This is the first Christmas for the self hosted version of my blog. As was customary on my old internet home, I’d like to take some time to draw your attention to the books I particularly enjoyed reading this year and, looking back, I’m surprised how much I got through this year. Anyway, I’ve whittled it down to five (books not yet published aren’t included because that seems like wasting the kudos, rest assured I’ll plug them when they are available to everyone).

Remember this is just my reading NOT a top five of books released this year. Here goes:

5. New Model Army by Adam Roberts – Long term readers of my blog will know I was an effusive supporter of Adam’s 2009 release Yellow Blue Tibia which, in any other year, would have walked away with the Arthur C Clarke award but had the misfortune to be up against China MiĆ©ville’s The City & The City. New Model Army is one of the best examples of Roberts’s penchant for stretching the fabric of the novel to the limits and I wasn’t sure in the beginning if I could stick with it. Stick with it I did and I wasn’t sorry: it’s really very clever. I didn’t, however, expect it to be as prescient as it proved to be only a few months later as the student protests formed using social media to co-ordinate the leaderless demos sprinkled with direct action (they weren’t real riots scoffs the Bradford Alumni) that the Police struggled to deal with. That’s without the follow on which looks likely to lead to even wider disparity between Scotland, England and Wales. Read this clever book. (Note: The book isn’t about tuition fees, it’s conceit is based around armies run on a literal interpretation of democracy enabled through social media type networks.)

4. The Course of The Heart by M John Harrison – I’m *very* late to the party with Harrison’s work but this was the year I read three of his books in close succession and while everyone from raves about Light (it is good) personally the book I enjoyed the most was The Course of the Heart. This novel that explores themes around love and relationship and image and obsession is – as is all his work – beautifully written and cleverly crafted with lightly woven genre elements repleat with symbolism without spilling into allegory. That Harrison is not more widely known outside of genre is a crime. Beautiful novel.

3. Horns by Joe Hill – Long term readers will know I am an unashamed Joe Hill fan boy. Hill’s debut novel, Heart Shaped Box, was a skillful and enjoyable riff on a classic ghost story that employed a 21st century twist. It did very well and expectations were high for his second book but I didn’t expect such a clever employment of real world characters within a conceit that really shouldn’t work but somehow does. Exploring heavyweight themes around love, guilt and the nature of evil within a ripping yarn is the kind of fiction I live for. Better than his dad. Read his stuff.

2. The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar – I picked this book up because a) the title kicks arse; b) Neil Gaiman said Millar had good chops; c) any book that opens with drunk punk fairies is alright with me. This slim volume is wonderful weaving of character driven story about love, loneliness in a melting pot of a city and the little slices of our ancestral homes we bring with us to such places. It’s told in the kind of sparse beautiful prose that is the mark of master writers like Cormac McCarthy but with a generous humour and I urge you to pick up a copy. You don’t have to believe me: Neil Gaiman agrees.

1. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist – Vampires are ubiquitous these days. You can watch gothed up pretty boys and girls wander around looking mournful, and having dull predictable love stories that – if you switched the costumes – could be turned into bodice rippers without too much trouble, to your heart’s content. If you want proper horror, a true reminder of just why you should be afraid of the dark, then Lindqvist is where it’s at. Lindqvist’s beautiful and disturbing tale of a child vampire is such a masterful meditation on the nature of evil, love, horror and rage that I find it hard not to sing the praises to everyone I meet. Like the smartest writers Lindqvist has taken a cliche that has become so over-used it’s hackneyed and reminded us why you should cross the street to avoid the fangs. This book is not for the faint hearted but well worth the effort for it is very nearly the perfect horror novel.

What were your picks?

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