The thing about this competition is that you get truly strange match-ups, books you'd usually never look at in comparison to each other. The synchronicity of that amuses me. So, in this case, we have a book about police who police the Internet, but in real life (that's a bad explanation, sorry,) and in the other, a magical realism book about a middle-class Black family in the 1950s. Both were enjoyable, but I think this has to go to Stross. It was creepy, action-packed, and in the end, pretty damn satisfying.
Winner: Rule 34
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss vs. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson
And if I thought the last match-up was a weird one, there comes a moment where you have to compare virtually anything to Dr. Seuss. Strangely, though, there is common ground. If I were trying to get really abstract, I could say that they're both about the unintended destructive effects of unfettered development. I'd be reaching, but I could say it. In the long run, though, I think it's time to let Dr. Seuss fall by the wayside, as much as I enjoyed it. There's just so much good meat to The Ghost Map.
Winner: The Ghost Map
Oof. Sorry, Lisa Goldstein. I really, really liked The Uncertain Places. It was definitely one of my best discoveries of an author of the year. I highly recommend that book to people who love fairy tales retold well. However, Written on the Body has an urgency and a drive to it that means that it's a strong contender to take this whole damn competition this year. I adored it fiercely.
Winner: Written on the Body
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay vs. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Now this is a difficult choice. Fantasy set in an almost-China vs. fiction set in the South during slavery, mostly about some of these obvious violences of the system. We have the elegiac dissolving of an empire vs. the brutal nature of unperceived racism. So which do I pick to go on? It's a really tough choice, but if we go with my traditional method of thinking about which book I'd rather pick up and reread right this moment, it's got to go to Guy Gavriel Kay. But that doesn't mean I don't feel guilty about knocking a really powerful book out of the competition.
Winner: River of Stars
The Scar by China Mieville vs. Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
From a difficult choice to a really easy one. I liked Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, but honestly, it's gotten this far in the competition because of the books it was up against. In the end, it just can't compare to the richness of China Mieville's prose, ideas, world, characters, everything.
Winner: The Scar