Two science fiction books I really enjoyed last year. A Deepness in the Sky is a really interesting take on how we might interpret an alien culture, and comes with a truly bone-chilling technology, the implications of which kept making me take a break to just breathe. On the other hand, Glasshouse was also chilling to read, but the chills were more of the close shave variety. His world where 1950s gender norms prevail and mob mentality is encouraged - even though the technology is vastly different, the threats felt so unsettlingly real. Out of two unsettling books, this round goes to Stross
I really did enjoy Vaughn's extrapolation on a book that I truly loved, looking at a new generation of cartoonists building on what they grew up with, and what kind of stories they might tell, and how. It's beautifully done. However. On the other side, we have James Joyce, in a much more accessible book than Ulysses, capturing something about growing up and writing it in such gorgeous prose that this round just has to go to him.
Winner: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Spring Flowers, Spring Frost by Ismail Kadare vs. Farthing by Jo Walton
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline vs. Let Me Explain You by Annie Liontas
Strangely, here we have two books about fascism going head to head. While I enjoyed my first foray into Albanian literature, I'm afraid this is an easy choice. Spring Flowers, Spring Frost was interesting, melding storytelling with life in a world where you can be disappeared all too easily for having the wrong political convictions. However, Farthing just knocked my socks off. It is a horrifying, chilling look at an England that made peace with Nazi Germany, and some people are all too happy to push fascist ideals to seize power there as well.
Sorry, Arthur C. Clarke. I'm knocking off one of the giants of the field in favour of one of the young punks. It's just that The City and the Stars is not Clarke's best, although it's not bad. While The Martian isn't deep, it's got everything I want in an entertaining read - suspense, humour, and NASA never giving up.
Winner: The Martian
I think this is going to be one of those rare times that the mainstream book wins out over the genre one. Science fiction and fantasy are my favourite kinds of reads, to be sure. However, in this case, while I enjoyed Cline's loving references to 80s culture, I was really quite taken by Annie Liontas' first novel. It's not perfect, by any means, but it's really very good. And so it wins this particular battle.
Winner: Let Me Explain You