Alfvaen's Top & Bottom Books of 1999

This has been very badly delayed, so in some cases I don't even remember why this book ended up on one list or the next. But I will try my best. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept these are the best and worst books(in my opinion, of course)that I read in 1999.

Alfvaen's Top Books of 1999

  1. Stephen King:It. A bit thick, and maybe the TV version ruined it for you, but I found this to be a modern masterpiece, weaving past and present together in a seamless web. It was one of those books where I got to know the main characters so well that I didn't want them to have to go away at the end of the book.
  2. Matt Ruff:Sewer, Gas & Electric. A bit more science-fictiony than David Foster Wallace, but not quite as much as Neal Stephenson, so a nice middle ground of gonzo semi-near-future SF that will probably be even better next time I read it, now that I might be able to get some of the Ayn Rand references.
  3. Don H. DeBrandt:Steeldriver. Don DeBrandt has two sequels to this now, but the first book was quite fine, transplanting an early industrial-age legend into a science fictional setting and adding much onto it in the process.
  4. Peter Watts:Starfish. Not for anyone who's at all daunted by deep-water settings, darkness and high pressure and extremely weird benthic creatures, but Peter Watts's tale of misfits finding a niche at the bottom of the ocean(and much more besides--as I've said, I've forgotten large chunks of these books, so I have to be vague here)is truly masterful. And it's only his first novel. Yum.
  5. Yves Meynard:The Book of Knights. A Quebecois author well-known in his homeland, this is, I believe, Meynard's first English novel. It hearkens back to some of the less drawn-out fantasy novels of Jack Vance and his contemporaries.
  6. S.M. Stirling:Island In The Sea of Time. A wonderful conceit, where the modern-day island of Nantucket is yanked, for reasons nobody attempts to explain, far into the past to the time of Odysseus, Assyria, and pre-Celtic tribes in Britain. Extensively researched, to the point where I can't tell where he's made stuff up. There are two more books in the series after this one, too, where the native Nantucketers are mostly trying to deal with one of their own turned renegade.
  7. David Gerrold:A Covenant of Justice. This one I remember least of all, but the seemingly small events of its prequel, Under The Eye of God, snowball into gigantic consequences for all of the people involved. Also written, according to Gerrold(and something I didn't notice at all as I read it)in "E-Prime", that is, eschewing the use of the verb "to be", which is staggering when you think of it.


Alfvaen's Bottom Books of 1999

  1. Paul Quarrington:Civilization. I loved his Whale Music, so I grabbed this one from the library shelves, hoping for something similar. No. This is some squalid tale of the early days of the motion picture industry and some guy who gets involved with it. Apparently it ruins his life. But...well, I can't get past the word squalid. Squalid, squalid, squalid.
  2. Lynn Flewelling:Luck In The Shadows. I liked the author's name, I liked the book's name, so I really did want to like this book. It had a mildly promising beginning, too. But when it came down to it, there was no tension and no suspense in this book. Nothing ever went wrong for the main characters; everything went wrong for their enemies. The one scene that seemed to have some tension in it was defused pages later when it turned out that any apparent risks had actually been faked up as a "test". It will take me a lot to try Ms. Flewelling's writing again.
  3. L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt:The Complete Compleat Enchanter. This collects a few other works from around the 1940's, involving "The Compleat Enchanter", who goes to various magical worlds from classical literature and has to suss out how their magic actually works. I found it strictly ho-hum, the characters' attitudes totally outdated, and in many cases I was unfamiliar with the works that inspired the stories, so they meant nothing to me. Sort of like John Myers Myers's Silverlock, but not quite so charming.
  4. Billie Sue Mosiman:Deadly Affections. An amateurish thriller about the new girl in town finding herself the target of the obsessive spoiled rich kid. No surprises, hence no suspense.
  5. Glen Cook:A Matter of Time. A rare misstep from Glen Cook, with this tangled story(I can't even remember how the plot worked anymore)of time travel and espionage.
  6. Anne McCaffrey:The Renegades of Pern. I read this one mostly to fill in the slight gap before All The Weyrs of Pern. This will probably be the last Pern book I read for a long time. I had trouble keeping the characters straight, the plotlines were vestigial, and while it did fill in a little bit of backstory about what was going on on the Southern Continent during the other books, I found in the end that I didn't care.
  7. John Brunner:The Squares of The City. Nowhere near as exciting as I might have guessed from the chessboard on the cover, this story of an urban traffic expert who gets drawn into a "chess game" in a small Latin American country may have seemed ingenious at the time, but it hasn't aged well. The most science-fictional it gets is the shocking idea that governments might use the media to control their citizens. If there was more to it than that, then I missed it.
  8. Justin Leiber:Beyond Rejection. This novel, by Fritz Leiber's son, is one I frequently saw in used bookstores, and now I know why. Like Lynn Flewelling's novel, any supposed tension in the book is defused at the end when you find out what is really going on. I won't spoil the minuscule surprise.

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The Den of Ubiquity / Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com