I’d planned to do this post properly, but what with my second book coming out and the frustration it’s taking to hammer the cover into shape, I’ve been distracted, so this will be a rather scruffy retrospective.
Also, this is not a list of my favorite books released this year, just the ones read this year. Yes, I’m probably way late on some of them. No, I don’t care.
Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone.
This was published in 2012, and the pseudo-sequel is already out (I guess I’ll be reading that in 2014!), but I didn’t get to it until March. I work at a library so I kept seeing it on the shelves, kept stopping to stare at the cover and read the inside flap, but I had a pile of books at home and didn’t want to add to it. My loss, because it was incredible. Took a bit to get into, because it just flings you into the action, but I’m a sucker for the mechanics of magic and gods and the practical (and, apparently, legal) applications of both. Add a clever reveal at the end and I found myself well pleased. Hopefully the second book is as awesome.
Claymore, by Norihiro Yagi.
I watch a lot more anime than I read manga — or at least I used to. These days I don’t actually watch all that much, and I find myself reading more and more, which is how I ended up here. I’d always thought Claymore looked a bit too fan-servicey: lots of spindly girls in skimpy armor running around with big swords, not a lot of substance. But though there was the spindly-girl-skimpy-armor bit, the fanservice aspect tapered off quickly, leaving a tale of young women manipulated into becoming monstrous living weapons by paternalistic warmongers, then finally banding together instead of being separated by jealousy and competition to take back control of their lives. The series started in 2002, so I’m way late on it, but it was a nice surprise.
The Gentleman Bastard Series, by Scott Lynch.
Damn the man. I don’t know how he does it. I hadn’t even heard of this series until I joined Fantasy Faction and everyone was talking about the upcoming third book. Hype usually turns me off like a switch, and I can’t remember if I started reading because my friend Erica was or if I finally gave in and pulled it from the shelf, but the first book — The Lies of Locke Lamora — blew my socks off. Just the smooth way the man delivers details… Nngargh!
I have some issues with him, of course, and his gimmick of present-chapter-past-chapter is starting to wear thin, but he’s just so smooth with the world-building and scene-setting. I read Red Seas Under Red Skies and The Republic of Thieves this year too, and his skill just keeps gnawing at me. Color me green with envy.
Collapse, by Jared Diamond.
In addition to all the fantasy, scifi and graphic novels, I’m a fairly prolific reader of nonfiction. I love science and sociology and history, and I like to pull from those to make my own world more real. So this book, about the collapse or near-collapse of several civilizations in both the distant and recent past, was quite enlightening. It examined each case from several different angles to try to figure out why this civilization survived while another in a similar situation failed, with much of it coming down to the human response to the environment — were the people so wrapped up in their own political and social power-struggles that the land that supported them came last, or did they realize and put into effect a proper stewardship that would keep their country from dying right under their feet? Obviously it’s relevant to today’s environmental and sociocultural issues, but it was also interesting to apply to my world’s past collapses and near-collapses. Not a perfect read, but one I consider a resource.
Vicious, by V. E. Schwab.
The most recent of my favorites, and another one that drew me on the strength of the cover and the inside-flap, Vicious is not really a story about superheroes — it’s more like Flatliners meets The Talented Mr. Ripley. Both the ‘hero’ and the ‘villain’ seem to be high-functioning sociopaths, with the ‘villain’ the more reasonable of the two. I like stories with blurred lines between good and evil, and though this one was fairly straightforward — real badguy thinks he’s saving the world, real protagonist is only a shade less dark but a bit more self-aware — it hooked me quick. I do think the first half, when they’re seeking their powers, is stronger than the second half where their vendetta against each other plays out, but the ending pleased me greatly in all its anticlimactic glory. I had a dark chuckle with it and closed the book, feeling satisfied. Rather wish it was longer, actually; I would have liked to follow Victor Vale through a few hundred more pages.
So those are my standouts. I read a lot more stuff over the course of the year (mostly comic books, cough cough) and I could talk about a few frustrations and disappointments, but meh. I don’t want to rant and this isn’t really a review-blog. I might bring them up some time in another post regarding what I’ve learned NOT do to, but otherwise I’ll leave it be.
There were a few more books I wanted to put on here, but when I checked my list I realized I read them in 2012. Curses! I wasn’t as active last year as this year, so I’ve missed my window. Ah well.
See you all next year!