The Best of 2007: My Locus Online Column

Jeff VanderMeer • January 28th, 2008 @ 4:33 pm • Book Reviews

Here’s my extensive, relatively exhaustive column on the best of 2007. If I’ve missed something in the categories of novels, first novels, anthologies, graphic novels, and notable reprints, please comment here. I think all readers would love to have even more to choose from. I’ll let ya know if I disagree with you. ;) And you can let me know if you disagree with my initial article.

Claude Lalumiere also has his 2007 recommended reading, although he admits his is pretty haphazard. So it’s more like “what I happened to pick up”. Still worth checking out, though, with little overlap with my list, which is good.

Jeff

BTW–my arm is totally f–ed up from overuse typing/writing, so all I can do for the next couple of days are tiny blog entries and whatnot. Sigh. If I owe you something, that’s why you haven’t heard.

32 Responses to “The Best of 2007: My Locus Online Column”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Wow, so many of them that I haven’t read, though quite a few are on my list.

    Two I enjoyed but you haven’t listed (both first novels) are:
    Auralia’s Colors, Jeffrey Overstreet
    Maledicte, Lane Robins

    And do read Dr. Brain.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says:

    Thanks, Cheryl, for getting the ball rolling!
    JV

  3. Larry says:

    Interesting list, especially since for the first time in ages I’ve read almost the majority of those. I agree with your takes on most of them, but it seems I’ll have to disagree a bit on the Ruckley, as I found his work to drag quite a bit in the middle, plus the characters seemed at times to go against the apparently rigid clan model that Ruckley had appropriated for that novel. Still, it wasn’t a complete wash, just not anything I’d call great.

    Did finish reading Deadstock last night and I agree with you on it being an excellent piece. Will read more of his work later. All in all, a very nice listing, even if the YA bit was left out ;)

  4. Barry Wood says:

    Great list, Jeff VanderMeer. Good to see Thomas Ligotti and Joe Hill’s names. My goodness, my dear man: you do read a lot!

    I’m very much looking forward to reading your own story titled “Island Tales” in Postscripts #14, Jeff. Lastly, sorry to hear about your hand. I hope it’s better quickly.

  5. Andrew Cooper says:

    Can we have a ‘best of the 1st century’ because I have a few ideas.

  6. Larry says:

    Best of the 1st century? Besides some holy books and Ovid writing erotica, what else would top that list?

  7. Andrew Cooper says:

    The Golden Ass

  8. Andrew Cooper says:

    by Lucius Apuleius.

  9. Andrew Cooper says:

    I think that’s the first century anyways.

  10. Larry says:

    Looking it up, it was a mid-2nd century release. Still, it’d make for a nice “classical fantasy” best of list, I agree.

  11. JeffVanderMeer says:

    You guys are nuts.

    Anything on 2007?

  12. Alan says:

    Great list – lots of stuff there I’d be happy to agree with.

    Seeing as the collection recs are a bit on the thin side, here’s a bunch I read and enjoyed and think rate a mention (in no particular order):

    Getting to Know You, David Marusek
    Dagger Key & Other Stories, Lucius Shepard
    Old Devil Moon, Christopher Fowler
    Plots and Misadventures, Stephen Gallagher
    The Bone Key, Sarah Monette
    Hart & Boot and Other Stories, Tim Pratt
    The Girl Who Loved Animals, Bruce McAllister
    The Winds of Marble Arch, Connie Willis
    The Fate of Mice, Susan Palwick
    The River Knows Its Own, Jay Lake
    New Amsterdam, Elizabeth Bear
    The Jack Vance Treasury, Jack Vance
    Worshiping Small Gods, Richard Parks

    Along with the Barron and Swanwick you did mention, I guess that’s my Top 15 Short Story Collections of 2007.

  13. JeffVanderMeer says:

    Thanks–was the Pratt 2007? Nice list, though. I read and enjoyed Fate of Mice and The Bone Key. Didn’t get to most of the rest. I’d still say it’s a decent year, not a great one, collections-wise.

  14. Larry says:

    Well, I could add that your comment on Ink was very fitting, after I struggled in places with that novel back in February. The rest you’ve already heard my opinions on earlier. When I get the Winterson and review it, I’ll be sure to let you know. Fair enough?

  15. Larry says:

    Yeah, the Pratt has a 2007 copyright date, and I’d second that and the Parks, which was my favorite 2007 single-author collection that I read that year.

  16. JeffVanderMeer says:

    Sounds good!

    Ink exhausted me even as I liked parts of it. But I couldn’t tell if it was my fault or the book’s, because I read it at a very frenzied time for me. I also am pretty much sick to death of reviewers dissing stuff that’s difficult because they either don’t have the time to put in a good read or just aren’t good readers to begin with. So it stayed on my best-of list, with the caveat I gave.

    JV

  17. Barry Wood says:

    You read a lot too, Alan. Wow.

  18. Dave Larsen says:

    Been reading The Traitor the last few nights – I totally agree, Jeff. Cisco is as good as it gets.

    I read an interview in, I think, Wired – or maybe it was New Scientist, can’t remember, with Winterson. She adamantly insisted Stone Gods is not SF (maybe she said Sci-Fi, “skiffy” or maybe I just took offense to her high-brow BS). Like she couldn’t come down to the ghetto with the rest of us illiterate ‘wipes. I determined then that I wouldn’t read her book and good as your recommendation is, I’m not gonna.

    Said it here before and I’ll mention it again, The Terror must be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s still hanging on, a year later. Probably read it again next winter…or the next.

    A lot there for me to read, I think I’ll get into Shelter next. Thanks Jeff!

  19. JeffVanderMeer says:

    Dude, never listen to authors. They’re all idiots. Just read their books. I also think from what *I* saw that it wasn’t nearly as grievous, what she said.

    Shelter’s pretty intense!

    Jeff

  20. Larry says:

    Ink is a book that I’ll tackle again, so I can try to wrest more from it. It just didn’t have the same “flow” to it that Vellum had to it, but to be fair, I read it months after Vellum and at a time that I was distracted by working 60+ hours a week. Nevertheless, my first impression was that it was repeating the motifs of Vellum a bit too much in places, but I’ll have to read the two back-to-back soon to decide if that first impression is true or not.

  21. Alan says:

    Jeff, I’ll take a decent year collections-wise over a bad one. :)

    And this year’s shaping up pretty well; Egan, Rosenbaum, Kelly, Kress, Kessel, Link, Ford….

    And yes, Barry, I do read a lot!

  22. Dave Larsen says:

    “I also think from what *I* saw that it wasn’t nearly as grievous, what she said.”

    You’re probably right, possibly I’ll give it a shot. Or not. Something sure set me off.

    I’m going to sneak Jeanie’s Borders gift card and go buy Shelter this week… ;-) (Jeanie read this, said there’s no sneaking around here, I can have it. She knows she’ll read it too.)

    Dave

  23. kellys says:

    Jeff, Enjoyed your year-end writeup.

    For the horror crowd, I highly recommend two horror novels from ’07: Justin Evan’s A Good and Happy Child and Sarah Langan’s The Missing.

  24. JeffVanderMeer says:

    Yeah–heard good things about Langan.
    JV

  25. Brian Lindenmuth says:

    I’m a little late chiming in but what the hell. Since I write mystery/crime fiction reviews my list was dominated by that genre this year but some of my favorites from outside of that genre were:

    The Raw Shark Texts – I had this sitting on my shelf for quite a few months before finally jumping into it and I’m sorry I waited. This is one of the more imaginative books that I encountered all year. The story left me breathless, thinking and desperate to start it again as I haven’t had this many textual questions (in a good way) since reading The Book of the New Sun all those years ago. One of my absolute favorite books of the year.

    Linger Awhile – I love Hoban’s work and this one may just rank as one of my favorites by him in recent years. Quite possibly one of the oddest books of the year and I’d be willing to bet that it flew under the radar of most readers. One of the things that I love about Hoban is that he writes charcters that are his own age, so we have here a group of old men doing battle with a dead 50’s Western actress that they resurrected from film images and now needs blood to stay alive.

    Dark Harvest – This was published in 2006 and this past Halloween saw the TP release. My surprise pick for the year since I picked it up as a throw away Halloween book and wasn’t expecting much. Man was I surprised though when this turned out to be one of my more enjoyable books of the year. The usage of the second person narrative was perfectly done and added the right tone to the book. Also one of my favorite covers of the year.

    My other 12 favorites were mystery/crime related but these three I just loved.

  26. Corey Redekop says:

    I’m on the list! I love it!

    Have a great 2008, looking forward with incredible interest to the Predator novel. Love it when truly talented writers doing something unexpected, like when Paul Di Filippo did the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

  27. Terry Weyna says:

    Despite having read more than 100 books last year, I still found plenty in Jeff’s post and in these comments to add to my Amazon wish list (and unavailable at my local library, unfortunately).

    Jeff, do read Joe Hill’s novel, Heart-Shaped Box; it’s good. Not as good as his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, but good. I’m looking forward to more of his work.

    I’d like to second the nomination of Justin Evans’s A Good and Happy Child, which was not published as a genre novel and therefore has been largely overlooked. It’s a very strange novel with a completely unreliable narrator who is either possessed or not. You never can tell. It’s quite well-written and leaves you feeling very off-balance. Sticks in the mind.

    The Princes of the Golden Cage is a first fantasy by Nathalie Mallet notable mostly because it was Nightshade Press’s first foray into mass market paperback fiction. I don’t really think I can call it one of the best novels of the year, but it’s a good read and a good first novel, and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

    I loved Datlow’s Inferno, especially the offerings by Cacek, Cadigan, Williamson and Ford. I’d expected brutal stories, and these aren’t; no splatterpunk to be found. Creepy stuff that enters your dreams, rather than icky stuff that makes you vomit. I much prefer the former.

    Michael Marshall’s The Intruders was a spooky little number, and so was Michael Marshall Smith’s The Servants, the latter being the better book. Don’t know why the author uses the two different names, except that the latter book is more obviously fantastical (the first still has fantastic elements, though it purports to be more of a mystery than a dark fantasy).

    I’m thinking Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter in the Dark has moved that series into the realm of dark fantasy and out of the straight serial killer/thriller category. I’m not sure if it works well or not, but it’s worth noting, anyway — it’s surely a different treatment of the theme. I like that writers are more willing to mix things up these days, which probably tends to dilute my feelings about “best” with feelings about “interesting.”

    And on that same note, let me mention Elizabeth Hand’s Generation Loss, which is a great book, but probably isn’t at all SFnal. Is it?

  28. Rudy Rucker says:

    YEAH, I think you missed something!

    My novel POSTSINGULAR!

    You can even read it for free online…

    http://www.rudyrucker.com/postsingular

  29. Tim Pratt says:

    Good round-up, Jeff. Looks like I missed some good graphic novels. (And yeah, my Hart & Boot came out in early ’07.)

  30. JeffVanderMeer says:

    I didn’t mention the Hand because it’s not SF/F. I agree it’s a great book. The Hill didn’t look that great to me, but I’ll give it a go.

    Rudy–nice to see you here. Drop me a line and I’ll line up some coverage on the Amazon book blog for Postsingular or your next project. I don’t read novels online. And I didn’t get it for review, as far as I’m aware.

    Tim–that’s cool. Again, I just couldn’t cover everything.

    JV

  31. Terry Weyna says:

    Just so I’m clear — the Hill novel is good, not great.

  32. Anne says:

    I am currently reading “The Secret History of Moscow” and enjoying it. I loved “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” which I whipped through in two days.

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