2009 is totally going down as the year that I rediscovered how much I enjoy reading for pleasure. It’s one of those habits that eluded me a while back, which was kind of unfortunate given that my book-buying habit didn’t exactly die off at the same rate. And it’s not that I stopped reading, exactly; I just fell into the trap of rereading old favourites with the occasional new work creeping in. By the end of June I’d made the decision that this should be rectified and promptly started ploughing my way through the seemingly endless array of novels and non-fiction that fill my too-read bookcase.
Since then I’ve managed a fairly steady pace of two books a week. I’ve barely made a dent on the unread book read pile of doom, but it’s still exposed me to a lot of kick-ass fiction. To whit, I give you the fourth and fifth instalment of Awesome Things about 2009:
The City and the City, China Mieville (4/15)
‘Tis probably not to everyone’s tastes, but for my money The City and the City was a phenomenal novel that utterly blew my minds and reminded me why I enjoy reading fiction in the first place. There’s a part of me that’s a little bit in awe of this book, even as the other half of me is busy rereading chunks and trying tofigure out how Mieville pulled of the neat trick of taking such an absurd idea and making it seem totally fricken’ natural within the context of the novel. It’s the kind of book that makes me wish I still taught undergraduate writing theory classes, because it’d be fricken awesome to spend a semester watching other people process the book and respond to the narrative.
To put it simply: I heart this book. The Spokesbear hearts this book too. It’s one of those things that’s going to plague me for years as I try to figure out how it works, why it works, and whether I can eventually pull of something that’s equally as awesome as a writer (odds are, I can’t, but it’ll be fun to try). And awesome fiction is awesome.
A Whole Stack of Books by Cherie Priest (5/15)
One of the things that brings me considerable joy as a reader is that rush of reading someone for the first time and realising they’re still at the point in their career where you can both catch up (thus ensuring the immediate gratification of more books *now*) and follow their progression while new work gets released.
2006, for example, is always going to be the year where I picked up Elizabeth Bear’s short story collection and rushed through her first SF trilogy in the aftermath; 2007 is the year where I started picking up anthologies purely on the basis that they contained Kelly Link’s work; 2008 saw me rush through the noir novels of Christa Faust (with Hoodtown immediately earning its spot as one of my favourite novels ever)*.
I’m not entirely sure what separates these writers from other new writers I came across in the same years, but I suspect it’ll come down to some combination of: an interesting web presence where the writer talks about process, having new releases on the horizon just as I finished their first few books, and the release of smaller projects via Indie Presses (I speak here, primarily, of Subterranean; oh, how that company taunts me with the shiny hardcovers and special editions from writer after writer I enjoy reading).
2009 quickly became the year where I read a lot of Cherie Priest. Sure the entire process may have started in 2008 when Tor gave away free copies of Four and Twenty Blackbirds at Conflux, but 2009 was the year that I finally got around to reading the other two books, RSSed Priest’s blog so I wouldn’t miss any new books when they came out, and preordered Boneshakerso there’d be minimal delay between the end of the trilogy and the start of the next fix (because nothing says “fan for life” like the promise of steampunk zombies).
*Intriguingly, I have to retrace my steps back to 2004 (aka the year I read Etgar Keret for the first time) before there’s any testosterone in the list. And 2005 was a bust for fiction, although I followed a bunch of game designers that year instead. It made sense at the time.