This year, I’ve held back on reviewing books I’ve enjoyed on this journal, and instead kept a living draft of everything to post around about the 31st of this month. I’ve read, so far, 38 or 39 books for pleasure in 2007, and it’s a long, long post. I fully expect most readers to either skim it, or give up altogether, so thought I’d pluck my top five books out from the crowd, and post them here. There are no rules here, except that I read them for the first time in 2007, regardless of when they were published.
Every Dead Thing, John Connolly
I’d heard a lot about the Charlie Parker novels before picking this up, and finally relented earlier this year. I’m glad I did, even though I was subsequently forced to buy the next five novels featuring the character. A beautifully written first person narrative, the novel intriduces Charlie Parker, an obsessive ex-cop determined to track down the serial killer who slaughtered his wife and daughter. The book is labelled crime, but that’s only half of the story, as Parker is increasingly convinced that the dead appear to him to beg his help (except they might not, and he might just be having an extended nervous breakdown following the trauma of his loss). The potentially supernatural elements develop as the series continue, but they’re subtle here at the start, and all the more chilling for it, enhancing an already compelling serial killer piece in strange and haunting ways. I’m torn as to whether I enjoyed this book or the fifth, Black Angel, the most, but as this is the first, and I read all six this year, consider it to be representing the whole series.
The Bleeding Season, Greg F. Gifune
Gifune is new to me, but after an introduction like this, I’ll be hunting down everything he writes. This unrelenting, perfectly painted tale of disappointment and wasted lives follows three friends in a dying American town who discover that the fourth member of their childhood gang has killed himself. In the aftermath, the evidence builds that they may not have known him at all, and that in his own depraved way, he may have been the only one among them who fulfilled his dark dreams. The characters are wonderfully drawn, warts and all, and as the story sucks you along, it shares stark, gaunt horrors with you.
The Children of Hurin, J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings remains the piece of literature that most influenced me when I first read it, and so the publication of this new telling of one of the central stories in the Middle-Earth cycle left me almost weak with anticipation. Sweet mercy though, it’s a bleak, brutal read, a tragedy in the Greek sense. Set long before LOTR, the book follows the family of cursed Hurin as a variety of tragic, desperate events overtake them with a crushing, sometimes heartbreaking, inevitability.
A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
A Song of Fire and Ice, George R.R. Martin’s sweeping fantasy saga, is well on the way to being the most extraordinary work of fantasy written in the modern age, and this fourth book took my breath away just as effectively as the first three. The scale of the thing is terrifying, with dozens of detailed, credible, well rounded characters running about a world that feels more historical than fantastical. It’s my favourite book of the year, well worth getting lost in. The only warning I’d offer is that this is not a ‘jumping in’ book. Go back to the first in the sequence, A Game of Thrones, abandon any tacky preconceptions you might have about fantasy fiction, and work from there.
The Everlasting, Tim Lebbon
I read a couple of books by Tim Lebbon this year, and this was my favourite. Tim’s work is pure quality, and I plashed out on the beautiful limited edition hardback from Necessary Evil Press. You don’t have to though, and the links below will take you to the mass market paperback. This unique tale of Eternals at war, and the regular humans who get sucked into it, is as fine an example of his exquisite blending of horror, language, and originality as I can think of. In September this year, Tim’s latest novel Dusk (which I’m reading right now) won the British Fantasy Award for best novel, despite only being published in America, and whatever of his books you pick up, you’ll see for yourself why that was.
Bubbling under: Tricks of the Mind, The Black Angel, Stains, Lisey’s Story, Monster Island, Heart-Shaped Box…