Friday, December 14, 2007

Favourite Things and What Have You, Spoken with all the Authority of Someone who has no Authority – like a mouse, but not one of those cool mice.

I'm feeling all work avoidy today. And just a little nostalgic for the year that was.

We bought a new dog this year, and Ziggy is such a lovely little bloke. The highlight as far as I'm concerned was teaching him the joy of walking, also a lowlight as he wakes me up around five raring to go, and Ernie's cottoned on to the whole thing now – though I make them wait, yup no earlier than six, not one second, yes, I rule that household.

Looking back it's been a great year of reading and music listening, and not such a great year of cinema going, in fact about the only movies that I saw this year that I really enjoyed were Stardust and A Death at a Funeral. I can honestly say 2007 was the year of the crap blockbuster – and I'm a sucker for Blockbusters, my taste is so bad, when it comes to movies, that I sometimes shock myself, but even I couldn't sit through all of that last Pirates of the Caribbean movie, barely made it through Harry Potter and the Something, Something, and thought the Simpsons Movie was a bit D'oh. Oh, I did enjoy the new James Bond. (But see how I'm not even bothering to check the name).

Now Books. So many wonderful books.

You all know how much I loved Dark Space, but let me say it again. Loved it.

Dug Sean William's Saturn Returns, looking forward very much to the sequel.

Doubly dug Jason Nahrung and Mil Clayton's fine horror/thriller The Darkness Within, and fully expect it to win the Aurealis Award for that category, though there isn't a shortlist I just have a feeling, is all.

I thought Princess of Roumania by Paul Park was just brilliant. Neal Asher wowed me with Polity Agent and Hilldiggers, I still think no-one delivers more bang for your buck, and there's some interesting political satire sneaking in there too. Peter Watt's Blindsight blew me away.

Then there was Tolkien's Children of Hurin, so, it was cribbed from a bunch of sources, but I still contend that it's a fine and heartbreaking piece of work. Talking of fine Jay Lake's Trial of Flowers was wonderful, Mainspring didn't quite fulfil its promise for me, but it was still an entertaining and energetic read and I'll still be buying Escarpment because Jay is one of the most interesting new writers out there.

The new Don Dellilo was not quite a return to the form of Underworld, but it was still filled with multitudes. Cormac McCarthy's the Road, was very good, and better for it's brevity, though my favourite of the Old White Authors What Had New Books was Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which is beautifully and understatedly written and deliciously gloomy.

Ben Peek's Black Sheep sits staring at me in the study, I expect this to be the last book I read of the year, kinda wanted to hold back something special. Gee, isn't this one big love in?

Finally, Patrick Rothuss' The Name of the Wind enchanted me, and I was dubious. If you're after a great fix of fat fantasy this could be the one for you. I am extremely interested in seeing where he takes this story, and I am, I must admit a sucker for framing devices, and he uses it so very, very well.

Then there were the anthologies. Hands down the Strahan and Dozois The New Space Opera was my favourite, in fact, it may well be my favourite anthology since those Galaxy ones put out in the Eighties. I also thought Russell B. Farr's Fantastic Wonder Stories was a fine piece of work with excellent stories by Rowena Cory Daniells, Geoffrey Maloney(who never disappoints, and is certainly one of Australia's finest short story writers), Cat Sparks and Deborah Biancotti.

Well, I was spoilt.

There was a new Okkervil River album, The Stage Names, which while not as epic as Black Sheep Boy (and it's appendix, see it had an appendix that's how epic it was) was simply luminous. I can listen to this album over and over again, and have. Highlights being "Unless it Kicks" as energetic a rock song as they have ever produced and "Savannah Smiles" a truly, aching piece of story telling, as wonderful and melancholy as anything on Down the River of Golden Dreams.

Then there were new Spoon and Radiohead albums, and neither disappointed. I also discovered* Midlake, the Decemberists, and C.W. Stoneking, and my life has been better for it. Oh, and then there was the new Bright Eyes album, and the new And You Shall Know us by the Trail of Dead album. And that new Killers B-side album's great. And Tom Waits, yeah, I finally got into Tom Waits, I don't know why it took so long, but there you go. (oh, and then there was Belle & Sebastian, finally got into these guys, and Isobel Campbell Mark Lanegan's album Ballad of the Broken Seas, and probably a half dozen other albums and bands I've forgotten, including my current guilty pleasure A.F.I.)

Yes, it was a wonderful year for music.

And to short stories.

Here are my two favourites, the ones that have stuck with me, and invite deeper scrutiny, with the proviso that I haven't read all that many shorts this year, maybe a couple of hundred, and that I really only read hedonistically, so if I `ain't getting the pleasure I put it away. Anyway… for the little that it's worth… hands down favourite of the year was Jeff Vandermeer's The Third Bear, the next was Gene Wolfe's Memorare. Two marvellous fictions and Jeff's you can read here. I urge you to do so, even if it's just to disagree with me.

*and planted a flag in.

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