Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Review or The Books I've Consumed Over the Past Twelve Months

Okay... so... here's an incomplete list of the books, audiobooks, and comics I consumed in 2015. I only include works here that 1) I'm pretty sure I read during the 2015 calendar year and 2) I enjoyed enough to recommend them. Oh... and they are not in any particular order within category, so the best ones aren't necessarily at the top.


Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
A classic. Good science fiction book.

The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
Pure genius, start to finish... and great narration for the audiobook. I absolutely recommend this book; Easily in my top 50 ever.

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
So, so good. If you haven't read it, do so. The audiobook is brilliant.

Nexus - Ramez Naam
Crux - Ramez Naam
Apex - Ramez Naam
Excellent near-future science-fictional techno-thriller trilogy. Great fun—and they make you think. A lot. Full of stimulating speculations and plausible extrapolations about technology, neurobiology, politics, warfare, religion, and human relationships.

Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
Oh, holy hell, yes! Of course, anything from KSR is going to be amazing, but this... this... well, go read it (or listen to it).

2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson
Wait, hang on... if Aurora got a ten, 2312 gets at least an eleven? Because, yeah, this one is even better. Well... I don't know if it's actually better, but it affected me more. An absolute masterpiece.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
A classic—and for good reason. Excellent book. If you haven't read it, do.

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
Thoroughly enjoyable. Especially if you're into opera.

Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
I wanted this book to go on forever. So beautiful!

The Water Knife - Paolo Bacigalupi
Terrific book. More environmental thriller maybe than SF (and thrillers aren't typically my thing), but wow, did it keep me rapt! I loved The Windup Girl, Pump Six, and Shipbreaker, but I feel like the characters in The Water Knife are even more real and alive. As their paths converge, collide, and become inextricably tangled, all of their motivations, actions, and responses are entirely real... and their outcomes are earned. A gritty delight.

SevenEves - Neal Stephenson
YES! The first half destroyed me; the second half reconstituted the debris. Amazing book. I listened to it shortly after it came out (May) and hardly a day has passed since that I haven't thought about it.

The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
So strange. Beautiful. Ultimately, I loved this book, but it was... different. Quite possibly perfect.

We Are All Completely Fine - Daryl Gregory
Brilliant novella. Engaging, compelling, thought-provoking, emotionally moving, and funny. I feel like the characters are still living in my head—they pop up every now and again to remind me that the world is a very weird place.

Harrison Squared - Daryl Gregory
Super fun Lovecraftian YA novel featuring [spoilers] one of the characters from We Are All Completely Fine. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope Daryl gives us more novels from this world!

Passage - Connie Willis
Damnit, Connie! Why? WHY? WHY? I'm pretty sure I'll never completely recover from this one. Wow. SO good. Possibly my favorite Connie Willis novel (which is saying a lot, given that my older daughter's middle name came from Connie's Doomsday Book). Intense and heart-crushing exploration of death, hope, grief, love, disasters, stupidity, brilliance, and resilience (romance and comedy make their appearances too, of course—it is a Connie Willis novel, after all).

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
Mitchell at his finest. I can't recommend this book enough. So good. And the narration in the audiobook (by two different narrators) is superb.

The Peripheral - William Gibson
If it weren't for Aurora, 2312, and SevenEves, and Passage, I'd say that The Peripheral was the best science fiction audiobook on the list... but given those other four, I'll just say it's one of the five best science fiction audiobooks on the list. Really, though, this is a positively brilliant and expertly executed book. I LOVED it.

Cujo - Stephen King
Another classic. Very effective.

In progress: The Years of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley Robinson
I'm about three-quarters of the way through this massive tome... and unless it falls apart somehow (which I can't imagine it doing), it's on track to be among my favorite books ever.

Books (print or electronic)

Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson
Really wonderful YA novel. Read it!

The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
This is a strange and wonderful book. Deeply moving and thoroughly original. Also a great one for opera lovers.

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
So good. This book inhabits that marvelous realm where literary and speculative fiction intersect. If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat.

All Those Vanished Engines - Paul Park
Unlike anything else I've read. I loved it... but I don't know how/where to classify it. Scenes and images from this book play in my mind over and over again and every time I think about it, I discover new ways to see it. This is one that I definitely need to read again. And you should read it too so that we can talk about it.

The Dragons of Heaven - Alyc Helms
So, so good! SO MUCH FUN! Wow. A wild and brilliant mix of noir, adventure, fantasy, and romance. And DRAGONS! Oh, but these are not the dragons you've known before. These dragons... wow... they might just stir up feelings that... well... read the book for yourself. But don't blame me if you love it in ways you might never have expected.
Caution: If you start this book, you won't be able to put it down... and when you've finished it, you'll want more. Good news, though, the sequel, The Conclave of Shadow, is coming this April!

Seriously Wicked - Tina Connolly
What a riot! Seriously, this book rocks. Funny, smart YA fantasy. Couldn't put it down. Can hardly wait for the next in the series, Seriously Shifted, to come out next fall.

MARTians - Blythe Woolston
Blythe, Blythe, Blythe... what a book. This YA novel shows us an all too plausible dystopian future—though not your typical dystopian future. This is a future of compulsory consumerism... and it is scary. But the characters are so goddamned beautiful—and the ways that they learn to carry on and find hope and happiness... well, it's inspiring.

Solitaire - Kelley Eskridge
Such a great book! So much to think about in this one. And such wonderful characters. I love books that take me deep into the mind of another... and this one is all about living inside. I'll be reading this one again before long, and I can hardly wait for the forthcoming film adaptation, OtherLife.

Three Songs for Roxy - Caren Gussoff
Beautiful and brilliant novella. I loved every word of it! It's an aliens-among-us story... but more than that, it's story about people and commonalities despite apparent differences... and embracing love when and where it finds you.

Experimental Film - Gemma Files
So creepy and awesome! The characters feel like people you know (some like the people you wish you didn't know), their fears and motivations become your own. The gods and ghosts that affect them will haunt and harass you, and you'll never be able to unsee the images that this book projects onto your brain. But you'll be glad that you read it... and, like me, you'll be eager for more of Files' fiction.

Shelter - Susan Palwick
Lovely, amazing book about empathy and forgiveness and transformation... and artificial intelligence and high-tech houses and robot companions. Art, science, religion, philosophy, technology, medicine, psychology—these are the threads of which Shelter is woven... but the tapestry itself is a story—the story of a person and of the lives that that person touches, loves, tortures, serves, protects, and destroys... and of how that person is, over the course of her life, transformed and redeemed. Read the book and you'll be transformed too... for the better.

The Devourers - Indrapramit Das
Where do I even begin. This book dug its claws into me and tore me apart—completely shredded me... and then it ate me alive, spat out the bones, set them on fire, and then coaxed a phoenix of pure, elated joy from my ashes. This book... this fucking book... Holy hell! It is THE book.
Oh... but it's not available just yet in the USA. You can get hold of the Penguin India edition if you hunt around, or hold tight till summer of 2016, when it'll be published in the USA by Del Rey (put it on your wish lists and start asking your libraries and bookstores to order it as soon as it's available).

Look to Windward - Iain M. Banks
Good book. Not my favorite of his, perhaps, but still, amazing. Of course, to say that a book is not my favorite Iain M. Banks book is like saying that Laphroaig 10 isn't my favorite Laphroaig: no, this isn't the Iain M. Banks book that I would put at the top of my list, but it's still an Iain M. Banks Culture novel, so it's gonna be high on any list of SF books I ever assemble.

All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders
Easily one of my favorite books of the year—of the decade, even. A masterful marriage of science fiction and fantasy in a book that glows with fun and joy. It's exciting, romantic, smart, funny, inspiring—it's everything that a book should be... oh... everything except available. But don't worry. It'll be on shelves just 27 days from now (January 26, 2016!). So hurry up and preorder it! You will LOVE it.

In progress: Lament for the Afterlife - Lisa Hannett
I'm only a quarter of the way in, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be among the best of the best of the past several years. I won't say more yet, but wow... it's something new and amazing. Go buy it and read it so that we can talk about it.

And then there are two others that I read and loved but that aren't available yet. I did get permission from the authors to talk about them, though (hence this updated version of the post... for those of you who read the original), so here we go:

The Riverbank - Kij Johnson
The Wind In the Willows has always been one of my favorite books. I think I've read it at least five times. I can hardly wait to read it to my girls. But it has some problems. Mostly... where the hell are all the female animals?
In Kij's masterful sequel, The Riverbank, (Small Beer Press, 2017) this problem is remedied! AND the story is brilliant. SO MUCH FUN! It is a perfect, natural extension of Kenneth Graham's classic—both a worthy homage from a loving fan and an ingenious extrapolation by one of the best writers. In Riverbank, the characters with whom I grew up continue their adventures (or their attempts to avoid adventure), but they are joined by several folk, all of whom instantly feel as though they've always been part of the story, and now, in my mind, are as essential to my experience of this world as Mole, Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad.
I am immensely excited for this book to be released to the world.

Icarus Kids - Helen Marshall
This long-awaited debut novel from World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of the collections, Gifts For the One Who Comes After and Hair Side, Flesh Side, is everything I could possibly have hoped for. And more. If you've read Helen's stories, you already know that she is one of the most talented, capable, and original writers alive today (or ever!), but getting to sink into an entire novel's worth of her writing—to inhabit the lives and minds of her characters, to learn, love, and fear their world in depth, and to experience their transformations—is a literary treat of delightful (and frightful!) immensity. Is it fantasy? Horror? Science Fiction? Magical Realism? Yes. But does its classification matter? No. Icarus Kids is. Read it (once it's available) and you'll understand that that is what matters.

Comics / Graphic Novels
I'm not going to say anything about the ongoing series, but if they're on this list, it means that I think they're great (I started a whole lot more series this year that I didn't like well enough to mention).

Saga - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Ms. Marvel - G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

We Stand On Guard - Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce

Sex Criminals - Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky

Daytripper - Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
Okay... I just read this one last week and it may just be my favorite graphic novel ever. Granted, I haven't actually read very many comics or graphic novels, but still... this would easily be among the best books of any sort that I've read. So, so good.

Unwritten - Mike Carey & Peter Gross