Thursday, January 26, 2012

DeFlip Side’s Top Ten Reads of 2011

By Christoper DeFilippis

1) The Book of Bunk: A Fairy Tale of the Federal Writers’ Project by Glen Hirshberg
In the late 1930s, Paul Dent is all but shanghaied into the FWP and sent to write about a small mountain town in South Carolina, where he uncovers many competing versions of the elusive and mythical American Dream. I don’t know if Book of Bunk is the next Great American Novel, but it certainly is a powerful literary gem in the tradition of Fitzgerald and Steinbeck.

2) The City & The City by China Mieville
A police procedural, set in a pair of fictional Eastern European cities that occupy the same physical space, and where opposing citizens have learned to "unsee" one another for fear of invoking the penalty of Breach (an all-seeing power wielding swift retribution). Police officer Tyador Borlu has caught a murder case involving a victim who willfully Breached in search of a third hidden city co-existing with the others. Mieville's best book, evocative of Orwell's 1984. I don't know how to give higher praise than that...

3) Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
Chronicling humanity in the aftermath of “The October Event,” a night in which the moon and stars disappear from the sky, as seen from the P.O.V. of three young friends. High-concept Science Fiction done right, with its fantastic technology and speculative future rooted firmly in a human story.

4) Palimpsest by Charles Stross
Stross does it again, beginning his tale with the oldest of time travel chestnuts (newbies, see: Grandfather Paradox) and turning it on its ear. It’s a great time travel story, uncluttered by needless handholding for the uninitiated and buttressed by Stross’s unique brand of hard SF. Read my full review here!

5) Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
An apparently immortal, shape-shifting African woman named Anyanwu travels to 17th Century New York with a body-swapping entity named Doro, who has been cultivating his own human “seed” populations for millennia. In relaying the events of the ensuing centuries, Butler weaves an increasingly twisted relationship between Anyanwu and Doro that’s like nothing I’ve ever read.

6) The Philosopher's Apprentice by James Morrow
When philosophy dropout Mason Ambrose gets hired to go to an exotic private island in the Florida Keys to imbue an eccentric genius’s cloned daughter with a moral center, he sets events in motion that shake the entire world. A modern-day Scientific Romance, a scathing satire on the controversies over abortion and cloning, and Morrow at his humorous, erudite best.

7) A Tangle in Slops by Jeffrey E. Barlough
The bleakest of bleak midsummers has descended on the Shire of Slops, bringing events strange and tragic to the Village of Plumley. It’s a dark time for the denizens of Orkney Farm, where a rogue mylodon has snatched Mr. Magnus Trefoil out of his study. Superstitious townfolk attribute this ill fortune to Trefoil’s unearthing a cache of mystical items belonging to his late ancestress, the legendary sorceress Tronda Quickensbog. But might the reclusive Mr. Tom Posthumous, lately taken up residence at the deserted old hermitage of St. Guthlac’s, have anything to do with these eldritch events? This sixth stand-alone volume in Barlough’s Western Lights series is a homerun! Read my full review, and do yourself a favor and learn more about Barlough’s Western Lights series

8) Stardust by Neil Gaiman
This modern-day fairytale can be categorized thusly: Magical. Comical. Wonderful. Insert the glowing adjective of your choice. It’s Gaiman, after all…

9) Wake Up and Dream by Ian R. MacLeod
A noirish gem, positing a 1940s Hollywood in which the “feelies” are all the rage, films which allow the audience to feel whatever the characters on screen are feeling. Wandering this altered tinseltown’s underbelly is washed-up movie actor turned gumshoe Clark Gable, who is bemused by his easy new assignment: impersonate a famous feelie writer and close a big script contract. But of course things quickly turn deadly, plunging Clark into a mystery he didn’t bargain for.

10) The God Engines by John Scalzi
A meaty and thoughtfully executed novella in which a god is imprisoned on a spaceship, compelled to power it and keep a rival god’s adherents alive in the void as they spread their competing religion. Dabbles in crises of faith, the dangers of unquestioned devotion and the price of hubris; but it never degenerates into a screed against the evils of organized religion.

DeFlip Side is a radio program written and produced by Christopher DeFilippis, humorously exploring the culture of Science Fiction and Fantasy from a fan's perspective, with a healthy dose of science fact thrown in for good measure, and lots of book reviews! Listen up at and like us on Facebook:


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