my top 12 books of 2012

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?

book review: railsea

Photo Credit: Gastown Railyards by Evan Leeson

Railsea is China Miéville’s a story about a boy named Sham who is working on a moletrain. A moletrain is like a whaling ship, but in the world of Railsea, there are no seas like we know them, only the loose earth that terrifyingly dangerous creatures (like moldywarpes and antlions) burrow through. This earth is crisscrossed by an impenetrably tangled network of rails that require expert navigation and track switching. The trains navigating the railsea are hugely various, some powered by sails, some by steam, diesel or even fusion. Out in the dangerous earth there are islands and communities, and many wrecked trains to salvage. There’s also the upsky which is poisonous and filled with alien beasts that sometimes drop inexplicable bits to earth for people to find. It’s all kinds of awesome.

Sham begins the story as a mediocre doctor’s apprentice, serving a captain in search of her philosophy, a giant ivory mole named Mocker-Jack that took her arm. Miéville does this thing where this creature she’s hunting is explicitly philosophical at the same time that it’s a physical beast that could crush a train. It’s directly inspired by Moby Dick but is wildly divergent from Herman Melville’s story.

Strangely enough not everyone likes China Miéville’s use of language. It’s filled with words that are made-up but make sense and I am a fan. The book is published as YA and while the language is intricate and ornate, it will knock the right reader’s socks off. Comparison-wise, it’s got similar themes to Ship Breaker, but the language is less straight-forward. The plot is stronger and more direct than Mechanique, which had a similar kind of language/mood.

I loved the hell out of this book and am only sad it’s over and I’ll have to wait for Miéville’s next one.