RogerBW's Blog

2018 in Books 02 January 2019

In 2018 I read 169 books, slightly more than in the last few years.

I was not a Hugo voter, but I'd already read two of the novel nominees by the time they were announced (Six Wakes and Provenance), I've since read The Stone Sky, and Raven Stratagem is still on my list.

In SF not eligible for the Hugo, I hugely enjoyed Martha Wells' Murderbot series, but the stand-out book of the year for me was Ruthanna Emrys' Winter Tide, taking the Lovecraftian setting (with all its implicit racism and sexism) and completely inverting that in order to make it better.

I finished my (re-)reading of Ngaio Marsh, and (re-)read all of Sayers' detective stories (some of the short fiction was new to me, as were The Wimsey Papers, war time propaganda pieces in the Mrs Miniver style); I discovered Stuart MacBride more or less by accident, and read and enjoyed three of his books.

I didn't read much non-fiction this year, though Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain was both timely and good fun.

Books I gave up on, which therefore didn't get reviews:

  • George, Elizabeth: A Great Deliverance (1988). First of the Inspector Lynley series. Lynley the womanising toff cop is paired with Havers the ugly female prole cop; they will in theory solve crimes, if Havers can ever get over her hatred of herself, and coincidentally also of the perfect Lynley and of everybody else in this world that's populated entirely by horrible people. Also, an American writes Britain, just a little bit off. This felt like the sort of dirty unpleasant crime book that was popular in the 1970s, badly dressed up as an imitation of the classics.

  • McCall Smith, Alexander: The Sunday Philosophy Club (2004). Isabel Dalhousie will eventually investigate the death she saw on the first page… eventually. But not until the author has proved beyond doubt that he's in love with the look of his own writing as she bimbles along being vaguely unhappy while nothing terribly interesting happens for pages on pages on pages.

  • Crichton, Michael: The Great Train Robbery (1975). Fictionalised treatment of the Gold Robbery of 1855; but the writing plods, and relies on the novelty of Victorian corruption for its energy. This probably worked better when it was published.

  • Reeve, Philip: Larklight (2006). YA steampunk SF that seemed promising if dully written; I was happy to accept alchemical spaceships and alien gravity generators, but the moon having a permanent dark side was a bit much. The writing drove me away even though I was promised Richard Burton, Warlord of Mars, later in the book.

  • Sellers, L.J.: The Sex Club (2007). A detective story that's just a bit too keen to prove it's Not a Cosy with excessive gruesome detail – but with a writer who's rather more conservative than the story, since all the girls who enjoy sex end up dead or arrested while the one who repents (and all the boys) get away with it. And yet all the Christians are of the far-right nutcase flavour.

I kept up with Neil Bowers's book-per-month re-read of the joint Hugo and Nebula winners, which led me to two large doses of Connie Willis and some other books well worth avoiding. More disappointingly, it didn't bring to my attention any great books I'd missed, though I was glad of the excuse to re-read The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.

See also:
All Systems Red, Martha Wells
Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain, David Gerard
Six Wakes, Mur Lafferty
The Wimsey Papers, Dorothy Sayers
Provenance, Ann Leckie
Winter Tide, Ruthanna Emrys

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