All right, it's getting serious. I'm going to have to make some hard choices. I think it's going to be uneven at the end again - dammit! But since I don't really have the ability to read 128 (too few!) or 256 (too many!) books a year, a tournament would always happen like this.
Infinite Jest vs. Invisible Man
Winner: Invisible Man
Well, a battle of two heavyweights! David Foster Wallace's magnum opus, a sprawling story of addiction, mind control, and tennis? Or Ralph Ellison's searing look at one black man's experience in the U.S.? Sorry, DFW. It's going to Ellison. As much as I enjoyed Infinite Jest, there were times when it dragged. And Invisible Man never did. It remains vivid in my memory a year later. Everyone should, well, everyone should read both. But if you have this decision to make, go with Invisible Man.
Altered Carbon vs. The Uplift War
Winner: Altered Carbon
Not a difficult choice here. I liked The Uplift War, but the noir stylings of Altered Carbon are far more to my personal taste. Planetary rebellion against invaders you'd think would be right in my wheelhouse, but it turns out the ethical implications of "resleeving" - storing bodies apart from minds and putting them in spare bodies - and a deliciously twisty mystery turns out to be even more my thing.
The Doomsday Book vs. A Passage to India
Winner: The Doomsday Book
It feels like the universe is giving me easy matchups today! Does that mean that there's an incredibly hard one coming right down the pipe? While I enjoyed A Passage to India, and found its musings on power and colonialism very interesting, it can't hold a candle to The Doomsday Book. I've talked a bunch of times about the impact The Doomsday Book had on me, so I won't revisit that. Let's instead try to entice you with the juxtaposition of the Black Death with an outbreak of mysterious disease in future Oxford, which strands a time traveller exactly where you'd least like to be.
The Idiot vs. Hyperion
I realize my nerd credentials are shining through right now - the science fiction is repeatedly winning out over the classics. Well, these are the books I enjoyed this year, and the best of the science fiction. The Idiot was very interesting, but Canterbury Tales/Decameron homage of Hyperion yielded some of the spookiest, gutwrenchingest fiction of the year. I loved every single story, but the first one, the Priest's Tale, is what really sold me on the whole thing. Religious horror - who knew that would be right up my alley?
The Beautiful Mystery vs. Moon Over Soho
Winner: The Beautiful Mystery
And there goes that theory, as a fantasy by one of my favourite authors falls to a mystery, which is a genre I tend to like but not love. Well, Moon Over Soho was a great deal of fun, but not quite the delight that Midnight Riot, the first book in the series, was. And Louise Penny is something special as a mystery author. Her writing is beautiful, and her insights into human nature are second to none. And this book brings to a head a issue that has been simmering throughout the series, with heartbreaking results.