Best Of…

December 31st, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday to Me. Happy Birthday dear me-eeeee…

Yes indeed, another year of dry humour, wet nappies, sleepless nights, wonderful reviews, shitty reviews, and storming success drags to a close. So long 2009! Nice knowing you. A busy year, for me. I had a baby. I moved from London to Bath. I sold a flat and bought one. I even published another book! With all these good things to celebrate, one wonders why I still feel slightly anxious all the time. It’s the modern condition, people!

An end, as well, to another year of blogging. Shall we look back to some of the highlights…?

Most Commented On Blog Post
Storming up the charts with 80 comments was my response to my favourite review of the year “People suck, war is bad, and the world is a bottomless shithole,” which included, alongside the trademark apparently self-deprecating while actually being self-glorifying wit, some thoughtful introspection on the subject of ragged and unhappy endings. It even managed to beat last year’s 60 comment winner. Proof positive, as if any were needed, that thought-provoking consideration of genre issues CAN be more interesting than being hit over the head with a piece of wood. A score for the intelligentsia. Runners up were an opportunity for you all to bitch about my US cover (always popular), with 55 comments, and my musings on my neighbour’s teenage son never having heard of Dungeons & Dragons, with 42. Perhaps if I can think of more worthwhile and thoughtful posts to make I can break the 100 mark next year. No. I don’t think so either…

Best Foreign Trip
I might have felt strangely sick the whole time I was there for no apparent reason, but Sweden/Norway your streets is clean, your trains is reasonable yet punctual, your people is friendly and above averagely good-looking, and your sf&f specialist bookstores is excellent. I also remain a committed fan of your modernist minimal design, unassuming royal families, and efficient education, health, and welfare systems.

Best Authorial Bitch-Fight involving me
Was definitely the no-holds-barred grudge match between me and Brent Weeks at the Borders Book Blog wich I totally won. Ask anyone. There’s even some talk that we’ll be taking this show on the road next year…

Best Authorial Love-In involving me
My thoughtful yet hilarious interview with Patrick Rothfuss on the occasion of his recent charity drive.

Best Authorial Blurb about my Works
Has to be the George RR Martin. I still feel deeply smug about that one.

Best “Best SF&F of 2009” list of 2009
Werthead demonstrates his impeccable good taste by selecting Best Served Cold as his best book of 2009, saying, “a tale of revenge, murder, assassination, war and generally pleasant stuff, with Abercrombie somehow outstripping the first trilogy in terms of mayhem.” Graeme demonstrated an equal level of discernment – “It delivered on all fronts and just kept delivering.” The redoubtable Dave Bradley, editor of SFX, has also declared Best Served Cold his best book of 2009 calling it a “brilliantly brutal tale of revenge”. I note in passing he also had Dragon Age up there. Nice call, Dave. Rob Grant’s taste at Sci-Fi London would have been as good if it weren’t for that pesky Jesse Bullington and his bleak medieval european stylings…

Best Served Cold has popped up on a few other lists too. Fantasy Book Critic’s, Joe Sherry’s , even the editor’s picks for sf&f at, where I stand proudly among such notables as Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, and Stephanie Meyer. It’s a varied crowd over there…

But lest we over-sugar the pudding, Best Served Cold also made Western author Iain Parnam’s most disappointing books of 2009. He thought, “everyone is repellent, the story is dreary, nothing matters much, and the wit is missing.” I shrug me a river. It’s all subjective, people.

I know what you’re thinking – who the hell reads books any more? But this year I managed to get through a few, and some of them weren’t even written by me. Non-fiction highlight would probably be CV Wedgewood’s Thirty Years War. A classic of narrative history. Fiction highlight? Despite some tough competition from the likes of Fritz Leiber, Junot Diaz and Jeff Vandermeer, you’d have to walk a very long way through a post-apocaplyptic wasteland to beat Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Searingly stark and bleak, but somehow still life-affirming. Like a visit to Brooks Nightclub in Lancaster used to be.

Well I must say my socks were quite blown off by Avatar, it may well have been the most jaw-dropping cinema experience for me since Fellowship of the Ring, way back in 1904 when I didn’t have kids, but along somewhat more traditional lines District 9 and No Country for Old Men were certainly memorable too. Watchmen … not so much.

Battlestar Galactica ended more with a whimper than a bang, which left the final season of The Shield as my TV Highlight. That certainly ended with a bang. IN YOUR FACE. Michael Chiklis also stalks off with my coveted “Most Loathsome yet Strangely Sympathetic Bald Character” award. Mad Men continued to be great, second series of Dexter was good but, for my money, not as good as the last. Other things that have variously titillated, intrigued and amused included 30 Rock, True Blood, and, of course, Strictly Come Dancing. What am I going to DO with my Sunday mornings now it’s over?

Good year, good year. Despite tough competition from the old-school roleplaying of Dragon Age and the Medici-stabbing thrills of Assassin’s Creed II, it has to be the smooth-as-velvet next-generation adventure charms of Uncharted II t
hat gave my boat the most float this year. The importance of PC games seems to be very much dwindling for me, as console games gradually invade the rpg and srategy territory that was traditionally theirs. Medieval:Total War is possibly my favourite game of all time, so I found Empire to be a tad disappointing. I haven’t played it a lot since I lack a PC powerful enough to run it well, but the AI seems kind of rubbish to me. It usually takes them a year or two to get those games properly balanced, though, so who knows. Perhaps a future classic…

And there we have it. Let rip the party poppers. Roll on 2010…

Posted in film and tv, games, interviews, reading, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2009.

25 comments so far

  • Happy Birthday Joe!

    Looking at your summary I think the one thing that your blog needs more of is photo's of your adorable kids. 🙂

  • Michael says:

    Brooks! Now there was an trip down memory lane that I wouldn't have thought to get from reading your blog. As a student it was like stepping into the lion's den and coming out not just alive (just) but pleasantly, and cheaply, inebriated too.

    Must say I'm surprised with your choice of film and game of the year, both seem like victories for the superficial. Blown away pretty exploding trains and dazzled by bioluminescence?

    Anyway, I promised myself I would never become a moaning blog poster, so happy birthday and enjoy New Year's.

  • Skout says:

    Great list of things for relative newcomers like me to run and check out!

    Gotta ask, is there a joke behind the Sweden/Norway "is" statements? "streets is clean", "people is friendly", etc?

    Merry New Year! Can't wait to see what you bring in '10.

  • Anonymous says:

    Happy Birthday!

    Totally agree with your choice of games and films, but playing "Dragon Age" on a PC is much more fun than on a PS3 or X-Box 360.
    More photos?
    Not in this blog, please.
    Only if they are blue.

    Smurf Lover

  • Hedgeknight says:

    Happy Birthday, my fellow Capricorn! Mine was the 27th and I celebrated by beginning "The Blade Itself" – and I'm very much enjoying it thus far. Already looking forward to Book Two. Hope 2010 is a great year for us all – Peace!

  • Skout says:

    crap.. Yeah, Happy Birthday, too.
    Short term memory… failing..

  • JenMo says:

    Happy Joe day! I look forward to more wit in 2010

  • Thanks everyone.

    You can always tell the thousand yard stare of the fellow Brooks-survivor.

    Superficial, though? I'd call it a victory for big-screen, pulpy entertainment over the deep and challenging, but to my mind the groundbreaking technical skill involved in Uncharted and Avatar is anything but superficial in both cases.

  • Michael says:

    I was lucky to escape with only a thousand yard stare!

    Don't get me wrong, deep and challenging are necessarily my criteria for greatness. I just like my pulp to have some meat, Pulpy meat for sure, but meat none the less.

    Technologically, Avatar took my breath away, the first CG characters I managed to forget were CG. There was just something a bit lacking.

    As for games, I'd put inFamous, Arkham Asylum and Assassin's Creed 2 out there as contenders for best game of the year. But hey, that's opinions for ya, wonderfully different.

  • manmela says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe.

    I just finished reading The Blade Itself last night and found it the second best novel I'd read all year (The Steel Remains just pipped it for me). Even so Glokta remains my favourite fantasy character of all time and I eagerly look forward to reading further books in the series.

    And best game of the year? Batman Arkham Asylum with Assassin's Creed 2 in second place.

  • Happy Birthday, squire! May the ghosts of lost legionnaires hand deliver the sweet waters of Bath to your lips every night, just after you've dozed off.

    My personal highlight of the year was placing ahead of Joe Abercrombie on a single list–all the tears and bribes and pending charges were small price for that victory. OVER YOU.

    Still haven't made it down The Road yet but if you haven't read it McCarthy's Blood Meridian is hands down the greatest Western I've ever encountered in any medium. Phenomenal. Dug the No Country adaptation as well, and at your word will probably pony up to see Avatar sometime soon. I was personally fond of the bizzaro, open-to-interpretation (to some, stupid and nonsensical to others) Finnish horror film Sauna, though it could just be my predilection for bleak medieval european stylings. Oh, and what was the title of the Norse werewolf novel you mentioned on here sometime ago? That's basically the perfect pairing of words to get me interested in something.

  • Michael,
    A varied diet in all things. I think Avatar's meat is in the unprecedented realisation of an alien world and the groundbreaking fusion of effects, design and 3d that makes it possible. Quite understand those who found it a bit lame though, I just wasn't one of them by any means. Uncharted 2 I think is pretty damn meaty. That's not only beautiful but has great gameplay, charming characters and is packed with great moments. I'm not sure what else you want from an action game. inFamous I thought was ok but ultimately I got a bit bored with it. Never a good thing. Assassin's Creed II is great, no doubt, especially since I've been to a lot of the locations and could actually pick out spots where I'd sheltered from the rain and so forth. Just thought Uncharted was a little better.

    The Steel Remains? Oooooh.

    Jesse Bullington,
    Ah, I've been expecting you. If you could just stand a little to the left. No, just, yes! There! Just where the gaffer-taped X is. Now where's that lever?

    Enjoy your first place while you can, because next year I … won't … have a book out. But the year after, I'm coming for you!

    I've read some of McCarthy's others, but Blood Meridian is in my to read pile. The Road is fantastic. The werewolf book is Wolfsangel, but I read the manuscript. It's out some time next year, I believe…

  • Sam Sykes says:

    You've had more than one no-holds-barred bitch-fight with an author?

  • Bombie says:

    Happy (belated) Birthday!

    Blood Meridian is a terrific book. I'm reading it just a couple of scenes per day, the give each of them the chance to really soak through. It's got very lyrical prose telling a very unforgiving story. The Judge is one of the most formidable characters ever created. He'll stay with you forever.

    I'm very much looking forward to reading the road as well. Oh, and Heroes, of course.

  • Elfy says:

    T'was a long year, Joe. I could have sworn some of those things happened in 2008. Maybe I'm just getting old and the years kind of blend into one another.

  • chris says:

    Best books last year were Best Served Cold lagging just behind Cormac Mcarthy's The Road.
    However I reread Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock again 20 years after the first time and was blown away all over again. Only found out yesterday he'd recently died. Completely gutted.

  • Sykes,
    Well, there was that whole ear-flicking thing…

    Looking forward to it, when I finally get some reading time, which will probably be when my kids have all left home in 2028.

    They happened in MY 2009. My 2008 was all Abba, leg warmers and Ford Cortinas.

    It's an awful, awful thing, no doubt.

  • Happy birthday!

    You'll be pleased to know, I suppose, my lovely gift card was invested in your work.


  • Karen says:

    Happy birthday and great summary!

    Also let me say as a Norwegian chick, thanks for the praise (though you're wrong about the trains and their punctuality. You must've gotten lucky). It warms a chilly Scandinavian heart.

  • Sam Sykes says:

    For your New Year's Resolution, perhaps you could forgive a little ear-flicking?

  • Dav says:

    I would have loved to see a subversion of the Dances with Wolves Trope in Avatar. Maybe a Na'vi who learnt the Human's ways then had to go kill them? But I'm nitpicking; District 9 and Avatar were easily the two best films this year.

    I love Empire: Total War to pieces, but I acceept it's flaws. Dragon Age was worthy of it's place at the top of most people's Game of the Year award.

    Happy New Year, Joe. Looking forward to your new book; until then – To The Black Library!

  • I left a Happy Birthday on your facebook, and so I do hope you had a great one.

    If more fans realized you had a blog and website, you could easily break 100 comments. I have too much time on my hands, or I wouldn't have thought to look you up despite adoring your books.

    No best music of 2009?

  • MudCrab says:

    You mention Total War. I managed to read The Blade Itself largely while waiting for the battles to load in Medieval 2. (Grud my old PC was slow).

    It is taking me longer to read the last two books while playing Empire as my new quad core (Merry Christmas to me, luv me) PC loads a lot faster and I don't have as much waiting time.

  • jblazier says:

    Best Served Cold was chosen by a couple of our reviewers. There is also a blurb by me as to why I picked it. Thanks again for the great books, and good luck in the new year.

  • hellsing says:

    Just found your website after being an absent minded fan for a while and had to post to agree that avatar rocked. For me sci-fi films are as much about the visuals as the plot (sad but true if you want a good plot read a book), having said that the films plot i thought worked well with the parameters of what cameron was trying to achieve and aid the film.

    p.s. how about dark corners expansion pack for gow2 for best expansion of 2009?

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *