And my second list, the five novels I read in 2008 which weren’t written in 2008:
1. Stay, Nicola Griffith
This is a book so fantastic that not only did I not realise I was reading a sequel without reading the previous installment (The Blue Place), but it didn’t matter that I hadn’t. Aud, the main character, is absolutely fascinating – a broken, grief- and guilt-stricken woman rebuildling herself after the death of a lover, capable of brutal violence but still able to help the two women she comes across while investigating a missing girl. While the strong, intelligent, female character is a big part of the appeal, it’s also gorgeously written, especially when descrbing Aud’s cabin in the woods, and the minor characters are never ciphers or cliches.
2. Look to Windward, Iain M Banks
It’s a little more thoughtful and less violent than some of the other Culture novels, but it’s probably my favourite because of the way it explores the morality of the Culture, and delves into the long-term implications of their decisions. PLus it has megafauna and I am a sucker for those.
3. White Queen, Gwyneth Jones
This makes my list purely on the strength of the thoroughly alien aliens, which may be superficially physically similar to humans, but soon turn out to be as strange as I’ve ever encountered, with different approaches to communication, gender, birth and death, and which affect all the humans they encounter. I usually find Jones’s books a difficult read to follow, but this one was worth it, and I enjoyed the complexity of Braemar and Johnny and their strange relationship.
4. On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers
I didn’t like The Anubis Gates, so James persuaded me I should give Powers another go by giving me a copy of On Stranger Tides. It’s a joyous adventure full of pirates and voodoo and ghosts and the Fountain of Youth and rampaging around the Caribbean, madness and obsession and a severed head in a box. Plus it inspired one of the greatest video games of all time.
5. Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
Starts off as a light, funny, crime novel in a weird and fascinating cty (about as close to Douglas Adams as anything I’ve read), but turns into something sad and moving and even more interesting, and somehow the mixture of the two works incredibly well. As a bonus it also features one of the few science fictional cats which I do not hate.
Next year’s reading resolution is to keep a list of all the books I read so these best-of posts aren’t quite so difficult to write.