I think one of my favorite things to do since I started this site and just got active again in general has been to support the writers who I am a fan of with whatever small amount of influence I happen to have. And I'm at this exciting stage in my career as a writer where I'm starting to see my friends, people I've been writing and sharing writing with for years, get their traction in the industry, and I'm starting to see my own work finally developing into a salable commodity in fits and starts. My first short story sale is coming out in two weeks. One friend just had a book out. Another friend has a book coming out. Two more friends are powering toward the final words of their epic manuscripts. Another just sent me a copy of her finished manuscript to beta read. And all I want to do is tell you how great all of their writing is and how much of a treat you're going to be in for in a year or two years or three years when they start hitting shelves in earnest.
But this is a slow burn career. I've already sold you on Terra Brigando's Rooms for Ghosts. When the purchase button goes live and I get a copy in my grubby little hands, I'll start selling you on Marcus Lund and Stella Peach's The Sacred Life of Rosa Who Is Great. For the rest, I just need to wait. But in the meantime, I can still promote great writing. So below the cut, I've put together a list of some of the best things I've read this year, as recommendations for your bookshelves. For the sake of variety, I won't go back over some of the choices I've already recommended, like Rooms for Ghosts, Jeremy Zimmerman's Kensei, or Naomi Novik's Uprooted.
Gentlemen Bastards Series, Scott Lynch
Though the series started nearly ten years ago, I only became aware of it last year as part of my audiobook renaissance. And unlike a lot of people who pick up Lynch's series of Con Men and Magic (which as a description, woefully undersells Lynch's world and its machinations), I wasn't a very quick sell. It wasn't until the very end of the first book that I finally had my "buy-in" moment -- but what a buy-in it was. Action. Adventure. Intrigue. Truly imaginative and satisfying dialogue. I can't wait for The Thorn of Emberlain to hit the shelves.
The Temeraire Series, Naomi Novik
Another series ten years in the making but new to my heart is Novik's AMAZING 9-book alternate history of the Napoleonic wars, if of course the world's armies had aerial forces composed of dragons in their employ. That would be enough to hook me to begin with, but Novik blows the doors off with a magnificent cast of characters -- including the dragon Temeraire and his captain William Laurence, who have one of the most believable and touching friendships in fiction going -- impeccable plotting, and some of the tightest action sequences in the genre today. If you like things that are good, just read these books now.
The Inheritance Trilogy, NK Jemison
From everything I'm hearing, it sounds like Jemison is about to overthrow the entire genre (to rule it with a firm but loving hand) with her upcoming The Fifth Season. If you recall my thoughts about the level of buzz Novik's Uprooted got pre-release, I'm actually seeing far more enthusiasm, if maybe not the same volume, for The Fifth Season. But with Jemison it all started with The Inheritance Trilogy, a generational, multi-POV epic fantasy series about gods and godlings that saw Jemison beginning to explore the ideas about uprisings and world endings that are getting people so excited about her current work.
The Just City, Jo Walton
I suspect there will never be a Jo Walton book that doesn't blow me away, and that I don't struggle to classify. Among Others may very well be my favorite book of all time, and at best my best I managed to call it a "magical boarding school fantasy for adults about science fiction." My Real Children is an amazing work of both fiction and empathy that I managed to explain as "a parallel timeline near-future alternate history about love and death." Tooth and Claw was a regency-style comedy of manners in which all the people are dragons." So don't fault me when I struggle to do better by The Just City than "a kind of fictionalized modern critical analysis of Plato's Republic." Just trust me that it's amazing and impossible to do justice in a blurb, and go read it.
The Girl with All the Gifts, MR Carey
I have a love-hate relationship with zombie stories. I love thinking about them, but most of the time I hate watching or reading them. They... have problems. SO it was awfully refreshing to get to read MR Carey's novel, which avoids so many of the social fallacies and problematic narratives of the genre in favor of a small story about individual human connections, daily survival, fear, and self-examination. It will hook you immediately and if it's a little slow in the middle, you'll forgive it for that by the end.
The Newsflesh Trilogy, Mira Grant
Of course, as soon as I write about how much I struggle with the zombie genre, I recommend no fewer than four zombie books (Carey's and the three here). Grant, also known as Seanan McGuire, is gleefully in love with zombie, pop culture, and escapist tropes, and she spends her trilogy using, playing with, subverting, or otherwise tenderly caressing every one of them. Her enthusiasm bleeds into the text and, ultimately, infects the reader. Grant doesn't screw around with what makes the genre suck so much sometimes, and packs her story with enough twists, intrigue, and poignant character moments you won't even mind the few times she threatens your willing suspension of disbelief.
And, well, I'm staring down a gigantic pile of grading that has to be done by the start of next week, so that's all I have the time for today. I hope you'll think about checking some of these out, and I'll be back with more recommendations periodically.