My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: March 3, 2011

Reminder: The deadline for submitting your entries for my Tournament of Books 2011 unofficial contest closes on Monday, March 7th, 2011 at 11:59pm (EST).

A Rat in the Book Pile takes an interesting look at Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. releases a list of the best Sci-Fi novels of the decade. (via A Momentary Taste of Being) I have only completed books by two of the authors (Gaiman, Stephenson), though not there selections here. I abandoned China Mieville due to aesthetic disagreements.

ANZ LitLovers Litblog reviews Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin, the IMPAC Award winning book that catapulted me to a victory in a contest held by Kevin from Canada. It is on the TBR and Lisa’s review reminds me it should be sooner rather than later.

The Bookslut interviews Paul Murray, author of Rooster-hopeful Skippy Dies.

Murder, if You Can Be Bothered (Caustic Cover Critic)

a few words on Franzen’s Freedom (Incurable Logophilia)

Don’t miss Kevin from Canada’s coverage of the First Novel Award.

Matt Rowan of Bob Einstein’s Literary Equations has a story (“Forevergrad“) published in Metazen, “a really cool web literary zine”.

Max at Pechorin’s Journal posts his Personal Canon, part 1.

Become one of a thousand reviewers of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (via Reading Matters)

17 Responses to My Favorite Lit-Blog Things: March 3, 2011

  1. marco says: releases a list of the best Sci-Fi novels of the decade

    Well, according to the popular vote of the commenters of the site. Which means it has more or less the same claim to being a list of “the best”, however defined, that a list of bestsellers has.

    • Kerry says:

      You are absolutely correct. The list is the result of an unscientific (multiple votes, representative/not sample, etc.) poll of readers of one particular website. It probably has less credibility than a bestseller list at a reputable newspaper.

      Still, I had heard of Old Man’s War from a sci-fi fan on a legal blog, so was interested (reminded of that) when I saw it at the top of the list. Basically, I might try that one out. I am also reminded to go try another Neal Stephenson (whose Cryptonomicon I thoroughly enjoyed.

      Thanks for the comment and correction.

      • marco says:

        The problem is, they are wildly different types of books. Old Man’s War is space opera/military adventure with a bit of humour.
        If you want to try some of them, you should read the appreciations in order to have a better idea – the series is not complete, but you can access it from this page

        Of the lot, I’d say that the best are Blindsight and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

      • Kerry says:

        Thanks, marco.

        I am planning (thanks Pechorin’s Journal) to read the William Gibson trilogy (starting with Neuromancer) in April-May-June and would like to read a little more sci-fi as well. I have heard good things about Crumey’s Sputnik Caledonia, so I think that is on my TBR.

        Irrespective of this list, what would you say the best sci-fi novels are from the past decade or so? In other words, would Blindsight and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell still be your top picks? If so, I will probably read at least one of them.

  2. Some interesting links as usual … I particularly enjoyed Incurable Logophilia’s “few words” on Freedom.

    • Kerry says:

      Thank you. Incurable did keep it short, if less than sweet. He had some valid criticisms, I thought.

      • Yep, he did. I generally agreed … but expressed it somewhat differently in my own review. After all he did say it was “almost enjoyable” but the review barely implied that!

  3. Lisa Hill says:

    Some delectable blog reading in this round-up, Kerry -(and thanks for including me too).

    • Kerry says:

      There is no need to thank me for the inclusion, thank you for the post.

      I had let The Twin slip from the forefront of my mind just a bit, so your post was timely (just as I am going to have a little more time for non-ToB works.

  4. Sarah says:

    Thank you for the plug, Kerry, and for the ToB reminder. I have enjoyed reading your reviews leading up to the contest. Do you think you would have read many of those novels if they weren’t contenders? Either way it has made fascinating reading, and I find myself with strong views despite not having read a single one of them!

    • Kerry says:

      I would have read very few of these novels if they were not contenders. I would probably have read Goon Squad, I’d already read Freedom, I would have read Misrule. Skippy Dies and The Finkler Question were possible but not likely. Room and Super Sad True Love Story were out as not my kind of things, though I am glad I will read them now. And most of the rest I would likely not have picked up, though I am pleased to have been exposed to Bad Marie and Kapitoil, at least. And most of the rest too, but to a lesser extent.

      The brilliance of the ToB is that it does allow you to participate without having read the books (and only more so when great outlets like The Reading Ape and other folks whose blogs I linked to for a sampling of reviews) provide excellent pre-Tourney coverage. The judges tell you why they made the choice which means you can have an informed opinion about the judging (and to some degree the books) without ever cracking a spine.


  5. marco says:

    …let me take the longer route…
    The other two novels I’ve read, Old Man’s War and American Gods, are enjoyable light works with nice plots, appealing characters and moments of humour and drama; from what I know of the rest of the list, most fall in the same category, give or take romance, political intrigue, open warfare, avveniristic location or fake-Medieval scenario.
    There’s nothing wrong with this type of books; when they hit my sweet spots more closely I read them with considerable pleasure, but I don’t think they deserve a place in “best of” lists.
    I’ve heard mixed opinions about Anathem; most reviewers I trust seem to think it’s not entirely successful. Mieville has written some fine, controlled short stories, but generally throws everything and the kitchen sink into his novels, while the prose metastasizes into a purple unwieldy mess.
    Blindsight and Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell fully deserve to be taken into consideration in a list of the best of the decade.
    They may not make mine, but it’s more a matter of taste and of the fact that I’m more comfortable with different concerns and strategies.
    JS & MN is not science-fiction, but rather literary fantasy – or an alternate history of England with fairies and magic – told in a pastiche of a 18th-19th Century writing style.
    I know people that don’t generally read Fantasy or Science Fiction that absolutely love it and consider it the best thing since Dickens and Austen; others feel it’s slow-moving or could’ve done with a little trimming, some consider it boring and overlong.
    Blindsight is hard science fiction – aliens that feel truly alien and a brilliant exploration of themes of consciousness, sentience, morality and the nature of emotions (Watts is a biologist and neuroscientist).
    It is also well written. But many consider it bleak, nihilistic, filled with purposefully repulsive characters, terminally depressing. A reviewer famously said “Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts”.
    While these two novels might not be to everyone’s taste, both are interesting and both feel like they’re exactly what their authors set them out to be.

  6. Kerry says:


    Thank you for the detailed response. I had also heard some people were disappointed with Anathem which makes me think I should check out his Baroque Cycle rather than the latest. I love your description of Mieville. It makes me feel justified in abandoning The City and the City (not because it isn’t a good book, but probably not so good for me). I may look up some of his short stories.

    Peter Watts sounds up my alley. I don’t mind bleak and nihilistic. I absolutely love the reviewer’s quote. Awesome. You have provided me a sci-fi book (Blindsight) to add to my reading of Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy and Andrew Crumey’s Sputnik Caledonia.

    Thank you very much.

    • marco says:

      My pleasure!
      It’s nihilism of the scientifical variety though: we are cellular automatons, consciousness is an accident of evolution and may even be counterproductive for long-term survival of the human race, emotions are chemical reactions in the brains, this kind of things…
      Forgot to say you can read or download the book in its entirety from the author’s official site:

  7. So, the “best sci-fi books” huh? I echo marco’s comments – I mean, can you have a “sci-fi” list with no Asimov and no Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? None of my favourite dystopian books are on the list either. ūüė¶ It is an interesting list though – I haven’t read any of the books but the Gaiman and the Martin have been on my to-read list for a while.

    Enjoyed reading the Paul Murray interview as well – I did like the nerdier characters in Skippy Dies. ūüôā

    • Kerry says:

      To be fair to, Aasimov and Hitchhiker’s were ineligible because it was “best of the decade”, not all time. Still, you are right that Road could qualify given its futuristic dystopia, as could some of Atwood, or even David Mitchell (who I adore). So your point is well taken.

      I found the list interesting because I am planning to read some sci-fi this year (thanks, Max) and I had actually read (at least parts) of books by two of the authors. The most intriguing leads turned out to come from marco rather than from the list, but so much the better!

      I am looking forward to Skippy Dies.

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