It's that time of year, I hear. Near enough the halfway point: the perfect opportunity to take stock of what 2010 has given us so far. What we should be grateful for, what travesties we wish we'd had the foresight to avoid. I'm going to run down my personal top five books, video games and movies - in that order - published or otherwise released between January 1st and June 30th. There'll also be a space for honourable mentions - as in, things I've loved that either came out before the period of eligibility began or else haven't yet hit shelves or home consoles or multiplexes - as well as worst disappointments, and any glaring oversights for each medium of entertainment.
Let's begin with... books.
by China Mieville
The last thing I'd expected from this year's new China Mieville was a comedy. But then, since he rounded off the Bas-Lag trilogy with Iron Council, Mieville's been all about defying expectations, and books like Kraken - demented, betentacled hijinx in and around the aspect of London we mere mortals can't see - make me glad he hasn't just returned to New Crubozon over and over ad infinitum. Between an early manuscript of this courtesy of Macmillan and a postcard from the man himself to say how chuffed he was with my review, my experiences with Kraken, all told, are among the best I've had since launching The Speculative Scotsman. Which isn't to say it's not a damn fine book; it is, though I suspect its tone might mean the high and mighty judges will overlook it come awards season next year.
2. Mr Shivers
by Robert Jackson Bennett
Mr Shivers caught me entirely by surprise. I'd never heard of Robert Jackson Bennett, and though the buzz on his debut was good, in general, it didn't seem to be making huge waves. Truly, it should have: this is a stonker of a novel. Bleak and hopeless in the mode of The Road, painterly and mythic, spare and powerful. From cover to cover, this was an experience the likes of which reminds me why I fell for genre literature in the first place. If you haven't read it - and I fear a very few of you have - and you're only prepared to let me recommend one book to you, this is it. Go on, now. Buy. Devour. And come on back when you're done, let me have the pleasure of telling you I told you so.
1. The Passage
by Justin Cronin
I won't waste another word iterating how awful this overhyped abomination truly is (review).
Poor Voyager. Two of their biggest releases this calendar year and I've hardly covered either. Not for want of trying, nor, indeed, for any lack of anticipation - both are books I've lusted after for ages - but now that they're upon us, one thing or another has come up every time I've tried to sit down with Under Heaven or The Desert Spear, and so they've languished on the tottering stack of books To Be Read. They shall be, though; read, I mean, and before the year's out. In the meantime, I'm sure we can all agree: I am made of fail.
It's been a hell of year so far, hasn't it? Honestly, it's been a bit of a struggle to find five movies and five games for the Halfway Through 2010 posts scheduled for tomorrow and the next that I honestly feel are worthy of such championing - perhaps because of the historical drought affecting those mediums until Summer and the holidays respectively - but in terms of literature, a shortage of quality genre fiction is the least of my worries.
I wonder, though, if I'm overstating the case somewhat. Perhaps most years are like this, and I'm only now noticing the breadth and depth of speculative fiction as a whole because the blog has meant I've had to pay close attention to it. So do tell, readers dear: am I miles off base here, or has it been half a year to remember? What have your favourite books of the year been?