In no particular order…
1) Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak: In a year where the brain dead PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES mashup sold oodles and publishers sold their souls to crap out the next zombie/monster/classic mashup (okay, I’m speaking in hyperbole…publishers have no souls), R. Sikoryak’s insanely funny, smart, and deep (yes, deep!) collection of comic/classic mashups is the kind of book to be read and reread and you’d still not catch all the brilliant metaphors and links to themes of both classic lit and classic comic. That, or just delight in Charlie Brown as Gregor Samsa, or Garfield as Mephistopheles.
2) Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow. An all original themed anthology without a significant share of clunkers and/or telegraphed stories (telegraphed to fit the theme) is a rarity. Each author’s take on the Lovecraft’s cosmic horror obsession is varied, and yes, creepy as hell.
3&4) Short story collections: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson and Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. Both collections concern the not-so-quiet desperation of their characters, and the stories manage to be at once whimsical and menacing.
5) Stitches by David Small. A haunting graphic novel memoir of the artist trapped in an extraordinarily dysfunctional family. There are scenes and even individual panels that you won’t ever forget.
6&7) Debut novels: The Convalescent by Jennifer Anthony and House of Windows by John Langan. Anthony’s first novel about a misfit Hungarian dwarf mixes folklore, Kafka, and a rebuke of the Iraq War. The War on Terror also plays a part in the malaise of Langan’s textured first novel, a ghost story and a meditation the painful details of wife/husband parent/offspring relationships.
8. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi. Murder and madness. Creepy and claustrophobic. Lyrical and really, unlike any other novel (narratively speaking) I read this year.
9,10,11,12) WEIRDBOILED 2009: The City & The City by China Mieville, Finch by Jeff Vandermeer, The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry, and Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry. Probably not fair to lump all these books under one heading, but I am. Each work delights in mixing and subverting the noir genre while managing to maintain its ethos, it authenticity. Again, in the year of the zombie mashup, these are the works and authors using genre to create something new and wonderful, and most importantly: not safe.