It’s the end of the year and that can only mean one thing: list season has begun! Here is the first in a three part series of the 12 best genre books I read that were published this year (or very late last year). Some of these may be familiar to readers of this column, but many are books I haven’t had a chance to write about yet. I’d love to know your favorites in the comments!
The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
A blessedly original dark fantasy that is equal parts fable, adventure story and romance rolled into one piquant blend. Egbert, an egotistical soldier, is scarred by a mysterious stranger after he accidently murders young scholar. As he is ostracized from the life he knows, he goes on a journey to rid himself of the curse that controls him. A vivid story rich in details and laced with tender moments of emotional acuity. A fairy tale for the mature adult that is told with gentle melancholy and a skilled voice.
Caliban’s War by James SA Corey
An excellent second novel in the Expanse series. I actually have enjoyed this one just as much, if not more than the first one. The characters get even more depth as the author delves into their backstories. The dialog is witty (shades of Bujold abound) and the story has an undeniable thrust that makes the 500+ whoosh by. The story involves a ragtag crew of space mercenaries who become embroiled once again in a cross-solar system political scheme gone awry. You’ll want to read Leviathan Wakes first (lucky you!), but this series is shaping up to be an absolute classic. Sequel to Leviathan Wakes.
Spark by Amy Kathleen Ryan
My goodness what a series! Ryan pulls no punches in the second installment of the Sky Chasers series which revolves around two generation ships in conflict: one staffed by scientists and the other by religious zealots. Think Lord of the Flies written by Poul Anderson. This novel had more shocks than should be legally allowed in literature. Sequel to Glow.
The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller by Carol Emshwiller
Carol Emshwiller is one of those authors that doesn’t so much write stories with a clear beginning, middle and end. She summons magic from disparate parts and whips them into a frenzy before they disperse into dust, leaving the reader dazed. Her stories are magical, even when they don’t feature magic in them. She’s always struck me as a more whimsical Joyce Carol Oates, with a mean streak of humor straight out of the Flannery O’ Connor playbook.