Friday, January 06, 2012

Jim's best of 2011

I'm a bit of a list guy - I like making end of year lists of the best (and sometimes worst) of "things" - books, movies, etc. I've made it a habit of doing this for years at various other websites, but this year I thought I'd share it here. SQT already did her top 5 books of 2011 at The Happy Booker in case you want to check that out. Normally, I'd do a top 10 - but my reading (of books at least) was sorely lacking in 2011, and a top 10 would be half the books I read during the year - so I went with a top 5 instead for all categories.


1. Star Wars: Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller - I was highly anticipating this release and it didn't dissappoint. This is a completely approachable Star Wars novel for any reader, requiring absolutely no knowledge beyond a love of the films. The female Jedi lead character is alone well behind enemy lines, dealing with Sith overlords with a wide range of complexity and very distinct personalities. Click on the title for my full review.

2. Star Wars: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn - yeah, it's going to be a lot of Star Wars books, but to be fair this is the best Timothy Zahn Star Wars books in years. This is a tightly woven story, told almost like a spy novel set in the Star Wars universe and again completely approachable for any fan.

3. The Lost Fleet: Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell - I'm not sure if I should be more surprised that this series continues to be an amazing read even 7 books in, but it is and it garners the next spot on my list. This is a new jumping on point for the series, so anyone looking to give it a try need not go back and read the prior books (until you realize how great Dreadnaught is and then decide to start from the beginning).

4. The Rift Walker by Clay & Susan Griffith - this is the second book in this steampunk Vampire series, an excellent follow-up to last year's The Greyfriar (which was one of my top books in 2010). A kind of anti-Twilight with a no-nonsense female protagonist and an all-out open war between a humanity that's been pushed to the brink of extinction by the Vampire hoardes.

5. Star Wars: Ascension by Christie Golden - this is the 8th book in the Fate of the Jedi series - a series that really requires readers to have kept up with a number of prior series in order to enjoy it (New Jedi Order, Dark Nest, and Legacy of the Force to name a few). That said, if you're a long-time fan this is the penultimate novel in the series, with huge plot twists and big action squences, this book really delivered and got me excited for the finale coming out this year.


1. Thorn and Talon by Dan Abnett - I get to listen to a lot of these Black Library audiodramas, and while there have been a few duds this year, the vast majority were great - starting with this one featuring Eisenhorn and Ravenor - two of the most popular characters in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

2. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley - a fantastic cast propel this into the realm of listening to a radio show of old. This has great production values which might not mean anything if the story backing up wasn't also excellent.

3. Garro: Legion of One by James Swallow - a quasi-sequel to a prior audio book, it also stands alone nicely and features the usual fantastic audio work I come to expect from these WH40K entries. Warriors who no longer have legions of their own find themselves working together against an undead army bent on their destruction.

4. 007: Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver - I'm a long-time Bond fan, though I've found the books outside of Ian Fleming's originals to be somewhat lacking. That all ended with Deaver's entry though - this felt like a real James Bond book, with all the right touches to make this fan happy. Though only performed by one reader, since he is an actor I never felt like I was only listening to one person as he performed the various roles.

5. Red & Black by James Swallow - a different sort of WH40K audiobook - not as action-packed as these things normally get, it also features warrior women as the main protagonists. It winds up feeling very different from most other entries in this series, which is half the reason I liked it so much.

Graphic Novels:

1. Starborn - this was a new series launched by Stan Lee (of Marvel fame) and Boom! Studios, taking what I thought was a pretty unique idea of a writer who discovers the science fiction stories he's been writing are all actually true - and that the aliens have come to Earth to kill him. I can't wait to continue with this series in 2012.

2. Avengers Prime - what happens when you mix one of my favorite brands in Marvel with one of my favorite artists (Alan Davis)? Why you get my second favorite comic of the year! This is mostly a Thor geared story (which works out well for anyone who enjoyed that movie), but also highlights Iron Man and Captain America as well. It's a good story featuring some different locales from the "nine realms" and despite fitting in current Marvel continuity nicely, it's also very new reader friendly (as you'll find most things in this whole list are).

3. Superman: Earth One - a surprising science-fiction take on Clark's origin, this is very new reader friendly, but more than that, it may actually be one of the best versions available.

4. Knight Errant: Aflame - the comic book prequel to the novel above, it's not necessary in order to enjoy the novel, but it's a great story and the best Star Wars comic I read all year.

5. Avengers vol 1 - I almost put Secret Avengers vol 1 in this slot, but despite an artist I'm not that fond of (John Romita Jr) I found this Bendis' written story of the remorming of the Avengers after Siege and almost immediately winding up in the future to face down one of their long time foes to be the more compelling story with an epic scope. I think if Secret Avengers had maintained a more cosmic/scifi vibe past it's first volume, I might have gone that way instead. Both worthwhile reads.

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