Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

2008 Everything Is Nice Book Awards

with 10 comments

Book Of The Year: House Of Meetings by Martin Amis

Yellow Dog was a mess, his journalism has been lacklustre and his commentary has been bigoted, idiotic and disappointing. House Of Meetings makes you forget all this. It is a blinding work of genius which is in no way diminished by channelling Nabokov so strongly. More of this and less op-eds please (although The Pregnant Widow sounds a bit rubbish.)

Runners up: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan and The Astonishing Life Of Octavian Nothing: Traitor To The Nation by MT Anderson

Science Fiction Book Of The Year: Anathem by Neal Stephenson

There are undoubtably problems with this book and my runners up are perhaps better novels but this is an astonishing work of science fiction of a sort that no one but Stephenson could produce. As I said in my review: “one part hubris to one part taking the piss to one part gnarly geek awesomeness.”.

Runners Up: The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.

Worst Book Of The Year: The Edge Of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass

To quote from the opening of my as yet unpublished review:

Imagine if Richard Dawkins was not only American but retarded. Imagine he taught himself to read using the work of illiterate megasellers like James Patterson and Tess Gerritsen. Imagine he further fleshed out his understanding of human nature on a diet of romance novels and misery memoirs. Finally, imagine he stayed up one night getting drunk and watching piss-poor police procedurals before having the sudden brainwave of re-writing American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Imagine all that and you have imagined Melinda Snodgrass’s dire The Edge Of Reason and thus saved yourself the pain of actually reading it.

Runners up: The Electric Church by Jeff Somers and A Short History Of Tractors In Ukranian by Marina Lewycka

Disappointment Of The Year: Life Class by Pat Barker

This isn’t a bad book, in fact, it is a good book. However, after the stunning duet of Border Crossing and Double Vision this feels like a pale retread of the Regeneration Trilogy. I want more from my favourite British writer.

Runners up: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville and Matter by Iain M Banks

Guilty Pleasure Of The Year: Death’s Head by David Gunn

AS the book’s jacket tells us, Gunn is “smartly dressed, resourceful and discreet, [he] has an impressive collection of edged weapons and sleeps with a shotgun under his bed.” This is braindead MilSF that somehow managed to charm me. I must pick up the second volume.

Runners up: Choke by Chuck Palahnuik and Bunker 10 by JA Henderson

Most Overrated Book Of The Year: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I form part of a nucleus of British SF fans who recoiled from the near universal praise for this simplistic, didactic novel. The idea of spoonfeeding kids the tools of dissent is an admirable one but I could have done without the cartoonish politics, non-existant characterisation, rubbish plot and – most of all – the Cory Sue protagonist.

Runners up: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff and The H-Bomb Girl by Steven Baxter

Why Didn’t I read That Before? Award: The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Effortlessly brilliant.

Runners up: The Unbearable Lightness Of Being by Milan Kundera and A Canticle For Lieberwitz by Walter Miller Jr

Written by Martin

28 December 2008 at 19:41

Posted in awards, books

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10 Responses

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  1. Looking forward to your review of the Snodgrass. A quick google reveals that it has been generating quite a few positive reviews.

    Jonathan M

    28 December 2008 at 21:26

  2. I haven’t managed to plow my way into Anathem yet, but I did read The Knife of Never Letting Go, and dang that was a good book. The twists were good and made sense and weren’t really telegraphed (which is tough, especially in a novel for “young adults”). It also contains a nice heavy dose of massive emotional trauma, which is important in books for youngish people. (*cough*Bridge To Terebithia*cough*)


    29 December 2008 at 04:22

  3. The review of Edge Of Reason should appear in the next Vector which I believe is due for publication early in the new year. I was amazed by the positive reviews too. I see that it has made it onto the Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist top ten of the year which is simultaneously unsurprising and staggering.

    The Knife Of Never Letting Go really is excellent. It is worth persisting with Anathem because even though it is a slog, it is a unique, amazing slog.


    29 December 2008 at 10:30

  4. It is unsurprising as you say. While British SF criticism is seen in some circles as overly negative, the Fantasy-centric blogosphere is at times terrifying in its tastes.

    Excellent list by the way.

    Jonathan M

    29 December 2008 at 13:31

  5. […] Lewis’ book awards and film […]

  6. […] a comment » I’ve done my awards but my brief best of the year is up now at Strange Horizons. I’ve tended to the short and […]

  7. That’s … bracing. Man, I hated House of Meetings. Maybe I should reread it. I hated Yellow Dog too, and thought I should reread it; and when I did I found I hated it in a different and much more positive way. Credit, though, for selecting a ‘Book Of The Year’ without mentioning that your year is 2006.

    The rest of your list is spot-on.

    Adam Roberts

    5 January 2009 at 13:05

  8. My year is all years and it was very nearly 1925! In fact it is a bit of a rarity that any of my 2008 award winners actually came out in 2008 (although House Of Meetings didn’t come out in paperback – the one true format – until 2008.)

    I would agree with you that Amis is in no way telling the monumental vastness of human suffering novel he wishes to (I cringe to think what Korba The Dread is like.) I can ignore any sense of Wrongness to a well-fed Englishman writing a Russian novel when it is Amis though. I am just a squeeing fan girl for his prose. For me it didn’t clog at all – something which did happen with Yellow Dog – I just sort of bathed helplessly in it.


    5 January 2009 at 13:48

  9. There are, I agree, sentences in even the worst Amis that I read with astonishment and delight. Plus although his journalism is increasingly wingnutty, his reviews (well, The War Against Cliche) are often superb.

    Adam Roberts

    5 January 2009 at 14:06

  10. […] but I’ve arbitrarily split the categories between recent-ish and old-ish stuff. It made sense last year (although it still didn’t stop one A Roberts from teasing) but maybe I’ll drop it next […]

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