Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre was the last review of 2011 so I guess it is time to write the yearly overview. On the personally level, 2011 was a quite turbulent year for me, to be honest I'm glad to see this year go, so the numbers won't be quite as impressive as last year. I think I managed reasonably well considering the circumstances.

I've read 84 works in 2011, which is seven less than last year. They resulted in 82 reviews, all of which can be found on Random Comments. I also moved two older reviews to this blog. I'm pretty sure I'm done moving older stuff now though. There are plenty more but those are of such low quality that a little polish won't suffice to bring them up to Random Comments level. The two books that did not get a review were George R.R. Martin's A Dance With Dragons and Raymond E. Feist's A Kingdom Besieged (read in Dutch translation). For Martin's novel I felt I hadn't read the previous entries in his A Song of Ice and Fire series recently enough to do this book justice. I have started a reread and expect to review the two most recent volumes sometime next year. Feist I only read for nostalgic reasons these days. He hasn't published anything that is worth reading or writing about in years and this year's effort was no exception. All this leaves me still short of he two reviews a week target. I think I am going to be a little less ambitious for 2012 and aim for 80 reviews.

The total of 84 breaks down into 64 novels, 10 collections of short fiction, 9 novellas and short stories and 1 non-fiction book. In total I read 35,376 pages, just short of 100 a day. This number is comparable to 2010, mostly because I read a larger number of books that get close to, or even pass, the thousand page mark than last year. Of the 84 works, 58 were written by men, 25 by women and 1 contained work of both men and women. A slightly better ratio than last year but I think I can do better still.

Best of 2011
So what is the best I have read this year? As usual I won't limit myself to book published in 2011. I read only 30 of those, which is too narrow a selection. The emphasis of this years list is still in the last decade though. I've read a number of classics this year, but not that many that I though absolutely brilliant. Here's the list in the order I read them in.
  1. Act One by Nancy Kress (2009): A novella length piece that was nominated for several awards. I tend to like Kress' short fiction better than her novels.
  2. Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang (2002): After discovering Chiang last year, I just had to read this. His stories are so well crafted that you can't help but wish he was more productive. On the other hand, if taking your time results in such excellent work....
  3. The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010): A novella set in a fantasy universe shared with Tobias S. Buckell. I tend to like short Science Fiction better but this one is a gem.
  4. Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (2011): An impressive d├ębut. One of the big surprises of the year for me.
  5. Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson (2001): This Malazan novel remains my favourite in a consistently very strong epic fantasy series. Such an emotionally powerful novel.
  6. The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin (1983): His least successful novel commercially, one that almost killed his career. Why this is the case is beyond me, it is one of the finest in his oeuvre.
  7. Harten Sara by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2011): I still read too few Dutch language novels. This is one that might do well internationally. Olde Heuvelt moves away from his horror roots towards a more magical realistic style. Might be translated in the near future.
  8. Troika by Alastair Reynolds (2011): I just loved the concept behind this novella length science fiction.
  9. Among Others by Jo Walton (2011): A fantasy novel for science fiction fans. Probably not a recipe for commercial success in the current market but a absolute must-read book for this year.
  10. Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (1966): At the same time hopelessly outdated and thoroughly impressive. A real classic.
Traffic has more or less doubled in terms of visitors compared to 2010. The increase in pageviews is a bit larger, not really surprising with so much more content for search engines to dig up than last year. The top ten reviews with the most hits are:
  1. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  2. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  3. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel
  4. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
  5. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  6. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
  7. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
  8. Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson
  9. Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky
  10. Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
It's not surprising that Martin takes the throne this year. I think that if I had done the review of A Storm of Swords earlier in the year, or written one on A Dance With Dragons they would have ended up in the list as well. What surprised me is how well The Name of the Wind kept up. This novel is four years old now, but it lead the list for most of the year and finished close behind A Game of Thrones. The Land of Painted Caves was also a big release this year (and one of the worst novels I have read I might add) so no surprise there. Three reviews stayed in the top ten compared to last year's list. I guess reviewing a bunch of evergreens is good for your traffic. I would have liked to have seen some more overlap with the list of favourites but I guess my taste is a bit too eccentric for that.

Next year promises to be a year full of uncertainty for me on the personal and professional level. I don't want to make too many predictions or resolutions since there is a good chance I will not achieve any of them. Next year will of course open with a review of one of Alastair Reynold's novels. I also intend to continue my project to read and review all of Kim Stanley Robinson's novels (Blue Mars is up next) and to start again on reviewing Frank Herbert's non-Dune books, which I shamefully neglected last year. Other than that I think the budget for new books will be limited so unless I receive a lot of review copies (which isn't likely) the emphasis will be on older works. Of these, I fortunately have a good supply.

I guess that wraps up 2011. Thank you for visiting Random Comments and I hope to see you all around next year. I wish you all a happy new year!


  1. Thanks for continuing to write excellent reviews. :)

    I’m glad that you enjoyed Act One and Troika as much as I did. Those are two novellae that deserve all the acclaim they can get. And I think I agree with you when it comes to Nancy Kress’ short fiction. Some of her novels (of those I’ve read) have been quite good, but I think she struggles with developing characters over a longer length of time.

    As someone who also compiles detailed annual reading statistics, I must praise your rigour. I always enjoy seeing detailed breakdowns of what people have read in the year.

    Happy 2012.

  2. Goodreads and Librarything make accounting a lot easier but I keep a spreadsheet as well. If you are obsessed with something you might as well go all the way ;)

    I'm amazed at how much you manage to read in a year. I think 2010 was just about the maximum I can manage. Maybe if I read more in Dutch I could read a few more but still...