Last year I did a Top 5. Everyone seems to be doing a Top 10. Looks like all I could come up with is a Top 7. It's been a busy year, what can I say. I mean, besides finishing two mass market novels this year, traveling abroad, evacuations from fires, moving homes, and all the other writing and conventions, I feel lucky to have a Top anything.
These aren't in any order. But they represent the best things I've read or seen this year.
The Talented Mr. Ripley. Not the movie, but the book. I have to admit I didn't watch the movie. For one, it had Matthew Modine, who sadly peaked in the movie Vision Quest. Even his role of Joker in Full Metal Jacket wasn't that great. That movie was saved by Vincent D'Onofrio and R. Lee Ermey, who essentially reprised his role from The Boys of Company C. (On a side note, the two best soundtracks from the 1980s are Top Gun and Vision Quest).
Out of this digression about Matty Modine's filmography comes the admission that I never read the book either. Since it was published in 1954 that's saying something. But I was due to travel to the East Coast one day and had just finished Reamde and wanted to try it. So I stole it of Yvonne's TBR pile and discovered a delightful claustrophobic take of a young psychopath. At times a confidential, at others a travelogue, and at others a love story (often it was self love), I was entranced by Patricia Highsmith's writing and her story. This is my first Ripley book. It won't be my last
Southern Gods. This first book by John Hornor Jacobs has been getting a lot of attention. And it should. Here's what I wrote on May 5th right after I finished it.
Occasionally you meet someone at a convention that you just hit it off with. I'm not only a new friend of John's, but a considerable fan. He gave me a copy of Southern Gods, which is due to come out from Night Shade in August. Let me say, I get handed lots of books. I try and read most of them. Some I comment on. Sometimes it feels like a chore, but I don't mind because I have an obligation to pay it back. Reading Southern Gods was no chore. It was a dark and dreamy delight. The plot rises from the mire of established Southern Gothic and Cthluhu fiction and is enlivened by the sort of characters only Elmore Leonard and Shirley Jackson could write. The narrative creeps on alligator feet through the swamps of Post WWII American South, where slavery is still fresh in the memory and Rock and Roll is being born. A detective noir cthulhu southern gothic mystery, Southern Gods held me fast until the end, leaving me wanting more, but satisfied that I had witnessed enough brilliantly rendered brutality and compassion for one sitting.
It's a no shit brilliant book. Looking forward to sitting back and watching Mr. Jacob's star rise. The boys over at Night Shade Books really know their talent, that's for sure.
The Devil's Alphabet. Switchcreek Tennessee. It would be your ordinary redneck backwoods, something I know quite a bit about, except for the fact that Transcription Divergence Syndrome attacked the town and changed the inhabitants. Some were killed, some remained human, the rest were changed into Alphas, Betas and Charlies. This is not a horror book. This is not a science fiction novel. And this is not a literary fiction novel. Except it is... all of them, at the same time. This is my kind of work. Thoughtful, original, human, although this feels like a piece of a much larger work, I was very satisfied with this second novel by Daryl Gregory.
This Wicked World. I was doing a book signing at The Poisoned Pen and talking with the staff. They recommended this book to me. I grabbed it and could not have been happier. Next thing you know, I had it home and had opened it, only to discover that it was present tense. Let me say right now that I very rarely ever read a present tense book, but this sucker snatched me in and wouldn't let go. The tense provided an impetus that propelled me along at a brisk pace, so fast, that I couldn't get off the ride. The plot about self realization and redemption was perfect, a was the gritty, nipple-twisting majesty of the prose. Since then, I've been in contact with Richard. He's doing more work and has some things about to hit. I can't wait. Until then, please check this book out and his short fiction collection Dead Boys.
REAMDE. Wow! Just Wow! Thank you Neal Stephenson. Just a damn excellent book. Reamde is not a genre book. It is not a literary fiction book. Yet it is all of those in one, much like The Devil's Alphabet. While there is no supernatural or science fiction elements in the book, popular culture, technology, politics, the fears of the world, and the underlying sensibilities of its peoples are the superstructure for a narrative that is filled with hope, regret, naivete, hatred, and the all-consuming, electronic force of capitalistic nature called the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) . Ef me to hell! This was just awesome.
Earlier comment on Goodreads while reading --"I can't stop reading this book. It's really that good. Reamde is what books are supposed to be. I wanted to play Xbox and work on my novel today, but I'm not doing any of that. Reamde has me so engrossed I want to see what happens next... like now!"
American Horror Story and Game of Thrones. These shows reinvigorated my belief that television can produce shows that are art. There's been so much said in the 'verse about these shows. Just know that I am a fellow fan and will stand side by side with the rest of you against the barbarians who will eventually try and shut them down for a reality television show about a trucker, a hooker and a bible thumper.