Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Top 6 Books of Our First 6 Months!

[We nerds of a feather like things that come in sixes. So in celebration of our first six months of operation, we're presenting you with a retrospective series that looks at the best stuff we've covered in our short lifetime. In multiples of six, of course! First up, books. As you know by now, we like books, and we've had the fortune of reviewing some really good ones. Here are the six highest scoring books reviewed to date by our in-house bloggers. Given that we don't dish out 9s and 10s like some others, you can count every single one of these as a "must-read." Enjoy!]

6. War is Boring by David Axe [NAL, 2010]

Philippe's Score: 8/10, "well worth your time and attention"

"War is Boring.. has considerably dashed my dreams. It’s not the violence, the disturbing imagery that a war reporter must bear witness to. It’s not the lies, the cynicism, and the amoral opportunism that thrives in war zones. It isn’t even the brushes with death. No, it’s exactly what the title warns: War is often boring. But, what’s worse is that returning from war, reinserting oneself in the normal world, into peacetime, is even more boring, according to David Axe, war reporter turned comic author."

5. The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham [Orbit, 2011] 8/10

The G's Score: 8/10, "well worth your time and attention"

"There’s a lot to recommend in The Dragon's Path. To begin, it’s a really fun story, presented in crisp, engaging prose, and full of memorable moments. The narrative voices...constitute a particular strong point. Geder, Dawson, Marcus and Cithrin are all fully realized, complex characters who act and speak like real human beings. You can easy relate to them and understand their general motivations, but--like real human beings--they often make key decisions in an arbitrary, ad hoc fashion that can be surprising, but feels very authentic."

4. Pavane by Keith Roberts [Old Earth Books, 1968] 8/10

Vance's Score: 8/10, "well worth your time and attention"

"We have come to expect narrative conventions of stories being finished, but that's not at all how real life works. Even in death, nobody's story is ever really finished (that is, until an individual's third death -- seriously, read this, and try to not get chills). And in Pavane, Roberts is telling the story of an empire that has stretched from the Holy Roman Empire into an alternate 1980s that cannot possibly conceive of synth-pop. It is fitting, then, that a narrative tapestry woven from such material should eschew such 'endings.'"

3. Rachel Rising by Terry Moore [Abstract Studios, 2012]

Philippe's Score: 9/10, "very high quality/standout in its category"

"The book is creepy, Vincent Price creepy. But Moore does not let eeriness take over the book. The dark, gothic themes are balanced by lightheartedness and actual human emotion. The book's undead aren’t zombies, but human with a dying problem.. Rachel isn’t a morose, brooding Lestat, but a confused young woman who’s trying to get on with her life -- even though it has apparently ended, at least in the conventional "we got a pulse" sort of way."

2. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski [Orbit] 9/10

The G's Score: 9/10, "very high quality/standout in its category"

"If this all sounds a bit familiar to you, it's probably because you've played or heard of the video games these books inspired. The Last Wish is a must-read for fans of the games, as well as anyone who likes character-driven sword & sorcery. As it happens, after only reading one installment in the series, I'm ready to pronounce Geralt as one of the great fantasy characters of all-time. He's a cynic with a moral compass, a killer with standards and has a way with the ladies, who are themselves similarly complex and interesting characters."

1. The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks [Orbit]

The G's Score: 9/10, "very high quality/standout in its category"

"Clearly the Culture is Banks' utopia, a place without the problems that dog our own world. If that was all there was to it, though, these novels would be really boring. Thankfully, Banks has situated the Culture within a galaxy full of other societies, and his novels largely explore the interactions between the Culture and its neighbors, most of which can be described as "not good." Utopia though it may be, when the Culture gets involved in foreign entanglements, it looks awfully neo-colonial and paternalistic."