Favorite Books of 2004

01:13 Thu 27 Aug 2009
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I read only 37 books in 2004, the lowest total since I started keeping track. I’m not sure why I read so few that year, particularly since quite a few of the books on the list are books that I was completely absorbed by and went through quickly. The quality is mixed, but some of them were excellent.

The first standout is China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, a wonderful science fiction and fantasy creation set in a city-state called New Crobuzon on the somewhat bizarre world of Bas-Lag. I loved this book, and also loved The Scar, set in the same milieu. Iron Council is set on Bas-Lag also, and is worthwhile, but I found it far less gripping. I highly recommend these, particularly the first two. One of the things that impressed me about them was the high degree of political realism, which helps drive the narratives and plots.

I finished two Robin Hobb trilogies, The Tawny Man and The Liveship Traders, both set in the same world as her Farseer Trilogy. The former is more of a continuation of the Farseer story, and the latter is more of an offshoot. They differ significantly in quality: The Tawny Man series is quite good, whereas The Liveship Traders is pretty bad. I’m not sure what the precise categorization is, but there’s a certain style of fantasy that I really don’t like, and which I perceive as being overly simple and engaged in something similar to wish fulfillment (or fan service)—and The Liveship Traders fits right into that category. This didn’t stop me from buying and reading all three, but I kept hoping that Hobb would return to the form of her other work.

The Count of Monte Cristo was excellent, as you would expect from such a classic.

I think that The Confusion, the second book in Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, was the best of that series. Second and third were both better than the first. Overall it’s a good series, but I still feel that his best works are Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, with The Diamond Age up there as well. It must be said that he ends The Baroque Cycle far better than his earlier work (not a high bar there).

I like the “hard-boiled neo-cyberpunk” of Richard K. Morgan’s novels featuring Takeshi Kovacs; Altered Carbon and Woken Furies were both highly enjoyable. (This reminds me that I have to investigate his foray into fantasy, which begins with The Steel Remains.)

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again is an amazing collection of essays, and more or less everyone should read it. David Foster Wallace was brilliant, and I’m sad that he’s gone.

Nature’s God was a disappointment; the first two volumes in The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles were much better, and I got the distinct impression with this one that Wilson either didn’t know how to really continue them or had lost his inspiration for the series and just wanted to wrap it up.

Power Play was a great look at the history of electrical power systems throughout the world, and at how they have been the domain of mercenary monopolist types for most of their existence. Definitely worth reading if you’re interested in energy, politics, or economics.

  1. Candide; Voltaire (in Candide and other stories) 03/01/2004
  2. Advanced Hold ’Em Poker; David Sklansky and Mason Malmuth 17/01/2004
  3. Golden Fool; Robin Hobb 04/02/2004
  4. Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman’s Crusade for Free Software; Sam Williams 04/02/2004
  5. Perdido Street Station; China Miéville 01/03/2004
  6. Omon Ra; Victor Pelevin 05/03/2004
  7. The Matrix and Philosophy; William Irwin, ed. 27/03/2004
  8. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers; Rennie Browne and Dave King 27/03/2004
  9. The Count of Monte Cristo; Alexandre Dumas 18/04/2004
  10. The Confusion; Neal Stephenson 06/05/2004
  11. Jennifer Government; Max Barry 10/05/2004
  12. Outlet; Randy Taguchi 14/05/2004
  13. The Peace War; Vernor Vinge 15/05/2004
  14. The Shadow of the Torturer; Gene Wolfe 21/05/2004
  15. The Claw of the Conciliator; Gene Wolfe 21/05/2004
  16. Ship of Magic (The Liveship Traders, Book 1); Robin Hobb 04/06/2004
  17. Mad Ship (The Liveship Traders, Book 2); Robin Hobb 07/06/2004
  18. Ship of Destiny; Robin Hobb 12/06/2004
  19. Chasm City; Alastair Reynolds 18/06/2004
  20. Altered Carbon; Richard K. Morgan 19/06/2004
  21. The Scar; China Miéville 22/06/2004
  22. The Corporation; Joel Bakan 02/07/2004
  23. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again; David Foster Wallace 09/07/2004
  24. The Continental Op; Dashiel Hammett 15/07/2004
  25. The Forty-Seven Ronin Story; John Allyn 24/08/2004
  26. A Game of Thrones; George R. R. Martin (again) 30/09/2004
  27. A Clash of Kings; George R. R. Martin (again) 15/10/2004
  28. A Storm of Swords; George R. R. Martin (again) 19/10/2004
  29. Broken Angels; Richard K. Morgan 21/10/2004
  30. The System of the World; Neal Stephenson 09/11/2004
  31. Iron Council; China Miéville 13/11/2004
  32. Nature’s God; Robert Anton Wilson 17/11/2004
  33. Lust; Simon Blackburn 20/11/2004
  34. Test Card F: TV, Mythinformation, and Social Control; Anonymous 22/11/2004
  35. Eats, Shoots and Leaves; Lynne Truss 26/11/2004
  36. Fool’s Fate; Robin Hobb 12/12/2004
  37. Power Play; Sharon Beder 19/12/2004

One Response to “Favorite Books of 2004”

  1. Niall Says:

    Interested in what you thought of Gene Wolfe.

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