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2009: A Year in Review [John’s Take]

As I’ve done in in previous years (see year-end summaries for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008) here’s a summary of my personal sf, fantasy and horror experiences for 2009.


Here are the best of 2009. These are not necessarily things that first appeared this year, they are just the things that I read, watched or listened to this year, excluding personal reading projects.

The best novels I read in 2009 were:

The best short fiction titles (anthologies, collections, & magazines) were:

The best films I watched were:

  • X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • Up (2009)
  • Sin City (2005)
  • District 9 (2009)
  • The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
  • V for Vendetta (2005)

Read on for the longer version…

(Novels, Anthologies, Collections, Magazines, Reading Projects)
  1. The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
  2. Starship: Mutiny by Mike Resnick
  3. Starship: Pirate by Mike Resnick
  4. Starship: Mercenary by Mike Resnick
  5. Starship: Rebel by Mike Resnick
  6. Gunpowder by Joe Hill
  7. Eclipse Two edited by Jonathan Strahan
  8. The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton
  9. Three Unbroken by Chris Roberson
  10. The Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko
  11. The Repossession Mambo by Eric Garcia
  12. The Man Who Turned Into Himself by David Ambrose
  13. We Think Therefore We Are edited by Peter Crowther
  14. Prophets by S. Andrew Swann
  15. Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton
  16. Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
  17. [VARIOUS]   2008 Nebula Award Short Fiction Nominees
  18. Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
  19. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
  20. The Accord by Keith Brooke
  21. Genesis by Bernard Beckett
  22. The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, Volume 3 edited by George Mann
  23. Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup
  24. House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
  25. [VARIOUS]   2009 Hugo Award Short Fiction Nominees
  26. The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Vol. 1, The Gathering Storm by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers and Ardian Syad
  27. Flood by Stephen Baxter
  28. The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker
  29. The Science Fiction Handbook by M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas
  30. The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  31. Wireless by Charles Stross
  32. The Year’s Top Ten Tales of Science Fiction edited by Allan Kaster
  33. Desolation Road by Ian McDonald
  34. Prime by Nate Kenyon
  35. Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp & George O’Connor
  36. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell
  37. Stalking the Dragon by Mike Resnick
  38. The Year’s Best Science Fiction #26 edited by Gardner Dozois
  39. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
  40. Interzone #224
  41. Isis by Douglas Clegg
  42. The New Space Opera 2 edited by Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan
  43. Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews and Will Conrad
  44. The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks and Ibraim Roberson
  45. My Dead Body by Charlie Huston
  46. The Quiet War by Paul McAuley
  47. Aliens Rule edited by Allan Kaster
  48. Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber
  49. Under the Dome by Stephen King
  50. Interzone #225
  51. Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt
  1. Death Race (2008) – A worthy update to the 1975 Roger Corman classic.
  2. The Man from Earth – It feels like you’re reading a story instead of watching a film.
  3. Transformers – Dumb fun and good special effects, but meant for a younger audience than I am part of.
  4. Eagle Eye – a movie that turns SciFi halfway through, but sadly uses an unbelievable leftover premise from the 60s.
  5. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) – If I wasn’t watching with my kid, I would have stopped watching it.
  6. Coraline (2009) – Excellent visuals and a good story. Seemed a bit too long, though…
  7. The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – Suspect science, mediocre acting, contrived drama, obvious CG effects, heavy-handed propaganda…these are not the things I look for in a SciFi film. I’m surprised I watched the whole thing.
  8. Martian Child (2007) – A decent, heartwarming start…but after a while I just felt like it wasn’t working. The book was much better.
  9. The Island (2005) – Some great sociological sf concepts, that devolves into big chase movie (a good one, to be sure) about halfway through.
  10. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008) – Awesome visuals and artistic style don’t make up for the weak story and weaker characterizations.
  11. Watchmen (2009) – A superb example of why some material *should* be changed when being adapted to film. The awesome world building experience of the graphic novel didn’t work as well in the visual medium. Instead of being true to the work (out of respect, I’m sure) someone should have made the call to make the necessary changes. If you haven’t read the awesome graphic novel, subtract 1 star.
  12. Cypher (2002) – Artsy-looking futuristic corporate espionage. Deceptions within deceptions kept me alert even though the pacing was otherwise slow. But, man, it looked pretty.
  13. King Kong (2005) – Peter Jackson’s remake is way too long and, in some parts, overly dramatic. But the core story remains as entertaining as ever.
  14. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – Despite some minor consistency issues, this third outing returns to the glory of the original, bringing to the fore the Mutants vs. Humans ethical and social issues. Bonus points for not being afraid to kill off some characters.
  15. Monsters vs. Aliens 3D (2009) – Excellent animation (CGI human, even cartoon ones, look better with each successive film), cool 3D effects and a story that was good, but somehow lacked the magic of, say, a Pixar film.
  16. Lathe of Heaven (1980) – Cheesy special effects and dated late-70s filmmaking come darn close to squashing the powerful themes of Le Guin’s outstanding classic novel.
  17. Star Trek (2009) – Fantastic. This is everything a Trek film should be.
  18. Donnie Darko (2001) – Despite time travel being one of my favorite subgenres of SciFi, this psychological time travel thriller failed to overly impress me. The whole film was spent trying to figure out what was going on in the life of troubled teen Donnie Darko, and when it was revealed, it seemed like no big deal. And man, was it god awful slow.
  19. Dreams With Sharp Teeth (2008) – Love him or hate him, Harlan Ellison is one of the most influential and interesting personalities in the field and this captivating documentary comes close (but not close enough) to getting inside his head.
  20. Sunshine (2007) – I alternated between boredom and disbelief in this film thanks to its casual pacing and unbelievable portrayal of science. On the positive side, the premise was good and the photography was great (with the exception of the jittery camera effect of the unexpected visitor).
  21. eXisTenZ (1999) – Me before the movie: Ooh, a virtual reality thriller! Me after the movie: WTF? Ah…written and directed by David Cronenberg. Bizarre. However, intriguingly so.
  22. Up (2009) – Science fictional ideas (Lost World, imaginative inventions) leaning towards the fantastical in a sad, funny and ultimately heartwarming film.
  23. Fanboys (2008) – A Blues Brothers for the Star Wars generation. Lots of Star Wars humor and a bunch of impressive cameos.
  24. Sin City (2005) – Excellent stories, great characters, fantastic visuals and total immersion.
  25. Race to Witch Mountain (2009) – Well whaddya know? It wasn’t horrible.
  26. Inkheart (2008) – Suprisingly engaging and enjoyable.
  27. District 9 (2009) – There was a lot to like about this film, which was a tasty blend of cognitive dissonance and engrossing action. I liked that it was non-America centric and featured no movie stars.
  28. Steamboy (2004) – A very slow start, but once it got to the steampunk warfare scenes…that was some cool stuff.
  29. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) – The SciFi classic that exhibits an excellent use of metaphor, reflects the science fiction and the society of its time, and is a great story in its own right. The Blu-Ray version features some awesome extras – including a documentary that features appearances by David G. Hartwell and Charles N. Brown.
  30. Alien Trespass (2009) – I had high hopes for this film, but as homage to SciFi films of the 50’s, it was totally uninteresting. And as a parody, it was just unfunny. Either way, it was thoroughly boring.
  31. V for Vendetta (2005) – I loved the way this complex Dystopian story about a totalitarian British governemnt unfolded, though near the end the film it was feeling a bit drawn out.
  32. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) – What could have been a cool update of one of my all-time SciFi favorites was riddled with logic-defying decisions by characters and plot.
  33. Battle for Terra (2007) – Nice animation but clichéd and, therefore, unengaging. And what’s up with the nonsensical plot points? Falling from the sky is not really dramatic if you can fly. Just sayin’…
  34. Pitch Black (2000) – What could have been a good mash-up of SciFi and Horror was instead a long, drawn-out hodgepodge of no suspense and Vin Diesel.
  35. Chronicles of Riddick (2004) – This is a significant improvement over Pitch Black, offering a meatier story, more action and better characters.
  36. Babylon A.D. (2008) – The interesting post-apocalyptic setting was interesting, but the real reason for mercenary Vin Diesel’s quest fell short.
  37. The Happening (2009) – Suspenseful for about the first 30 minutes, but when it became Plans vs. Humanity it devolved into nonsense.
  38. Space Chimps (2008) – If you squint a little, you can find a decent time-passing film about smarter-than-human chimps that overthrow an alien overlord.
  39. Ray Bradbury’s Chrysalis (2008) – A small group of scientists search for a way to halt Earth’s severe ecological decline. An interesting idea for a film, but it suffers from underdeveloped characterizations and pacing issues.
  40. Resident Evil (2002) – While there’s nothing really new here, it does nicely mix a rogue AI with zombies and mutants, which is always nice.
  41. Shorts (2009) – A fun-but-silly movie about a magical rock that grants wishes, and the kids (and adults) that misuse it.
  42. Dead Like Me: Life After Death (2009) – Offers some (but not all) much-needed closure, but the absence of Mandy Patinkin’s Rube character is a serious blow.
  43. A Clockwork Orange (1971) – What starts as a horrific glorification of violence in Act I turns to a thoughtful dissertation on crime and rehabilitation in Act II. The inevitable act III was, however, more drawn out than it needed to be.

My television viewing was sporadic this year. My favorite genre show continues to be Fringe. I’ve also enjoyed Doctor Who, Eureka, and Warehouse 13.

I also undertook a project to watch all the episodes of Dead Like Me, an entertaining black comedy about grim reapers mixed with exquisitely painful scenes of a deteriorating family life (the one left behind by the main character, Georgia)

I also watched/reviewed Godkiller: Walk Among Us (Episode #1)


Another good year! I read about the same number of books as last year, which was fewer than years before. I chalk that up to an increased amount of movie watching. (Thank You/Curse You, NetFlix!) On the other hand, I was able to catch up on lots of SciFi films I neglected when they first came around. (I still enjoy reading more than I do films, overall.) I think I’m watching more television as well, which is easier to do during late night hours, where all my free time seems to be pooling these days.

Anyway, that’s my year!

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

3 Comments on 2009: A Year in Review [John’s Take]

  1. Thanks for the peek, and Happy New Year!

  2. Seeing Paul Melko’s newest book on there reminds me that I still haven’t picked up Singularity Ring!  I was so taken with that book cover and what I had  heard of the story last year that I was bound and determined to read it…and of course the year came and went and I haven’t.  Doh!

    Wanted to thank you again for your thoughts on Alastair Reynolds during the 08 year in review.  I was so thrilled by Chasm City and look forward to reading more of his works.  I have a pile of them at home right now that I’ve checked out from the library, including House of Suns.

    I just finished reading Desolation Road and had a surprisingly different experience with it than you did.  I think the things you disliked about it were the very things that had me so engaged with it right from the start.  I thought your review was great, pointed out things we both liked and gave really specific reasons for the things you did not.  Well done!  Really makes me curious about how I’ll feel about Cyberabaad Days seeing that you gave it a much higher review score.

    As always, your list gives me a lot to consider in my future reading.  Thanks John.


  3. glad to see v for vendetta there!

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