That Was The Year That Was
I didn't read much new fiction this year - too busy writing it. discovery of the year was Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers, a wonderfully deadpan black comedy set in Goldrush California. I thought the first half of China Mieville's Embassytown, an SF fable about the cage of language, was one of the strongest and strangest depictions of the alien I've read for some time. In Carol Birch's Jamrach's Menagerie the past is an alien planet; the description of the hunting and capture of a Komodo dragon is as densely weird as any interplanetary expedition. Christopher Priest's The Islanders revisits the world of his Dream Archipelago, and within its tour guide format the fragments of several stories twine and merge: one I need to reread. I'm a big fan of Don DeLillo, so snapped up The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories as soon as it came out; from the tropical inertia of 'Creation' to the desperate obsession of 'The Starveling', DeLillo's Martian gaze perfectly captures fragments of human foolishness in the amber of recent history.
In non-fiction, James Gleick's The Information is a marvellous and lucid history of how we preserve and use the stuff we know, and how if shapes our lives. Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality is an equally lucid exploration of the current theories of multiverses. Gordon Matthews' The Ghetto at the Center of the World may be confined to a single building in Hong Kong, but his stories of a microcosm of globalisation reflect the huge currents in capitalism that affect every part of the world. Just over a hundred years ago, Amundsen's expedition reached the south pole; geologist Edmund Stump's The Roof at the Bottom of the World weaves personal stories of rockhunting in Antarctica with a history of Antarctic exploration, and is packed with jaw-dropping photographs of the continent's austere beauty. There are more great photographs in Frédéric Chaubin’s CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed, a memorial of the architecture of the Communist equivalent of the Gernsback continuum, and a way of life and thought now all but extinct, here in the twenty-first century.