Oh thank goodness I can start this post off with an easy choice. It isn't that I didn't like Eleanor & Park - I actually liked it quite a lot, and thought it was good YA with an actual difficult dilemma instead of a manufactured one. That being said, it really can't hold a candle to A Tale for the Time Being. This tale, woven back and forth between pre-tsunami Japan and post-tsunami Canada plays with metafiction in a way I've never quite seen before, on top of being a compelling story.
Winner: A Tale For The Time Being
Did I really read these back to back? That is just strange. They seem similar to me, in ways I can't quite pin down when I try to write about it. Sure, Chabon's book is about growing up in a city, while Franzen's is about selfish adults in a city and/or small town, but there's something here that feels similar. Also, this was before Franzen started irritating me to no bloody end. (It took Purity for that.) And Mysteries of Pittsburgh is just not my favourite Chabon.
Winner: The Corrections
Pattern Recognition by William Gibson vs. Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
I liked Pattern Recognition well enough, but it really didn't stick the landing. In comparison, Foxglove Summer might be slight, but the Peter Grant books always tickle me in all the right ways. Let's add a unicorn and some more faeries to the story, and send Peter out of London into pastoral England. What could possibly go wrong? It's an easy win for Aaronovitch over Gibson.
Winner: Foxglove Summer
I confess to being a bit disappointed in both of these books. Having read The Ghost Map, this considerably shallower look at innovation read like it was meant to be background on a TV series, as indeed it was. The book does not really expand on the basics, or add much complexity. I also wanted Throne of the Crescent Moon to blow my fucking mind, having heard it lauded to the skies before I sat down with it. What I found instead was perfectly serviceable fantasy, a world I was glad to visit, but nothing that made me anxious to run right out and read more. (Given that there hasn't been another book yet, this is maybe a good thing?) Still, it was fun to read and gets the win.
Winner: Throne of the Crescent Moon
Matter by Iain M. Banks vs. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer
I feel like this part of Round One has been a little too easy. Nothing I've agonized over, nothing that makes me hurt because I decided against it, no abandoned books that I really loved. I have to say, the fifth battle of the day is just as easy. I don't remember a lot about any of the Banks books I read last year, and Annihilation was truly creepy in many, many ways. I liked the narrator, the prose, the story, the tower leading into the ground. It's atmospheric landscape horror, and I recommend it highly.