New features this year:
-a return to judging which are the “best” (why not? I’m no more unqualified than anyone else.)
-bonus features of Best of 1813 and Best of 2113.
-the author’s original title for their book, if I was able to discover it.
-I will disclose when my opinions are influenced by nepotism and intrigue, which is more than a real reviewer will do.
-as you can see, I'm using BookLikes now, and this will be a series of posts instead of one really long Facebook note.
Best of 2013: FICTION
Clearly I did not read very many novels for grown-ups that were published in 2013, but I did stumble across a few things that were extremely good.
The Top Two plus my handsome cat.
I Know Very Well How I Got My Name by Elliott DeLine
I could say that this was the best novel of 2013, but that would be a charming understatement. How about one of the best novels of any year? It’s about a kid growing up transgender, although there are many are other elements to the story. I wrote a full review here.
Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh (Author’s original title, and title of original short story in Asimov’s: “Bridesicle.”)
In a grim future, the dead can be cryogenically frozen and brought back to life—for a price, leading to an industry where dead women are revived for quick “dates” where they must convince their rich suitors to choose them for resurrection. This book made me think about questions like what is love and what is life and why we die and why we fear it, without ever swerving away from being a cracking good science fiction story. Also you don’t usually encounter well-written lesbian characters in science fiction by men, but here you do. And it had the coolest cover! There is a parchment wrapper that overlays the cover, acting sort of like a scrim on a stage—it's hard to explain, just look at these pictures.
That's with the paper overlay on.
That's with the overlay off.
That is the overlay itself. The whole thing is a book design triumph!
Nevada by Imogen Binnie
A young woman who’s transgender is living in NYC in the recent past and working at the the Strand, but then her life becomes completely unglued and she goes on a journey. Loved it. I wrote a full review here.
News From Heaven: The Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh
Haigh’s awesome novel Baker Towers was set in a poor mining town, and she returns to the same setting and some of the same characters with these stories. I’ve mostly thrown in the towel on contemporary literary fiction, but Haigh is a subtle and wonderful writer. The story that stuck in my head the most was about a Bakerton girl who goes to work in New York City as a maid to a wealthy Jewish family. I liked having read Baker Towers first, but I think these would stand alone.
Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush
Full disclosure: I know this writer slightly. A college student in downstate New York encounters some strange phenomena that she can’t explain—could there be aliens among us? Full review here.
Dr. Sleep by Stephen King
It’s a sequel to The Shining, all about Danny when he is all grown-up and an alcoholic himself! The first couple chapters were kind of gross and then after that it was strangely non-scary with somewhat unthreatening villains/monsters, which suited me fine. It’s basically an unrelated story with some Shining-connected material thrown over it, also okay by me. My favorite part by far was seeing the characters who were in AA changing their lives aided by the fellowship of other alcoholics. There was an incident that Danny was haunted by and felt guilty about, and I kept thinking that he was overreacting and every addict has a story like that or far worse. Then this issue was beautifully addressed in the very end. Look, this novel is not as good as The Shining, and how could it be, but I quite enjoyed reading it.
Murphy’s Law by Yolanda Wallace
I love reading about mountain climbing, and this lesbian romance is set on a mountain climbing expedition in the Himalayas, so it was perfect for me. I expected headstrong climbers, terrible weather, low oxygen, life-and-death situations, and lots of smoldering glances. I was not disappointed!
Hit Me by Lawrence Block
I’m a big fan of the Keller series, about a stamp-collecting hired killer, and this is the latest installment. They don’t call Block a Grand Master of Mystery for nothing!
The Arrivals by Melissa Marr
People from all time periods who may have died are mysteriously transported to a world full of magical hazards. Right after I read this book, I read an essay by Robert Silverberg in Asimov’s that was about translating Westerns into science fiction by just changing the names (like “horse” into “greeznak”) and whether true conceptual originality is even possible. Those concerns are all extremely relevant to this novel.
Next Up: 2013 YA