On Coming Late to the Party, or 2010 – A Review

In what is becoming a trend, I seem to be jumping on the tailgate of the bandwagon as it swings on past my door, and only then after it has deposited all of the previous travelers at the latest “Next Big Thing” (NBT) and is on it’s way back to the depot. I have my suspicions on the whereabouts of this depot. As I should. I wind up there a lot. Maybe it’s because I don’t watch the news or read any newspapers (the latter is something I intend to address in the New Year – any suggestions on quality publications / iPad apps?), but I always seem to pick up on the NBT after everyone else, and often just as they’re moving on to the next NBT. Many is the time I’ve run up to a friend (or the SMS / Facebook equivalent of such an action) to let them in on the secret to the NBT, just to have them stare at me blankly for a moment or two and then tell me they are already well aware of said NBT, which is well on its way to becoming the Last Big Thing. They’re always very polite about it, but the subtext is clear: “Where have you been?”

I choose not to dwell on the fact that all of my friends seem to be part of a conspiracy to keep me simultaneously “out of the loop” and “in the dark” over the NBTs and have instead decided to “keep my finger on the pulse”. I now have a Twitter account and everything. You’re welcome to follow me, if you so desire (@DoctorBenny). I may even post an actual Tweet (or is it Twit?) one day, if I can ever work out how the whole hashtag-thingy works. Anyway, it’s a great way to stalk, I mean “keep in the know” about, a whole range of interesting people, some of whom are even who they claim to be. Aside from following all of my favourite authors / publishers / booksellers / actors / comedians, and the obligatory @StephenFry, I’m also following @Quotes4Writers, which is at turns funny and insightful. If you’re a gamer and a geek you should check out the @GoodGameTV crew: @bajopants and @ hexsteph. @g4tv is also great for gaming news, though it’s based in the USA. Before you point it out, I’m well aware of the fact you all know Twitter far better than I do.

Moving on, then! Everyone has already written about the “Best Reads of 2010”, so in keeping with the theme of this blog post, I’m going to do the same now. In 2011. *cough* First up, Graphic Novels / Comic Books (I was going to rant about the difference here, but I find I don’t have the energy). Last year was definitely the year of the comic book for me. Mostly because I could afford to buy them. Comics are notoriously expensive in Australia, but two things have helped make them more affordable. First up – the iPad. Now, don’t groan! It is an eReader, all right? And comics look FANTASTIC on the iPad’s HD screen. Anyway, the various comic apps on the iPad are a great, and affordable, means of feeding a comic book fetish. The content is a bit limited, but it’s growing weekly. For those of you hissing in the background, I also buy from various comic shops, both here and overseas, though I tend to wait for collections, preferably in hardback. This brings me to the second reason 2010 was the year of the comic book for me – tax deduction. It’s amazing how easy it is to justify spending $60 on a Graphic Novel if you think of it as a business expense. Not that I really needed much convincing in the first place…

Anyway, some titles that rocked my 2010 (in no particular oder and, you’ll notice, not necessarily published in 2010):

Supernatural Origins, Peter Johnson and Matthew Dow Smith – The story of how John Winchester became a hunter? Yes, please!

Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Mark Miller and Steve McNiven – The USA has fallen to the Super Villains, and Wolverine has lost his will to fight, but he’s still the best there is at what he does. A great homage to one of Marvel’s greatest creations by some of my favourites.

Batman: The Killing Joke, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland – Some of the most iconic imagery in the Batman universe and proof that Super Hero comics can be so much more than “POWS” and “BIFFS”. Also, the Joker is one truly frightening psychopath, regardless of the more cutesy versions of him out there.

The Sandman: Volumes 1-4, Neil Gaiman and various remarkably talented artists – Why only four volumes so far? Blame the postman! Gaiman’s mythology is a marvel of our times.

Marvel 1602, Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove – The Marvel superheroes are awakened in the Elizabethan court. What, you need more incentive to check this out? Vibrant imagery, kinetic plotting, and one of the few Marvel spin-offs that won’t make you hate non-canon material.

The Courtyard, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows – You know that feeling you get when you read a perfectly formed short story? That glorious coming together of every syllable of the work into one satisfying singular effect? That, but in comic book form. Also, creepy. Really, really creepy.

Superman: Red Son, Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, Kilian Plunket, Andrew Robinson and Walden Wong – If Jor-L had sent his son hurtling through space a little bit earlier (or later), he would have crashed on Earth somewhere in Russia. Superman would be a Communist hero and Lex Luthor the president of the USA.

X-Men (various), so many it’s hard to count – Okay, if 2010 was the year I got to glut myself on comic books, it was also the year I got wholly sick of X-Men spin-offs. Also, I love them. It’s a conundrum, I’ll grant you, but as much as I love X-Force, and Uncanny, and Amazing, and New, and all the various Wolverine spin-offs, they also leave me longing keenly for linearity and canon. Still, an addict is an addict.

Even more than being a year of comic books, 2010 was the year of the YA novel, and not just for me (and not just because Quillblade was published!). The Young Adult market is booming, and those of us who love them were showered in riches in 2010! I started the year reading Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Brilliant! I followed this up with his Leviathan series. Is it better? I should probably say it is, but the truth is I love them both about equally. They’re both so different, and they’re differences make them each enjoyable for different reasons. Just read them both (if you haven’t already!)! Next up came the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I LOVE these books. Read them. Then read them again. Another series I should have read long ago but finally got around to this year was Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus trilogy. It was as good as I was expecting it to be. No, wait. Better! The ending was perfect. I actually finished the year by reading The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I don’t need to tell you just how good these books are. I am the last person on Earth to read them. Thanks, M, for getting me onto them (before everyone else suggested them to me!).

As if all of that wasn’t enough, I got to read the latest in some of my favourite YA series, too! The Laws of Magic series by Michael Pryor is a near perfect YA Fantasy series. Why only ‘near’ perfect? Because the final book isn’t out yet!!! Also, if you haven’t read the Skullduggery Pleasant series yet, you’re as clueless as I am! I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until everyone knows it: it’s about a wise-cracking, magic-wielding Irish skeleton detective! Some of the most imaginative characters in YA literature. Ever. The final book in The Keys to the Kingdom series, by Garth Nix, was a climatic surge to the conclusion of the series, which managed to surprise and delight in almost equal measures. Another FANTASTIC series.

Some other really great YA books I read this year: The Wildkin’s Curse, Kate Forsyth; Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott; Liar, Justine Larbalestier; and When Courage Came to Call, (by the sixteen-year-old!!!) LM Fuge. There were numerous other great books published in 2010 that I didn’t get to. Maybe I’ll get to them in 2011. Or 2012.

A few non-YA mentions: Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Seth Grahame-Smith; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith; The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry (yes, I got to read it at last – see last blog post!); The Old Kingdom Series, Garth Nix; The Edible Woman and Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood. All highly recommended. I’m currently reading Lian Hearn’s Blossoms and Shadows, and I’m still picking my way through the highly entertaining non-fiction work, The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Industry and Invention, by William Rosen – a must for Steampunk fans and aficionados.

A special mention goes out here to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which I got to watch in its entirety this year (I watched most of season three in my hotel room on my iPad while I was in Melbourne for MWF and Aussiecon). If you haven’t seen this three season, asian-inspired Nickelodeon fantasy cartoon – watch it. The best cartoon I’ve seen in AGES. I loved this show so much my loathing for the appalling film adaptation knows no bounds. M Night Shyamalan should be ashamed of himself. I don’t, as a rule, condone video piracy. But if it’s true video piracy harms the filmmakers, then pirate this film and never watch it. Hopefully we can stop him from making the next film in the series. Buy the cartoon, though. It’s awesome.

And that just about wraps up my review of what I saw / read in 2010. I may have given you some ideas for things you’d like to read / watch, but I’m sure you were well aware of most of them anyway! Oh well, I hope you at least enjoyed the nostalgic trip through the past twelve months. 2011 promises to be an even greater year. Beast Child is coming out in September (Yay!), and as of Tuesday I’ll be taking the plunge by becoming a full time writer. Expect more “I’m not procrastinating if I’m writing blog posts” blog posts and maybe even some details about the new book I’m working on. But only if you all behave yourselves.

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