And so Iceberg Ink gets its first year under its belt. The little blog where Chris and I share our wonderful thoughts with you fine folk has grown a bit over that year and picked up some new readers. We also started a Podcast and have been refining what sort of content we want on the site aside from reviews. We hope we've created a place to nerd out a bit. A place to read reviews of the latest books, the not-so-latest books, and even sporadic geekgasm type things.
We'd like to take a moment to thank all our readers for sticking around and making us part of your daily internet travels. It means an awful lot to both of us.
With that said, it is indeed that time where we compile a list of our favourite titles all year. Also, this year Chris will be participating so it won't just be my picks. Each award will be clearly marked as to which of us gave the prize to which person or book. So let's get straight to it shall we?
NOTE: If only one of the two of us has an entry listed for any of the awards, it means that the other person didn't have an award to give in that category.
Example. I (Scott) didn't have a Non-Fiction entry this year, but Chris did.
Best Read of 2011
THE CRIPPLED GOD - Steven Erikson
THE CRIPPLED GOD - Steven Erikson
This one is easy this year. THE CRIPPLED GOD blew me away. As the first completed ten book fantasy series (take note all you other long fantasy series, this is how it’s done!) this book gave me everything I wanted out of the end of the series, threw a few twists at me, and then proceeded to change the notions I had about the entire series. I recall at different moments laughing, crying (manly tears) and even cheering or pumping my fist in the air. It AFFECTED me, on that level. Absolutely, positively a masterpiece in every sense of the word.
THE REVISIONISTS - Thomas Mullen
After decades of war and strife humanity has finally achieved the utopia it deserves. But time-terrorists, known as hags, are determined to bring down the walls of this perfect society and erect a new one in its place, one where they control the shots. So it’s up to operatives like Troy Wilson to go back in time and preserve the timeline. It’s a job that would break lesser men, as it means standing aside and letting some of humanity worst atrocities play out. But in this case, the ends surely justify the means.
Reading THE REVISIONISTS is like getting suckered into a game of Three Card Monte. You’re so convinced that you’ve got the whole thing figured out that when the dealer flips up the Jack of Clubs you don’t even notice his hand in your pocket. Author Thomas Mullen does a great job distracting readers with a taut and engrossing surface plot, and when he finally shows the tremendous goings on behind the scenes you’ll be kicking yourself for not picking up the hints. It’s a rare novel that can blindside me like, especially since Mullen doesn’t hold back. He puts all the pieces out there on display and leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Passable thrillers are a dime a dozen, extraordinary ones like this should be read as quickly as possible.
Best New Fantasy Novel 2011
WISE MAN'S FEAR - Patrick Rothfuss
A tough category since Fantasy is my bread and butter. When I sat down to think about it though, this one easily goes to WISE MAN’S FEAR. The book almost met every one of my expectations for the 2nd book in the series and only suffers from a slight lag in pace in the mid-to-latter section of the book, but even that was not enough to dampen my spirit about it. Lovingly written and brilliantly executed, I was really impressed with this book pretty much throughout, so it snags the top spot.
THE COLD COMMANDS - Richard Morgan
The second book in Richard Morgan’s A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, COMMANDS is really the author rocking his hard boiled sci-fi work under the guise of the fantasy genre. Picking up a couple months after the end of the first book, COMMANDS deals with the continuing invasion by the alien dwenda to reclaim the earth for themselves and rule over all humanity. But the real selling point for this book is the skill and complexity of Morgan when he gets down to his wordsmithing. In his hands the English language is putty, infinitely malleable, oscillating between equals parts gutter pulp and high poetry. Morgan is not afraid to make tough decisions either. His characters are not righteously pure examples of humanity, rather, they display their all to common frailties at every turn. Our heroes make bad decisions based on ego and clumsy thinking and there are bloodly repercussions for their poorly timed hubris. As an added Easter Egg, readers familiar with Morgan’s previous work will recognize deliberate nods to his seminal work in the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. A fantastic read that I can’t recommend enough.
Best New Sci-Fi Novel 2011
LEVIATHAN WAKES - James S.A. Corey
Another easy category. LEVIATHAN WAKES, a joint foray into sci-fi by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey is a completely engrossing, space opera of the highest quality. It had a few minor issues, but not enough to really get upset over. Overall I was fairly floored both by how readable it was and how much I am salivating to read next year’s sequel CALIBAN’S WAR. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better sci-fi debut this past year.
POCK'S WORLD - Dave Duncan
POCK’S WORLD is about humanity’s struggle to understand itself in the face of ever increasing change. Spread out across the stars, humanity has developed a very rigid definition about what a human being is. In a future where genetic manipulation is commonplace falling outside those descriptions ensures your own death sentence. When contact is lost with the far flung Pock’s World the worst is feared.
Not every book needs to be a home run. As satisfying as belting one over the far wall can be, sometimes there’s just as much poetry in seeing a ground rule double being perfectly executed. That’s pretty much what I feel like when I think about POCK’S WORLD. Author Dave Duncan isn’t interested in creating this elaborate ongoing soap opera that seems to be the standard in any genre work today. Instead, he strips his story down to the bolts, jettisons any unneeded superfluity and just concentrates on telling a simple story well. And he succeeds brilliantly. POCK’S WORLD is like a writing clinic on the craft that aspiring authors would do well to bone up on. You’ll be thinking about this book for days afterwards.
Best Author 2011
PATRICK LEE (Author of THE BREACH, GHOST COUNTRY & DEEP SKY)
A tough category. Funnily enough I am going to give this to a thriller writer, and not only that but one who is also fairly new to the scene. Patrick Lee, released a couple of thriller books over the last 3 years, the first THE BREACH and the second GHOST COUNTRY were both totally engrossing, action-packed and absolutely clever as can be. The 3rd book (DEEP SKY) just came out and after standing in a long Boxing Day line-up to buy it, I absolutely cannot wait to read it. To have burst onto the scene with books that are so readable, fascinating and ultimately entertaining as hell, this award goes to Patrick. Well done sir! Keep the books coming. I'm not kidding here. If you haven't read these books you absolutely HAVE to. Do yourself a favour and check them out.
Best Short Fiction Story 2011
THE BUTCHER OF ANDERSON STATION - James S.A. Corey
This puts James S.A. Corey on the list twice this year, since THE BUTCHER OF ANDERSON STATION was far and away the best short piece I’ve read this year. A fantastic little piece that gives us insight into one of the enigmatic main characters in the Expanse series. It's shortish, and yet it still feels like a piece of an epic universe. Loved it. Well done to the co-author's Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck for getting on our award list twice!
MILE 81 - Stephen King
Winner of this category by sheer virtue of the fact that I’m reasonably sure it was the only short fiction I actually read this year. (How’s that for damning with faint praise?) While King might have mellowed in recent years, forgoing his traditional MO of grabbing your heart and squeezing tightly, that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of putting together a good short story. Built around a mysterious abandoned car found at the side of dilapidated road stop, one with a seemingly insatiable appetite for human flesh, MILE 81 doesn’t try to reinvent the short story. Its not here to fill you up with fancy eatings, but rather to whet your appetite for more gore and viscera with a quick taste from the appetizer menu.
“Come on in,” it beckons. “Give us a try.”
MILE 81 is a great way to lose yourself for 20 minutes on the subway or before you go to bed. And frankly, what more were you looking for?
Best Graphic Novel / Comic Book or Series 2011
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS - Nick Spencer & Carlos Urbano
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS - Nick Spencer & Carlos Urbano
DC Comics has slowly, but surely, replaced my go-to comic reads. This past year they re-booted an old title in T.H.U.N.D.E.R AGENTS, and kind of melted my brain. The non-linear storytelling, the twisting turning story itself, Nick Spencer’s phenomenal writing, and even the amazing art by Carlos Urbano all served to impress the hell out of me. I can’t say enough nice things about the series and I’m really glad I took a chance on it.
BATWOMAN - J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman
There is no more beautiful looking comic book currently being published than BATWOMAN. Artist and co-writer J.H. Williams III simply blows his competition out of the water.
Frequently choosing to tell the story in elaborate double page spreads, each issue is a gorgeous work of art and sets a new standard when it comes to the craft of sequential storytelling. It’s not enough to read an issue once. The detail and layout demand repeated readings, with each subsequent consumption harvesting a greater appreciation of the finished product in the heart of the reader.
My only complaint is that the double page layout makes for cramped reading on the smaller iPad screen. But if publishers were ever looking for a way to keep enticing readers to purchase physical copies this is the way to do it. This title has become the biggest ‘must read’ in my monthly habit and makes a compelling argument for the power of comic books when you take the time and effort to do it right.
Best Non-Fiction Read 2011
SUPERGODS - Grant Morrison
SUPERGODS - Grant Morrison
I had to negotiate with Scott to add this category. Because SUPERGODS deserves some sort of accolade in any fan’s ‘best of’ list and it feels wrong to simply shoehorn it into another section. Part autobiography, part historical record and part hallucinogenic rambling SUPERGODS may not be the most definitive dissection of the history of comic books, but it may just be the most insightful one. Author Grant Morrison examines his own personal relationship with the four colour funnies through a time of social, political and economic upheaval and compares it to his own growth and development as a writer. The end result is a fascinating analysis that reshapes the reader’s own interactions with comic books and imparts a new depth onto old material.
Best Dialogue 2011
GHOST STORY - Jim Butcher
When it comes to dialogue, no one does it better than Jim Butcher. Most especially in his Dresden Files series. Harry Dresden can be a smart-ass, he can be sarcastic, he can be loving and emotionally resonant, he can be furiously angry, and he can be poetically heroic. All those things are wrapped up into one in the latest Dresden File GHOST STORY. If you don’t read Butcher or Dresden then I am afraid you are cold and dead inside.
Best Old Book Read of 2011
BLOOD OATH - Christopher Farnsworth
This is a fairly recent title, but it was published in 2010 and I only read it the first time this year, so here is the category it wins. BLOOD OATH basically took everything I LOVE about thrillers (historical mysteries, action, spies), and added stuff like vampires, werewolves, and effing Cthulu! No honestly, as I stated in my review, adding Lovecraftian minions in ANY way to your narrative triples its value for me. Basically this book fires on every cylinder that I know to exist and then it fires on some space-age futuristic cylinders that are fed by the fires of a thousand dead zombie bodies. This IS entertainment. I got the second one for Christmas and can't wait to get into it!
DIVING INTO THE WRECK - Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Boss loves wreck diving old abandoned space ships. But one day she discovers an ancient earth warship that shouldn’t exist at all. Putting together a small group Boss explores the wreck, determined to find its hidden secrets. When tragedy strikes and crew members start dying it seems like the cost of getting her answers might be too high by far.
WRECK is a slow, measured book that feels like you’re reading the first half hour of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, you know, the part before everything goes to shit. Rusch writes space exploration as quiet and languid rather than just jumping in the nearest tin can and cranking everything up to 11. As a result the book is very different from a lot of the other genre offerings out there. Its methodical approach is more interested in looking at the inner workings of the characters that populate its pages than performing dazzling feats of pseudo-science. Like the solitary pursuit of wreck diving itself WRECK has a very contained, almost documentarian feel, a feeling reinforced by the constant monologuing of the book’s lead character. WRECK is what you read when you’re looking to switch it up a bit, a palette cleanser that rewards the reader with a thought out and thoughtful story.
Best Blog of 2011
I’m giving the nod this year to CIVILIAN READER. The guy is an absolute machine, pumping out reviews, interviews, contests ect. His content is always current, always interesting, and is a must read on a daily basis.
Runner Up: Amanda’s FLOOR TO CEILING BOOKS has now closed as the blogstress herself has moved on to work for a publisher (ANGRY ROBOT) heading up their YA imprint, STRANGECHEMISTRY. We wish her luck at her new digs, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I will miss her blog, so she gets a mention for Blog of 2011. Go on over and read her VIA the new site as she is always knowledgeable, funny and exciting.
That's it for this year's awards folks. Hope you enjoyed our list here. Perhaps you agree with some choices, and hopefully we might lead you to some new reads as well!