By Sparky_Buzzsaw 6 Comments
I didn't include non-game related stuff in my Awards Extravaganza, so I thought I'd include my other favorite hobby here. I didn't read a great many releases from 2011, but I did go through a great many quality books this year and I feel they should be mentioned. Just like with my games, there is a clear-cut winner for my Book of the Year, but by no means should that be taken that the others were somehow inferior or shouldn't be read. I think all of these books are excellent.
The Wise Man's Fear - Patrick Rothfuss
Without question, this was my favorite book of 2011 and the finest modern fantasy novel since Tad Williams's Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. The second in the Kingkiller series, this book takes the great groundwork laid out by its predecessor and improves upon it in every way. As Kvothe's alternately sad and sweet tale continues to unfold, I am more and more hooked. It is the story of a very clever, crafty student who stumbles through relationships as easily as he masterfully takes charge of his own fate as a magician, musician, and a warrior, and it is powerfully enchanting stuff.
The First Law trilogy - Joe Abercrombie
It took me a while to get into The First Law novels. At first, I was frustrated with Abercrombie's abrupt, straightforward storytelling. He trims a lot of descriptions down to their very barest essentials, leaving a world that I want to know more about but am left with only the barest of details. However, what the reader is left with is a tight, grim account of anti-heroes trying their best to save the world. The trilogy really pays off in its last novel, spinning on its head everything I thought I knew and understood about who these characters were and where they were heading. The last half of the third novel is perhaps the single most grim triumph of the so-called "good guys" I've ever seen. If you're like me and you hesitate to finish this series based on the first half of the first novel, trust in Abercrombie and stick with it. It turns into a pretty neat read.
The Handsome Man's Guide to Being Handsome - Kevin Shively
This was a Christmas gift from my awesomely awesome brother. I literally read it in two sittings - it's that damn funny and engaging. It's precisely what it sounds like - a comedic look at being handsome, from the fella that runs the comedy blog KevinSaysThings.com. If you're looking for something straight-up funny to read, this is highly recommended. There's a chapter devoted to the description and identification of crazy women that is classic and had me about in tears.
The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
This year saw me catch up on a lot of Brandon Sanderson's novels, namely the Mistborn trilogy and this one. I wasn't a fan of the Mistborn trilogy, but The Way of Kings is a markedly better book than those. It is sprawling in the vein of the very best in fantasy novels, has a few great characters, and best of all, he doesn't become overly engrossed or detailed in the inane specifics of his magic system. He has a lovingly crafted world here, and I really look forward to seeing what he does with it in the future.
Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch
I freakin' love Scott Lynch's novels. Red Seas does an admirable job of carrying the torch from The Lies of Locke Lamora, and while it never is quite as good as that remarkable novel, it is still fantastically good. I said in a review on Goodreads that there's this deception of swashbuckling and a feel-good vibe throughout the first two-thirds of the novel that is slowly, horrifically cast off by the time the novel is finished. Lynch is a master of that sinking void, wherein I try as a reader to claw at the remains of that feel-good nature as he slowly, deliberately pulls me into that pit of sadness by its end. It is full of the same wit and banter that permeated the first novel, with an added feel that the two protagonists have now grown up, insofar as these two gentlemen bastards can grow up. I cannot wait for the third novel.