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What Is Best In Life 2006: Peggy Hailey edition
© Peggy Hailey
January 04, 2007

Shriek: An Afterword and Secret Life: The Select Fire Remix

You'd think Jeff VanderMeer would be content with one spot on my list, wouldn't you? I mean, he writes a full-length Ambergris novel. He spotlights my favorite character from City of Saints & Madmen, irascible historian Duncan Shriek. We learn more about the elusive gray caps. It's serious and beautiful and yet it never loses its sense of humor.

What more do you need? Well, you need Secret Life: the Select Fire Remix from Wildside Press. Really. Even if you have the Golden Gryphon hardcover. This version is, as the title implies, a remix. Some stories are missing. New ones have appeared. The ones appearing in both versions have been tightened up and reshuffled for better impact.

But mostly because it's hilarious. The whole package, from the back cover copy to the list of previous works ("City of Saints and Madmen 2.5," indeed) to the promo sheet sent out along with it cracks me up. Dammit, why don't I have a copy of "City of Saints and Madmen Meta"?

The Android's Dream

Although I've heard nothing but good things about John Scalzi's Old Man's War, I still haven't gotten around to reading it. Which, given how much sheer fun The Android's Dream is, makes me an idiot. Seriously. If you can put this book down after reading the first paragraph, you're a better person than me. It's got action. It's got adventure. It's got power politics and strange alien races. It's got the snappiest dialogue since Nick & Nora Charles set the banter highwater mark. Get it. Read it. Love it. And right soon.

Cover Story

I've covered my love for John Picacio's book in depth elsewhere on the site, so I won't go on too long here. I'll simply say that this book is so pretty it makes all my other books jealous.


Do you remember when you were a kid and you spent your weekends lost in the latest non-stop, quick-moving, sword-wielding, jungle-trekking, dinosaur-chasing adventure you were watching/reading at the time? Man oh man, how I loved that. So you can imagine how happy I was when I read Chris Roberson's Paragaea and got to experience that all over again: Russian cosmonauts, time-travelling adventurers, jaguar-men, reptile people. What more could you want?

The Ladies of Grace Adieu

Susannah Clarke's epic Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell made my Best in Life list back in 2004, where I eagerly awaited more. Finally, I have my wish with this charming collection . Not all of the stories are set in the same universe as Johnathan Strange, but the authorial tone I enjoyed so much is back, as are a sprinkling of those delicious footnotes. Clarke has the amazing ability to make a story that you're reading for the first time seem like something you've always known, as if you had it told to you when you were very small and forgot all about it until now.

The Empire of Ice Cream And Other Stories

You know, I pick up Jeff Ford's books because I expect a good story, well told, with some unexpected detours along the way, and I have yet to be disappointed. This wonderful collection from Golden Gryphon is no exception. The stories are funny, sad, strange, and moving, and beg to be read more than once.

Cross Plains Universe

My review covered the basics, but I would be remiss if I didn't remind you all just how much I enjoyed this one.

She's Such A Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff

Calling all you geek girls out there: this one's for you. It's a collection of essays by some staggeringly accomplished women about growing up with an interest and ability in such traditionally male-oriented areas as math, computers, technology, and gaming. You'll definitely find something here that strikes a chord.

The Art of Ray Harryhausen

With all of the incredible computer-generated special effects these days, it's easy to look back at Ray Harryhausen's creations and think of them as old-fashioned and quaint. But whenever I see one of those glorious stop-motion creatures, I'm instantly 10 years old again, sitting in a darkened theatre with the widest eyes you've ever seen. This gorgeous book tells some of Harryhausen's story, which is fascinating, but trust me, you want this book for the pictures, not the words: working sketches, never-before-seen creatures, and all of your old favorites on beautiful glossy pages.

James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon

This may well be the best book I read all year. I knew that Tiptree was Sheldon, and I knew a little bit about Sheldon's history, but DAMN. I could not put this book down. I kept bugging my friends to read it so we could talk about it. Writer Julie Phillips researched this book for years and it shows. The detail is incredible.

"Getting Dark"

Subterranean #5 contained this dandy of a creepy story from Neal Barrett. It's dark. It's moody. And it creates one of the best Something is Not Right Here atmospheres that I've read recently.

Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard

I expected an easily accessible style. I expected solid scholarship and a passionate defense of Howard's legacy. What I didn't expect was to get so caught up in Mark Finn's picture of Howard's world that I didn't want to put the book down. Of course you should read this if you're a fan of Robert E. Howard and his work. You don't need me to tell you that. But even folks who only know Howard in passing will get caught up in this one. (See, Mark? I didn't even mention the furry underpants.)

Tree of Woe

You know, this time of year I'm so full of a general, free-floating retail holiday hate that I really can't focus enough to hate specific things.

For other looks at what is best in life for 2006, see Rick Klaw, Mark Finn, Gary Mitchel, and Matthew Pook, who killed your snake.

Peggy Hailey is RevolutionSF's books editor. When she says "jaguar-men," she's actually talking about people who own the car. And are part jaguar.

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