2009 Highlights






Warhammer 40k






2009 Highlights

2009 Highlights


2009 was a good year for literature. Some particularly good books included Court of the Air, Mudbound, Spider Star, World War Z, Intuition, Wasteland of Flint, and Lear's Daughters, among others. Some really notable books though included:

  • Undaunted Courage. Ambrose. Non-fiction. This is a great look at the Lewis and Clark expedition. It reveals an awful lot about that time period, and has a lot of fascinating details, e.g., the vast quantities of meat the men consume. Most fascinating though is Lewis' observations as they reach the Rockies, the halfway point, simultaneously with him turning 30, the halfway point.
  • Counting Heads; Mind over Ship. Marusek. These two books have a very inventive take on the far future, investigating the interplay between clones, humans, AIs, and corporations.
  • The Forever War. Haldeman. I had never read this before, and I found the specifics somewhat disappointing. However, it's a brilliant book, in many ways. The central conceit of effectively time traveling soldiers is of course fascinating. But it also has a notable lack of glory, honor, and typical military sci-fi trappings. It's very clear that the war is not something to be celebrated, and that most people are mere statistics.
  • The Horus Heresy. I've read the first four books in the series so far and they're excellent:
    • Horus Rising. Abnett.
    • False Gods. McNeill.
    • Galaxy in Flames. Counter.
    • Flight of the Eisenstein. Swallow.
    Of these, Flight of the Eisenstein is my favorite. Obviously they are all most compelling if you're invested in the 40k universe. However, I think these four at least are solid enough to be of wider interest. Among other things, they do a really good job examining the role of a Space Marine type character in society. They're stone cold killers, yet also artisans and scholars, but most importantly they just don't have emotions or traditional attachments and drives---familiies, sex, etc---that people have. So what are they? How do they fit in? It also gives a fantastic portrayal of Horus, and really captures nicely the tragic fall of one of the greatest of men.
  • Sister Alice. Reed. A brilliant book that's aged well in my mind. It hits the point where sci-fi goes so far as to push into solid fantasy. The literally god-like characters are imbued with powers so advanced that there's no distinction between their science and magic as they fly between fantasy worlds, restructure worlds wholesale, and grapple in mythic, abstract, symbolic yet physical battles. Also worth noting is a not necessarily particularly happy ending. At times the extreme distances, timespans, and fantasy-styled symbolism is a little hard to take, and it's not too clear the basic conceptions aren't contradictory---FTL doesn't exist, but how could it not given some of the powers?---but this is a very interesting read with a solid plot, interesting characters, and neat symbolism.

Comments on all of these and more are in my reading log.


Top acts new to me in 2009:

  • Ladyhawke. Back of the Van is a particularly great track.
  • Kings of Leon. Be Somebody both feels good and is an interesting albeit vague story.
  • The Life Aquatic. Soundtrack, the entire thing.
  • Anberlin. Feel Good Drag album.
  • The Airborne Toxic Event. Eponymous album.
  • Metric. Fantasies, specifically Collect Call.
  • Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Master and Everyone album.
  • Willy Porter. Hard Life album.


There were also many good movies and shows new-to-me in 2009, including Kings, No Country for Old Men, Bolt, Charlie Wilson's War, Lady in the Water, Fantastic Mr Fox, Rocket Science, Rescue Dawn, and There Will Be Blood. However, the truly best of 2009 include:

  • Hotel Chevalier/Darjeeling Limited. The plot in the full movie is questionable. However, it makes it for its musical selection and style alone. The Hotel Chevalier short, however, is brilliant in music, plot, and characters.
  • I Am Legend. At first I didn't know quite what to make of this given its divergence from the novel and its heavy Christian themes. However, its portrayal of Smith's new life is excellent. The stillness and isolation can really be felt. It also has a lot of depth to it that can be explored, e.g., equating it to the war on terror in a not obvious fashion.
  • Children of Men. Good soundtrack. The movie almost falls back into a typical post-Apocalyptic movie but is much more. Several scenes are terribly memorable; most obviously carrying the baby out of the block war, but also simple scenes such as the opening train ride.
  • Michael Clayton. Clooney shows off his brilliance, carrying off a lot of facial tics and gestures that make the character. Swinton and Wilkinson also perform fabulously, and all the more minor roles are filled out very nicely as well. This features one of the best closing sequences ever, quietly recapping the whole movie on Clooney's face.
  • The Life Aquatic. This has become easily one of my favorite movies. It's just so perfect in so many ways. Brilliant music, zany puppet creatures, and a lot of goofy antics backed by a serious story of loneliness and dreams. This also features an absolutely excellent ending sequence.

Notably, these have been sorted not so much by what I necessarily think are the best movies, but what continued to stick in my mind after the fact. Other comments on these and more are available in my movie log.

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