2006 In Review
Reviewed by Our Reviewers
01 January 2007
Graham Sleight: There are plenty of things to celebrate in SF and fantasy from 2006 but on the other side of the balance, it was a devastating year for deaths in the field. Just to take some of the most well-known names, we lost Lisa A. Barnett, Nelson S. Bond, David Feintuch, David Gemmell, Nigel Kneale, Stanislaw Lem, Jan Mark, John Morressy, and Wilson Tucker. We lost Octavia E. Butler, whose work has a grace and moral clarity that both transcends and honours her position as the pioneer African-American woman in the field. We lost John M. Ford, a talent—as Andrew Brown says—unique in or out of SF, a polymath who could create something new, it seemed, in whatever form he turned his hand to. Both Butler and Ford died in mid-career, at a time when we could have expected more works from them; Jack Williamson died in his ninth decade as a professional science fiction writer, and we were still expecting more works from him. (His most recent novel, The Stonehenge Gate, was published in 2005.) So much of our common vocabulary comes from Williamson—the word "terraforming," the paranoia of The Humanoids, the rationalised fantasy of Darker Than You Think, for starters—that it's hard to know where to start. It's not much of a consolation to say that their books remain, but they do.
Lesley A. Hall: There were some real high spots in new fiction this year: Jo Walton's Farthing, L. Timmel Duchamp's Renegade, Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword, Sarah Monette's The Virtu, Elizabeth Bear's Blood and Iron, the latest long-awaited P.C. Hodgell, and several more. There were also the non-fictional pleasures of Julie Phillips's acclaimed biography of Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr. and Farah Mendelsohn's brilliant study of the YA works of Diana Wynne Jones.
But a particular pleasure for me this year was reacquainting myself with the work of Naomi Mitchison (for a short profile, forthcoming from Aqueduct Press)—both her SF and fantasy, and her fantasy-inflected historical novels, which manifest her talent for worldbuilding. What a range she had! From the surreal Carrollian subterranean fantasy of Beyond this Limit to her witty meta-fictional take on the Arthurian cycle in To the Chapel Perilous, to the exploration narratives of inner and outer space in Memoirs of a Spacewoman and the thoughtful take on utopia as an ongoing process rather than a fixed state in Solution Three. These books stand up extremely well to repeated rereading, and remain good reads as well as sustaining close critical readings. It is a pity that her work keeps getting rediscovered on the basis of particular individual novels rather than as a corpus.
Adam Roberts: My favourite SF and fantasy texts of the year were neither of them books, something which may be a significant development, at least for me (because, you know, books are my life). But, as far as SF goes, I enjoyed enormously the poised, stylish, Teslaesque sort-of-steampunk The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan: a simplified, more mannered and considerably more schematic version of the story than Priest's original book, but none the worse for that. And, as far as fantasy, my favourite work this year has been the polished and evocative music of Pure Reason Revolution: proof that prog need not be naff.
There have been some good books too. Two collections in particular stand out: Lou Anders's Futureshocks and Pete Crowther's Forbidden Planets. Since I have stories in both that may look like a deplorable and vainglorious autorecommendation, so I should add that in both collections there are very many and much better stories than mine. The big SF novel of 2006 may well be the new Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day: another sort-of-steampunk work and a great wodge of a thing, by all accounts. But I haven't been allowed to read it yet. My wife has bought it me for Christmas, she says. And I'm not allowed to open my presents until the day itself. Chiz chiz.
Rose Fox: Without question, the top genre book I read this year is Gardner Dozois's Best of the Best Vol. 2. This collection is the best way I can think of for a reader to absorb the essence of the underheralded and extraordinary SF/novella synergy. Absolutely phenomenal writing, and great choices by Dozois; given how many wonderful SF novellas have been written in the past twenty years, assembling this anthology must have been simultaneously very easy and very hard.
Professional courtesy prevents me from mentioning most of the literary low points of the year. The true low points, of course, were the unexpected deaths of Octavia Butler, John M. Ford, and Jim Baen; I knew none of them personally, but I deeply admire their work, and their loss hit many of my friends very hard. As always, I was impressed and touched by the ways that the fan community comes together in difficult times. Less widely noted was the death of Bob Leman, whose stories are distilled essence of creepiness. If I ever find myself writing horror (stranger things have happened), I will turn to his work for inspiration. It's very sad to think there will be no more Feesters in the lake.
L. Timmel Duchamp: Looking back over the year, two events stand out in my memory, dwarfing everything else that happened in the field in 2006. The death of Octavia E. Butler, early in the year, marks a great loss, one I know I'll be feeling for a long time to come. But the publication of Julie Phillips's James Tiptree. Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, this summer, marks a great gain: this fabulous, scholarly contribution clarifies and illuminates the life and work of an important SF writer about whom "almost everyone begins their recollections with 'I didn't really know her very well'," setting a new standard for biographies in the field. My favorite short fiction collection was M. Rickert, Map of Dreams; my favorite anthology, ParaSpheres (ed. Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan); my favorite novel, Andrea Hairston, Mindscape; and my favorite genre films, A Scanner Darkly and The Prestige.
Abigail Nussbaum: 2006 was for me in many ways a year of mediocrity—books that tickled the underside of perfection but didn't quite make it; television series that devolved into pale shadows of themselves or were never very good to begin with; films with grand aspirations and not enough raw talent driving them to make good on those dreams—and I had all but despaired of finding a single favorite SF-related thing. Then I realized that that last item is, in itself, something to celebrate. It's probably nothing more than a coincidence, but the outgoing year saw the release of three films that, however flawed in their own rights, acknowledge that there is more to science fiction than lasers and villainous aliens, and go to the trouble of exploring the less pulpy corners of the genre. In a single year, we got Alfonso Cuáron's Children of Men—exceptionally well-made and convincingly grim if ultimately mindless—Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly—tragic and visually stunning if ultimately as bipolar and maudlin as its main character—and Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain—gorgeous and puzzling if ultimately an unholy mess. A veritable bumper crop, and even though, taken individually, none of these films has what it takes to be my year's favorite SF-related thing, their cumulative effect is to give me hope for a long-benighted corner of the genre.
Ben Peek: The saddest event of the year was Octavia Butler's death, in February, at the age of 58. She left behind a body of work that explored race, religion, identity, and sexuality, and did so with such a clear, passionate mind that the three decades in which she produced work does not seem long enough, not even for a moment. Her last work was Fledgling, a stopover, one thinks, as she worked through the writer's block that stopped her in the writing of her third parable novel, Parable of the Trickster. Still, not being her close and personal friend, and not at all knowing the working of her mind, I do not know if Butler herself saw the book as such. It remains true, however, that Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are both fine and admirable and important novels, and that you should read them. Just as you should read Kindred, yes, especially Kindred, which makes you realise how misused science fiction can be. And you should read the Patternist and Xenogenesis series, and you should even read her collection, Bloodchild and Other Stories, though Butler was never at her strongest with short fiction. You should read all of these books, and you should certainly buy them all, because one day, perhaps, they will not be available for you. A dead author is the easiest of all authors to forget, and if anything is right, we shouldn't forget Octavia Butler. Certainly I won't.
Kelly Christopher Shaw: My favorite works from 2006 include the final cinematic chapter of Park Chan-Wook's "Revenge Trilogy," Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005), which awed me with its poetic violence and left me contemplating the emotional and spiritual consequences of revenge. Though not tied to any genre, Lady Vengeance contains a plethora of surreal imagery, including a ghost and a human-faced dog.
The second and last season of HBO's TV series Carnivale (2003-5) gripped me with its mythic yet personal story of good versus evil during Depression-era America. While it echoes the work of Tim Powers, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen King, Carnivale is a singular achievement. I've never seen a TV show marry full-blown magic with such an honest depiction of reality. Nor have I ever seen a TV show posit such a unique central character; we despise the reluctant-savior Ben Hawkins (played by Nick Stahl) just as much as we root for him.
Other unforgettable works from 2006 include Jeff VanderMeer's novel Shriek: An Afterword, a deeply literate and imaginative family saga in the war-torn imaginary city of Ambergris, and Brian Evenson's The Torn Curtain, a harrowing psychological horror novel about the violence inherent in Mormon doctrine.
Erin Hoffman: This holiday season has been all about the Wii, so I might as well get that out of the way—it's a magnificent system, highly anticipated by the entire gaming community, and once again Nintendo looks set to change the face of games as we see them for many years. The latest Zelda game, Twilight Princess, would in previous years have been a sure bet for Game of the Year—but other contenders have risen to the challenge: this year the XBox 360 seems to be finally hitting its stride with amazingly immersive and beautiful games such as Gears of War. Similarly, despite—or perhaps exacerbating—the woes of Sony, the PS2 itself seems only now to be reaching its zenith. Games like last year's Shadow of the Colossus push boundaries and use gameplay in a uniquely compelling way, expanding our expression and absorption of fiction itself; and this year's Okami (which, if I'm any judge, will give Twilight Princess a run for its money) and Final Fantasy XII prove that this console is not even remotely nearing its sunset. Handhelds continue their rise, with Nintendo's DS Lite—a fantastic improvement on the original—flying off the shelves in record numbers. Uniquely innovative titles such as Big Brain Academy and Elite Beat Agents show what the DS can do, and how broad its audience can be, but my favorite for this year is a little-reviewed import title called Contact. Contact snuck out in October and, in addition to providing perhaps the first RPG that thoroughly integrates with the DS's unique two-screen technology, delivers character and quirky entertainment riffing elegantly on an astonishingly rich base of video game history—an old school gamer's game par excellence.
Iain Clark: Eight images from 2006 that will stay with me:
- The faun in Pan's Labyrinth making ambiguous, possibly sinister, demands of a small girl against the nightmarish backdrop of the Spanish Civil War.
- The Battlestar Galactica's fiery plummet through atmosphere; perhaps a metaphor for the way the series has fallen during 2006 but also one of many bold set-pieces.
- The final shot of the excellent and intricate The Prestige, an image which lingers longer in the imagination than it does on the screen.
- The flashback in Stargate SG-1's insane 200th episode to the purely imaginary episode in which the team rescue unconvincing Ewok-like creatures called Furlings.
- Hiro Nakamura teleporting himself from Japan to New York in the compulsively watchable Heroes.
- The sublime juxtaposition of revolutionary France, clockwork robots, and the far future in Doctor Who's "The Girl in the Fireplace."
- Clive Owen escorting a fragile baby through a realistic and harrowing war zone in Children of Men, a film that repeatedly surpassed my expectations.
- And lastly, one that may live in infamy but which I'm unlikely to forget: the quite bizarre pulp SF showdown between a Cyberwoman and a pterodactyl in Torchwood.
Victoria Hoyle: The best fantastical cinema of 2006? It could only be Pan's Labyrinth, a film both terrifying and invigorating, about the banality of violence transmuted by the uncanny imagination of a child. But the most thought-provoking, most-enjoyable book? That is much harder for me to pin down (not only because I read fewer new releases than I would like and more contemporary non-genre fiction than I should have). I greatly enjoyed Joe Abercrombie's traditional romp, The Blade Itself, part-Pratchett, part-Martin; and I thought Susanna Clarke's collection, The Ladies of Grace Adieu, was a fascinating answer to her phenomenally successful Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell; and I felt that David Mitchell's new novel, Black Swan Green, was under-rated in SF circles—a fantasy novel if I ever I read one. But I think, on reflection, that my overall favourite would have to be Ellen Kushner's The Privilege of the Sword, a return to the dank, labyrinthine streets of Riverside: if not for her explorations of gender and homosexual desire, or for her light touch in political drama, then for the pure joy of surrendering to her particularly thoughtful brand of swashbuckling swordplay.
Paul Kincaid: To be honest I don't think 2006 was a particularly good year for SF literature, though Nova Swing by M. John Harrison and End of the World Blues (my review) by Jon Courtenay Grimwood would both stand out even in a better year. In fantasy, I admired every other chapter of Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead, with the alternate chapters at least not letting the book slide too far into banal predictability. But away from prose fiction, what a good year it has been! Publisher of the year has to be Wesleyan, who have continued their series of elegantly produced and intelligently edited early classics of science fiction. Film of the year is, without question, The Prestige directed by Christopher Nolan. It is much simplified, both morally and structurally, from the original novel, but nevertheless it is one of the very few films that demands to be read the way you would read a book, with attention to detail and nuance. It has been one of the few years when non-fiction about SF has shone nearly as brightly as the fiction. There are several valuable and enjoyable books I could mention, but I have no hesitation in saying that the book of the year is James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips. It is possible to nitpick, of course, but I cannot remember the last literary biography I read that was so sympathetic to and revealing about its subject as this one: it is an essential work for every SF reader.
As for the disappointments of the year, there are almost too many to number. On television I got bored with Doctor Who about a third of the way through the latest series and have felt no inclination to watch any more. In books, I suppose the things that have depressed me most have been a succession of dull, lifeless, grimly tedious short story collections from otherwise reliable authors like Bruce Sterling, Paul Di Filippo, Jack Dann, and others.
Jonathan McCalmont: My book of the year was Jon Courtenay Grimwood's End of the World Blues (my review) by a country mile. It sticks closely to Grimwood's traditional theme of reinventing identity but the skill and intelligence of the writing is nothing short of superb. If it does not win an award then there's something seriously wrong with the SF community.
I spent the summer of 2006 discovering classic British horror, including the wonderful stage adaptation of Susan Hill's classic ghost story The Woman in Black and the lesser-known series of Nigel Kneale, the creator of Quatermass. While the likes of Beasts and The Stone Tape were undeniably my highpoint of the year, Kneale also provided me with my low point when he sadly passed away in October.
Kneale's skill and vision stand in stark contrast with the other low point of my year, the crushingly dull Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood (my comments). Kneale's genius allowed him to make classic genre TV with little more than two actors, a set and an idea. Meanwhile, the writers of Torchwood had a huge budget, unlimited good will and a remit to make challenging adult drama. Instead, they produced nothing but inane sophomoric crap. Come back Nigel!
Colin Harvey: Torchwood was both the best and worst SF of 2006.
At a time when US SF series like Star Trek and Stargate are dropping like flies, Russell Davies and the BBC bucked the trend, using the momentum from Doctor Who to generate what Davies originally pitched as "The X-Files meets This Life."
Then the hype ended, and the series proper started. Some episodes were okay, but some were the SF lows of the year; execrable scripts recycling Bride of Frankenstein, any cheap horror flick you can name, and Doctor Who's "Love and Monsters." Dumb scripts with plot-holes big enough to drive a double-decker bus through, and no rigour (Torchwood is a secret organization—so the team drive a black Range Rover with "Torchwood" stencilled on its wing around the city at conspicuously high speed).
But there are also some truly wonderful episodes like the heart-wrenching "Out of Time" (temporal refugees from 1953 trying to cope with modern life), the daft but enjoyable "Greeks Bearing Gifts," and the series highlight "They Keep Killing Suzie" (whodunit/character study/road movie/examination of the afterlife).
So watch it, but cross your fingers that season two (already commissioned) is more consistent. Stop grandstanding, Russell, start delivering.
Martin Lewis: I think for a lot of people 2006 will be the year Hollywood got Dick. It certainly was for me. A Scanner Darkly is one of Philip K Dick's best, and most personal, novels. Given the appalling track record of adaptations of his work the prospect of the film made me a little nervous. However director Richard Linklater suceeded admirably and the film perfectly captures the feel of Dick's novel. Some films, such as the recent French SF noir Rennaisance, use their visuals to try and distract from the paucity of things like plot and characters. In A Scanner Darkly the heavily rotoscoped post-production keeps the viewer unbalanced and so draws you into the paranoid world of its characters. This is coupled with a set of actors with a clear, intuitive feel for the material—in particular the scene-stealing performance from Robert Downey Jr. as Barris.
Jason Erik Lundberg: How to sum up an entire year in science fiction and fantasy? Bullet points! Highs:
- WisCon 30—Once again, my favorite convention of the year. I was so proud and honored to share in its 30th anniversary.
- V for Vendetta, the film—Differences from the incredible graphic novel aside, this movie adaptation was a piece of cinematic brilliance, politically topical and with the Wachowskis' touch for both the grandiose and intensely personal.
- Two new story-suites from Zoran Zivkovic: The Bridge and Miss Tamara, The Reader—Once again, Zivkovic displays his understated artistry in his favorite literary format. Published in limited printing via Polaris Press, both books are forthcoming in the UK from PS Publishing.
- Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer (my review)—Many years in the making, this is VanderMeer's finest and most assured Ambergris work to date.
- Alabaster by Caitlin R. Kiernan—At last, a collection of Dancy Flammarion stories all in one place, beautifully illustrated by Ted Naifeh.
- The death of Octavia Butler (although it did get me to finally read her books, so there is one positive thing that came from this unexpected loss).
- Harlan Ellison's treatment of Connie Willis at the Hugo Awards.
Justin Howe: The year started off well for me with Bruce MacAllister's short story "The Boy from Zaquitos" in the January issue of F&SF. My first encounter with MacAllister, I didn't mind missing my subway stop to finish the story. Peter Beagle's novella "Two Hearts," meanwhile, was probably the biggest magazine highlight for me, if not of all the fiction I read this year. On the small screen, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace reached American cable-space, and The Amazing Screw-on Head flashed briefly across the Internet. Screw-on Head failed to secure space on the same cable, but is worth searching for.
It was a great year for reprints. More Avram Davidson returned to print, especially the much sought-after (at least by me) Adventures in Unhistory. George Alec Effinger's Marid Audran Budayeen novels (When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, The Exile Kiss) reappeared in nice editions during the summer, reminding me I really have to write an article on them. Elsewhere, Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly captured the humor along with the darkness of Philip K. Dick, and Jaimie Hernandez's graphic novel Ghost of Hoppers fused aging punk rockers, magic realism, and ghosts in a seemingly effortless whole. Here's to 2007—maybe I'll finally get my 2005 reading done.
Dan Hartland: Having written a review for Strange Horizons earlier in the year in which I criticised the common urge to declare bests of everything year in, year out, I'm somewhat surprised they thought I'd have an answer for this piece. To lift something from 2006 and laud it would really be to find the best of an average bunch merely for the sake of getting excited. If The Weight of Numbers was OK as far as these things go, and A Scanner Darkly was halfway along the road to almost getting there, they were indicative of a year which for the most part trod water. This is natural—most years will not give us a timeless classic, and don't need to. But faced with choosing a "best" of 2006, I find myself engaged in a futilely difficult task: most of it was, after all, much of a muchness.
Duncan Lawie: Interzone is still settling into its new life—having again changed dimensions for the final issue of the year. It's now in full colour and much shinier than any other serious fiction publication I know, but their mission is still excellent short SF. Issue 206, with "The Beekeepers" by Jamie Barras, Will McIntosh's "The New Chinese Wives," and "Karel's Prayer" by Chris Beckett, was a particular high point.
For low points, David Tennant changed Doctor Who from a favourite uncle into an annoying little brother, with Rose as a slapper in need of a slap. Meanwhile, Torchwood turned the dangerous and sexy Captain Jack into a reliable older brother.
SF at book length was mixed. Charles Stross and Neal Asher appeared to be competing for most books published in the year. Asher is loping along at a pace that covers many pages without giving away too much plot whilst Stross is building his mastery of short and medium distances, achieving a first rate novel in Glasshouse. However, by far the book of the year for me is Peter Watts's Blindsight—really hard SF which employs horror tropes yet left me feeling very strange.
Tony Keen: My personal SF highs were getting a Research Associateship to acknowledge my work on SF and the Greco-Roman classics, and the publication (at last) of The Arthur C. Clarke Award: A Critical Anthology, with my chapter on Jeff Noon's Vurt. Egoboo aside, this is an always-interesting collection, and one piece—Justina Robson's essay on Take Back Plenty—is pure genius. Staying with the Clarke, few argued with Geoff Ryman's multiple award wins for Air, even if the novel inevitably can't quite fulfill the expectation they create. The King's Last Song is (so far) a worthy follow-up; few other 2006 novels (out of a limited reading) grabbed me.
In other media, Christopher Nolan's The Prestige takes liberties with Christopher Priest's novel, but is nevertheless excellent. Torchwood's trailer had me jumping with excitement, but the series failed to deliver. But BBC4's Sci-Fi Britannia season was intelligent and unpatronizing, especially in the documentary The Martians and Us. Dark Season was finally released on DVD, so everyone can see how good Russell T. Davies can be. Finally, Concussion showed how to do an Eastercon that maintains a broad appeal without losing its critical edge, and was the best convention for ages.
Donna Royston: By far the most powerful SF experience for me this year was not a book but the two-part Doctor Who story "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances." I know, those of you across the Atlantic saw it in 2005, but in the US we didn't have a chance until May 2006. I was late in hearing that the Doctor was back and the season was well advanced before I tuned in. The first episode that I saw was "The Empty Child," set in London during the Blitz. The story was viscerally terrifying—words fail to describe the experience of watching it. The forlorn little boy in a gas mask, eternally wandering, searching for his "mummy" is a fascinating and fearful thing.
Aristotle defined "catharsis" as creating an intense experience of pity and fear in the viewer, and "The Empty Child" has that effect. I have never been able to decide whether this effect is exactly cleansing, as Aristotle saw it, but the most interesting thing about "The Empty Child" is that it delivers, in a fantastic context, human drama without sentimentality, catharsis without final tragedy. The episodes were written by Steven Moffat and were awarded a Hugo in August 2006.
Siobhan Carroll: This was a good year for bleak SF movies. On the positive side of the spectrum, Bryan Singer once again proved himself the go-to guy for comic book adaptations with a sweet-but-effective Superman Returns, while the Wachowski brothers proved a safe second bet by producing the first-ever good adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel, the stylish V for Vendetta. The American release of British horror-flick The Descent proved that fear can still be found in dark places while Children of Men’s white-knuckle chase through a bleak future Britain makes it a strong contender for best SF film of the year. If I had to pick the must-see movie of the year it would probably come down to a tie between V for Vendetta and Children of Men: the first because it’s an interesting crowd-pleaser and the second because it’s one of the most suspenseful SF movies you’ll ever see.
In fiction, horror had a great year, with Scott Smith’s The Ruins and Max Brooks’s World War Z achieving mainstream success. The latter seems to have attracted a lot of Hollywood interest, which promises good things for lovers of zombie movies. In television, Battlestar Galactica continued to head the pack of SF series while NBC’s Heroes won tremendous mainstream support for prime-time comic bookism. Expect a lot of dreadful Heroes clones to hit the airwaves next season as other networks try to ape NBC’s success.
David Soyka: Groucho Marx famously said that he wouldn't want to join any club that wanted him as a member. The genre continued to bitch and moan that it isn't being taken seriously by the literary establishment (as if this is anything new) and attempted to claim respectability by redefining itself as something other than science fiction or fantasy. Again. So we had ParaSpheres (my review), which made a point of building on the platform Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists set up a few years ago, and Feeling Very Strange (my review), which built on the notion of slipstream from the 1980s, to stake out claims for literary legitimacy. Meanwhile, Cormac McCarthy's The Road is deservedly getting on the end of year "best of" lists in both mainstream and genre categories. As is Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day (which I haven't read, though I want to, despite the fact I still haven't cracked open Mason & Dixon ... I finished Gravity's Rainbow, though I need to re-read it because I didn't understand much of it). Speaking of mainstream tastes, David Itzkoff's inaugural Sunday New York Times Book Review ghetto column made him appear woefully unqualified to seriously discuss SF/fantasy (though, of late, he's redeemed himself with much more incisive commentary). And people keep describing Battlestar Galactica as quality television "because it isn't really science fiction because it deals with real human issues." Like, duh, what do these people think "real" science fiction has always been about? Oh, that's right, people who think they should disdain the form so, consequently, they've never read it. All of which goes to show that the more humankind travels into the future, the more it stays rooted in the prejudices of the past.
Niall Harrison: If 2006 was a year with relatively few gems, what gems there were shone all the brighter. Peter Watts's Blindsight (my review) is a seamless combination of idea, character, and style, and a remarkable hard SF achievement; Julie Phillips' biography of Alice Sheldon (my comments) is, as many people have observed, everything a great biography should be; Heroes is big bold entertainment, and quite indecent amounts of fun; and Children of Men (my review) and The Prestige managed to be stylish without sacrificing their smarts. It was a good year for short fiction collections in general—from Jeffrey Ford's The Empire of Ice-Cream and Ian R. Macleod's Past Magic to Theodora Goss's In The Forest of Forgetting and Susanna Clarke's The Ladies of Grace Adieu—but the best of them was M. Rickert's debut, Map of Dreams. Or it almost certainly was: I can't say for sure, since at the time of writing—shamefully, since I'm meant to be reviewing it for these pages—I haven't actually finished it.
Tim Phipps: I can't be bothered to choose highs and lows, so I'm presenting you instead with a list. From this list, you can choose whether each entry is a high or a low for yourself. It's about time you stopped being so damned passive, anyway.
- Torchwood turning out to be the best unintentional comedy this side of the non-headlining stars of Borat.
- We Love Katamari and Me and My Katamari turning out to be the most stupidly straightforward and yet mind-blowingly addictive games of the year.
- Rose Tyler having a complete character lobotomy and being stranded with no remnant of the life she loved, despairing in a parallel universe and thereby no longer able to subvert the fact that the Doctor used to have a brain, once.
- Finally, a Lego Star Wars game being released that covers the original trilogy, and behaving in the cutscenes like it believes its own comedy hype far too much.
- Mission: Impossible 3 being utterly, irredeemably crap.
- Strange Horizons running a Doctor Who-themed review week, me doing the only positive review of the bunch, and then my one getting more annoyed comments from Who fans than any of the others. Fandom, I love you!