Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 in Review - A Year of Uninterrupted Reviewing

No moves, no personal emergencies and (unfortunately) no trips abroad this year. Which means I managed to write at least one review every week in 2015, a total of 64 entries (this one included). I am very pleased with that. One other thing that is unique about this year is that I reviewed everything I have read this year. It's something I always aim for but for some reason I always manage to miss one or two in a year. This year was a prolific one for Hebban as well. My agreement with them is for one article a month but I ended up writing 19 in total. Among them a 25.000 word, ten part series on George R.R. Matin's Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective, which appeared in abridged form on Random Comments. Not sure if I am ready for something like that again any time soon.

Accounting

I reviewed 56 works in 2015.  44  novels, 4 novellas, 2 short stories, 2 anthologies, 3 collections and one is a work of non-fiction. According to Goodreads these works are good for just over 21.000 pages, which is a lot more than last year. In last year's entry I said I would aim for 60. That has proven to be a bit to ambitious. Next year I will aim for 52. One review a weeks appears to be a pace I can handle.

I've read more books by women this year than by men. That is a first as well. Of the 56 works 30 were written by women, 23 by men and 3 contained work by both men and women. I have been keeping an eye on the gender balance for the past couple of years but I hadn't really noticed I had read more by women than by men. An interesting development. Most of the books I read this year were in English. I read 5 books in Dutch. Of these 2 were translations from French, the other 3 were originally written in Dutch. Of the 51 English language books 3 were translations, 2 from Chinese and one from Russian. Only eight books not originally written in English. Maybe I should keep an eye out for more translated work.

Lana contributed one review this year. Julia by Peter Straub.

Best of 2015

As always it is very difficult to pick the best reads of a year. This year however, it is even harder than usual. I read a great many wonderful books this year so I couldn't possibly limit myself to five like last year. I managed to come up with a list of seven. As usual these are books I read in 2015, not necessarily books published in 2015. They are listed in no particular order.
  • Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. Possibly the most controversial science fiction novel of the year. Robinson takes aim at one of the staples of science fiction and explains in vivid detail why we won't leave the solar system and colonize other star systems.

  • The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard. I haven't exactly  made a secret of my admiration for her writing. This new novel is one of the most interesting books to be published in Fantasy this year. Gorgeous prose and wonderful worldbuilding.

  • Segu by Maryse Cond√©. A reread of a wonderful historical novel. In two volumes she covers the history of the Bambara state of Segu in present day Mali. Cond√© follows one family starting at the height of the empire in 1796 up to the arrival of the French colonial forces in 1890. A bit of history not many western readers would otherwise be exposed to. 

  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. The first translated novel to win a Hugo Award. I'm not sure it would have happened without the intervention of the puppies but I am glad a translated novel did receive this bit of recognition. The lack of translations is hurting science fiction. Liu shows us that there are many worthy novels out there that deserve a larger audience. 

  • Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald. A new adult novel by McDonald, set on the moon. This is another book I could read for the beautiful prose alone but McDonald puts in a vision of a colonized near future moon that is absolutely fascinating as well. 

  • The Blue Place by Nicola Griffith. The first in a series of three on the character of Aud Torvingen. These books are crime novels, not a genre I read often. This book had a special attraction to be because of the Norwegian background of the main character. I am still trying to get Lana to read it. Aud is a very interesting main character.  It's a hard-hitting novel though, the end felt like a punch in the gut.

  • The Just City by Jo Walton. Greek mythology, Plato, robots and time travel. How could you possibly make that into a novel. Walton shows us how it is done in this book. This must be one of the most inventive and surprising novels of the year.
There are a number of works that almost made the list. Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson, The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman, Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear, Dragon Heart by Cecelia Holland, Rook Song by Naomi Foyle  and Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb are all very good reads.

Traffic

Traffic is still somewhere between pathetic and none. No really big hits this year. Like last year the articles that get most traffic are quite old. The most viewed articles are:

The Valley of the Horses - Jean M. Auel
Sarum - Edward Rutherfurd
The Lucky Strike -  Kim Stanley Robinson
The Lazarus Effect - Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom
Blood of Dragons - Robin Hobb
Soul Catcher - Frank Herbert
The Three-Body Problem - Cixin Liu
The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. Auel
The Wind's Twelve Quarters - Ursula K. Le Guin
The House of Shattered Wings - Alliette de Bodard

Only two 2015 articles on the list. A bit disappointing. Most of the others were articles that did well in other years as well. Soul Catcher got a lot of publicity this year because it is being made into a movie. Apparently they are going to change the rather controversial ending of the book. The one that baffles me is Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb. It is not exactly her most popular novel. The more recent third Fitz trilogy ought to get more attention.

Plans

None other than keep going really. I have a lot of half finished series that I would like to wrap up next year. Other than that the plan is the same as always, review everything I read. I will be opening 2016 with an Alastair Reynolds review. This year I will look at his collection Zima Blue. I'm considering trying to read some more works written in other languages than English. Right now, I have two on the to read stack. An Astrid Lindgren book Lana gave me for my birthday and We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which I have already promised to review for Hebban. It would be nice if I could get into double digits in 2016, that should be achievable.

That's it for this year at Random Comments. I wish you all the best for 2016 and hope to see you all around again on the blog.

Rob

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for another year of great reading! I really enjoy your reviews. You really deserve more traffic than you're apparently getting. If you drop an AddThis widget on your blog it will be easier for folks to share your stuff. I can tweet you from Feedly because you're in my RSS feed but I don't see an easy way to tweet you direct from here. Just my 2 cents. Love the blog and I'm looking forward to reading more in the new year.

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    1. Well, the low traffic is mostly me not doing the things I should to get a bigger following. I had a rough patch a few years back. Didn't post much of anything for three months and traffic tumbled. I never have been able to get that kind of audience again. It is partly because I don't write enough articles and partly because I am not very clever then it comes to using other social media to advertise myself. There is always some other project I would rather spend time on. There is a review due on sunday and I haven't finished the book yet. I've been asked to do an interview for Hebban but it needs to be done quickly. I haven't contributed much of anything to WWEnd in a few weeks... you see how it goes ;)
      What I ought to do is get a domain, move this whole blog to another platform, maybe wordpress, and have a look at the design. I very much doubt any of that will happen anytime soon though.

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    2. I've been looking into those share buttons and they are actually turned on. Looks like there is something in the template that is not letting them show up.

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