Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Top Nine Books Published in 2014

Some people do a top ten list, others do a top eleven, yet others may only do five. My list is 9 books long. Why? Partly to be a little bit different and partly because I want the tenth spot on my list to be reserved for that really great book which I simply did not get the chance to read during 2014. That really great book may also be something I have only heard whispers about and I may not discover for several more years. Whatever that tenth great book is, I’m holding a spot for it on my list.

This Top Nine List is more or less in order.  Ask me tomorrow and some titles may shift around a little bit.  Whichever order the list is in, these are the nine novels published in 2014 which I feel were the strongest titles of the year, popularity be damned. 

1. Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie: At any given moment, I could shuffle the top four books on this list and feel very comfortable with how everything landed.  But at this moment, Ancillary Sword feels the most like the book which should be at the top of this list.  After all of the hype and Ancillary Justice winning pretty much everything, Ancillary Sword had a lot of expectation to live up to.  It did, but it wasn't just Ancillary Justice Redux.  It advanced the story of the first novel but is very much its own thing.  It is a worthy successor to one of the best novels of 2013.

2. Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer: The Southern Reach trilogy as a whole is strong, but Annihilation's introduction to Area X was what unnerved me the most and set the table for a meal I simply had to come back for. 

3. The Mirror Empire, by Kameron Hurley: Alternate "mirror" worlds, blood magic, and just insane worldbuilding.  The Mirror Empire is a kick in the balls of epic fantasy and it's friggin outstanding.  Easily one of my favorite reads of the year and one which has me damn near salivating at the thought of reading the second book next year. 

4. The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison: My only complaint about this book is that it is a standalone novel, which is something that I both appreciate and am frustrated by, because I very much want more of it.  On the other hand, a quality standalone fantasy novel is worth the price of admission.

5. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Christina Henriquez: If there is ever a book that will help people re-think their views on illegal immigration and why the immigrants have come to America and the reasons why they might feel they have no choice to avoid the documented immigration system, it is this novel.  But, The Book of Unknown Americans is NOT a didactic polemic on the immigration system, but rather a fictional telling of very real stories of a small set of immigrants and what their lives were like before and now.  This is a beautiful book.

6. Hawk, by Steven Brust: I have finally caught up with the Vlad Taltos novels and Hawk is one of my favorites of a series I adore. It brought back so much of what was wonderful of those earliest Jhereg books - Vlad plotting and working a scheme and not telling nearly as much as he should, but doing so right under the nose of the Jhereg.  Wonderful. 

7. The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, by Genevieve Valentine: This is the novel I didn't realize I always wanted Valentine to write. It is an outstanding novel of 1920's New York, with dance halls and speakeasies.

8. Defenders, by Will McIntosh: Go read a Will McIntosh novel. It doesn't matter which one, but you should be reading Will McIntosh.  Earth is invaded by mind-reading aliens. Humans create the "defenders" to defeat the aliens, but that causes a new round of problems.  Defenders is excellent, and so is everything else Will McIntosh has written.

9. Steles of the Sky, by Elizabeth Bear: The Eternal Sky trilogy is an impressive piece of epic fantasy, and one which uses a more Eastern setting than Western.  I've seen this described as Silk Road Fantasy, but whatever it is - it's damn good fantasy.  This is what we expect from Elizabeth Bear, and she continues to hit the mark.  Start with Range of Ghosts. 

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