Friday, January 05, 2007

The AIAC Awards: Books 2006

btw, it's pronounced IKE. My wife doesn't agree, but it's my blog, so there. The IKE awards.

anyway, I wish I has read more this year, but I'm going to go ahead and put up my picks for book anyway. Most of these were published before last year, but I at least read them last year, and they were in recent release when I did, so I'm still counting it. Here goes (as if anyone cares):

3. Blue Shoes and Happiness/Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith.

The latest installments in Smith's two "mystery" series, one set in Botswana, one set in Edinburgh. I say "mystery" because these might technically qualify as those, but the mysteries are not the point here. They're not even particularly mysterious. What they do so well is gently reveal the worlds of the main characters, and present characters that form a community based on a comman sense of morality. These are very life-affirming books, as much about forgiveness as they are about catching people doing wrong things, whether they are dishonest doctors, meddling advice columnists, or self-absorbed wanna-be wine connosoirs. No murders here, just people trying to do the best they can to get along.

2. Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Ok, there are some murders here. Big ones. Presidential murders. This is the most hysterical book about Presidential assassinations ever published, I feel safe in saying, even though I have not read widely in the field. Sarah Vowell, historian, blogger, This American Life contributor and the voice of Violet Parr in The Incredibles. chronicles her travels visiting various historical sites associated with the assasinations of Lincoln, McKinley, And Garfield (the president, not the cat. Don't worry, Kim, the fat orange cat is not dead. sadly). Part travelogue, part biography, part rumination on presidential history, part contemplation on the relationship between assassination and memorial sainthood, every part of it is deep and funny, a difficult combination to pull off well.

1. Perdido Street Station/The Scar by China Mieville

I could not choose between the two of these, nor would I want to. In these two books China Mieville introduces a world that is hard to define. Is it fantasy? Science fiction? Arguments can be made for either, but it is all brilliant. Brilliant and dark, not a place I would want to live, but a place I am a better person for having gotten to know. The city of New Crobuzon, where strange creatures live together and even stranger alchemies take place beyond closed doors, and mad scientists unleash their creations on the world and in the process become Gods and Devils all at once. And the city of Armada, that floats with the waves, providing haven for transformed exiles wishing to find for themselves something of a humanity that has been beaten out of them. BOth books involves a quest, the first two destroy a nest of murderous psychis moths, and the second to cross the great dead ocean and find the scar in creation, from where energies can be released that might transform the world. Both novels really defy simple descrpition(obviously) and theose The Scar takes place after Perdido Street Station and involves a character connected to the main hero, it is not a direct sequel.

And with these books, Mieville becomes an author whose work I will seek out and absorb. His writing is so good, it's a joy just to read. He has another book out set in this world, and it will probably be my favorite book I read this year as well.

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