in ARGs, Ramblings, Reviews, Year's Best

Best of 2009: Books (fiction)

I read about 25 fiction novels in 2009, which is pretty average for me. I try to limit my nominations for ‘best of’ awards to books that were actually published for the first time in 2009, which narrows the pool somewhat. Out of what’s left, here’s the short list of my favorites:

  • Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
  • Leviathan, by Scott Westerfield
  • This is Not a Game, by Walter Jon Williams

Obviously, my tastes tend pretty heavily toward the Sci-Fi and technothriller end of the spectrum. Boneshaker is a very good Steampunk story set in an alternate 19th century Seattle. The action is thrilling, and characters are well-crafted and likeable. There’s zombies, destruction, mad science, and zeppelin chases. If you like those things, you’ll like this book. That’s about all I can say.

Leviathan is another alternate history tale, this time giving us a new version of World War I. Mechanized powers of central and eastern europe face off against the ‘Darwinist’ allies, who evolved their technology biologically. I wrote a lot more about it on Goodreads, so I’ll just link you there:
Summary: I like it a lot.

This is Not a Game latched onto my ARG-playing experience, and twisted it into a thriller novel. Williams creates fascinating characters and extrapolates some ARG trends to slightly insane heights. The opening portion of the novel is self-contained and centered on a character’s escape from an economically collapsing Indonesia. This is the strongest section of the story, and in some ways I wish the book had ended there – it’d be my (short) book of the year if it did. The adventure uses near-future technology in mostly realistic ways, and doesn’t push suspension of disbelief. The later portions push more than a bit into ridiculousness territory, and the overall narrative suffers as a result.

Boneshaker was very very good, but in some ways I’m starting to feel over the whole zombie/steampunk/etc craze. There’s too much of it out there too fast. This is Not a Game started out excellent, then dropped off. But Leviathan stayed at excellent the entire way through. So it eeks out the competition as my favorite book of the year! It may be theoretically a young adult novel, but it doesn’t talk down to that age group at all – adults will enjoy it just as much as younger folk. Again, check out my Goodreads review for more detailed thoughts.