There's nothing really wrong with theory...

... I guess, but it's not my thing. I don't know whether it's because I'm lazy, or because those books were always just two or three titles too far down my 'to read' list to ever actually get read, but...I'm going to pretty much skip over the valuable and, no doubt interesting, discussion on how to talk about books and move on to something I do like: talking about books.

It seems pretty clear to me that we're unlikely to be reading the same things at any given moment, so it's tricky to come up with a common point of discussion, but I thought it might be interesting to talk about the best sf novel we've read all year. One book. Doesn't have to be new, but should be if possible.

My pick for the best SF novel of the year is William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. Why? Well, first of all it's beautifully written. Gibson has always been a better prose stylist than structural tale builder, and some of the writing in the book is gorgeous. Second, I think it's an uncommonly timely book. Gibson has set in the novel in the very near future and has focussed on something we all are confronted by every day: communicating with one another through an intensely mediated culture. In many ways this has always been the basis for his fiction, but he's never done it better than here. Third, I think the book is cool. It has great ideas, fun stuff, and is a joy to read. In fact, it's the only book I read in '03 that I've been tempted to re-read. I started reading the book in a Starbucks on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California back in September of 2002, and finished it back here in Perth, after a very long flight. The whole notion of 'soul delay' and such resonated more and more, as did the globe-hopping settings etc. The book does have one flaw, when considered as SF, though. It's not actually SF at all. I think the only element that could be considered unusual is the lead character's allergy to brands and branding, and that's hardly sfnal. That said, I stand by it. There were a lot of good books in 2003, but none better than this.

So guys, what do you think? Did you read something worthwhile last year, or did you think my choice sucked? Over to you...


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