Among Others vs. Bleak House
Winner: Bleak House
Bleak House may be a hefty tome, but it's a very good story - once you get the characters sorted out, which did take me a while. And I really am a sucker for Dickens and his characters. On the other side of the scale, while Among Others made me smile with recognition for the books of my childhood, the ending felt rushed and a bit unsatisfying. In the end, the outlook for Bleak House is not at all as the title would suggest.
Ensign Flandry vs. Half-Blood Blues
Winner: Half-Blood Blues
Not really a surprise. Ensign Flandry really only survived the first round because it was up against another book that hadn't really struck me. But when it enters the ring against Half-Blood Blues, it simply can't hold a candle to this beautifully written novel on jazz in Nazi-occupied France. The emotional core is stronger, the prose is much more impressive. Half-Blood Blues wins on virtually every criteria I have.
I Am Legend vs. Bloom County Vol. 4
Winner: I Am Legend
A well deserved win for I Am Legend. My apologies to Berke Breathed, and my assurances that I do love the world he created very much. But I Am Legend is one of the most unsettling stories I've ever read, and knowing the twist at the end actually only made it creepier. Last man on earth stories have rarely been so thoughtful, and the change of perspective at the end takes it all to another level.
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane vs. Bob The Gambler
Winner: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
Given that my winner line about Bob The Gambler included the words "do I have to?," it should come as no surprise to anyone that it gets handily knocked out in the second round. There are a lot of books that Ocean At Etc. would have won over, but this was a particularly lopsided match-up. That being said, Gaiman's ability to take childhood and its troubles and make those a strange and terrifying as anything I've seen is superlative.
The Lies of Locke Lamora vs. The Blade Itself
Winner: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Well, let's see. I barely remember The Blade Itself. It wasn't bad, it just didn't impress itself on my memory. On the other side of the ring is one of the most memorable characters of recent fiction, Locke Lamora himself, master thief, conman, Gentleman Bastard. He swore his way into my heart, and won my affections by conning the rich into giving him all their money. But he cemented his place by how he reacted when shit really got real.