Books of 2021 (fiction)
My yearly retrospective on the books I read, general impressions they left on me (if any of note). This post will go over the fiction works I’ve read and what I think about it in a line or two.
The Horror at Red Hook - H.P. Lovecraft
First book I read this year, mainly as preparation of the next one. It’s one of the worst Lovecraft stories out there. Very moody and evocative, yes, but of bigotry mainly. The horror derives from the fact that immigrants are supposed to be scary in Lovecraft’s eyes.
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle
A modern day re-interpretation of the story mentioned above, this time written by an African-American. It’s a lot better, without hiding the racist background of the original story. Worth it to read in tandem, but it’s nothing spectacular.
Axiom’s End (Noumena 1) - Lindsay Ellis
Ellis' first novel is a jumbled, disappointing mess. I seem to remember a vague ET-esque plot that could barely hold my attention.
The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco
My first Eco novel and I loved it! Not just the story and mystery in itself, but also the myriad of references
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases - Jeff VanderMeer & Mark Roberts
Bunch of short stories and pseudo-lemma’s around fictitious diseases. Some are quite funny and original. More of a novelty book than anything else.
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
A huge tome I’ve seen in lots of bookstores ever since I was young. Multiple storylines (two during the second world war, one contemporary one) winding around eachother. It’s quite the accomplishment for sure, too bad quite a lot is just nineties tech-bro culture stuff
We, the Drowned - Carsten Jensen
Monumental Danish novel revolving around multiple generations of inhabitants of a small, coastal town and their connection to the sea. From someone getting lost in the Pacific Ocean, to the children left behind without fathers. From family fortunes being built, to the impact the World Wars have on the communities. Probably the best non-fiction work I’ve read this year.
Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters - John Langan
I had high hopes after reading Langan’s novel The Fisherman last year, but the stories here were uninteresting.
The Midnight Library - Matt Haig
Very popular book for goth-light readers. Woman tries to commit suicide and gets a chance to relive other alternatives in her life. Easy reading, but nothing really special.
Piranesi - Susanna Clarke
A mysterious world consisting of dilapited marble halls, full of statues. A wandering protagonist who doesn’t know who they are. And another person who seems to know more. Somethings off. Satisfying, original novel!
Rayuela - Julio Cortázar
I wish I could’ve appreciated this one more. I really like Cortázar usually, but this book with it’s hopscotch way of reading its chapters (and I’ve only read the linear way for now) felt tedious to me. There’s two parts: the first in Paris, with bohemian expats sitting around, drinking and listening to jazz; and the second in Argentina, with the main character reconnecting with an old acquaintance. I really had to force myself to continue the book.
Rapsodie in bloed - Roger d’Exsteyl
Murder mystery in the streets of Ghent, Belgium! I wouldn’t recommend it except maybe for residents of the city. Had fun.
The Prague Cemetery - Umberto Eco
The second Eco I’ve read. The historical-references-dial got turned up a few notches more than in The Name of the Rose, but the story itself is less engaging. Maybe because it’s all told as memories, or because the main character is an unlikeable bastard. Still had a lot of fun.
Baron Munchausen - Erich Rudolf Raspe
I remember the stories of Baron von Munchausen when I was a kid, but reading them was just a slog. Except for the few well known ones, the rest was kinda boring and the shtick of the lying, exaggerating, confabulating narrator became old fast.
A Cat, a Man, and Two Women - Junichirō Tanizaki
A timeless story about a spineless man who loves his cat, but is forced to get rid of it and give it back to his ex, by his wife.
The Thursday Murder Club - Richard Osman
Funny murder mystery in a community for the elderly, with a few turns that make it enjoyable.
Jennifer Government - Max Barry
A libertarian parody that’s just so badly written it’s not even funny anymore. The characters are flat and the plot plain sucks. Horrible.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke
Practical magicians return during the Napoleonic wars. The teacher and the pupil have different objectives and ideas nor is the return of magic without consequences. Slow, long read, but very much worth it.
Nightbitch - Rachel Yoder
What it is to be and become a mother. Losing one life, finding a new one, delving into primal, animalistic instincts, losing one’s mind… It isn’t all rosy. Fun read, although the subject matter is quite distant to me.