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Reading Summary, 2019

I’ve read 39 books this year, pretty much the same as last year’s total of 40. Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 17

Science Fiction: 10

Horror: 8

Historical Fiction: 1

Mystery: 1

Mixed Genres: 1

Other: 1

During the year, I felt like I was reading more sci-fi than I have in previous years, but looking back at 2018, the proportion of science fiction is about the same. I also did not manage my goal of reading any nonfiction this year.

Favorite Book: Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson. At 1240 pages, it’s a doorstopper of a book, but it was worth every page. The continuing journey of the Knights Radiant, the return of a few favorite minor characters, and an epic climactic battle scene all made this novel riveting. Honorable mention to Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars.

Least Favorite Book: Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss. There’s a great deal of social commentary in this book, as well as an understanding of how our knowledge about history is often incomplete. How much can we really say for certain about “how things used to be,” and how does that affect the way we view the present? However, the philosophical complexity of the narrative was undermined by a one-dimensional villain.

Young People Read Old SFF

James Davis Nicoll started the “Young People Read Old SFF” project in response to an assertion by author Adam-Troy Castro that the classics of the SFF field are unlikely to inspire a life-long love of the genre in modern readers. The first iteration of the project presented young-ish readers (born after 1980) with older works in the genre, such as Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life,” Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” and Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon.”

Nicoll followed this up with a more focused version of the project. The readers in this new group would be looking at stories from Journey Press’s anthology Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963). I’m one of the readers for this part of the project, and so far we’ve read and discussed two stories: Katherine MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice” and Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon a Star.”

2018 Hugo Award Nominations

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Nominations for the Hugo Awards closed on Friday. Here’s what was on my ballot, in no particular order for each category. Some stories are available to read for free online; where that’s the case, I’ve included links.

 

Novel

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik. A compelling story that draws on Eastern European folklore, with several clever, determined protagonists.

The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty. A superb debut novel that made me immediately preorder the sequel.

Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett. The magic system in this story is fascinating and refreshingly different.

Fire and Blood, by George R.R. Martin. It’s not The Winds of Winter, but I loved the historical feel of the story, and there are definitely some interesting implications for the main plot of the ASOIAF series. The artwork is lovely too, and made me glad I bought the hard-copy edition.

A Veil of Spears, by Bradley P. Beaulieu. The continuation of the Song of the Shattered Sands series ups the stakes even further.

 

Novella

The Freeze-Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts

“We Ragged Few” by Kate Marshall (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Elevation, by Stephen King

“The Last Biker Gang” by Wil McCarthy (in Analog)

“Bury Me in the Rainbow” by Bill Johnson (in Asimov’s)

 

Novelette

“You Know How the Story Goes” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com)

“Do As I Do, Sing As I Sing” by Sarah Pinsker (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Sweetness of Honey and Rot” by A. Merc Rustad (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Tragedy of Zayred the Splendid” by Grace Seybold (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly (Tor.com)

 

Short Story

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex)

“Suite for Accompanied Cello” by Tamara Vardomskaya (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills (Strange Horizons)

“Three Meetings of the Pregnant Man Support Group” by James Beamon (Apex)

“Loss of Signal” by S.B. Divya (Tor.com)

 

Graphic Story

The Sandman Universe

The Order of the Stick. 2018 was a great year for this comic, with one of the most dramatic and emotionally satisfying moments in the storyline to date.

 

Editor, Long Form

Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link. I was very impressed with some of the books put out by their Small Beer Press in 2018, such as Su Wei’s The Invisible Valley.

 

Editor, Short Form

Ellen Datlow. In addition to her work as acquiring editor for Tor.com, I was blown away by some of the stories in her anthology The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea. I’d love to see the anthology as a whole win its category in the Bram Stoker Awards.

Scott H. Andrews. Editor-in-chief of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

C.C. Finlay. Editor-in-chief of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Trevor Quachri. Editor-in-chief of Apex.

Neil Clarke. Editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld.

 

Professional Artist

Doug Wheately. As mentioned above, I really liked his work on the illustrations in Fire and Blood.

Todd Lockwood. He may be familiar to Dungeons and Dragons players as one of the artists for the Monster Manuals, including the classic metallic and chromatic dragons. More recently, and qualifying him for a 2018 Hugo, he did the cover and interior illustrations for Marie Brennan’s Memoirs of Lady Trent series.

 

Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This was the clear standout last year, with a number of excellent stories.

Tor.com

Analog

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Clarkesworld

 

Fanzine

Rocket Stack Rank

File770

 

Series

Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley P. Beaulieu

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

Wayward Children, by Seanan McGuire

 

Campbell Award for Best New Writer

S.A. Chakraborty, for The City of Brass

 

Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Reading Summary, 2017

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I read 59 books this year, which is a bit more than double last year’s total of 27. (Admittedly, quite a few of these were novellas.) Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 25

Science Fiction: 5

Horror: 22

Historical Fiction: 3

General Fiction: 1

Nonfiction: 1

Mixed Genres: 2

Last year, my reading was heavily skewed towards fantasy. This year’s distribution was bimodal, with a pretty even split between fantasy and horror. I read more science fiction than last year, but no mystery. I finished N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, which I started last year, and continue to be an avid follower of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona novellas. I also started Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Song of the Shattered Sands series, which has rapidly become one of my favorites.

Favorite Book: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Last year, my favorite book was a fantasy based on Eastern European folklore (Naomi Novik’s Uprooted), and I really enjoyed a similar book this year, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. But Twelve Kings is full of compelling characters, acting in an interesting setting, and it began what has become one of my favorite fantasy series. I’ve read all of the companion novellas and have already pre-ordered the next book, A Veil of Spears.

Least Favorite Book: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich. As with last year, this isn’t a case of the book in question being bad. But it did leave me feeling a bit “bait-and-switched,” since a character who was billed as being the focus of the book faded into the background for most of it.

Reading Summary, 2016

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This year, I read 27 books, up from 2015’s total of 22. Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 11

Science Fiction: 2

Horror: 3

Historical Fiction: 1

Mystery: 1

General Fiction: 2

Nonfiction: 3

Mixed Genres: 4

This year’s selection is more heavily skewed towards fantasy than my reading list from last year. On the other hand, I read three nonfiction books this year, whereas I didn’t read any in 2015. I also read into five(!) new-to-me series this year: N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth, Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona/World of the Five Gods, Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files, and Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children.

Favorite book: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It was hard to choose a single favorite between this and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, as both were engrossing stories set in interesting worlds with compelling characters.

Least favorite book: The Narrator by Michael Cisco. Most of the books I read this year were excellent, so calling this my least favorite book isn’t saying that it was bad, just that it wasn’t quite as good as the others. Despite being set in a fantasy world, the novel brings a sense of realism to the war that the main character is drafted into, partly by showing the characters spending most of their time waiting or planning rather than actually fighting. While there’s a lot to be said for this approach, it did lead to some problems with the book’s pacing, and there were sections where I found it hard to stay interested.

 

Introductory Post

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Hi there!

I decided to make this blog to talk about the books I’m reading.  Most of these will likely be speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror) with the occasional historical fiction or nonfiction book thrown in.

The blog title is from a Mark Twain quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”