Once again it’s time for a somewhat arbitrarily timed review of the year. Maybe from now on I should do yearly reviews on 21st December instead? At least it has some cosmological significance and frees me from the shackles of the Gregorian calendar. Although the Gregorian calendar does have it’s charms, like the month names and the comically irregular number of days in each month.
Anyway, I’d have written a review of the year earlier if I could have just remembered what I’d done. In the olden days (two years ago) I would have looked back at my blog and just copied down the books that I had read or films I had seen. However, as you may have noticed that blog is lying in dust and searching Twitter over the last year to search for things I liked is just too painful (hashtags are woeful metadata). So I’ve had to use my memory. Shock. Therefore this review may have holes. On the plus side it will be shorter.
I really didn’t read much this year. In fact I think I gave up reading more books than I ever have done in my entire life. I maybe even only finished reading three books this year, I can only remember three at any rate.
I have excuses: life etc.
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
More than enough has been said about this book, and it won every award available. The first half of it I enjoyed a lot, I liked the mystery, I liked the idea of a character that was a ship that was also human, it had the much noted echoes of Iain M. Banks. However ultimately it left me disappointed. I couldn’t help feeling that at the end this was an epic Fantasy novel in Science fiction clothing. The resolution felt weak and a set up for another book (a trilogy, the sadness). The gender pronoun tricks, which have been a big talking point, were fine but just background flourishes to me, nothing spectacular to add to the story. I haven’t rushed out to buy the second book.
The Stand - Stephen King
The monster sized, extended edition of The Stand has been sitting on my shelf for a few years. Every time I’ve thought about reading it I picked it up (two hands) looked at the size of the print and thought “I’ll never finish that”. However this year whilst on summer holiday I actually did. It was okay. It feels very dated to me now. I liked seeing the actual apocalypse, which is something that doesn’t happen very often. The post-apocalyptic world seemed laughable at times though, every solution seemed to be to form a committee. And as for the good against evil fight, I hated the fantastical mumbo-jumbo, visions, dreams and all that nonsense. Reading it felt like completing an assignment on a course entitled (Post-)Apocalyptic Fiction In The 20th Century.
Surface Detail - Iain M. Banks
Surface Detail is another book that has sat on my shelf for a long time. A few years ago this would have been unheard of, but I didn’t like Matter much and so picking up a hefty volume and thinking I might not enjoy it put me off. Then he died and I felt (really) sad but still didn’t have the urge to read it. And then a year later it caught up with me and I really, really wanted to read a Culture novel. And so I did. Of course I loved it. Lots of the Culture dealing with other races. Not much of the Fantasy clothed in Science Fiction. Lots of really cool spaceships. It’s bitter sweet that I still have the Hydrogen Sonata to read.
I’m struggling to remember what I saw at the cinema this year despite actually getting to see a reasonable number of films (compared to the last decade anyway). Let me check the internet… Oh yeah.
There was some great Science Fiction this year:
Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow was witty and clever with time looping used to great effect, plus Tom Cruise was really good(!). It felt like proper blockbuster Science Fiction.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The second in the series was as intelligent as the first. Science Fiction looking at how friction and war begins between different peoples (or apes). The effects were so amazing that you forgot they were effects and the action was spectacular.
Imperfect but magnificently ambitious, with a wonderful apocalyptic vision of Earth. I think I love it, but need to see it again. The sort of film that leaves me lost for words. Christopher Nolan should be applauded for trying to raise the standard of Science Fiction films. In a current climate of superheroes and robots hitting robots this was proof that cinema has an alternative and people will pay to see it.
There were also some rather brilliant non-Science Fiction films too. The standouts being…
The Lego Movie
It’s a stop motion film made from Lego. So much could have gone wrong and yet it was so wonderful. Incredibly funny yet clever and touching. Surprising in many ways. Plus a brilliantly annoying song: Everything Is Awesome.
Brilliance. The story of a boys life from a young age to adulthood. I loved it. Life affirming, which means it was at times happy, sad, upsetting, heartbreaking. Amazing. Richard Linklater has once again made a film that will transcend this year.
I’ve watched a lot of TV this year but two programmes stand out.
The Walking Dead
Season four concluded. It was awesome. Season five started. It was awesome. The Walking Dead continues to be absolutely superb. The characters are fantastic, the story arcs are dramatic and sad and bitter sweet. There is despair. Yet there is hope. Really great stuff.
It’s a cheesey soap opera set in the world of American Country Music. I love it. It’s so foreign to me it’s total escapism. Plus there are loads of guitars in it and loads of really good songs and great singers. I cheer for the characters I love and boo at the characters I hate. Proper pantomime stuff and it makes me happy.
The Walking Dead
It’s the only comic that I read regularly now and it’s very good. All Out War ended, and was actually a surprise and then a new chapter started. I’m loving the new story arc, it’s what I’d hoped for, a focus on rebuilding society post-apocalypse. Good stuff, but reading it monthly is agonising after catching up by reading the omnibus editions.
I read the second part of Chaos day. Liked it. Judge Dredd is still very cool. I had the urge after to read more but never followed up on it. I grew up on 2000AD, perhaps now is the time to start reading it again?
Wow, it’s amazing what you can remember if you try. I must do this more often.
Happy New Year!