SFFWorld Favourite Books Review 2008 (Part 3)

It’s that time of year again. Last year’s review seemed to have been fun, so we thought we would do it again!

So, joining us this year around the SFFWorld Christmas tree are Aidan (from A Dribble of Ink), Pat (from Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist), Graeme (Deornoth), andKen (known as kcf) as well as Rob and myself.

In this final round-up for 2008, we look at the genre films and the television we watched and what’s ahead for 2009.

Until next year!

Mark / Hobbit

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4. Film

Lots of genre films this year: Which were worthy of your attention? Which is your personal favourite?

Rob: The Dark Knight, obviously.  The second biggest movie of all time touched on a lot of genres and was embraced by nearly everybody who saw it. Iron Man was a very pleasant surprise but Quantum of Solace while good was a bit of a let down after Casino RoyaleDr. Horrible deserves mention somewhere, so this is as good a place as any.

Aidan: Wall-E. Easily the best SF film of the year, possibly one of the best films of the year, periodThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was fantastic as well, if not quite as strong as the first movie.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a good way to kill two hours while on a plane, but it completely lost me at the end when it more or less jumped the shark completely.

Ken: Ha! With a 14 month-old son, I have no time for things like movies (though net flix helps a bit).

Mark / Hobbit: There were so many genre releases this summer, wasn’t there? Shouldn’t really complain, then.

Dark Knight is clearly my favourite. I wasn’t sure about the casting before I saw the movie but was very pleased to be shown I was wrong. Heath Ledger’s sad death may have overshadowed the film, and I think it is important that the two events are kept separate, but I thought the film was a terrific example of a team effort.

Iron Man is my second favourite film of the year, which was much better than I thought it would be, due to a charismatic lead character played by Robert Downey Jr.

I seemed to like The Hulk a lot more than most, mainly helped by Edward Norton’s performance as Bruce Banner. I must admit though, that, as a comic character, I’ve always found The Hulk a bit limited.

And perhaps not a film, as such, but I did enjoy Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. And I wouldn’t say I was a big musical fan, normally!

We thought last year that a sequel be too much of a good thing. Same this year?

Rob: See The Dark Knight.

Aidan: Eh, when it comes to Hollywood and sequels, I’ll almost always take a pass. One of the reasons I think that Pixar is so successful year after year is that they always more on to something new, rarely focusing on sequels, and that keeps the creative juices flowing.

Mark / Hobbit: Well, I guess The Hulk is a sequel, of sorts. What I quite liked this year was not so much the sequels, but the links between movies: the Hulk/Iron Man link, which may (or may not!) lead to a film about the Avengers. Not a sequel, but a nice connection.

Prince Caspian was not bad, though less of a surprise than the first.

Similarly, I thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull wasn’t bad, though there were still the usual odd lapses I often find in Lucas-related films that made me groan. (Nuclear survival? In a fridge? How do you get out of the fridge after?)

I still would like to see more original SF/Fantasy films, but have yet to see it happen!

5. TV

The Writer’s strike seems to have made some interesting changes this year. Has it generally been for the better or the worse? Some series this year seem to have gone from strength to strength: others clearly peaked. Agree?

Rob: Heroes has really tanked, it has lost focus and lost everything that made it so good the first season and half.  Lost returned to form in a big way and we are all waiting for Battlestar Galactica to return next year.  The first half of its final season this year made for some really good television, as did Doctor Who.

Ken: Beyond sports and The Daily Show, I don’t really watch TV.

Mark / Hobbit: Heroes Series 3 has been OK, but I agree with a lot of the comments made around the Forums that it has lost its way: there a lot of inconsistencies. Kudos to the BBC though, for showing it no more than a week or so after the US viewing: it has meant I can follow the forum discussions more this time around!

However, again, the usual cry: lots of old stuff redone (and Day of the Triffids soon) but I would desperately like to see new original stuff of quality.

Favourites in 2008?

Rob: Lost and Battlestar are the two most blatant genre shows I enjoyed, though a few on the edge of genre were terrific, too.  Criminal Minds is probably my favourite show, though its genre ties are tangential at best but it functions really well in the mystery genre.  Big Bang Theory is a funny show with tangible geek sensibilities (the characters reference comics, Star Trek, or Battlestar Galactica at least once per episode and the four protagonists bought a Time Machine) even if it doesn’t have any SFnal trappings.

Aidan: Lost, always and forever.

Mark / Hobbit: Battlestar Galactica has been my favourite of the year, by a mile. Of the home-grown stuff, Doctor Who is the favourite here, though I still have misgivings. Torchwood was…still Torchwood. There has been an interesting revival of things “Terry Nation” here in the UK, with the Daleks, of course, but also Survivors being re-imagined (OK, but still variable, and I still prefer the original). In a 1980’s vibe, Ashes to Ashes was OK.

What do you wish you’d started watching this year?

Rob: Nothing really, I watch too much as it is.

Aidan: Eh, on the SFF front there isn’t a whole lot. Legend of the Seeker looks so awful that I haven’t even bothered to download and episode and Heroes sounds like it’s continuing its downward spiral.

Outside of the genre, I’ve recently discovered How I Met Your Mother and have devoured everything I’ve been able to get my hands on.

I think what’s most worth talking about isn’t even on the TV. Web Shows like Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (notice the Neil Patrick Harris trend?) and The Guild (now with the Felicia Day trend), are both fantastic examples of what the medium can do and for free. Check both of them out, you won’t be disappointed.

Mark / Hobbit: Nothing really. There’s a few of the US series that haven’t appeared in the UK (yet) but I suspect they’ll appear soon. In a non-genre related moment, I do have a DVD set of the first four seasons of The Wire I’m hoping to get to this year, but they’ve been sitting there for a few months already. Joe Abercrombie likes them.

6. Personal Highlights of the year 2008? 

Aidan: That’s easy for me. Neil Gaiman linking to my blog.

Anyone’s whose read my blog knows how much I look up to Gaiman and put him on the same pedestal as The Smoke Monster from Lost, Jaime Lannister, Roberto Luongo and Neil Patrick Harris in terms of awesomeness. To know that he spent even just a little bit of time reading my blog still makes me giddy.

On a personal note, I spent two months travelling through Eastern and Central Europe and it was an absolute dream. It’s such an overlooked part of the world, and it’s a shame that more people won’t discover the beautiful landscapes and the amazing people that persevered through so much hardship and came out the other end so graciously.

Graeme: It’s been all about meeting authors (and Hobbit!) this year with books signed by Steven Erikson, James Barclay and Richard Morgan. Hobbit didn’t sign anything but was really great to meet anyway!   :o)   I also took the plunge and submitted one of my short stories for the first time ever, it was rejected but it came back with loads of really useful feedback, which can only make it better.

Mark / Hobbit: Interviewing James Barclay at FantasyCon was a real treat, as was FantasyCon, really. Think we set the world straight. *grins*

And Alt.Fiction still continues to be a convention gem.

Apart from that, just being here at SFFWorld is a continuous highlight. Speaking/typing to bloggers, writers and readers still has that great vibe.

[EDIT: And thank you, Graeme for that comment above…]

With that in mind, being involved in the Wonderlands Blog site and the Gemmell Awards (in a very small way) have also been a lot of fun.

7. What would you like Santa to bring you this year?

Rob: I get more than enough reading material under my Reviewer responsibilities here at SFFWorld.

Aidan: The big thing on my list this year is Alan Moore’s Watchmen graphic novel. I’ve put it off for way too long and after reading The Walking Dead, I’ve got an itch for a good story in that medium.

Graeme: Not having a TV licence means that I’m always after more DVDs to watch instead and hopefully Santa will cough up the goods! I’m running out of space in the house so I’m restricting myself to just hoping for Doctor Who DVDs this year…

Ken: Enough money to retire.

Mark / Hobbit: I know that Santa has brought me a Sony Book Reader: so I’m looking forward to using that.

8. 2009… What are you most looking forward to?

Rob: A Dance with Dragons

Finally catching up with The Dresden Files

A Dance with Dragons

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Wings of Wrath by CS Friedman (the sequel to her criminally overlooked Feast of Souls from 2007)

A Dance with Dragons

Drood by Dan Simmons (this might be cheating because I have the ARC, but haven’t read it yet)

A Dance with Dragons

The City and the City by China Mieville

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

A Dance with Dragons

City Without End by Kay Kenyon

A Dance with Dragons

Aidan: We’d be here all bloody night if I listed everything, so how about three from the top of my head:

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

El Juego del Angel by Carlos Ruiz Zafan

The Monarchies of God omnibus by Paul Kearney.

Graeme: I still haven’t read Erikson’s Toll the Hounds (yet) but Dust of Dreams is due for release next year and I always look forward to a new Erikson novel! While there’s nothing confirmed (that I’m aware of) for GRRM’s A Dance with Dragons, I’m remaining optimistic that 2009 will be the year I get the book in my hands! David Anthony Durham’s sequel to Acacia is another that I’ll be keeping an eye open for as is Mike Carey’s Thicker than Water. As far as films go, look for me queuing outside my local cinema for Watchmen and having just heard rumours of a new Romero zombie film I’m eager to see how that one turns out as well…

Ken: 2009 should be a great year with new books from some of my favourite authors.

I’ve got my eye out for new books from Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and as always, Steve Erikson among others.

But, the one I’m looking forward to most is conclusion to the Wheel of Time with Sanderson’s release of A Memory of Light, even though it’s now looking like it’ll be two books.

And to leave with a bit of a teaser, one of my favourite reads of this year is R. Scott Bakker’s The Judging Eye, a 2009 book. The Judging Eye is more accessible to the average reader without sacrificing the depth that gained Bakker so much acclaim. A powerful start to a new trilogy.

Mark / Hobbit: I suspect many of these will have been mentioned already.

However, three heads up from me already: Jasper Kent’s Twelve (due in January 2009) is a goodie for me, (and already reviewed HERE), as is Mike Cobley’s Seeds of Earth, which is a rip-roaring space opera in a Peter Hamilton style, which I think will do very well (review pending.) Similarly, Stephen Deas’s Adamantine Palace (review HERE) is a great dragon book.

Talking of dragons, I’m really looking forward to The Cardinal’s Blades by Pierre Pevel, which sounds like The Three Musketeers with dragons. And I can’t be the only one waiting for the possible release in 2009 of Dance with Dragons.

Away from dragons, there’s the also-possible publication of Rothfuss’s Wise Man’s Fear, and the pretty-definite release of Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold. I am also impatiently waiting my copy of Dan Simmons’ Drood, due any day now.

Peter V Brett’s Desert Spear will also be worth a look; it’ll be interesting to see if he can improve on the very enjoyable first, The Painted/WardedMan. Warded Man is due out in the US this year. I think some here may like it a lot.

Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur should be a good one too. Mark’s been bending my ear (nicely) for over a year now about it, and it sounds fantastic.

But often the great thing about this business is when you open a book not knowing what to expect, I’m still finding unexpected surprises that way. It is perhaps those I’m looking forward to the most!

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