(Note, I'm not including most technical literature, If I did I'd have to include a shelf of o'reily books and some A level core texts!)
The first three are minor cheats, I started reading them in the last few weeks of 2009.
Atomised, by Michel Houellebeca
Despite tearing into this book at a ferocious lick, I have to say I found the final third of the book disappointing, clumsy and even cowardly. Suddenly switching genres to use a laughably dubious science fiction scenario to suggest that some of the more overtly selfish social reforms might, ultimately, yield a utopia felt cheap. It also drags attention to how badly the books background material might have been researched, some of the pop science was conspicuously shaky, which leads me to wonder how subjective the sociological posits were. Admittedly a work that slags off the 68ers and accuses "sexual spirituality" types of "hypocrisy in the name of shagging young girls" will get a reasonably enthusiastic response from me. But daring to suggest that we should write all this damage off "because maybe one day there'll be a social change that is genuinely wonderful, so we shouldn't dismiss any social change out of hand" is the worst kind of simpering imaginable. Despite how annoyed I am with this book I'm tempted to read it again to make sure that I'm holding the right end of the stick. (Update, there are enough similarly unimpressed people on amazon to reassure me that this is a plausible end of the stick to grab.)
Dawn of the Dumb, Charles Brooker
A book I enjoyed unreservedly. Excellent observations on the nature of herd consuming media types and the current mentality of the British People. I didn't even mind one of the longest rants being about mac users, simply because mac users are above such jealous bickering, The longest rant was against a columnist in The Star. I'm glad that there is someone with two braincells somewhere, reading the star to check that it's fucking awful. It's a job I'd hate to do.
Isaac Asimov's Mysteries,
Somehow I've got through all these years without reading any Asimov. Three years ago this somehow resulted in a girl at speed-dating placing a sticker with "liar" written on it, on my forehead. I found Asimov's simple charm to be, well charming. Several of the mysteries had conspicuously common elements, but for the most part a thoroughly delightful read.
Isaac Asimov: The complete Stories, Volume 1,
Depressingly I think IA might be the first truly original science fiction author I've read. Although I did read some John Christopher as a teenager, and the Chrysalids half a decade ago. Admittedly I'm reading anthologies of Asimov's work, but none of it has disappointed me so far. It's also underlined something that I've secretly known for the last few years, Most contemporary television based "sci-fi" is just soap-operas with extra flashing lights, derivative of HG wells with the wit washed out.
Electronic Brains, Mark Hadley
A lively read about the early computers, with some interesting biographical notes. Slating Ada Lovelace still hasn't got old, although the author does point out some interesting contributions. Interestingly, he was very far from flattering, indeed almost dismissive of Turing. It seems well researched and suitably fills the gap in pop-history coverage of computing.
The Emperor's Codes, Michael Smith
Another cheat from my backlog of reading, I bought this book early in 2001, and started reading it from page one in October of last year. The book describes the assault by the allies on the Japanese code systems of the Second world war. Although Bletchley Park played a role in the proceedings, the intelligence structure was starkly different to that which dealt with the German systems. It took a long time before I really appreciated what I was reading. This book describes the evolution of the intelligence apparatus, and organisational structure that broke and exploited Japanese Signals Intelligence. I bought it expecting to find detailed descriptions of PURPLE, JADE and so on, however Japan favoured book and hand-arithmetic codes rather than the mechanism of the european systems. Also as BP was a long way from the operational theatre a lot of the equivalent work was done in forward bases. Worth reading for another window into the affairs of BP, and also a view on an almost paramilitary approach to cryptography.
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
It's taken a ridiculous amount of time, but I got round to reading this. My first giggle was in the introduction, when they mention that at one point they tired sending pages to each other over 1200/75 modems. At times the duo seem very much like Douglas Adams, a thoroughly enjoyable book, with many of Pratchett's hallmark devices.
Infinite Requiem, Daniel Blythe
A friend of mine gave me this as a duplicate from his collection of Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures.
It flirted interestingly with some hard sci-fi concepts, and made a far better fist of multiple timezones than many books, it suffered mildly for a couple of Seventh Doctor's trademark quirks, and also for integration with NA arc. All in all I don't consider reading this book a waste of my time, but I'd struggle to find an excuse for suggesting anyone else reads it. This is the 14th of the NAs that I've read, making my coverage of them better than one in five, but with such a departure from strict series order as to be laughable.
Futuretrack 5, Robert Westall
At the age of 12 I was forbidden from reading this book, deemed "Not our type of book" rather than "Too old for you". Westall's dystopian future got many things wrong. (Not least the depth of history he suggests puts the divergence back well beyond the publication date for the book itself!) and some things disturbingly accurate. Westall leaves the mysteries of who ultimately runs the monstrosity tantalisingly out of reach for most of the book, eventually raising some stark questions about human fallibility. When an author suggests an appalling action by a future government, I can't help but think that they either see governments as intrinsically sadistic, or that they imagine some situations might realistically seem like problems to be solved by such awful means. The central character (It's a first person book.) Is by turns cynical, compassionate, idealistic, jaded and eventually nihilistic and ruthless. Certainly a book I've enjoyed reading, maybe I'll read it again someday.
The Steep Approach To Garbadale, Iain Banks
As reviewers always say "Best book this author has ever written", it's hard to take such reviews seriously. Somehow this is the first Iain Banks I've read this year (Well I'm still chewing on "Raw Spirit".) The protagonist seemed to be a cross between Prentice (The Crow Road) and Ken Nott (Dead Air), there were some genuine comic relief characters, which seems like something of an innovation or Banks. The twist managed to be not quite the one I expected, (Hmmm, dose of "Wasp Factory" there?) but was well engineered, and cast an early section of the book into a very different light. For all of the cynicism that I can find for the book, the technical execution was very good. Even when Banks can make an intricate plot look easy he still does a conspicuously good job of telling the story.
Cat And Mouse, James Paterson
Years ago a housemate observed that James Paterson's books were being advertised on TV, and suggested that this was an indication of poor quality. Earlier this year I was drinking real ale in a pub in London when on of the people I was with abandoned this book having finished it. (It still has a price label on the front, £2 from a charity shop somewhere.) Christ this book is awful. Lets not beat about the bush, anyone who writes in the first person, as if they are some sort of superman (Alex Cross being a genius profiler, strong, fantastic in bed, great with kids...) Has Issues. I've read enough of this guy.