Best of 2012: Debut Novels and Collections
December 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
11. Adam McOmber, The White Forest (novel). I had McOmber singled out for future reading after one of his stories made the longlist I developed for the aborted Best American Fantasy 4 and although he has a collection already out (which I will read in 2013), his debut novel, The White Forest, is a work that straddles an increasingly blurred line between realist and supernatural-tinged fiction.
10. Jac Jemc, My Only Wife (short novel). There is a subtlety to Jemc’s use of repetition of words, theme, and tone to outline a grief-stricken husband’s inability to get over his wife’s sudden (and possibly violent) disappearance. The prose is impeccable, with a narrative power that threatens to overwhelm the reader with a deluge of associations and emotions, without ever becoming maudlin.
9. Peter Heller, The Dog Stars (novel). This is Heller’s first novel after several non-fiction works and he eloquently captures the dual senses of freedom and loss in this near-future post-apocalyptic novel. Although some plot elements share much in common with other works of a similar nature, Heller’s narrative is taut, easily shifting from the literary present to the past without ever feeling forced or disruptive. The prose is deceptively poignant, creating a work that feels “alive” without pretensions to be artificially profound.
8. G. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen (novel). See my earlier review.
7. Jennifer duBois, A Partial History of Lost Causes (novel). See my earlier review.
6. Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds (novel). See my earlier review.
5. Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (novel). See my earlier review.
4. Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles (novel). 2012 winner of the Orange Prize. Miller’s retelling of Achilles’ life, including his love for Patroclus, could have been hackneyed. But her gift for narrative and character voices imbues this novel with a power that most veteran novelists will never accomplish.
3. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (novel). See my earlier review.
2. Claire Vaye Watkins, Battleborn (collection). See my earlier review.
1. L. Annette Binder, Rise (collection). See my earlier review.
Tupelo Hassman, Girlchild
Katie Ward, Girl Reading
Adam Wilson, Flatscreen
Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles
Domingo Martinez, The Boy Kings of Texas
Lydia Netzer, Shine Shine Shine
Christian Kiefer, The Infinite Tides
Karolina Waclawiak, How to Get Into the Twin Palms
Kevin Barry, City of Bohane