The Best of 2021 in Books and Comics

Oh, 2021… it was, in many ways, quite similar to 2020, actually. We did a general summary of the year here, and now the time comes to sum up our reading/watching experiences. This year, we decided to combine our best and worst title is one place, one reason being it’s already mid-January…

Piotrek: and another, at least in my case, that I mostly made really good choices and there’s really not that much bad stuff to write about.

Ola: Oh, for me this reading year was more of a mixed bag, with some truly flabbergasting titles from NetGalley – and some truly amazing, too. It was generally a pretty good year, reading-wise. Lots of solid titles, not too many re-reads… I will also remember this year as my introduction to the marvellous metaverse of manga – and that journey will continue!

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Roy Plotnick, Explorers of Deep Time: Paleontologists and the History of Life (2022)

Author: Roy Plotnick

Title: Explorers of Deep Time: Paleontologists and the History of Life

Format: e-book

Pages: 312

Series: –

I’ll be very frank: Roy Plotnick’s book is a strange beast indeed; I have expected something along the lines of Dean R. Lomax’s Locked In Time, a pure palaeontology delight filled with descriptions of unique discoveries and fact-based interpretation of the traces of life long gone. What I got instead was an unusual mixture of a tiny bit of paleontological knowledge, a huge load of pages seemingly lifted from Who’s Who in US palaeontology, overflowing with personal information about various US palaeontologists in the last 50 years, complete with short biography boxes completely disrupting the flow of the book, and a fair amount of what looks like a memoir of Plotnick himself, with personal photographs. In short, if you want to become a palaeontologist in the modern United States, this book is for you. It’s filled with useful information about positions, institutions, big and small names in the field, the development of various palaeontology areas and subdivisions, and so on. But if you want to know a bit more about the contents of palaeontology itself – look somewhere else. I strongly suggest Lomax’s book, because it’s as illuminating as it is engaging. 

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Re-Enchanted 2021

Last year around this time we’ve been hoping for a better next year – well, with this crazy year almost at its end it’s kind of nice that at least this one thing hasn’t changed, and once again we are hopeful that 2022 will be better than 2021… 😉 With pandemic getting its second, third and fourth breath, four-month-long lockdown in Auckland and various restrictions in different places around the world, and large swathes of live inevitably altered, 2021 had certainly been an interesting year.

But at least in terms of blogging and reading, 2021 had turned out to be quite all right. While we haven’t experienced another huge jump in terms of visits, we also haven’t experienced a slump – in short, 2021 was more or less equal to 2021 in the number of views (roughly 15k) and surpassed last year in the number of visits (nearly 8k vs 7k last year). We’ve had similar number of comments, 2,5k, while the number of likes grew to over 3k – yay! There was a noticeable downward trend for things other than reviews on the blog, alas, as with Piotrek making some momentous life decisions and Ola branching out to painting and Youtube, tags and some such became a luxury ;). And yet, we still managed to churn out a few more posts than last year – we are very proud of ourselves 🙂

We are incredibly grateful for our lasting blogging friendships around the world and for finding new friends in all the corners of Earth. In those times of growing divisions, anxiety and anger it’s wonderful to find like-minded people. So big thank you to all of you!!!

Our most popular post in terms of views was Ola’s review of Mexican Gothic (on the podium for the second year in a row, with over 270 views), followed closely by a very civil yet still rather scathing review of E.J. Beaton’s The Councillor, and glowing reviews of two Neal Asher’s books: The Technician, with over 215 views, and The Line of Polity (knocked down from the first place to the fourth) with nearly 200 views. Piotrek’s love letter to Honor Harrington is still going strong, fifth this year, and a surprising sixth place with 175 views went to our The Worst of 2020 😉

Our most liked post this year was Ola’s post about her Etsy shop, nearing 70 likes, and two reviews with 60 likes each: a critical take on Alix E. Harrow’s popular The Ten Thousand Doors of January and, again, E.J. Beaton’s The Councillor. Among the most popular posts was also, unsurprisingly this year, a review of Dune. The most commented post, which broke the 100 comments barrier, was our birthday reveal: Birthdays, spicy reveals and even a tag, oh my! – again, thanks to all of you who visited and commented!

While we abstained from the majority of the big bloggish events this year, we did take part in Witch Week organized by Chris and Lizzie. This year’s theme was Treason and Plot, and we were very happy to be able to contribute with a post about one of our favourite authors, Roger Zelazny.

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Mini reviews of short books

So, with Ola out on an extended Christmas break it falls to me to make sure there’s something going on on the blog 😉 There will be a “Re-Enchanted 2021” post soon, prepared by both of us some time before, but today I want to talk about two short pieces I read recently, a novella and a small short stories collection. I acquired a nice Christmas tree yesterday, packaged all the presents already, so I’m getting into the seasonal mood – I’ve chosen stuff I really like for today, I don’t want to spoil it 😉

I tried to catch the size of the thing… it’s huge, taking up a third of our living room. Wife wanted a large one, so I hope she’ll be happy when she sees it tomorrow. Although, perhaps, I overdid it a bit… anyway, I tried to carry it home on my shoulders, from a place that’s normally just a 15-minute walk away, but I had to call for help. A friend came and we tried to fit it into his car, we were not able to close the trunk 😉

Anyway, the books…

Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone This Is How You Lose the Time War

209-page 2019 novella, read on Kindle

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Akira Toriyama, Dragon Ball Z (1989 – 1995), part 2

Here we go, as promised months ago, in the first part of the review ;). My enthusiasm for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z hasn’t changed a bit, even though since then I’ve read loads of other shonen titles: Fullmetal Alchemist, Naruto, Kaijuu no. 8, My Hero Academia, Bleach, One Piece, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba… I still consider Toriyama’s opus magnum the best ;). Though that doesn’t include the most recent run, Dragon Ball Super, which is so bad I refuse to acknowledge it as canon ;).

So, without further ado, here’s my second part of the highly emotional journey through Toriyama’s famous manga. There are tears, and fist pumps, and everything in between ;).

Dragon Ball Z, vol. 12: Enter Trunks!

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5.5/10 stars

The first third, concluding the fight between Goku and Freeza, is simply amazing. Loved every bit of it! All stars!!! And it’s actually the only reason this got five stars instead of one.

Because after that first part… well, to be fair, it was probably impossible to top the Goku-Freeza showdown with anything, really. But the rest of the volume is a disappointment, a major slump in terms of both emotional and martial content, with the coincidental return of Freeza and Goku, over a year later, to Earth, just as a setup for the appearance of a mysterious warrior from the future. Trunks must save the day in the absence of Goku, and while the reveal of Trunk’s parentage was a really fun part, the ease with which he dispatched Freeza and his nasty dad was rather jarring. And then we get the forewarning about evil androids soon to be made by a mad scientist, and the decision to wait for them and train hard just doesn’t make any sense. Aargh. That’s just so lazy.

Honestly, I hoped we had seen the last of the Red Ribbon Army a long time ago. Not to mention that the new Terminator vibes are somehow way less alluring than the old Superman vibes 😉

One of the weakest volumes to date, I’m afraid. Still moderately enjoyable, but nowhere near the usual levels I came to expect from Toriyama’s DB and DBZ.

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