Next ten books and these were chosen for a number of reasons. Some I selected because of the unique way they dealt with magic, or because they dealt with magic in a military setting. Others just sounded cool 🙂
The Mirror Empire – Kameron Hurley
This one was a gem, some great concepts in regards to biological/magical innovations, living weapons and structures and a gender fluidity which does wonders to let you know that ‘our fantasy creatures are different‘. Having said that, and having thoroughly enjoyed the book despite moments of confusion, but I’m in no hurry to pick up the next novel in this series. Guess I loved the complexity of the world, but the characters never really grew on me… lots if stuff happened, but I’m not sure why, and I didn’t empathize with any of them enough to truly care.
The Godless – Ben Peek
For a story about the godless, the gods may well be the best part. Good story, good characters, and some nice tight storytelling still the best part is the unspoken question “how long does it take for an immortal to die?”
American Craftsmen – Tom Doyle
Again some great concepts, the story starts off pretty strong, maybe wrapping itself in the flag a little tightly, but by the second act… sweet confederate Jebus, how much ‘Yay, America’ ‘Freedomssssss’ can you take? I thought the book was a good read at the time, but looking back all I can picture now is the self-congratulatory backslapping of how awesome this pseudo-America is. There’s national pride, and then there’s self-abuse, and this strays a little too far towards the latter for my tastes. The dominance of Good vs Evil is decided by the ghosts of a civil war battlefield and other assorted patriotic masturbatory fantasies masquerading as plot. For all that, I did really like some of the characters.
The Rhesus Chart – Charles Stross
This is the first book in this set that has left me wanting more. I don’t know how I missed Stross all this time, but I’m hunting down the rest ASAP. Think Dresden Files with a focus on practical metaphysics. The ideas in here are pretty original, and so much more realistic than half the attempts to explain away the mechanics of magic, minimal hand waving here and some pretty meaty plot.
The Heretic Land – Tim Lebbon
Some books are good, some just have good ideas. This book is both. The ideas here are big, and they are explored in a big way that is only possible in a stand-alone novel. You couldn’t top the climax of this novel easily, and hell, it’s just refreshing to read something where I don’t have to wait for book three (or book seven) to come out months after I’ve forgotten the plot of the preceding volumes. Some great stuff here and a satisfying
Gods and Monsters: Unclean Spirits
I love chucks blog, but this is the first book of his I’ve picked up. I’d heard this described as an ‘American Gods’ written by an actual American, and I was really hoping to be inspired by the signature third-person-present writing style. To be fair, this book hits the mark stylistically and reads like you’re watching a movie (not sure I can explain it any better than that). The story, however, struck me as American Gods Lite. It seemed to be missing many of the deeper nuances of Gaiman’s work. As a hero’s journey, this book kicks arse, as a modern myth, it’s a little thin. Nay, not thin, anorexic. Maybe that’s because I’ve read so many variations on this theme, still the distinctive storytelling style is well worth checking out.
Total Recall: What is real? – Philip K Dick
Everyone loves the D. This is aa compilation of Dick’s shorter works, and they still pack a punch as many as 60 years after they were penned. It seems that every sci-fi movie that comes out of Hollywood (yes there are aa few) are asking the questions Dick asked, or equally common are direct translations of his work. The times may have changed and the technology in his works may look somewhat dated, but the underlying questions are as relevant as ever. My favorite would have to be The Electric Ant, though possibly not for the reasons you might think.
Control Point: Shadow Ops #1 – Myke Cole
This may be fantasy, but it might as well be military SyFy. Great if you like that sort of thing, and some well-developed world building and characters, but too much army for me. Yes, there was some great stuff in here, but for my money Veteran and War in heaven (see next) are a much cleaner army feel. Still, a good read, and miles above American Craftsmen as far as the story itself goes.
Veteran // War in Heaven – Gavin Smith
These two both proved to be a great all-in, blow shit up, military tall-tales. Maybe the characters take an unbelievable amount of damage, and maybe they should have died more times than I can count, but hey, what’s a bit of suspension of belief amongst friends? These are tales to enjoy, writing to savor and characters to snort at. I believe the correct description would be “a ripping good yarn”. The characters don’t always ask the right questions, and even when they do they don’t always get the right answers. There’s a level of nuance in this work that is lacking in the earlier two military stories, and it asks some big questions without beating you about the head with them. Also… Them are awesome. Best aliens I’ve encountered in a while.
PS It’s actually a while since I’ve read some of these, so your mileage may vary.
Next ten books, and we’ve got some doozies here.
Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake
For a first book, this is a pretty good story and a nice easy read. Loved the easy style and the take on the supernatural world, particularly everyone’s willingness not to notice it.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I have mixed feelings about this book. I was immediately sucked in by the writing style of the first few pages, but quickly realised I wasn’t connecting with the female saccharine sweet main character while the male lead apparently had no redeeming features. My first instinct was Mary Sue and… what is the antithesis of a Mary Sue? After the mid-point, things changed, and I’m glad I stuck with the book. Some of the communications issues struck a little too close to home, and the unveiling of the true nature of the main characters was a slow-motion car crash, one I couldn’t look away from. This wasn’t a cheap twist ending, but a true slow reveal, and love it or loathe it, definitely a book worth reading.
Dreams of Gods and Monsters – Laini Taylor
To be fair, I picked this up at the local supermarket. I bought it partly because of the blurb, but partly because of the cover. I was 2/3rds of the way in before I realised I’d read the first book in this series some time ago, and that I hadn’t particularly enjoyed it. Strangely enough, I did really enjoy this one
The Last Guardian – David Gemmell
Pulp fiction in its truest form. Gemmell books are filled with familiar characters, familiar situations, and little in the way of deeper meaning. I love them for that. This book is no different, if you’ve read Gemmell, you’ve already ready this book, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revisit it. Heroes and adventure, light and easy.
The Trick is to Keep Breathing – Janice Galloway
This book is both awesome and painful. The writing style makes the character real, their mental collapse intimate, and their situation familiar. It also hurts my brain. This is a must-read, but it’s a must-read ONCE. To be fair I wouldn’t have picked this book up normally, not a style I particularly seek out, and I guess I have to thank Tertiary Education for pointing me in this direction. Definitely a book that makes you think.
The Golden City – John Twelve Hawks
Again the last book in an ongoing series, and one I hadn’t seen the beginning of. Unlike Gods and Monsters, this book did not stand on its own and given the style I won’t be going back to look at the rest.
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
A revisit to an old favourite. I think every nerd, geek and fantasy freak I know has a copy of this stashed away on their bookcase. Arguably one of Gaiman’s best works and certainly one of my inspirations. The idea that gods are sustained by belief is hardly new, nor that gods very natures are shaped by their followers, but it is rarely address so well.
Hot Sleep – Orson Scott Card
Well… that was a snooze fest. Mediocre first half, then a whole new sub-par story for the second half. This one goes in the resell-to-the-bookstore pile
Big Brother – Lionel Shriver
I must admit, Shriver confuses me. Her work is the gives you the depth and unchallenging read of genre fiction, without any of the entertainment value and escapism. If I wanted to lose myself in a dreary world with superficial hat tips to the societies underlying problems I’d stay at work with Facebook open.
Proxima /&/ Ultima – Stephen Baxter
Okay, so two books rather than one. That’s okay, its also a dozen stories rather than two. Baxter takes us on a long and epic journey through several generations of a particular family. Think an alternate history that takes the long look at unfolding events. The first book was powerful, leaving me wanting to know more. The second, however, didn’t give me what I needed. Maybe it’s the revolving cast of characters, but I lost interest. It may also be that there are so many interesting secondary characters that I would rather be following. Still, some truly massive ideas here, and well worth checking out.
EDIT: This used to be 50 books in 50 weeks, but let’s face it, I can’t keep to a schedule, and even if I could I often forget to record which books I’ve read, or what I thought about them.
Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve fallen afoul of the popular meme; maybe not. I have decided that if I’m not reading a book a week, then I’m really not keeping up with my field. So Starting now, it’s time to be catching up with what I’ve read, doing 2 sentence reviews, and then looking for the next literary fix.
Recently I did the unthinkable. I picked up the first book in each of three separate series. Traditionally I’ve avoided multi-part series unless they’re already finished. What if the writer dies? Or never gets around to finishing that series you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for (looking at you George RR Martin). This time, one of each and maybe I won’t be stuck reading a crap series simply because I bought all the books at once.
So here are the first 10, amazing in the fact that there wasn’t a novel here that annoyed me. All good (in their own ways) all books I’m glad I read.
Shadow and Betrayal – Daniel Abraham
The Long Price (Book One): Nice Asian feel to this one, nice story, interesting background concepts. Not quite to my taste, but good all the same.
Winterbirth – Brian Ruckley
The Godless World (Book One): Love the world, and love the story, not particularly in love with the characters. It’s not that they’re bad characters, just that they don’t particularly grip me and I find myself skipping the names just to get to the meat of the story.
The Blade Itself – Joe Abercrombie
The First Law (Book One): Kind of the reverse of Brain Ruckley’s work, here I love the detail and depth given to the characters but the plot seems a bit… meh….
Gardens of the Moon – Steven Erikson
A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Not a quiet read, this one gets you thinking, and in my case writing the rest of the story in my head at the end of each chapter. I have to say that this is one of those rare gems, epic fantasy that doesn’t seem to break suspension of disbelief.
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
A read-reading a classic, what can I say? Two of my favourite thinkers writing together.
Small Favour – Jim Butcher
Dresden Files: I’m a big Butler fan and this book reminded me why. Like all the Dresden Files the novels are a bit on the light and pulpy side but still pack a great story. Great detective genre work with the arcane almost as a glaze.
The Shadow of Solomon – Laurence Gardner
Um…. Still digesting. Originally I picked this up as was research material, not so sure what it became by the time I put it down. I’ll go out on a limb here and give it an “Interesting” and leave it at that.
Blood Heir – Brain Ruckley
The Godless World (Book Two): Back in the godless world the story continues, but the characters remain bleached of real interest. Don’t get me wrong, still a good read.
Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie
The First Law (Book Two): Back in this world that seems to be looking more and more familiar, the novel follows basically three different story paths, all three of which are ultimately futile. The story has cemented itself as the frame for the characters, who while still intriguing, don’t seem to be evolving much.