Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

Another year has passed. I have run my last review of the year on Saturday so I guess it is time to look back. 2013 has not been a particularly good year on the blog. I have been seriously distracted by a number of things in my personal life. I must say it was worth it though. I've climbed out of the low that was 2011 and although there is lots more I still need to take care of, I do have the feeling I've pulled my life together again. If that goes at the expense of a book blog I guess that is a small price to pay. I hope to be able to put a bit more time into the blog next year but I can't make any promises on that account. There might be another move for one thing, those are always huge time sinks.

I only reviewed three works in the first three months of this year. All things considered it is a small miracle that I have managed to get up to 50 reviews for the whole year. It is still 10 down from last year but all things considered it is not a bad score. I hope to do better next year and get it up to sixty again. I reviewed 40 novels, 4 collections/anthologies, 5 short stories or novellas and 1 work of non-fiction this year. On top of that I read 2 novels, 1 novella and 1 work of non-fiction I didn't end up reviewing, which brings the total to 54. According to Goodreads they contained a total of 20,514 pages. Considerably more than last year, when it was less than 17,000.

Of the 50 reviewed books, 23 where written by men, 26 by women and one contained work of both men and women. This is the first year that I've read more works by women than men. The Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge clearly had something to do with that. It exposed me to a number of books I probably wouldn't have read otherwise. It will be interesting to see if I can keep it balanced without the reading challenge to push me. Note that I might still not have made the 50% by Lady Business' count. I put a work into one category so each work only counts once, they count individual authors. So A Memory of Light by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan is one man for me but two men for them. Hunter's Run even has three male authors. The count for the single anthology I've read this year, We See A Different Frontier, may shift the balance a lot. Given the almost continuous debate on sexism in publishing this year I do hope they repeat there experiment. It would be interesting to see if there is any movement at all.

Best of 2013
Given the small number of books I have to choose from I'm going to limit myself to 5 again this year. The five best books I've read this year in no particular order:
  1. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard. Simply one of the best short stories I've ever read. It did well in this year's awards season and deservedly so.
  2. Hild by Nicola Griffith. I was very impressed with this historical novel. Griffith manages to create a fascinating tale on the scraps of history that have survived the ages.
  3. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Robinson. I guess some people might prefer his science fiction but this prehistoric novel is very good reading too in my opinion. 
  4. We See A Different Frontier edited by Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad. I'm probably biased here, I helped fund this project. I'm nevertheless impressed with the selection of stories Fernandes and al-Ayad managed to get their hands on. It's an anthology the genre needed and I would not mind if it got a bit more attention that it has received up to this point. Or see a second volume put together for that matter.
  5. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. The list is rather heavy on recent works but I did read a few classics this year. Vonnegut is simply a must read. I don't think anybody approaches science fiction with the kind of grim humour that can be found in this novel.
Despite only having reviewed 50 books, it was hard to limit myself to 5 works. Books like The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord, Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear and River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay are also very much worth reading. They missed the list by a fraction.

Traffic is down by 45 percent this year. I lost a lot of readers in the first three months of 2013. Not surprising given the level of activity back then. What also hurt the numbers is stat I apparently haven't produces a bit hit. Last year the reviews of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire drew an awful lot of traffic. This year nothing really jumped out like that. Maybe I should have reviewed Ender's Game after all.  The top ten most visited reviews of last year were:
  1. The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel
  2. The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
  3. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  4. The Willful Princess and the Piebald Prince - Robin Hobb
  5. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
  6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  7. The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson
  8. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard
  9. A Feast of Crows by George R.R. Martin
  10. Blood and Bone by Ian C. Esslemont
I can't really make much of this list. Four titles were in it last year as well. Both Auels, the Martin and the Collins. I guess the debate over whether The Ice Dragon is part of A Song of Ice and Fire still rages. Personally I'm still of the opinion Martin didn't write it with that intend but that if the reader insists it can be passed of as one of old Nan's tales. The Lucky Strike is back on the list. I still suspect it is being used in some kind of literature class because I get a lot of search queries trying to find the answer on very specific questions about this work. Fortunately the review is suitably vague. I'm afraid they will have to read it for themselves. There are four 2013 reviews on the list, none of them very high. The first title in the list got approximately double the number of views as number ten. Things are much closer together than last year. Roadside Picnic had been on the list for the last three years. It has now dropped the the eleventh spot. I guess the new translation that has been released means there are more reviews recent reviews out there.

Nothing to specific at the moment. I'm considering signing up for next year's reading challenge over at WWend but since they haven't released any details of what it might be I haven't decided on that yet. I trust them to come up with something good though. I want to continue working my way through the works of Frank Herbert and Kim Stanley Robinson but I haven't decide on specific titles yet. I also plan on rereading A Dance with Dragons before Martin overtakes me and delivers the sixth volume. I'm also looking forward to reading the final book in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century and the final book in Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky. I understand Robin Hobb will have a new Fitz book out next year. That one is also high on the list of books to read. Then there are some loose ends from the Women of Genre Fiction reading challenge I want to follow up on. In particular Lord's Redemption in Indigo and the short fiction of Carol Emschwiller.
I indicated that there might be a few movie reviews in the near future on Random Comments. That project has stalled and I don't know yet if and when those will start to appear. We'll have to wait and see I guess.

So that is it for this year. I hope to see you all back on Random Comments in 2014, which will traditionally open with a review of one of Alastair Reynold's works. This year it will be Terminal World. Thank you for visiting my blog. I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2014.



  1. Hey, I just wanted to say that I didn't discover your blog until this year, but it has quickly become one of my favourites.

    Keep up the good work!