The Complete Cosmicomics vs. Chess Story
Winner: Chess Story
As much as I loved Calvino's science fables, and that was really quite a lot, I don't think their whimsy can overpower how strongly I responded to Chess Story. There are no extra words in Zweig's little punch to the gut, and while I might not be eager to read it again, its mastery cannot be denied. Only read it if you want your heart broken. But it's worth it.
Young Miles vs. The Third Man
Winner: Young Miles
This round is going on sheer enjoyment. While The Third Man was pleasantly atmospheric, and fit right into the game we were playing at the time, it can't compare to the pleasure that Young Miles gave me It was my first foray into the Vorkosigan universe, and the two books in this omnibus were so much fun to read. The madcap energy, in particular, of The Warrior's Apprentice had me so eager to read more.
The Marriage Plot vs. Deathless
While it didn't add up to as much as Middlesex, I liked The Marriage Plot quite a lot. But its angsty academics can't measure up to the pleasures of Russian history/fantasy that Catherynne Valente weaves in Deathless. I love fairytale elements in books. I don't know if I've ever loved them more than when I was reading this book. I know I've mentioned the Stalinist domovoi before, but they really are the perfect example of why this book is great. Not to mention the absolutely beautiful prose.
Angelmaker vs. The City and the City
This is a really tough one. I loved both of these books - they were part of a whole streak of really excellent books I read while I was away at a conference in June. It hurts China Mieville that this wasn't the only book of his I read this year, while it was the only Nick Harkaway. But in the end, as much as I loved the divided city in The City and the City, and all the implications of that, the steampunk/spy/octogenarian rampage/stylish criminal/the world will end in truth of Angelmaker delighted me like almost nothing else.
Moving Pictures vs. A Good Man
Winner: A Good Man
Oh, right. We go from two books I'm passionate about and have to choose between two that I am significantly less attached to. But Moving Pictures was only okay, and Guy Vanderhaeghe's Canadian West book (end of a trilogy?) was excellent. It might not have moved me to raptures, but the story of Wesley Case, and his attempt to become his own person in the West, juxtaposed with the plight of the Natives in the area, and the one officer who wants to keep his promises to them but is undercut by his own government, is excellent.