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My Six Best Books of 2014 …

By Adam Roberts | December 18, 2014
Categories: Book News

... in a more-literal sense than is usually implied by these sorts of headlines.

1. Bête, a novel: it's the best of me. £6.49 on Kindle; still some hardcover copies left in stock (pricier, but makes a better gift. Look at that cover art! I mean, obviously I can't claim any credit for the cover art. But you have to agree: it is a thing of beauty).

2. Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea, a novel. Gorgeously illustrated by the sublime Mahendra Singh. A piffling £5.49 on Kindle; only four hardcover copies left anywhere in the world. What are you waiting for?

3. Sibilant Fricative, a collection of essays and reviews. I believe that all hardcopies of this title are sold now; so it's Kindle only: but at £3.42 it's a steal. (Many of the pieces in that volume first appeared on my Punkadiddle blog; but I've taken that blog down now, so if you want to read those pieces you gotta buy the book. Cunning, no?)

4. Get Started in: Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy (Teach Yourself: Writing). Freshly published!

5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (Edinburgh University Press). The first new edition since 1983 of this foundational classic of literary criticism; all annotation loose-ends tied up, new facts about the tortured compositional history of the book uncovered, 200-pages of introductory matter. And an eye-wateringly expensive price. What you gonna do? Academic publishing is a strange thing.

6. Landor's Cleanness (Oxford University Press). The best critical monograph on Walter Savage Landor available! Well, strictly speaking, the only critical monograph on Walter Savage Landor available. But that's still something.

A: So. That's a lot of books.
R: It is.
A: For one year, I mean.
R: Well, it's not quite as Stakhanovite as it may, at first blush, appear. It's more a reflection of the exigencies of publishing, or more specifically of different kinds of publishing.
A: How so?
R: Well: take the two academic titles. Landor's Cleanness was written 2011-12, and OUP decided they wanted to publish it towards the end of that latter year. If it's taken until October 2014, that's partly because the wheels of academic publish grind slow. The Biographia Edition was also mostly finished by the end of 2012; and revised and readied for the press in 2013. Of all the titles in the photo above it was the one that took the most labour, partly because compiling it and writing the intro was just a laborious business, and partly because the proofing was an immensely painstaking matter. It's a scholarly edition of a classic of English letters; I had to get the text right.
A: Still!
R: Well, except that my day-job is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature, and pursuing research of this kind (Coleridge, Landor) is a large part of that job. Those two titles represent the main focus of my Professorial energies for nearly four years; that they both happen to appear within months of one another is just a coincidence.
A: And the Sibilant Fricative thingy?
R: Again: it's a collection of essays and reviews written over a five year period (indeed a couple of the pieces are even older than that). The labour was in pulling them together, and in that task I was aided by the mighty Ian Whates.
A: Two novels though!
R: That's a little anomalous. I don't usually publish two novels in one year! What happened is that Twenty Trillion was originally slated to appear in late 2013, but got bumped back (in the event I didn't publish a novel in 2013). Bête is the novel I'm conscious of having been writing 2013-14, and it was trickier to write than most of my fiction. Chris Priest called it 'sluttishly freeform', which (I confess) rather pleased me, in part because it means I was able to bury what might otherwise have been too procrustean a substructure (to do with riddles, Sophocles, St John, Mythago Wood, Ted Hughes and a couple of other things).
A: So will there be two novels from you in 2015?
R: As if.
A: And the Get Started In?
R: That was a commission. Being a professional writer means taking commissions seriously (provided only that they are serious commissions; as this was), and therefore finding the time to write them, to spec and as well as you can.
A: So!
R: So.

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