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?
I think The Hunt is the first trade paperback that came out of DC’s New 52 initiative that I’ve read. Animal Man is a superhero who can take on the powers of different animals through the lifeweb, but he’s also done some acting and at the beginning of this book he’s trying to kind of stay out of the whole “dress up in a costume and fight crime” scene. For his family.
Then he starts bleeding out his eyes and his daughter is reanimating animal corpses and she’s being hunted by agents of the Rot and everything goes pear-shaped.
It’s perfectly fine commercial superhero storytelling (which is kind of odd, seeing as it’s coming from Jeff Lemire, whose non-superhero stuff I love), but didn’t feel like a really personal story. Which makes sense. It’s work-for-hire, not The Underwater Welder.
At the end of the book Animal Man is off to find Swamp Thing, which is a pairing that certainly makes sense, but not something I’d ever really thought of before. Not that I think that hard about DC mythology on my best days.
Really. I don’t.
The Underwater Welder is Jeff Lemire’s story of being scared of becoming a father. It’s so good. The introduction to the book sets it up as “the greatest Twilight Zone episode that was never produced.” I like that conceit but that makes it sound a lot more self-contained than it was.
Jack and Susan are expecting a baby in the next month. Jack keeps running off to his work on the oil rig, as an underwater welder. We know something bad happened between him and his father at Halloween some year, and it’s keeping him attached to the loneliness of solitary work in the ocean instead of the flesh and blood people surrounding him. It’s an ominous and looming kind of story that pushed in on my chest as I read it.
Lemire draws the book with the same kind of scratchy style he used in Essex County, but here it feels different. Maybe it’s just all the water that makes the wobbly lines feel like they’re the distortions of seeing everything through bubbles. The big splash pages work very well, especially the ones with the floods of memories coming in like clouds of angular bubbles.
It’s a beautifully done book. Highly recommended.