Well. This whole year escalated quickly…
Seriously, though. As fast as it feels like this year has gone by, I do feel like I had a good one. Sometimes not the most productive in terms of what I got done here, but I’m ending 2015 in a pretty firm-footed place, ready for 2016 to be bigger and better and more organised (two out of three won’t be bad, anyway, but let’s dream big!).
Before I get to what’s coming, though, let’s look back at the highlights of what was an utterly amazing year for stories!
I had too many amazing reading experiences to list them all this year, but some definitely stood head and shoulders above an amazing crowd this year – and I won’t even try to list them in any particular order because that way lies madness.
First, the science fiction:
This debut novel by Becky Chambers was my highlight of this year’s Sci-Fi Month (check the dedicated page for more links to that stuff). My first effort at organising an SF/F Read Along for this book got much more of a response than I’d thought, and I got to share my enthusiasm for it with people who hadn’t read it already, which was fantastic! The Read Along was massive amounts of fun, and my love for this book still knows no bounds. If you haven’t read it, the read along posts are hugely spoilery, but trust me – you should give this book a try.
Emma Newman’s latest novel was one of my most anticipated this year, and it absolutely did not disappoint me. I was blown away by this story, and the issues it tackles in the telling (mental disorders, anxiety) hit really close to home. Rather than putting me off, though, this fact just makes me want to recommend it more. So if you haven’t read it, please do!
Regeneration (®Evolution #3)
Stephanie Saulter’s debut trilogy is one I’d begun reading on a mildly curious whim. Three books later, I am so very, very glad I gave it a chance. This is contemporary science fiction at its finest, and I am 100% signed up for whatever Stephanie does next. You know the drill, people…
Rook Song (Gaia Chronicles #2)
Here’s another series I’ve fallen for after taking a chance on the unknown. Naomi Foyle debuted last spring with Astra, the first novel in this series, and its follow-up is every bit as challenging, intriguing and absorbing. I dare say that fans of Kameron Hurley’s genre-bending style may well enjoy this too…
Honourable Mention: Dark Star
This book, written by Oliver Langmead and published by Unsung Stories, is another one worthy of a mention here, even if only because it’s so delightfully difficult to pigeonhole. It’s science fiction, but at the same time it’s noir mystery, science-fantasy and epic verse. Yes, really. If any of that tickles your fancy, then seek this one out. (Goodreads link)
Now for the fantasy!
Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2)
Sebastien de Castell’s sequel to the awesomely fun debut, Traitor’s Blade, put him firmly on my list of Evil Authors Who Push My Buttons. But in the good way. The Greatcoats series is, so far, a riot of adventure, shocks and delightful surprises. It’s a magic-riddled The Three Musketeers with the safety off. It’s bloody awesome, innit. Have you read it yet?
Twelve Kings (The Song of Shattered Sands #1)
Bradley Beaulieu is one of the authors I was new to in 2015, despite him having been on my radar for a while. This year I finally got around to reading his books, and if you’re also in that position right now, then Twelve Kings (aka Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, if you’re in the US) is a marvellous place to start. Not that I’m discounting his previous series – I absolutely plan to work my way back through those. But truly fresh epic fantasy is one of the ways I plan to go, reading-wise, and Twelve Kings has certainly whetted my appetite. (Goodreads link)
Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1)
Zen Cho’s debut novel is, to put it plain and simply here, a sheer delight of a story. You can read my more detailed outpouring of squee at the review link, but at the risk of sounding like an excitedly broken record, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. I need more Prunella Gentleman in my life. Good lord, do I.
The Silver Tide (The Copper Promise #3)
OK, so this book’s inclusion in my list is kind of a technicality. The finale to Jen Williams’ Copper Promise trilogy isn’t actually out until next year, but having been in possession of an eARC, and having devoured the thing as quickly as I was able, I’m including it here anyway because MY HEART. IT CANNOT STAND IT. This series was a delightful chance discovery for me, way back in its fledgling phase of being a self-published effort, and I have followed it happily through its traditional publishing journey. I am sad that it’s soon to be over, but so very, very happy that it made it this far. (Goodreads link)
Honourable Mention: The Craft Sequence
So I may be cheating a little bit here by including a whole series, but Max Gladstone’s books, which I have worked my way through via Read Alongs, deserve a collective mention. Last First Snow in particular is the one that really, truly hooked me, but really, they’re all worth reading. This is urban fantasy taken to a fascinating new level, and if you’re a fan of UF and haven’t discovered them yet, you are missing out.
And now for the best of all the rest!
Anyone who’s been following my reviews of this serial, the online/subscription prequel story to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint/Riverside novels, will probably not be at all surprised that I’m including it here. Season One is not yet complete, but I DON’T CARE. It is the best drama that’s never graced my TV screen. If you’re interested in my thoughts, you can follow my reviews so far at the tag link above; I post a new review per episode each week, and the only rule for discussion (which I welcome!) is Please Don’t Spoil Me. Apparently my newbie ravings are entertaining people. I HOPE YOU’RE ALL HAPPY. (Really, I do.)
Teresa Frohock’s alt-historical/urban fantasy/noir mystery novellas may only be two parts old, but I fell so hard in love with them this year that to leave them off this list would be a grievous injustice. It has everything I enjoy in a good story – period setting, heartwarming relationships, angels and demons and shocking peril. And a truly fascinating magic system to boot. Curious? Go get ’em.
This Kickstarter success is hitting its stride with a second year fully funded (and then some), and this short-fiction-exploring reader could not be happier about it. It has quickly become one of my go-to sources for mind-blowing short SF/F stories, and if you’re not in on the action, why not?!
See above regarding short fiction exploration – this is the magazine that started it all for me, and it’s one I’ll be sticking with for as long as it continues to publish amazing stories. Whether they’re in the magazine itself, or in one of its awesome anthologies, just GIMME.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Yes, I know, you’re all so surprised… But really. If you’d asked me at this point last year, or even a few months ago, if I’d ever be likely to put anything Star Wars-related on a Best Of list, I would probably have sighed and Looked At You Funny. But here we are. As I write this I’ve only seen the movie once, but I plan on changing that as soon as freaking possible because THIS MOVIE IS SO AWESOME. So awesome. Yes, it’s far from perfect and I could certainly nitpick, but I will not bother because that is how utterly entertained I was. And isn’t that the point of it? I loved it all. Rey and Finn and Poe (ship ahoy!) and BB-8 (I WANT THAT TOY OMG) and even Kylo Ren, emo poster boy that he is. I have been bitten by the bug, people. You’ve been warned.
So. 2016. You have a lot to live up to. Such a lot. But I cannot wait.
There are going to be more SF/F Read Alongs, because they are my jam. There will be October Daye and more Kushiel books and a Split Worlds Read Along marathon, and that’s just what’s in the works right now! If any of that interests you, check out the Goodreads group. Join if you like! Suggest things! The door’s always open.
There will be more focused blogging about short fiction! Because it has not gotten nearly enough of my attention this year, and this is something I’m working on correcting. Stay tuned for news of that…
And, as always, there will be the reviews. To list all the books I’m looking forward to in the year ahead would be madness and take absolutely forever, but OMG the preview lists I’ve seen. I have seen such wonders… So, yes. There will be books.
So many books.