Monday, January 7, 2013
Iceberg Ink Awards 2012!
Best Read of 2012
THE COLDEST WAR – Ian Tregillis
This book, the 2nd in the Milkweed Triptych Series, took the enjoyment I had for BITTER SEEDS, amped it up to eleven, made it grittily real, pushed it past the point of no return, and then beat me in the brain meatz until I submitted. This book was such an amazing accomplishment that I IMMEDIATELY picked up the 1st book again to re-read passages of it (while attending a noisy football game no less!). If the 3rd book (NECESSARY EVIL, coming in April) is even a shadow of this one, then we are in for a serious treat. Tregillis is the 3rd member of George R.R. Martin’s “Wild Cards” writing collective that I have read and adored. Methinks they might be onto something down in New Mexico.
GUN MACHINE - Warren Ellis
This book technically deserves consideration in next year’s ‘Best of’ post. But seeing as how I finished the book before starting this entry I feel fairly comfortable in being flexible with the rules here. As a writer Ellis has long been a favourite of mine through his comic book leavings. He crafts sardonic, intelligent and flawed characters across a backdrop of near-future science fiction. And while Ellis has been slowly disappearing from comics over the last handful of years, his emergence as a novelist ensures that I’m still able to get my fix of whatever madness is running through his skull. Ellis’ first crack at long form writing, 2008’s CROOKED LITTLE VEIN, read like a who’s who of his personal hobby horses roughly hewn together to create a single narrative line. With GUN MACHINE Ellis has polished his approach creating a more narratively driven story that still manages to reflect his own personal interests. While Ellis’ futurist sci-fi bent is largely absent throughout the story echoes of its passing can still be felt within the book. At times I found that Ellis was tapping into the same vein as William Gibson, offering an otherworldly or alien slant on reality that most people are completely oblivious too. One of the best indicators of what makes a book a best read is how quickly I consume it. Once I started GUN MACHINE I just couldn’t put it down. The story is fascinating and the characters compelling. (GUN MACHINE is populated with heavy living characters, full to the brim with unbridled wit and misery.) I’d give myself one chapter more before turning in for the night and find that each new chapter left me more excited and intrigued than the last. GUN MACHINE should come with a bottle of whiskey and a warning that you’re about to kiss the next few hours of your life goodbye. It’s a book so big that it will simply push everything else in your life to the periphery and demand your complete attention.
Best New Fantasy Novel 2012
COLD DAYS – Jim Butcher
Of course technically Urban Fantasy, this book was nonetheless the book that left me with the warmest fantasy feeling this year. I’m not going to go on and on about why Dresden Rulez (It does)…but sufficed to say that aside from this book giving me more Dresden goodness, it did a few things to catapult the series into the stratosphere and make my jaw drop and shatter on the ground. Brilliant. Throughout. Seriously, 14 books in and the Series is STILL getting better.
THE DEATH OF NNANJI - Dave Duncan
Sometimes you do get to go home again. Dave Duncan’s Seventh Sword trilogy (SST) is one of those rare fantasy series that actually had a lasting impact on me as a reader. First published nearly a quarter century ago the trilogy was an epic fantasy story, starring a contemporary hero and containing an almost sci-fi underpinning to the whole narrative. THE DEATH OF NNANJI picks up the story again, roughly 15 years after the SST. More of an extended coda to the original tale than unnecessary add on the story allows readers the opportunity to check in with their favourite characters one final time. There are no sacred cows in this story. Just because a character was ‘big’ in the original series is no guarantee they’ll make it through this final chapter intact. It’s this willingness to mix things up that keeps Duncan’s work so interesting and enjoyable to me. THE DEATH OF NNANJI is a rare opportunity for fans to check in with characters and a world whose canonical appearances had seemingly run their course. If you’ve never checked out the Seventh Sword trilogy now is the perfect time to run out and see what the fuss is all about. Duncan has created strong and moving characters whose fate you can’t get help but get caught up in and a world as rich and layered as our own.
Best New Sci-Fi Novel 2012
THE STORIES OF IBIS – Hiroshi Yamamoto
Released by its North American publisher, Haika Soru, this collection of short fiction connected loosely from tale to tale is nothing short of an emotionally packed, tour-de-force sci-fi that will flip every notion you have of a future where robots or A.I. rule the earth, instead of us, on its ear. I can’t say enough good things about it, and look forward to re-reading it down the line. Wonderful, Whimsical, and utterly engaging.
THE COLDEST WAR - Ian Tregillis
I can and do quibble with some of the individual creative choices made by Tregillis in THE COLDEST WAR. But what I can’t do is argue with the overall impact of the finished piece. THE COLDEST WAR takes a hodgepodge of disparate genre motifs mixes them all up in a blender and then creates one of the most captivating pieces of revised historical sci-fi I’ve ever read. This is a generational story told over decades with characters who’s sharply distinct personal struggles will pull you into a ferocious battle for the fate of all humanity. An epic battle between the will of man and the bloodthirstiness of dark Lovecraftian gods WAR enters your brain like a drug and leaves you frantically counting the days until your next ebullient hit.
Best Author 2012
Because his second book affected me how it did, this goes to Tregillis again. He wins this for pulling out all the stops, twisting my mind every chance he got, for keeping EVERYTHING straight, and most of all…for making it all look effortless. All new authors should be looking to him for advice. He knows how to weave tales, and I’m in like Flynn.
BITTER SEEDS and THE COLDEST WAR were two of the best books I read this year.
End of Sentence.
A future science struggle between the forces of science and magic set in and around the Second World War, what’s not to love? Tregillis spins a complicated cosmic level plot and roots it firmly in the blood and earth and guts of WWII. He gives us deeply flawed characters whose struggles and foibles provide fertile material for absolutely compelling storytelling. And he plays the long game, which is easy to do, but hard to do well. COLDEST WAR starts to reap many of the plot points sewn in SEEDS without telegraphing the coming harvest or connecting the dots for the readers as if they were children. I can’t wait for the closing book to this trilogy and see what else Tregillis has in store for me.
Best Graphic Novel / Comic Book or Series 2012
THE SIXTH GUN – Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
I initially got into the first trade and put it down finding it a tad not my bag….but Chris told me to give it another chance and once I did I was not only pleasantly surprised, I found myself snapping up the other existing 3 trades. GREAT weird West stuff! Better than anything the Big 2 are currently putting out.
THE SIXTH GUN - Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt
I’ve got a weakness for genre story telling. When a creator knows what motifs and themes to hit, and more importantly, how they can play about with those themes but still retain the essential character of the genre the ends results can be spectacular. THE SIXTH GUN is that that series. Part western, part old tyme magic costume piece this comic is genre story telling done right. For nearly 30 issues Bunn and Hurt have been note perfect in their story of six unholy handguns with the potential to cause hell on Earth. It’s an epic fantasy tale told through the prism of a grim and gritty western and I am utterly captivated by this comic on a monthly basis. The plotting, story, characters and art are absolutely phenomenal and lend the series a richness and vitality that you simply won’t find in 99.9 % of the other mainstream comic book offerings out there. Don’t be afraid if magic and/or westerns aren’t really your bag. If you enjoy good storytelling then you will enjoy this series.
Best Old Book Read of 2012
THE SILMARILLION – J. R. R. Tolkien
I had said how I tried to read this a few times before and failed miserably. It isn’t just getting through it that pleased me though, it was achieving a level of understanding of Tolkien’s world that enriches ALL the other works he wrote…that’s why this award goes to Tolkien’s Elvish tome.
THE KING’S DAGGERS TRILOGY - Dave Duncan
Although ostensibly billed as a YA companion trilogy to the King’s Blades stories I challenge anyone to read the Daggers’ books and find any appreciable difference in tone or subject matter to Duncan’s adult offerings. The Daggers’ stories should be viewed as a companion piece to the larger, more interconnected Blades’ tales. While the Daggers’ books do have a perfectly serviceable plot all their own, for fans of Duncan’s expanded universe like myself it’s interesting to have these books fill in some of the character beats in the ‘central’ story and poke around a bit in areas of Chivial that are only briefly touched on in the main books.
If you’re already familiar with the Blades books then you’re going to love what Duncan is doing here. If you’re not, don’t worry, the Daggers’ books are completely readable and enjoyable as a standalone tale. You’ll never feel like you’re missing out on a larger story. Once again, another Dave Duncan book I highly recommend. Feel free to slap on your shocked faces.
And that’s it for this years Awards. I’m actually quite impressed at how may of my picks lined up with Chris’ picks. We normally don’t coincide or agree as much as we have here. I think we can unequivocally say that Ian Tregillis affected us on similar levels in 2012.