A 2008 Year's Best from the Amazon SF/F Top 10's J.M. McDermott
Back in February 2008, I wrote about J.M. McDermott's debut novel, Last Dragon, saying in part, "I really loved this novel because it reads like fantasy for adults, because it contains wonderful invention to it, such as its take on golems, and because it is extraordinarily like looking in on an alien place–something we don’t get much in fantasy. We tend to get echoes or reflections that while they may be entertaining, may indeed be deep, still seem familiar. Familiar is good sometimes, but the strange is also something fantasy readers look for, I think, and Last Dragon delivers that. (Not to mention, that it’s a very interesting take on swords-and-sorcery.)" Nothing during the year dislodged it from my imagination, and it made Amazon's list of the top 10 science fiction/fantasy books of 2008.
I've been asking writers on that top 10 to submit their own best-of list. Here's McDermott's, with the caveat that two books I co-edited appear on his list. Amazon preferred that I leave them in the list rather than alter McDermott's view of the year in review.
1 - The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem - How much of our lives are shaped by dreams, and dreams shaped by life? This near-memoir explores that question beautifully among the Tem's own family comprised of broken families.
2 - The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford - Jeffrey Ford is one of the finest writers in any genre, and this magnificent novel is more proof.
3 - The New Weird edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer - A magnificent anthology that defines and fosters (festers?) an expanding artistic gesture, that shows every sign of expansion throughout fantasy.
4 - Liberation by Brian Francis Slattery - I'm not surprised to see this crazy book as #1 on Jeff's list, or anyone else's. This book is more fun than it has any right to be considering its subject matter.
5 - Thunderer by Felix Gilman - Speaking of New Weird, this is the book I always wanted Jay Lake and China Mieville to co-author and didn't know it. A powerful debut, and someone I will be watching closely.
6 - The Houses of Time by Jamil Nasir - Imagine if a talented hard SF author had handled the dreadful movie "The Butterfly Effect" instead of Hollywood, and managed to make an intelligent novel about faith and human consciousness.
7 - Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link - I love that Viking is marketing Kelly Link to teens. The reprints are still excellent. The new stuff is excellent.
8 - Shadowbridge/Lord Tophet by Gregory Frost - I loved them both, and considered them kind of the same book, actually.A theatrical fantasy of cross-dressing shadow puppetry, with a division in the middle like an intermission. Together, endless stories build bridges over an endless sea of imagination.
9 - The Magician and the Fool by Barth Anderson - This is what urban fantasy looks like when it is pushed to the edge of literary fiction. A smart, original take on modern magic, and the history of tarot.
10 - Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlowe - The coolest epic poem of the year, where lonely werewolves and lonely dogcatchers struggle with the mob in Bukowski's kind of LA.
11 - Implied Spaces by Walter John Williams - Sartrean philosophy mixed with gonzo pulp adventures in an irresistable mixture of high and low art.
12 - The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - The thing that irks me, as a writer, is how easy Mr. Gaiman makes this book look.
13 - Steampunk by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer - A magnificent anthology that also defines and fosters (festers?) a continuing artistic gesture with an excellent selection of stories of an artistic movement far from over. Coils and springs and gears and zeppelins and alternate science galore! Huzzah!
14 - The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell - Mad scientists, circus freaks, biker gangs, and a touch of magic intersect in a surprisingly realistic literary fiction novel.
15 - The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia - Is Clockpunk New Weird plus Stempunk? Regardless, this is a haunting fable of an abusive relationship between a clockwork girl named Matti and her selfish creator, Loharri.