SFFWorld Favourite Books Review 2008 (Part 3)
By Hobbit (2009-01-10)
SFFWorld Favourite Books Review 2008 (Part 3)
Itís that time of year again. Last yearís 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 Patís Fantasy Hotlist), Graeme (Deornoth), and Ken (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 whatís ahead for 2009.
Until next year!
Mark / Hobbit
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 Royale. Dr. 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, period. The 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, wasnít there? Shouldnít really complain, then.
Dark Knight is clearly my favourite. I wasnít sure about the casting before I saw the movie but was very pleased to be shown I was wrong. Heath Ledgerís 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 Nortonís performance as Bruce Banner. I must admit though, that, as a comic character, Iíve always found The Hulk a bit limited.
And perhaps not a film, as such, but I did enjoy Doctor Horribleís Sing-Along Blog. And I wouldnít 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, Iíll 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 wasnít 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!
The Writerís 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 donít 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 doesnít 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 wasÖ.still Torchwood. There has been an interesting revival of things ĎTerry Nationí 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 1980ís vibe, Ashes to Ashes was OK.
What do you wish youíd started watching this year?
Rob: Nothing really, I watch too much as it is.
Aidan: Eh, on the SFF front there isnít a whole lot. Legend of the Seeker looks so awful that I havenít even bothered to download and episode and Heroes sounds like itís continuing its downward spiral.
Outside of the genre, Iíve recently discovered How I Met Your Mother and have devoured everything Iíve been able to get my hands on.
I think whatís most worth talking about isnít even on the TV. Web Shows like Dr. Horribleís 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 doÖ and for free. Check both of them out, you wonít be disappointed.
Mark / Hobbit: Nothing really. Thereís a few of the US series that havenít appeared in the UK (yet) but I suspect theyíll appear soon. In a non-genre related moment, I do have a DVD set of the first four seasons of The Wire Iím hoping to get to this year, but theyíve been sitting there for a few months already. Joe Abercrombie likes themÖ
6. Personal Highlights of the year 2008?
Aidan: Thatís easy for me. Neil Gaiman linking to my blog.
Anyoneís 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. Itís such an overlooked part of the world, and itís a shame that more people wonít discover the beautiful landscapes and the amazing people that persevered through so much hardship and came out the other end so graciously.
Graeme: Itís been all about meeting authors (and Hobbit!) this year with books signed by Steven Erikson, James Barclay and Richard Morgan. Hobbit didnít 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 Mooreís Watchmen graphic novel. Iíve put it off for way too long and after reading The Walking Dead, Iíve got an itch for a good story in that medium.
Graeme: Not having a TV licence means that Iím always after more DVDs to watch instead and hopefully Santa will cough up the goods! Iím running out of space in the house so Iím 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 Iím looking forward to using that.
8. 2009Ö. 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 Manís 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 havenít read it yet)
A Dance with Dragons
The City and the City by China Miťville
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
A Dance with Dragons
City Without End by Kay Kenyon
A Dance with Dragons
Aidan: Weíd 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 Ńngel by Carlos Ruiz Zafůn
The Monarchies of God omnibus by Paul Kearney.
Graeme: I still havenít read Eriksonís 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 thereís nothing confirmed (that Iím aware of) for GRRMís A Dance with Dragons, Iím remaining optimistic that 2009 will be the year I get the book in my hands! David Anthony Durhamís sequel to Acacia is another that Iíll be keeping an eye open for as is Mike Careyís 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 Iím 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.
Iíve got my eye out for new books from Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, and as always, Steve Erikson among others.
But, the one Iím looking forward to most is conclusion to the Wheel of Time with Sandersonís release of A Memory of Light Ė even though itís now looking like itíll be two books.
And to leave with a bit of a teaser Ė one of my favourite reads of this year is R. Scott Bakkerís 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 Kentís Twelve (due in January 2009) is a goodie for me, (and already reviewed HERE), as is Mike Cobleyís 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 Deasís Adamantine Palace (review HERE) is a great dragon book.
Talking of dragons, Iím really looking forward to The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel, which sounds like The Three Musketeers with dragons. And I canít be the only one waiting for the possible release in 2009 of Dance with Dragons.
Away from dragons, thereís the also-possible publication of Rothfussís Wise Manís Fear, and the pretty-definite release of Joe Abercrombieís Best Served Cold. I am also impatiently waiting my copy of Dan Simmonsí Drood, due any day now.
Peter V Brettís Desert Spear will also be worth a look; itíll be interesting to see if he can improve on the very enjoyable first, The Painted/Warded Man. Warded Man is due out in the US this year Ė I think some here may like it a lot.
Mark Charan Newtonís Nights of Villjamur should be a good one too. Markís 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 Ė Iím still finding unexpected surprises that way. It is perhaps those Iím looking forward to the most!