Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Pages of 2016

This is a little late this year, but I'm not likely to finish anything that will make the list before I post this, so this is what I liked the most of what I read throughout 2016.

Readingwise 2016 was a productive year. I managed 112 books, which is up on last year's total, also over the 100 mark. That's an average of more than 2 a week, so pretty good going. I did game the system a little, because I read a few fairly short books in there, although not as many novellas as in 2015.

I'm fairly picky about this list, so even though I read 112 books, only 7 make it here. Bear in mind that I don't include rereads here, and I did a lot of rereading in 2016, so that averages it out a bit.

Without further ado and explanation here are Elfy's favourite reads of 2016:

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente - Radiance was an absolutely extraordinary work of fiction. It almost defies categorisation. It effortlessly switches between genres and at times the story line doesn't even matter, but that is Valente. She creates these amazing worlds with words and you don't read her books so much as you experience them. I can't explain Radiance, but I can recommend it and was left once again marvelling at the skill Catherynne M. Valente possesses. This may not ever happen, but the woman needs to go down as one the genre's greatest ever wordsmiths and we're lucky to have her. Radiance is so far the best thing she's written, and the book stays with the reader long after they've read the last page and closed it's cover.

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman - it was actually a near run thing as to whether I was going to put both this and Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire on the list. I guess I could have included both, but they're similar and Drearcliff Grange just wins out. The only other Kim Newman I've read is Anno Dracula (which I also loved), but I never could get my head around the sequels to that. This is a standalone, or possibly the opener to a new series. Newman's covers are always arresting, and I just couldn't walk past this one without picking it up and having a look. So glad I did. It's a sort of entry into the ever growing list of superhero books, but kind of that meets Tom Brown's Schooldays with a bit of Tompkinson's Schooldays from Ripping Yarns thrown in. The twist to that being that it's an all girls school placed in a gothic mansion on a forbidding moor, it's actually more like an inescapable prison than a school. Fun, creepy and leaves the reader wanting more. Although it ties everything up neatly at the end, there is an indication that the author can take the concept and the characters forward a lot if he wants to in the future. I'd be up for a sequel.

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole - I have read and enjoyed Myke Cole's Shadow Ops series, but none of the books have ever made this list, until now. I know most readers thoroughly enjoyed Breach Zone (the end of the Shadow Ops trilogy), and find it to be Cole's best book, I did like it, but I preferred the opener to that trilogy and felt that the 2nd and 3rd books didn't quite live up to the promise shown in the first one. For that reason I took a fair while to pick up Gemini Cell. So glad I did, though. It's set in the same world, but before the events in the trilogy, so kind of a prequel. It's a great man hunt story with plenty of military action and magic thrown in to keep the story moving along. I ripped through this, as I literally could not stop reading. The sequel Javelin Rain is every bit as good, too. If you're looking for a whike knuckled thrill ride of a novel, get Gemini Cell.

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig - I'm a big fan of Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black novels (when is the next of those coming out?), and I've liked his Aftermath Star Wars books. Despite this I was a little wary of dipping my toe into something else of his (I didn't like The Blue Blazes). This was a little science fictional with a fair bit of techno thriller thrown in. A group of cyber criminals are forced to work for the government and if they can't figure things out they're all dead. Wendig's usually sharp, choppy style suits his snarky, take no prisoners characters in this and he fits really well into a modern world. I'll be getting the sequel; Invasion.

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley - it took me a long time to take a chance on The Rook, and I think I only bought it because I saw it cheap. I did want to like it from the start, because it was by an Aussie, but every time I picked it up something about the blurb said no. O'Malley needs a new blurb writer, because while it's technically correct it gives the reader no real indication of what the book actually is. I adored Myfanwy and the way she handled her new life and her way of being inserted into it with no memory of anything before waking up in a park full of dead people. It's rather like Memento meets Monty Python. There really shouldn't be this much humour in a book with the body count of The Rook, but there is. I found the sequel; Stiletto, to be quite disappointing, so I am hoping The Rook isn't a case of lightning in a bottle.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers - I adored The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet last year and was hoping that Becky Chambers could follow it up with a fitting sequel. I should not have worried. A Closed and Common Orbit was amazing. Totally different in style and concept, although set in the same universe, but with an all new cast, she continued her world building and introduced readers to more of this world, peopled with characters that for some reason the reader just wants to hang out with. Once again she managed to tug on the tear ducts, and leave me wanting another book from her.

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey - for some reason I often get a late entry into this list and in 2016 it was New Pompeii. Maybe it was because I had recently finished watching Westworld, that this hit me so hard. In Westworld the frontier town and world is an artificial construct peopled by sophisticated robots, but it's an example of using advanced tech for entertainment and monetary gain. In New Pompeii, a large tech company has developed time travel and managed to exactly replicate Pompeii complete with actual Pompeiians that they have extracted from the town before Vesuvius destroyed it and them. The only thing that they didn't count on was how smart the Romans were and that their natural instinct to conquer and control would come to the fore. A fun, smart page turner. I look forward to more from Daniel Godfrey.

I hope 2017 can live up to the standard set by 2016.

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