Friday, February 25, 2011

The Best of 2010

Yeah, I know. "Best of..." posts are supposed to come out either in December or January. Well, we've been a tad bit busy with stuff so we're just getting around to compiling our choices for best books that we've reviewed here on the blog.

Before, when it was just Podler, it was very easy to come up with one book to receive the Independent Novel Award. One reader, one judge. Getting three people with very different tastes, not to mention genre interests, to agree on one book out of twenty-three as being the very best would be impossible. Therefore, we agreed to each pick that book (or books) which we felt was the very best.

First up is S.B. Jung.

My pick for 2010 would have to be SkyGirl and the Superheroic Legacy by Joe Sergi. I read through that book in less than 48 hours!

Libby Cone's top two picks were:
  1. Arguing with Henry by Niall Hunter
  2. ZombieStop Parade by Richard Buzzell
Both books were extremely refreshing in their authors' skill with prose style and nuance. Although one would not guess it of ZombieStop, both books were character-driven. What goes on inside someone's head can be just as riveting as fiery explosions and mass computer crashes; it just takes an author with talent to share it with us.

As for me, it was very difficult to select one book as I found examples of great stories over a few genres. Libby Cone's Flesh and Grass was not your run-of-the-mill historical fiction. To be able to tell the story of a blind Dutch boy, from his POV, deserves high praise. Libby's vivid descriptions of the scents and sounds of 17th Century Delaware were a treat.

Although I didn't review S.B. Jung's Lines of Neutrality, I read it and commented about how the reviewer missed the point of the story. Characterization, not action, was the star here. Alternating the narration from the two main characters, both assassins, was a superb way of presenting the story. Witnessing the evolution of their relationship from rivals to allies was thoroughly enjoyable.

And then there was Rob Steiner's The Last Key. I'd become a bit jaded with high fantasy after reading so many Tolkein clones. I couldn't tell you the last time I read anything in the genre. But when I read the sample chapters lying in the slush pile, I was hooked despite myself. Realistic action, characters with depth, a compelling story, Rob's story had it all. It was a pleasure to be able to read a high fantasy story and not feel like it was cardboard characters executing a formula.

These are three very different stories: historical fiction, contemporary thriller and medieval high fantasy. And all of them were written by my fellow reviewers. I wanted to praise them for their hard work, but to avoid cries of nepotism, I shall pick another story.

And it isn't a difficult choice. The Losing Role by Steve Anderson gets my vote as the best story I reviewed in 2010 here at this blog. This work of historical fiction, traces the story of Max Kaspar, an out-of-work German actor turned soldier, recruited to play a crucial role in Operation Greif during the Battle of the Bulge. Excellent dialogue, well-crafted characters, and enough dramatic tension to saw a Panzer in half, The Losing Role is an excellent blend of noir and espionage thriller.

Thank you for your patronage. We'll try to be a bit more timely with our "Best of 2011" post. :)

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