BOOKGASM’s Best (and Worst) of 2006

chinatown death cloud peril reviewGoing through 51 weeks’ worth of reviews, one thought struck me above all others: “Geez, we covered a ton of books this year.” You’d think that’d make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, but no. These books below stuck out for a reason – click any of the links to read our original reviews.

Best in Fiction
For those of you among the BOOKGASM faithful, this should come as no surprise: Paul Malmont’s THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL made our summer, and nothing else came close before or since. Paying tribute to pulp fiction in a literary style, Malmont excites while eliciting emotion – no easy task – and emerges with the year’s best made-up read, ironically about real-life writers most would think unworthy of such a showcase. Their loss, your gain. We simply cannot wait for Malmont’s next.

Runners-up: James Morrow’s criminally ignored bizarro fantasy THE LAST WITCHFINDER, Hard Case Crime’s one-two punch of Seymour Shubin’s WITNESS TO MYSELF and Max Allan Collins’ THE LAST QUARRY, David L. Robbins’ inexplicably overlooked thriller THE ASSASSINS GALLERY, Joseph Wambaugh’s welcome return with HOLLYWOOD STATION, Christopher Fowler’s addictive whodunit TEN SECOND STAIRCASE and Scott Smith’s horrific (in a bloody good way) THE RUINS.

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10 Books I Can’t Wait for in 2007

the terror reviewTHE TERROR by Dan Simmons – Take a true-life Arctic expedition gone horribly, fatally wrong; fictionalize it with a supernatural element and an epic scope; and you’ve got the latest from Simmons, returning to horror after a long hiatus that’s seen him concentrating on sci-fi. Early reviews peg this as a cross between Stephen King’s fright-filled novels and Patrick O’Brian’s nautical adventures. Though it will be cold in January, this has the potential to chill you even more. (Jan. 7)

DEEP STORM by Lincoln Child – Child’s third solo outing finds him firmly entrenched in thrillerville, with an outbreak on an oil rig, an undersea habitat and a little something called Atlantis. As stated many times before, I’ll gladly read anything this man writes. (Jan. 30)

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13 Books I Didn’t Get a Chance to Read in 2006 (but Wish I Had)

mask of atreus reviewBecause that pesky thing known as “making a living” prevents me from reading all day long, I can’t always get to everything I want. Such as these unlucky 13 novels, in no particular order other than their left-to-right position on my shelf, on which they sit, mocking me with their uncracked spines:

THE MASK OF ATREUS by A.J. Hartley
IN DREAMS by Shane Christopher
SHADOWS BEND by David Barbour and Richard Raleigh
LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King
THREE DAYS TO NEVER by Tim Powers
THE GLASS BOOKS OF THE DREAM EATERS by Gordon Dahlquist
THE PALE BLUE EYE by Louis Bayard
THE LOST VAN GOGH by A.J. Zerries
THE POE SHADOW by Daniel Pearl
THE SWARM by Frank Schatzing
SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pessl
THE THIRTEENTH TALE by Diane Setterfield
DEMON THEORY by Stephen Graham Jones
–Rod Lott

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5 Best Sci-Fi Books of 2006

infoquake review2006 was a solid year for science fiction. The biggest story of the year, in my opinion, is Pyr’s rise to prominence as a high-quality sci-fi imprint. Pyr has managed to round up a stable of authors and titles that represents the cutting edge of sci-fi and backs it up with promotion and marketing that pretty much outdoes the other imprints out there. Bravo, Pyr. Here’s hoping for an even greater 2007. With that groveling out of the way, here’s the rundown of the five best sci-fi books I read this year:

5. INFOQUAKE by David Louis Edelman / CROSSOVER by Joel Shepherd (tie) – This pair of books is a great example of what Pyr is doing right. INFOQUAKE is a tech-heavy exercise in scientific speculation that combines economics, high technology and business mechanics into an all-too-human story of greed, loss and redemption. CROSSOVER isn’t satisfied with being just another hot-chick-android-assassin book and goes for some heavy-duty characterization (not unlike what’s been going on in TV’s BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) that makes the kicking ass that much more tremendous.

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9 Fake Books I Wish Someone Had Published This Year

mug shot paul reubens1. IF I DID IT by Paul Reubens – In this thrilling and highly controversial book, the former PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE star takes a speculative look at the way events might have unfolded on July 26, 1991, if he really had been guilty of invading his own private manzone in a Sarasota, Fla., adult movie theater.

2. NEWTON’S FOLLY by Michael Crichton – Having previously set his sights on debunking global warming, workplace sexual harassment and the humanity of the Japanese people, the bestselling author of JURASSIC PARK now has set his sights on science’s most sacred law: gravity. Set in a gritty, unnamed urban metropolis, Crichton tells the story of a former physicist-turned-homicide-detective who investigates a series of deaths in which the victims seem to have floated mysteriously off the ground and asphyxiated in the airless heights of the planet’s atmosphere. As is typically the case with most of Crichton’s novels, NEWTON’S FOLLY was simultaneously released to theaters in an adaptation starring Michael Douglas as the detective with teen singing sensation JoJo as his stewardess girlfriend.

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Mark Rose’s Year in Review

new york review of booksThe year 2006 was a stunner for this reviewer. After plowing through exactly 71 books in 11 months, only some of which were for review at this site, I’ve come to believe that: a) my own coming-of-age novel has not only grown up, but left the house and had kids, and maybe it’s better to stop thinking about writing the Great American Novel and end up just hoping to find it; b) my God, there’s a lot of fucking crap published nowadays; and c) trusting book reviewers is a risky business.

I subscribe to every book review publication there is, and the print magazines have just become a joke. If you want political polemic, you can go to The New York Review of Books, but you won’t get fair reviews there. The London Review of Books is strong, but also decidedly anti-American, so be warned. The Times Literary Supplement is the best of the bunch, but it’s also a whopping $169 a year. At least Bookforum is reasonably priced, but it gets a little smarmy with the fiction. Still, that’s probably the best print magazine to get if you’re interested in books. But what about mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, horror and genre fiction? Well, for that, I hope you come to BOOKGASM.

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WHAT ED READ >> Best of 2006

ed gorman what ed readQuick takes and capsule reviews from the dark suspense master himself, Ed Gorman!

the husband reviewSince I’m never sure what “best” is supposed to mean, I’m submitting these books because they gave me great degrees of pleasure in a variety of ways:

THE HUSBAND by Dean Koontz
DARK HARVEST by Norman Partridge
ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark
ECHO PARK by Michael Connelly
THE CRIMES OF JORDAN WISE by Bill Pronzini
THE DEAD LETTERS by Tom Piccirilli
THE EMPIRE OF ICE CREAM by Jeffrey Ford
ROAD TO PARADISE by Max Allan Collins
EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME by Robert Randisi
THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL by Paul Malmont –Ed Gorman

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14 Books I Read in 2006 Absolutely Free, Thanks to My Local Library

stiff review1. STIFF: THE CURIOUS LIVES OF HUMAN CADAVERS by Mary Roach – Roach gives death the humor treatment as she examines all things post-mortem, including the making of a skeleton, cremation and embalming and the use of cadavers for research. While very funny and witty, she is also respectful of the dearly departed.

2. SNOW CRASH by Neal Stephenson – Sci-fi for readers who don’t usually do sci-fi. The mafia is in control of pizza delivery and people have alternate lives within the “Metaverse,” a sort of futuristic Internet. Inside this computer-generated world, one can always spot an Avatar that’s gained entry via a public-access terminal because it is low-res and crappy-looking. And one can always spot an Avatar that’s fallen victim to the designer drug known as Snow Crash because their brain will be fried.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Stark House Rules & Stark Raving Crap

bullets broads blackmail and bombsa night for screaming reviewIf I were to do a standard Top 10 list of the year’s best books, five of the slots would be taken up by a certain plucky little publishing house in California. So why not just cut the standard list in half and focus directly on the venerable Stark House Press, purveyor of many fine two-in-one collections of classic crime novels.

Top 5 Twofers from Stark House Press:

1. A NIGHT FOR SCREAMING / ANY WOMAN HE WANTED by Harry Whittington – This book made me such a fan of Whittington, aka the king of the paperbacks. Now I’m always on the lookout for more of his stuff in the used stores (usually to no avail), so I hope Stark House reissues some more.

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MERRY NEWSGASM >> 12.24.06

newsgasmAll the news that’s fit to capsulize!

We wish all our readers a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah or a pleasant what-have-you! For the final week of 2006, we’ve got year-end lists galore from several of our staffers, starting on the day after Christmas and leading to the all-inclusive “best and worst of 2006” on Friday. Pull yourself out of your eggnog stupor and come back!

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