Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Best Fiction I Read On 2017

This is a different kind of 'best of' list. The idea to make such a post has been in the back of mind for quite a long while now.

This is a list identifying my best read among the books/short stories/graphic novels I read last year. I will try to add stuff that gave me more enjoyment or made me think for a long time after I was done.

I know I should have done this a lot sooner than now. But here goes -

[PS: Once again, this is done in no particular order of rating or any other system at all. ]

"Tome of the Undergates (Aeons' Gate #1)" 
Writer - Sam Sykes
Publisher - Gollancz / Pyr

The debut novel from an extraordinarily talented twenty-five-year-old author. Fantasy's next global star has arrived.
Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions.
So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out.
Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century.

[ Mr. 'Sam Sykes' is a unique guy. This is his unique and humorous take on the Epic Fantasy genre. I loved the shit out of this one. Here is my review. ]

"Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1)"
Writer - Nicolas Eames
Publisher - Orbit

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best -- the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.
Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk - or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.
It's time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

[ This my opinion is not only the best book I read last year but also the best book published in 2017. This is a love-letter to 'hard rock / heavy metal' disguised as epic fantasy. I loved this and recently reviewed it for fantasy-faction - review link.

"Agents of Dreamland"
Writer - Caitlin R. Kiernan
Publisher - Tor.com

A government special agent known only as the Signalman gets off a train on a stunningly hot morning in Winslow, Arizona. Later that day he meets a woman in a diner to exchange information about an event that happened a week earlier for which neither has an explanation, but which haunts the Signalman.
In a ranch house near the shore of the Salton Sea a cult leader gathers up the weak and susceptible—the Children of the Next Level—and offers them something to believe in and a chance for transcendence. The future is coming and they will help to usher it in.
A day after the events at the ranch house which disturbed the Signalman so deeply that he and his government sought out help from ‘other’ sources, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory abruptly loses contact with NASA’s interplanetary probe New Horizons. Something out beyond the orbit of Pluto has made contact.
And a woman floating outside of time looks to the future and the past for answers to what can save humanity.

[ This just suddenly punched out the air out of my lungs. I immediately started reading 'Lovecraft' after my recovery. Here is my attempt at reviewing this - review link. ]  

"Doctor Strange, Vol 1, 2 & 3"
Writer - Jason Aaron
Artist - Chris Bachalo
Publisher - Marvel Comics

Only Doctor Strange can protect our world from the darkness beyond -- now, witness the full toll that constant struggle takes on Earth's Sorcerer Supreme! Every spell cast comes at a cost, but what happens when Strange falls behind on his tab? Find out as the good doctor wakes up somewhere very odd, nearly naked -- with no spell books, no weapons and no memory of how he got there...or why all the monsters are chasing him! And as a new visitor to Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum learns one wrong door can lead to oblivion, a magic circle of Strange's friends and allies are about to face their greatest threat. Dark forces are destroying everything mystical in the multiverse, and their sights are set on this dimension. Magic's days are numbered, and Doctor Strange is not ready! 

[ I really loved the first three 'Doctor Strange' volume by Jason Aaron. Aaron described the nature of magic in the world of Marvel Comics quite brilliantly, and the characters, both old and new that he used were handled masterfully as well. ]

Writer - Mark de Jager
Publisher - Del Rey

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.
Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.
As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.
A bold new voice in fantasy and a revolutionary new character.

[ A book with a very questionable protagonist, fast paced action and some interesting twists and turns thrown in between. This is a lovely debut, which really explored a new level of grimdark in fantasy fiction. ]

"Dark Night: A True Batman Story"
Writer - Paul Dini
Artist - Eduardo Risso
Publisher - DC Comics

This is a Batman story like no other-the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of writer Paul Dini’s courageous struggle to overcome a desperate situation.
The Caped Crusader has been the all-abiding icon of justice and authority for generations. But in this surprising original graphic novel, we see Batman in a new light-as the savior who helps a discouraged man recover from a brutal attack that left him unable to face the world.
In the 1990s, legendary writer Paul Dini had a flourishing career writing the hugely popular BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and TINY TOON ADVENTURES. Walking home one evening, he was jumped and viciously beaten within an inch of his life. His recovery process was arduous, hampered by the imagined antics of the villains he was writing for television including the Joker, Harley Quinn and the Penguin. But despite how bleak his circumstances were, or perhaps because of it, Dini also always imagined the Batman at his side, chivvying him along during his darkest moments.
A gripping graphic memoir of one writer’s traumatic experience and his deep connection with his creative material, DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY is an original graphic novel that will resonate profoundly with fans. Art by the incredible and talented Eduardo Risso (100 BULLETS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN).

[ This is an original graphic novel based on the true story of a writer, which is a brilliant example of how fictional heroes can influence people with real life problems. An impressionable tale that left me jarred for some time. ]

"The Last Sacrifice (The Tides Of War #1)"
Writer - James A Moore
Publisher - Angry Robots

Since time began, the Grakhul – immortal servants of the gods – have taken human sacrifices to keep the world in balance and the gods appeased. When the choose the family of warrior Brogan McTyre, everything changes.
Brogan begins the toughest battle of his life to free his family from their terrible fate. But when you challenge the gods, you challenge the very fabric of society. Declared an outcast, Brogan and his kin are hunted like criminals – but nothing will stand in his way.

[ Another interesting take on grimdark, this was another highlight from my 2017 reads. I reviewed it for fantasy-faction - review link. ]

"City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2)"
Writer - Robert Jackson Bennett
Publisher - Jo Fletcher / Broadway Books

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.
Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.
So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh — foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister — has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.
At least, it makes the perfect cover story.
The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery. For while the city’s god is most certainly dead, something is awakening in Voortyashtan. And someone is determined to make the world tremble at the the city’s awful power again.

[ 'RJ Bennett' is one of the authors I admire most presently. This is a perfect example of why he is such a master of world-building and creating incredible characters. This book is a realistic picture of the impact of war on all who are part of it and in a world that is such a treat to explore. ]

"The Vagrant (The Vagrant #1)"
Writer - Peter Newman
Publisher - Harper Voyager

The Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

[ Due to its overuse, it has become almost impossible to make a post-apocalyptic setting resonate with the readers, but this novel managed to do so for me with its interesting and original approach. Do check my review for this. ]

"The Last Place You Look (Roxane Weary #1)"
Writer - Kristen Lepionka
Publisher - Minotaur Books / Faber & Faber

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton - black and from the wrong side of the tracks - was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.
Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she thinks she's linked Sarah's disappearance to one of her father's unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad's life and her own.
With echoes of Sue Grafton, Dennis Lehane and the hit podcast Serial, The Last Place You Look is the gripping debut of both a bold new voice and character.

[ A modern mystery/thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat even after I was done. Really strong characters here. An author to definitely keep an eye out for me. ]

"A Human Stain"
Writer - Kelly Robson
Publisher - Tor.com

A disturbing horror novelette about a British expatriate at loose ends who is hired by her friend to temporarily care for his young, orphaned nephew in a remote castle-like structure in Germany.

[ A creepy little horror short that still makes me shiver and uncomfortable when I think about it. Top-notch stuff. ]  

These are my highlights from my fiction reads of last year. Now the only list left to publish is the best fantasy / science fiction books from '17. I probable will that post close to the end of the month as I still have a few last minute decisions to make. 

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