All right! It's a new year! We've made it through Round One! Things are going to get messier (and in now way match up to a good tournament format - for that, I would have either had to read 128 or 256 books, and one is way to few, the other way too many). I'm going to get more anguished over choices I'm forcing myself to make!
It's time for shit to get real.
Infinite Jest vs. The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin
Winner: Infinite Jest
All right, a chance to get rid of a book that I didn't really want to get past the first round, anyway. As I said, I liked one age of Larkin's poetry, but not the rest. And although I'd be surprised to see Infinite Jest make it through to the end, it was truly a worthy entry into my reads last year. Occasionally infuriating, it was almost always something I enjoyed. Even the long descriptions of the game the tennis kids played.
The Casual Vacancy vs. Invisible Man
Winner: Invisible Man
I am a staunch defender of The Casual Vacancy. I was thrilled that this was J.K. Rowling's follow-up to Harry Potter, and that she chose to write a book that dealt with such difficult material. But it can't take down Invisible Man, which is also about difficult material, but deals with it with such elegance and artistry that I was on edge nearly every moment I was reading. They both have things to say about the state of society, but in a battle between the two, Invisible Man, although hard to see, spoke to me more.
Altered Carbon vs. Fuzzy Nation
Winner: Altered Carbon
Oooh, two science fiction books head-to-head! Both of which I enjoyed, but in the end, Fuzzy Nation was a slighter book than Altered Carbon, and while I loved Carl and was thoroughly pleased by the courtroom takedown, the noir universe of Morgan wins out. Particularly for its contemplation of resleeving - rehousing consciousness in a series of bodies, and what that might mean for convicts, for soldiers, and for the rich and the poor.
Atomic Robo Vol. 4 vs. The Uplift War
Winner: The Uplift War
As much as it pains me (and may cause my bloody and hilarious death at the hands of Dr. Dinosaur,) I'm going to have to let Atomic Robo go. Love this series to death, but I somehow feel that picking it over a full and well-developed book isn't quite right. Particularly when that book is so good. You want a universe where humanity isn't the dominant species? How about interplanetary politics, and an incipient rebellion? By chimps? Can I throw in a few dolphins? (Actually, very few dolphins in this one - but others?)
The Girl with Glass Feet vs. The Doomsday Book
Winner: The Doomsday Book
This is a more difficult choice than perhaps it first appears. I really loved The Girl With Glass Feet, the language, the story, the heartbreaking ending. But if it comes down to remembered impact on my life, I remember waking up at night worrying about the characters in The Doomsday Book. I cried at the end. Willis is a master of humanizing fictional history, and I love her for it. Watching the world end at the hands of the Black Death might not have been the most pleasant experience, but it was powerful.