Posts

Showing posts from December, 2017

2017, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

I read 67 books in 2017, a significant drop from 2016, but one that I was expecting.  More importantly, that drop in quantity was by no means accompanied by a drop in quality.  2017 was easily one of my best reading years, so much so that I've had trouble narrowing down this list to a manageable number of titles.

If I have a problem with 2017's reading, it is that for various reasons, including my New Scientist column, most of the books I read this year were recent ones, and nearly two thirds of them published this year.  Which means that my best of the year list looks a lot like many other lists I've seen published in the last few weeks.  It's been fun feeling up-to-date with the latest hot thing this year (and I'm probably never going to be as well-prepared for voting in the Hugo novel categories as I am now), but I'd like to get back to striking my own, more idiosyncratic path, even if it leaves me out of the ongoing conversation.

As usual, this list is pres…

New Scientist Column Update

If you're a New Scientist subscriber, you can read my latest SF column, in which I discuss Rivers Solomon's debut novel An Unkindness of Ghosts, and M. John Harrison's short story collection You Should Come With Me Now.  I'm sorry that the column has been paywalled, because these are both books that deserve more attention, so if you're not a subscriber I'll sum the column up by saying that you should seek both of them out.

The Solomon, in particular, is a book that I hope to see getting more attention in the coming months (I shouldn't make these kind of pronouncements since I've been so wrong in the past, but I'd be very surprised not to see it on next year's Tiptree list).  It's a book that works hard to wrongfoot its audience--a generation ship story in which not only has racial prejudice persisted into the future, but in which the social order on the spaceship Matilda takes the exact form of antebellum plantation slavery.  It very quickly…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A few days ago, I reread my review of The Force Awakens, and found myself in the odd position of being completely unable to recognize myself in it.  It's not that I disagree with anything I wrote.  But only two years after the film's opening, it lingers with me so little that the strong feelings I had about its plot, themes, and approach to the broader Star Wars universe feel positively alien.  What has stuck with me are the characters--Rey and Finn and Poe and Kylo Ren--but even that has more to do with the actors' charm and charisma than with the rather underwritten roles the film gives them.  When The Force Awakens came out, there was a lot of conversation about its essentially being a work of fanfic, a fun, well-made rehash of A New Hope without much personality of its own.  Two years later, we're seeing the outcome of that, with the film existing more as a launching pad for the revamped, Disney-owned Star Wars universe than its own entity.

The Last Jedi is very muc…