Bill's Best of 2007
Bill's Book of the Year
First surprise, it's not "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". While I really looked forward to the book being release, and sat down and read it straight, it had it's rough spots. My two biggest complaints were the unevenness of the story (sometimes it moved really well, other times it dragged like it would never end) and the arbitrariness of who survived the novel and who died (killing a bunch of characters for the sake of showing that the final battle is Serious!).
Instead, I'm going two pick two science fiction novels by Vernor Vinge that totally occupied my time this year. The first is "A Fire Upon the Deep". I was a little hesitant when I started reading this book as part of the story was fantasy stuff that I didn't really care for. But Mr. Vinge quickly shakes things up and ends up with a chase story (are they going to get away before they get caught?) with such tension in it that I was happy to finish the book so I could physically relax from the stress of the story.
The second novel was "A Deepness in the Sky". I think one of the area's that Mr. Vinge excels at is creating a compelling and believable universe. His aliens are truly alien (no Star Trek prosthetics here). The best aliens from this novel are the Spiders. They look like, well, spiders. But act like humans. So you spend most of the novel relating to the human-ness of the these aliens, and in two paragraphs towards the end of the novel Mr. Vinge strips away their human-ness and presents them in all their alien glory. It was a subtle, but awesome switch that cemented by adoration for this book.
Bill's Album of the Year
I don't buy much music in a year, I've already got most of what I want to listen to. And the music that I do buy I mainly get from iTunes. But my pick for Album of the year is only available as a CD from Starbucks (of all places). Dave Matthews Band "Live Trax" is a compilation of a bunch of live shows throughout the lifetime of the band. It's great because not only do you get to hear some of the best songs by DMB, but you also get to hear live versions of them that are different than the studio versions.
Bill's Video Game of the Year
Yes, I got a Nintendo Wii earlier this year. And (I'm sorry to admit), my pick for this year is a PC game. Well, technically it is two games, but since they are available as one pack (Orange Box), I'm going to count it as one. Just as an aside, Orange Box is one of the best PC gaming purchase you can make this year. 5 games for $49.99 (cheaper if you shop around). I even already owned two of the games and it sill made a good bargain (plus I got two games to give as gifts, if anyone is interested...).
Ok, back to the games. Portal is an interesting twist on a First Person Shooter. Rather than relying on lots of well aimed shots and a quick reaction, Portal relies on you to interact with your environment to solve puzzles as you make your way through the game. You've got one weapon: The portal gun. Shoot a blue portal to one wall and an orange portal to another and you've suddenly got a new door that you can walk through (or drop stuff through). Couple this novel new idea in gameplay with a funny story (yes, a game with an actual story) and unusual characters (Companion Cube?) and you've got a real winner.
And the other awesome game from Orange Box is Team Fortress 2. TF2 is a Class Based FPS. So rather than having the same weapons and skills as everyone else in the game, you pick what Class you want to play and the determines what you can do in the game. And it's multiplayer only, so you have to jump onto a server and play with other people in mainly pick-up games. The best part for me is that a single round of TF2 is short (like 10 minutes) so I can jump in and play a quick round and jump out if I have to do something else.
Bill's Board Game of the Year
I blame my parents and brother for this one. When I went to visit them before Christmas (Margaret was home sick) we ended up playing "Ticket To Ride: Marklin Train Edition". I hadn't played before, so there was a bit of a leaning curve for me to figure out what was going on. But it took about 5 minutes before I caught on to how to play and I was hooked. Even though I lost miserably, when I got home I tracked down my own copy of "Ticket To Ride: Europe" so I could play at home. We broke it out last night with my wife and my father-in-law and had a blast playing. Highly recommended if you're looking for a board game.
Bill's Movie of the Year
I wanted to pass on this category for 2007, but it felt like a cop out. Frankly, I don't remember that many movies that I saw this year. I do remember the summer popcorn fare like the most recent Spiderman, Pirates of the Carribean, and Die Hard Movies. But much like popcorn, they don't really stick with you. I enjoyed "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix", but was afraid that I couldn't make an objective evaluation, me being a fanboy and all that.
But I'm going to make a pick anyway. "Children of Men". While technically a 2006 film, I didn't see it until this year so it counts. What I really like about CoM was the fact that it was science fiction done right. Most of the time, Hollywood screws it up and forgets that science fiction can be a genre of it's own (as opposed to being either action or horror). CoM tells the story of a dystopian world where people can no longer get pregnant. No more children, no more future. Yeah, there is a little bit of action in it, but the science fiction part of it is what really drives the story. Oh, and it was nominated for 3 Oscars, so don't just take my word on it.
Bill's TV Show of the Year
This has been a rough year for me for TV viewing. I've really cut down on the amount of TV that I watch this year. It is just that most of the stuff that is being broadcast right now I'm not interested in watching. Now I'm still watching "Heroes", Psych, and Numb3rs (and a few other shows). Oh, and I'm really enjoying Life on Mars and Top Gear on BBCA (and I am by no means a gear head, but the show is really funny and enjoyable).
But I've picked up a bit of a bad habit from Margaret. As she sits and works on BabyDuckles, she watches TV shows on DVD. And now I've gotten hooked on some of the DVD's that she sits and watches. The ones that she has gotten me hooked on are The Unit and House.
So that's it for my 2007 wrap up. Let me know what your favorite things from 2007 were in the comments!