Saturday, September 20, 2008

Best Books I've Read (or maybe re-read) in 2008

This has been a really good year for me for discovering new authors, especially in the areas of fantasy and pulp magazine type fiction. I started the year out by reading Imaro and later Imaro 2: The Quest for Cush, both by Charles R. Saunders. These two novels chronicle the adventures of the eponymous hero in an ancient alternate Africa. At the same time I was reading Imaro's coming of age adventures, I was perusing a copy of pulp era author Manly Wade Wellman's Hok the Mighty, another eponymously named collection, this time about a Cro-Magnon hero of the Stone Age, whom Wellman posited as the basis for many of the Hercules legends. Reading the two of these authors and their take on their heroes was an interesting study in contrasts and I highly recommend both to anyone who likes adventure with a little touch of fantasy thrown in.

I was aware of both of these authors before 2008 and had read a few short stories by each, but Paul Malmont, author of The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, was totally unknown to me until I came across his book while browsing my local Barnes and Noble. His book was one of the most exciting I've read in years, and I recommend it to just about anyone who loves to read, regardless of genre preferences. His protagonists and characters are fictionalized versions of real pulp authors of the 1930's, several of whose names will ring a bell even for those readers who aren't big fans of pulp magazine era fiction, but you don't have to be a pulp fiction fan to enjoy this wonderful book. Malmont has a new book coming out on Jack London (a historical fiction novel in the same vein as TCDCP) and I'm planning on being one of the first to buy a copy when it comes out.

Anyone who has ever seen my bookshelves knows that two of my favorite authors are Robert E. Howard and Jack Vance. Author (and internet correspondent and friend I happily disclose) Wm. Michael Mott has taken some of the best elements of each writer and added some highly creative touches of his own to pen two of the best fantasies I've read in decades in his Pulsifer: A Fable and Land of Ice, A Velvet Knife. In their own way both these novels set in a vividly realized fantasy world are just as memorable and good as some of the masterpieces written by Vance in his "Dying Earth" series. I consider these two novels tied for the best fiction I read so far this year, along with Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Anansi Boys, and I don't say that without serious thought. I'd really love to see what Mott could do if he were able to write full time.

As for the aforementioned Gaiman, I admit that I foolishly ignored people telling me I should read him for years, only just picking up American Gods this year. I was blown away, and quickly followed that worthy book with Anansi Boys, Coraline, Stardust, and am planning on starting the Sandman series of graphic novels next, along with his short story collections. I'm now officially a Gaiman convert, and eagerly await his next works.

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