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2009, best of!

by nickmamatas

Why did I wait until 2010 to make my best-of 2009 list? Well, partially to avoid the traffic of everyone else’s list, and partially because great new material was coming out as recently as yesterday! I mean, J-Lo’s dress at Times Square…

I’ll recuse Haikasoru titles and other books I edited myself from this list for the same reason mothers tell their children “I love you all the same.” It’s because I do.

Anyway, moving on. My picks for 2009:

Best Science Fictionish Novel: The City and the City by China Mieville. Maybe it’s because I live on a border between towns—my landlord even recently reminded all his tenants to call 911 in an emergency, unless the emergency takes place across the street…then we had a ten-digit number to dial—but I loved this fantastical mystery of two cities that occupy the same geography, and the hints of a third city that goes unseen between the two. Whether in Besz or Ul Qoma, residents are trained since birth to “unsee” the others and even the local geography. And when a young archeologist is killed in one city and her body dumped in the other, well… Check it out.

Best Manga: The Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. It’s the history of postwar Japan and the rise of manga and its more serious-minded offshoot gekiga through the eyes of one of its greatest practitioners. I’m a sucker for literary biography, and this is one of the better ones. Tatsumi, only mildly disguised under a slightly different name, tells his own story without blinking. The flaws of his family, his own traumas and failures, the passion for creation and the agony of rejection…it’s all here in a surprisingly effective “cartoony” visual idiom.

Best VIZ Manga: Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka. A re-imagining of a classic Astro Boy storyline, I spent much of the year calling this series “the Watchmen of manga.” And it is, both structurally (“Who is killing the world’s greatest robots? One of their own number must find out…”) and thematically. One needn’t be familiar with the antecedents to really enjoy this manga, which is ably translated and wonderfully rendered. I spent a number of afternoons reading office copies of the issues at my desk as they’ve come out. Luckily, it looks like I’m working when I do!

Best VIZ Product: Missin’ by Novala Takemoto. A short novel in two volumes about punk and ennui among young Japanese. Sometimes the best looks at a culture come from its outliers, and Takemoto has what seems to be direct entree into the minds of young, obsessed women who find solace in music, fashion, and one another. Highly recommended.

Best Movie: Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino. Spoiler alert: Hitler dies! A testament to the power of filmmaking and mythmaking, and one with surprisingly little violence for a war pic and a Tarantino flick. I mean, there’s still plenty, but the film is ultimately contemplative and suspensful, not a bloodbath. If this doesn’t win the Best Picture Oscar, expect a sudden explosion from behind the screen… The last line of the film sums it up: “I think this is my greatest masterpiece yet.” It is.

We’ll be back at work Monday, bringing you the best in science fiction and fantasy for the rest of the year! I hope you all keep an eye out for our January titles, Yukikaze and The Book of Heroes. Both just eighteen days away? Don’t mess yourselves waiting!

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