Ben Mabbott (themabbi) wrote,
Ben Mabbott

Books of 2009

I mostly slummed it with "dragon books" after the long literary slog that was 2008. These are the books of 2009 in the the order I read them:

The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, and The Halfling's Gem by R.A. Salvatore

For those not up on their dragon books, these are "classics", the first in a long running series, and I guess I don't see what all the fuss is about. It's all generic fantasy tropes, and they've been done better.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I've read a lot of historical fiction, so I wasn't floored by this the way Oprah's masses were, but it's definitely a page turner, and the big historical tie-in of the wars of succession following the death of Henry I is put to good use.

Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Certainly original, it's not the Harry Potter clone I thought it would be, and the whimsical Victorian setting is very well realized. Unfortunately I think it's a couple hundred pages too long, and the pace is very uneven. Particularly in the middle third the narrative goes out the window and it just meanders around.

Elantris, Mistborn, Well of Ascension, and Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson was chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan died, and I'd never heard of him, so I decided to read some of his books to see if he had the chops for it. Turns out he does, he's created some very interesting worlds with well fleshed out and likeable characters, and not a cliche in site. Pretty rare in the fantasy genre. He also seems to write at a ridiculous pace while still putting out quality work, which is even more rare. And he's got a great website that he frequently updates. And he released a 600 page book for free under Creative Commons along with all of the drafts so prospective writers could see his writing process. Yeah, I pretty much have a man-crush on this guy.

The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Swashbuckling meets Ocean's Eleven, with plenty of plot twists and double crosses. These were both a lot of fun. Also cool that the author has a LiveJournal:scott_lynch

The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, and Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

The basic idea here is to take the Tolkienesque fantasy cliches and show a darker, more realistic portrayal. The barbarian warrior is a bloodthirsty psychopath, the handsome noble is a selfish coward, the wise old wizard is a power hungry schemer, etc. It's been done before, but not this well. These aren't caricatures, they're well fleshed out with complex motivations. The only issue is just how bleak a world this is. The characters are flawed to the point that by the end almost all of them are shown to be despicable, and there's really nobody to root for. It's not that the good guys lose, it's that they never really existed in the first place. It makes for a great story but won't leave you feeling good.

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

I've been reading Wheel of Time books for almost 20 years, and the idea of a new author finishing the series after Robert Jordan died really had me worried. But as I said above, I was really impressed with Sanderson's own books, so I was cautiously optimistic. When I got it home and read the first chapter, I was really disappointed. It just felt wrong, and it was pretty jarring, like watching a cartoon as a kid when they used a different voice actor for one of the characters that week. None of the characters seemed to be themselves and it kept distracting me from enjoying the story. Fortunately as the book went on either I got used to the new style or Sanderson got better at writing in that world. Probably some of both. By the end I couldn't put it down and in my opinion ended up being one of the best in the series.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

I actually started reading this earlier and took a break to read Gathering Storm when it came out. I haven't finished yet, but I've passed the 600 page mark, and I still couldn't say exactly what it's about. The themes seem to be dealing with addiction, as individuals in the form of substance abuse, and as a society in the form of our need to be constantly entertained. I'm just not sure yet what Wallace is trying to say about either one. I've got 300 pages left to go, hopefully he'll tie all of the loose threads together.

All in all that comes to a grand total of 10,003 pages read this year, or an average of 834 per month. Quite an improvement on the 2700 I wracked up last year, although admittedly I padded the numbers with a lot of easy reading :)

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