I’m pleased to be able to say that this year I managed to get back to reading more fiction. None of it, unless by accident, was actually fiction from this year – it just so happens that I read it this year. I’m no more interested in the latest book than I am in the latest blockbuster movie, which if it’s any good will still be good when it’s on TV. Mostly, these books weren’t read out of choice, but because I happened to find them lying around the house, and in any case this is only the stuff I can remember. Nonetheless, without any further ado, I present my review of fiction for 2008:
Typee – Herman Melville: A game of two halves – fascinating and gripping reading for the first, but ultimately tedious and disappointing. I would definitely recommend reading it, but when you find yourself trudging on hoping it will get better again, or at least come to a worthwhile conclusion, you should stop and set fire to the book, because it won’t.
Labyrinth – Kate Mosse: Possibly the worst opening of any book I’ve ever read. I wanted to discard it after the first page, but luckily my wife convinced me to keep reading, because it turned out to be brilliant.
Sepulchre – Kate Mosse: It’s a testament to how badly this one starts that I read the tedious first chapter and then threw the book away in disgust on four separate occasions before I managed to get past it. And bear in mind that I’d already read and enjoyed Labyrinth and was looking forward to more of the same. Again though, it turned out to brilliant, but not quite as brilliant as Labyrinth.
Beggars Banquet – Ian Rankin: A fine collection of short stories.
Midnight Champagne – A. Manette Ansay: This was great – fantastic writing and characterisation.
Excession – Iain M. Banks: I’d read this at least four times before. I wouldn’t be surprised if I read it again.
Forgiveness – Sarah Brown: Excellent. Thought-provoking and well written – highly recommended.
A Fancy To Kill For – Hilary Bonner: This was a dreadful book in all possible ways, including the writing, the plot and the characters. Oddly, I enjoyed reading it all the same.
Goodbye Sally – Rhona Martin: Very good, but the ending seemed to be an afterthought.
The Seeds Of Time – John Wyndham: Ten short stories, which was nine too many for my liking due to the fact that only one of them wasn’t total rubbish. I think this is the only book in the list that I wish I hadn’t picked up, which is particularly disappointing because I usually like John Wyndham’s writing. But…
The Outward Urge – John Wyndham & Lucas Parkes: I didn’t like this much either, despite the subject matter.
Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation, Foundation’s Edge – Isaac Asimov: I’d never read any of Asimov’s work before. It seemed best to start with these four books from the Foundation ‘trilogy’. On the negative side, I found the whole psychohistory premise of the Foundation series completely ludicrous, and the quality of writing seemed to vary from excellent to substandard in places. Despite that, I still found all these books to be very enjoyable.
The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov: Much better than the Foundation stuff. I loved it.
The Gods Themselves – Isaac Asimov: Having just read most of the Foundation series, the first part of this seemed to be very much in the same vein, one which was becoming slightly tiring. However, part two was amazingly good – possibly the most imaginative writing I’ve ever come across. The moon-based part three didn’t disappoint either.
Indelible – Karin Slaughter: On the face of it, standard crime thriller stuff, even down to the cliche of the post-mortem conducting heroine. Luckily, the strength of the characters and plot made it a worthwhile read.