My three favorite reads in 2011

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Here are a few books I read and very much enjoyed in 2011.  None of these were actually released in 2011, which speaks to just how far behind I am on the “to-read” pile.   These aren’t reviews so much as a brief articulation of some things that stuck with me about the books in hindsight.  They include no spoilers.

So, without further ado, here are my top three reads in 2011:

3. Finch, by Jeff Vandermeer.  John Finch is an investigator in reluctant service to the Grey Caps, the mysterious fungal conquerors/occupiers of Ambergris (the Gray Caps took over the city during “The Rising”).  Finch is trying to carve a life for himself in the narrow space between rebel and collaborator, and the fun of the novel is watching him try to hold that ground while the tide of events, not to mention the various factions in the city, try to push and pull him this way or that.  Finch isn’t a novel with a clean wrap-up, but the fun is in the phantasmagorical (spore-induced? ;-)) journey, and I found it an entertaining, intriguing ride.   The style won’t suit everyone.  The sentences are short and fragmented: staccato blasts of nouns and verbs, gunfire with words.  I liked it, especially in a novel with noir sensibilities, but it may bug some readers.


2. Trollslayer, a Felix and Gotrek novel, by William King. This really doesn’t need much introduction, as Felix and Gotrek are iconic sword and sorcery heroes.  Trollslayer is an unabashed, fast-paced, sword and sorcery romp through the gritty, chaos-infested forests and mountains of the Old World.  Felix, with his university education, self-deprecating manner, and occasionally wry wit, makes a great narrator.   Gotrek, the dwarven slayer with a secret shame that causes him to seek an honorable, glorious death, is gruff, coarse, and (from time to time) hugely funny, in his grim way.  In short, the two characters are compelling and have great chemistry, essential in a sword and sorcery story.  Trollslayer delivers lots of action, lively dialogue, and had me  smiling throughout. It’s possessed of an enormous sense of fun.  If you like sword and sorcery and adventure fiction (as I do), you’ll dig this.


1. Kraken, by China Mieville.   The quality of Mieville’s prose is so good that it sometimes overwhelms my perception of other aspects of his books, so I made an effort not to let that happen this time.  In Kraken, the body of the eponymous squid has gone missing from the London Museum of Natural History, triggering a possible apocalypse and a mad scramble to find out who’s responsible and where it’s gone.  London becomes the locus for a gathering of various end-time cults, some trying to bring about the world’s end, some  trying to stop it, some merely bearing witness.  There’s a Church that worships the Kraken, there are Londonmancers who can modify London’s buildings and streets with their craft, there’s a paranormal investigation branch of the London constabulary, there’s a living tattoo who is also a vicious crimelord, and I could go on a long time.   There is, in other words, a wonder on every other page, but it never feels bloated and it makes reading the book a delight.  On top of that, Mieville has some fun with the Chosen One trope.  Long and short: Kraken works on many different levels.  Read it.

What were some books you read and loved in 2011?

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