The Cat’s Table vs. Hyperion
I’m sorry, Michael Ondaatje. There are lots of first-round battles The Cat’s Table would have won. But not when it’s up against the book that fucking blew my mind. If you can read just the first story of Hyperion, and not come out of it creeped out and dying to read the rest of the book, then I’m severely worried about you. This is a strong contender for the whole shebang, people.
The Beautiful Mystery vs. The Portrait of a Lady
Winner: The Beautiful Mystery
Well, I didn’t really like The Portrait of a Lady very much. And Louise Penny writes a damn fine mystery. This one, set in a remote Quebec monastery, switches up the Three Pines formula, but pays off with a truly heartbreaking conflict between characters that’s been building for books. Not many mystery writers weave these larger stories over several books, and none do it as well as Penny.
When Gravity Fails vs. The Family Trade
Winner: When Gravity Fails
Neither of these books inspired any great passion, but I found When Gravity Fails the better of the two. It’s steampunk/transhumanism may feel not quite as revolutionary now as it may have been when he wrote it, but it has some nice noir aspects. (I like noir, can you tell?) Mostly what I remember about The Family Trade was vague irritation that the main character was simultaneously an economist/medical doctor/journalist/something else.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland…vs Moon Over Soho
Winner: Moon Over Soho
Aaaahhhh! This is the first matchup that hurts! These are both the sequels to books that I absolutely adored, and while neither is quite as amazing as the first in the series, they’re both really good. And how do I choose? In the end, it’s going to come down to a weird factor - the amazing audiobook narration of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. That’s what is letting Moon Over Soho squeak out a win. Now I want to pet The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and comfort it and assure it I still love it too.
The Singapore Grip vs. The Nothing That Is
Winner: The Singapore Grip
Oh, right. Now there are two books I don’t care about, after the agony of the last choice! Fine! Be that way! Going along with the established theme of nonfiction rarely beating out fiction, Farrell’s book about Singapore at war, and the frustrating tendencies of the business class to screw over everyone in pursuit of their own success wins over the overly-erudite look at the concept of infinity.