You know how it is. There are few people who can (rightly) claim to have read widely enough to create an honest-to-goodnes ‘best’ novel of 2010 list. I know I certainly didn’t. For every great book I read, there is a handful of others out there that are likely just as deserving. So, instead, here’s a neat little list of my ‘favourite’ books from 2010, published during the year or otherwise.
Favourite Novel Published in 2010
I mean, really, what is there to be said about Kay that hasn’t been said before and with more eloquent words than I can write. The man’s a master of the genre and his ability to weave real world history with the fantastic is second to none. Under Heaven is a lovely, lyrical novel that continues to resonate with me months after turning its final page.
Favourite Novel Not Published in 2010
Last year I named Daniel Abraham’s A Shadow in Summer (REVIEW) as my favourite book of the year. This year, I’m going back to the Abraham pot. I’ve not yet finished the series, because I’m almost too intimidated by the series’ reputation and how strong the final two volumes are supposed to be. Like Guy Gavriel Kay, Abraham is an author I keep on the shelf for a time when I feel jaded about the genre and need to be reminded of how wonderful Fantasy can be.
Best Debut of 2010
It’s not often that a new author hits the stage with as much aplomb as Anthony Huso. His debut novel, The Last Page is weird and wonderful, sorrowful and heartbreaking and will appeal to fans of Steven Erikson, Mark Charan Newton and China Mieville. Quite a list of names, but one he deserves to be among. There’s not been as much talk about The Last Page as I’d like, but I hope more people are able to discover Huso’s work in 2011 and with the upcoming release of Black Bottle, the final volume in the duology.
Favourite Short Story
My review of this story still perfectly sums up its triumph and why Ted Chiang is as good a writer as you’ve probably heard:
Time travel stories are notoriously hard to tell with any success. Time paradoxes, physics being broken and non-linear timelines all lead to plot holes in the hands of an inexperienced author. Novels that pull off the conceit well, like The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers or Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut are few and far between. Chiang, though, tackles the time travel motif with aplomb and challenges the reader by filling every plot hole just when they think they’ve found one. It’s at turns both clever and profound, full of smart twists and genuine insights into the compulsion we all have to live in the past, to regret turns not made or choices gone wrong. So often, time travel stories present fluid timelines, easily saved or ruined by the hero or antagonist, but Chiang plays with the idea that only the present is fluid and that what’s before us is every bit as defined as what’s passed us by. It’s a story of redemption and regret, with a melancholy air hiding just under the serpentine switchbacks of the puzzle-like time travel narrative.
A free audio version of The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate is available on StarShipSofa.
And, there you go! I read a lot of bloody good novels and short stories this year, but there’s the cream that rose to the absolute top. Hopefully 2011 will be filled with so many good reads as 2010!