates through the book is introduced: being a professional means giving up your personhood to be part of a machine.
Can you see why I liked this one?
But then the first chapter is over and the trucks are rolling towards doom and glory and we drop back to childhood. We learn about being trained to fight ninjas by a daft elderly man, and having lots of sex as a political student, and absurd stupid wars featuring absurd terrible soldiers (and fearsomely brilliant ones) and terror and friendship. It’s awesome. And funny. And there are mimes.
I liked this better than Angelmaker, but that might be because I wasn’t trying to figure out how seriously to take it the whole time. It was the kind of crazy awesome book the world needs more of.
Angelmaker was my first Nick Harkaway book. It’s about superspies, the clockworking son of London’s criminal king (but the good kind of crimes that are all about sticking it to society’s betters), a corrupted cult of technologists against mass-production and a globe-spanning swarm of mechanical bees. It’s pretty amazing.
In a lot of ways it reminded me of a more pulpy-fun Thomas Pynchon novel, though Neal Stephenson might be a bit more apt a comparison. Joe Spork doesn’t fall into the Stephenson-ultracompetence trap though. He’s just a guy caught up in things too big for him to deal with on his own. There’s a murder and torture and with the support of his lawyer and some revelations about himself and his ancestry there’s a plot to save the goddamn world. Very good book. Lots of fun.