I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… it’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s Tournament of Books time!
It’s snuck up on me a little bit this year – but maybe that’s just because, astonishingly, I finished my reading in early February this year. I went 14 for 16 this year, opting not to tackle Sarah Waters’ tome-like The Paying Guests nor Elena Ferrante’s Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay. I figure I’ll probably catch the Ferrante at some point, but I just didn’t have the time (or frankly the energy) to power through the trilogy before the games began. I won’t bother to give you any disclaimers this year; ya’ll know I’m a big fan of the ToB and that I know some of the people who run it and some of the authors and some of the judges… but that doesn’t really mean anything at the end of the day. I’m still the same fan I was last year, just one year older and one year better-read.
So, with that out of the way… my thoughts, pitched not as what I personally think should win but what I think is most likely to happen based on judges and stuff.
1. No play-in this year! Whoaaaa. New commentary from Laura van den Berg and Elliott Holt! Whoaaaa.
2. The Bone Clocks, All the Birds, Singing, All the Light We Cannot See, A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall, Annihilation, Station Eleven, Redeployment, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay are my guesses to make it through the first round. I don’t think VanderMeer over Offill is a real upset, although 4-over-1-seed makes it so. All the Birds over Brief History doesn’t really feel like one either, even though I’d be sad to see James’ titanic novel go so soon. The only possible upset to my picks that I could see would be An Untamed State knocking out Station Eleven.
3. There are some juggernauts in the quarterfinals and I think three of them make pretty short work of their competition – All The Light, Station Eleven, and Redeployment. I personally want Annihilation to topple Station Eleven, but that’s a wild-card for sure. The only upset here will be All the Birds, Singing over The Bone Clocks – cementing the Cinderella status of Wyld’s novel.
4. All the Light will continue walking towards the zombie round, while I think a Station Eleven / Redeployment match-up could go either way. I’m inclined to think that Ms. Sullivan will pick Redeployment but honestly, who knows.
5. Zombies. Hard to predict, of course… but I’ll bet that if Station Eleven is out by this point, it’ll come back. I’d also like to think that Annihilation will have a strong (and appropriate) zombie presence – but I don’t want to rule out the Roxane Gay fans. Still, I think An Untamed State wasn’t strong enough to pull a zombie uprising so the first two are my thoughts at this point.
6. Assuming then that they don’t want to pit Station Eleven against Redeployment again so fast, I think that topples All the Light while Stephin Merritt, bless his heart, picks Annihilation over Redeployment – pitting Station Eleven against Annihilation in the final. A little wishful thinking at play here? You’re damn right. But I think it ends up Station Eleven over Annihilation. 10 to 7.
It was a weird year for me – I’d already hit 6 of the books by the time the shortlist was announced and those I hadn’t tackled (excepting A Brief History) were pretty fast reads, so I was done with my ToB-ing by mid-February this year. And since things are getting underway a little late in the month (by comparison anyway), I’ve felt ready to go for some weeks now.
I’d also had all but the Ferrante on my radar before the bracket hit, which was a strange sensation. I was surprised by how much I disliked Adam, by how only-decent I found several of the books, and how… well, obvious the better books are this year. Of course, that’s exactly the sort of subjectivity that this tournament strives to bring out in readers and my belief that Station Eleven, Redeployment, and All the Light We Cannot See will walk over the competition to the semi-finals might be undone by the middle of next week.
But I know that this year will also provoke tremendous debate. We’ve got some capital-W Weird fiction in the mix plus some sci-fi/fantasy, the best-yet book on American and the war (better than Billy Lynn and you can bet that’ll be a fun argument), some almost-straight-up philosophy, and so on. The field feels broader than it ever has before, which excites me.
But then, the games exciting me in general. I can’t wait for Monday and hope you’ll all be following along, too. Let me know if I’ll see you in the comments section – or if you’ll be listening to Christopher + I do some commentary of our own on the So Many Damn Books podcast!
Also… I was an idiot and missed the Field Notes promo this year. I will gladly do a swap one of my various Colors backlog, if any Field Nuts are out there.