December 22nd, 2012

buzz

Locus Poll of Best Novels

Locus have published the results of their online poll of the best sf and fantasy novels of the 20th and 21st centuries, and as ever with these things they are a mixture of the expected and the facepalm. I give the lists below, with the usual bold if I've read it, italic if I started but did not finish, and struck through if I did not like the book.

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One of the things about these polls for me is to spot gaps in my own reading. I have read all but 9 of the 132 books listed above, which is not too bad (and a clean sweep in 20th century SF), but I have some more titles to add to my Amazon wishlist now.

One should not engage in too much analysis of what is basically a poll representing only the preferences of those who voted (I didn't) and whose voting system is somewhat obscure ("algorithms that reward a 1st place vote twice as many points as a 5th or 10th place vote, but not 5 times or 10 times as many", which seems to mean two points for a first place and one for every other placing). But I can't completely refrain from comment.

The 20th century sf list feels rather old-fashioned. The average (and median) year of publication is 1969 (compared to mid-1970s for the fantasy list). But perhaps it is a better reflection of staying power than the other lists. Eleven of the 20th century fantasy list were published after 1990, compared to five of the sf list.

I find it difficult to believe that Old Man's War won the 21st century sf category. My own problems with this book are well-known, but even putting that aside I cannot understand how anyone could rate it ahead of most of the others on the list. Having said that, this was the list where I struck out fully a quarter of the books on it, so clearly my tastes are out of whack with the times. Also note that most ballots were received in the last four days, and that both Scalzi himself and Tor (whose readers also liked Old Man's War) published blog posts on 27 November urging people to participate. There is nothing wrong with that, of course; I offer the explanation not as criticism of the self-promotion of Scalzi and his publishers, but as a partial explanation of my own bafflement.

The nine books I have not read are:

Beagle, Peter S.: The Last Unicorn
Bradbury, Ray: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Howard, Robert E.: Conan the Barbarian
Silverberg, Robert: Lord Valentine's Castle
Swanwick, Michael: The Iron Dragon's Daughter
King, Stephen: The Shining
Collins, Suzanne: The Hunger Games
Rothfuss, Patrick: The Name of the Wind
Lynch, Scott: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Any particular recommendations / disrecommendations from among those?

earthsea

December Books 6) Aldébaran 2: La Blonde, by Leo

I enjoyed the first of this classic bande dessinée series, and am glad to say that the second volume builds on the strong points of the first. Teenagers Marc and Kim, still struggling to reach the distant metropolis after the destruction of their home village, encounter the mysterious blonde woman who is associated with their enigmatic saviour from the first volume, and Marc finds himself fleeing with her from a sinister dirigible controlled by the government priest Loomis. For the first time our heroes hear that they have grown up under a repressive government, and realise that they have fallen in with a revolutionary group. But apart from the human drama, we can also see that the natural life forms of Aldebaran are in symbiosis with their human colonisers, but inhumanly grumpy about it, and that there must be much more going on under the surface of the planet's mysterious seas. The flora and fauna again are glorious and surely inspired by Leo's native Brazil. Very intrigued to find out what happens next.