Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ones That Got Away 2012…

ReadingPilesOfBooksI’ve already said I didn’t want to do a “Best Of 2012” post, so instead I’m going to look at the books I really wish I’d been able to read this past year. These books I was just not able to get around to this year, due to any number of unforeseen circumstances (usually because I was distracted by another book released this year).

In no particular order, this is actually just a small selection of the books that slipped by me (there are so many, I’ll probably do another similar post next week). I’ve included synopses and a few comments for some of them.

[Above image from here.]

WilsonGW-AlifTheUnseenUKG. Willow Wilson, Alif the Unseen (Corvus/Grove)

In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients—dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups—from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif—the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind. The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the State’s electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover’s new fiancĂ© is the head of State security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground. When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.

This novel was a victim of my constant moving and effective vagabond life-style. I wasn’t able to pack the ARC I received in my suitcase to come back to the US, so I posted it along with a few others. It took well over a month to deliver, so by the time it arrived, I’d shifted my attention to some other new releases that had been arriving. I’ll definitely get to it, though. The premise is just too enticing.

Also on CR: Interview with

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Hair-MQ1-MagesBloodDavid Hair, Mage’s Blood (Jo Fletcher)

Most of the time the Moontide Bridge lies deep below the sea, but every 12 years the tides sink and the bridge is revealed, its gates open for trade.

The Magi are hell-bent on ruling this new world, and for the last two Moontides they have led armies across the bridge on ‘crusades’ of conquest.

Now the third Moontide is almost here and, this time, the people of the East are ready for a fight... but it is three seemingly ordinary people that will decide the fate of the world.

This just sounds really interesting, and I’m finding myself with a  hankering for more Big Book Fantasies, so I’ll pop this higher in the TBR pile mountain.

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Sykes-SkyboundSeaUKSam Sykes, The Skybound Sea (Pyr/Gollancz)

The skies bleed. The Earth groans. The sea howls. The world is rent asunder as the Kraken Queen claws her way from hell. And the only ones standing in her way are a young man with a piece of steel and a voice in his head his many companions, and their many, many problems. As Lenk journeys to the Island of Jaga, the tomb of Ulbecetonth, he is hunted. By enemies, by the woman he loves, by the demon he has to kill, by an army of any number of bloodthirsty purple berserkers, savage lizardmen, vicious monsters, and colossal demons. In the lands where sky and sea have forgotten they were ever separate, Lenk and his companions' destinies await at the tip of a sword and the mouth of hell.

This book met the same fate as Alif the Unseen – it was one of the ARCs that I posted to the US. I know I like Sykes’s writing, and he’s improved with each novel, so The Skybound Sea should be superb. I’ll try to get to it very soon.

Also on CR: Interview with Sam Sykes, Catch-Up Interview, Tome of the Undergates, Black Halo

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Stina Leicht, Of Blood & Honey (Night Shade)

Leicht-BookOfFey&Fallen

Liam never knew who his father was. The town of Derry had always assumed that he was the bastard of a protestant — his mother never spoke of him, and Liam assumed he was dead. But when the war between the fallen and the fey began to heat up, Liam and his family are pulled into a conflict that they didn't know existed.

A centuries old conflict between supernatural forces seems to mirror the political divisions in 1970's era Ireland, and Liam is thrown headlong into both conflicts! Only the direct intervention of Liam's real father, and a secret catholic order dedicated to fighting “The Fallen” can save Liam... from the mundane and supernatural forces around him, and from the darkness that lurks within him.

Another pair of novels that seem to repeatedly escape my attention (And Blue Skies From Pain was released March 2012). Maybe because I have them as eBooks, it’s sometimes easy to forget they’re there, demanding my attention… I’ll fix this oversight. The premise is really interesting, and I know a lot of other reviewers whose opinions I respect have really enjoyed these two novels.

Also on CR: Interview with Stina Leicht

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Sprunk-3-ShadowsMasterJon Sprunk, Shadow’s Master (Pyr/Gollancz)

The northern wastes...

A land of death and shadow where only the strongest survive. Yet that is where Caim must go to follow the mystery at the heart of his life. Armed only with his knives and his companions, he plunges into a world of eternal night where the sun is never seen and every hand is turned against him.

Caim has buried his father’s sword and found some measure of peace, but deep in the north an unfathomable power lays waiting. To succeed on this mission, Caim will have to more than just survive. He must face the Shadow’s Master.

I think Shadow’s Master has been the victim of my strange tendency to only finish series/trilogies reluctantly. I’m not sure what causes this, but I do seem to be unconsciously averse to completing series. Maybe to avoid mourning the end of something I’ve enjoyed so much… I’ll try to get to this very early in the New Year.

Also on CR: Interview with Jon Sprunk, Guest Post, Shadow’s Son, Shadow’s Lure

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Sullivan-3-HeirOfNovronUKMichael J. Sullivan, Heir of Novron (Orbit)

A forced wedding. A double execution. Two thieves have other plans.

The New Empire intends to mark its victory over the Nationalists with a bloody celebration. On the high holiday of Wintertide, the Witch of Melengar will be burned and the Heir of Novron executed. On that same day the Empress faces a forced marriage, with a fatal accident soon follow. The New Empire is confident in the totality of its triumph but there's just one problem-Royce and Hadrian have finally found the true Heir of Novron – and they have their own holiday plans.

It’s rather strange to realise that I read Rise of Empire over a year ago, now. I loved the first two omnibuses in this series, so I cannot for the life of my figure out why I never got around to reading Heir of Novron. I’ve had it since the day it was available as an eBook. I’ll sort myself out and read this hopefully before the first prequel is released in 2013.

Also on CR: Interview with Michael Sullivan, Guest Post, The Viscount and the Witch, Theft of Swords, Rise of Empire

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Kameron Hurley, God’s War, Infidel and Rapture (Night Shade)

Hurley-BelDameApocrypha

Nyx had already been to hell. One prayer more or less wouldn’t make any difference...

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on...

There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx’s ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war – but at what price?

The world is about to find out.

So only one of these came out this year, but for a while it was tricky to get hold of Hurley’s God’s War in the UK, and when I finally was able to get my hands on it, I was swamped by other things. With three novels now out in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, though, I think I’ll be giving this a look early in the New Year.

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Abraham-D&C-2-TheKingsBloodDan Abraham, The King’s Blood (Orbit)

War casts its shadow over the lands that the dragons once ruled. Only the courage of a young woman with the mind of a gambler and loyalty to no one stands between hope and universal darkness.

The high and powerful will fall, the despised and broken shall rise up, and everything will be remade. And quietly, almost beneath the notice of anyone, an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest will begin a terrible journey with an impossible goal: destroy a Goddess before she eats the world.

I’m a huge fan of Abraham’s writing. I loved his first fantasy series, and really liked The Dragon’s Path (the first in this series). I received The King’s Blood at the time of one of my multiple address-changes, and it just got lost in the mix. I will definitely get to it, though, and hopefully before the next in the series (The Tyrant’s Law) is available.

Also on CR: Interview with Dan Abraham, Shadow & Betrayal, Seasons of War, The Dragon’s Path

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Corey-Caliban'sWarJames S.A. Corey, Caliban’s War (Orbit)

We are not alone.

The alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.

When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.

Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

James S.A. Corey is Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. I’ll be honest, I prefer Abraham’s fantasy fiction, but Leviathan Wakes was certainly a very strong sci-fi debut, filled with plenty of original and interesting content and characters. This turned up at roughly the same time as The King’s Blood, and suffered the same fate in my relocation. I also really want to read the two eNovellas set in this reality that Orbit have released – The Butcher of Anderson Station and Gods of Risk. Expect some more Corey on the blog soon.

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Reilly-Scarecrow&TheArmyOfThievesMatthew Reilly, Scarecrow & the Army of Thieves (Orion)

At an abandoned Soviet base in the Arctic, the battle to save the world has begun...

The Secret Base…

It is a top-secret base known only as Dragon Island. A long-forgotten relic of the Cold War, it houses a weapon of terrible destructive force, a weapon that has just been re-activated...

A Renegade Army…

When Dragon Island is seized by a brutal terrorist force calling itself the Army of Thieves, the fate of the world hangs in the balance, and there are no crack units close enough to get there in time to stop the Army setting off the weapon.

One Small Team…

Except, that is, for a small equipment-testing team up in the Arctic led by a Marine captain named Schofield, call-sign SCARECROW. It's not a strike force; just a handful of Marines and civilians. It's not equipped to attack a fortified island held by a vicious army. But Scarecrow will lead the team in anyway, because someone has to.

The Ultimate Hero is back, facing the ultimate army of villains…!

It feels like an age since I last read on of Matthew Reilly’s thrillers. As it turns out, this is because it is an age: two years, in fact, when I read and reviewed Five Greatest Warriors. Reilly’s novels are invariably a blast to read – in the same vein as James Rollins, coupling mystery with bucket-loads of action. This was a victim of Kindle-Out-Of-Sight, but I do hope to remedy this oversight as soon as possible. It’ll make a nice break from fantasy/sci-fi at some point.

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Flynn-LastManVince Flynn, The Last Man (Atria/Simon & Schuster)

The four dead guards didn’t concern Mitch Rapp as much as the absence of the man they’d been paid to protect. Joe Rickman wasn’t just another foot soldier. For the last eight years Rickman had ran the CIA’s clandestine operations in Afghanistan. It was a murky job that involved working with virtually every disreputable figure in the Islamic Republic. More than a quarter billion dollars in cash had passed through Rickman’s hands during his tenure as the master of black ops and no one with a shred of sense wanted to know the details of how that money had been spent.

At first glance it looks as if Rickman has been kidnapped, but Rapp knows certain things about his old friend that cause him to wonder if something more disturbing isn’t afoot. Irene Kennedy, the director of the CIA, has ordered Rapp to find Rickman at all costs. Rapp must navigate the ever-shifting landscape of Afghanistan as the Taliban, Iranians, Pakistanis and Russians all plot to claim their piece of the war torn state.

With Afghanistan crumbling around him, Rapp must be as ruthless as his enemies and as deceitful as people in his own government if he has any hopes of completing his mission.

I’m a huge fan of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series, which is one of the series that helped get me hooked on reading in a big way. For some reason, when his past two novels (the other is last year’s Kill Shot) were released, they haven’t popped right to the top of my TBR pile. I have both of these on my Kindle, so it could be an out-of-sight thing, but it’s also just as possible that I wasn’t in the mood for them, and therefore they keep slipping down the list. Just as possible is a growing fatigue regarding political/international thrillers that focus so much on basically the same thing (terrorists in the Middle East). I would certainly like to see more authors expanding the range of their antagonists… I’ll try to catch up before the next one in this series comes out.

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Chabon-TelegraphAvenueMichael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue and Kavalier & Clay

As the summer of 2004 draws to a close, Archy Stallings and Nat Jaffe are still hanging in there—longtime friends, bandmates, and co-regents of Brokeland Records, a kingdom of used vinyl located in the borderlands of Berkeley and Oakland. Their wives, Gwen Shanks and Aviva Roth-Jaffe, are the Berkeley Birth Partners, two semi-legendary midwives who have welcomed more than a thousand newly minted citizens into the dented utopia at whose heart—half tavern, half temple—stands Brokeland.

When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth-richest black man in America, announces plans to build his latest Dogpile megastore on a nearby stretch of Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy fear it means certain doom for their vulnerable little enterprise. Meanwhile, Aviva and Gwen also find themselves caught up in a battle for their professional existence, one that tests the limits of their friendship. Adding another layer of complication to the couples' already tangled lives is the surprise appearance of Titus Joyner, the teenage son Archy has never acknowledged and the love of fifteen-year-old Julius Jaffe's life.

I picked this up at BEA back in June, and I’ve sadly not felt in the mood for it just yet. I really want to read some of Chabon’s novels – I’ve only read a couple of his articles. Along with Telegraph Avenue, I also want to read Kavalier & Clay, which Alyssa has urged me to get to. Each time I think I’m ready to read it, I change my mind. I have no idea why. Hopefully 2013 will be the year I finally get around to one or both of these.

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Bennett-TheTroupeRobert Jackson Bennett, The Troupe (Orbit)

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change

Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their very lives.

And soon, George is as well.

I’m very annoyed with myself for not reading The Troupe already. It’s had rave reviews, I know I like Bennett’s work, and yet I keep getting distracted. Partly, I think, this can be put down to the constant moving, but I feel I should get my arse in gear. I also already have Bennett’s next novel, American Elsewhere, which sounds even more interesting! So I really have no excuse. Expect more from Bennett to feature on the blog soon.

Also on CR: Interview with Robert Jackson Bennett, The Company Man

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Morgan-TheColdCommandsUKRichard Morgan, The Cold Commands (Gollancz)

Ringil Eskiath, scarred wielder of the kiriath-forged broadsword Ravensfriend, is a man on the run from his past and the family who have disowned him, from the slave trade magnates of Trelayne who want him dead, and apparently from the dark gods themselves, who are taking an interest but making no more sense than they ever have. Outlawed and exiled from his ancestral home in the north, Ringil has only one place left to turn Yhelteth, city heart of the southern Empire, where perhaps he can seek asylum with the kiriath half-breed Archeth Indamaninarmal, former war comrade and now high-up advisor to the Emperor Jhiral Khimran II. But Archeth Indamaninarmal has problems of her own to contend with, as does her house guest, bodyguard and one time steppe nomad Egar the Dragonbane. And far from gaining the respite he is seeks, Ringil will instead find himself implicated in fresh schemes and doubtful allegiances no safer than those he has left behind. Old enemies are stirring, the old order is rotted through and crumbling, and though no-one yet knows it, the city of Yhelteth is about to explode.

I’m a big fan of Morgan’s writing, but it took me an age to even buy The Cold Commands. Perhaps because of the long gap between this and The Steel Remains (which I also took a long time to get around to, come to think of it). I can’t really remember everything that happened in Steel…, so I may have to go back for a refresher. I’m not sure when I’ll have the chance to get around to this, but I certainly do want to read more of the series. While I’m at it, and because I really like it, I wanted to plug Morgan’s earlier sci-fi series, starring Takeshi Kovacs – brilliant series, starts with Altered Carbon.

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Walton-AmongOthersJo Walton, Among Others (Tor)

Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled--and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England–a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off…

I’ve read a few articles and reviews by Walton, but never got around to reading any of her longer-form writing. This will be my first, and hopefully very soon. I love the premise, and have already heard very good things from a number of other readers and reviewers.

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Hobb-AssasinsApprenticeRobin Hobb, Assassin’s Apprentice… And pretty much everything else… (Voyager)

In a faraway land where members of the royal family are named for the virtues they embody, one young boy will become a walking enigma.

Born on the wrong side of the sheets, Fitz, son of Chivalry Farseer, is a royal bastard, cast out into the world, friendless and lonely. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility.

So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and embrace a new life of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners; and how to kill a man secretly, as he trains to become a royal assassin.

During my short internship at Voyager, I helped out a bit with some upcoming re-issues of a handful of Voyager’s best series-firsts. One of which was Assassin’s Apprentice. During quiet moments and lunch, I would dip into the book, and really enjoyed what I found there. For reasons I can’t quite understand, though, I didn’t stick with it – probably because I was unconsciously thinking to myself that I should be reading new releases… As with Joe Abercrombie in 2012, my resolution for 2013 is to read at least one of Hobb’s novels!

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What novels did you miss this year? What other novels should I have checked out in 2012? (I will put them on my TBR list, if you tell me.)

8 comments:

  1. Well look at it this way...plenty to look forward to in the coming year. Glad to hear you are interested in concluding out Riyria Revelations. The final book is my favorite of the series without question.

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    1. I read the first two omnibus editions pretty quickly. I kept Saving For Later the third. This is a perennial problem with me. I horde books I really want to read, but thereby run out of a lot of time to read them... It's a ridiculous, self-created problem, but it's one that's always there...

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  2. Except the first book in the Bel Dame series I haven't read any of the books in your list. I've yet to read the second book in Aeons Gate before going on to Skybound Sea. I have Of Blood & Honey and Assassin's Apprentice but for some reason haven't got round to it yet. I also really want to read the Dan Abraham and Michael Sullivan novels. Hope I'll find the time to eventually tackle them all.

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    1. It's becoming more difficult to prioritize the books that are coming out. I want to give as many authors as possible my attention, but I can't deny that there are authors whose work I really love, which can lead me to over-expose certain authors, while others get shunted aside for any number of reasons. I don't mean to do so, it just seems to happen. Maybe I should just stop thinking about that, and read what I want and that's all.

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  3. It seems you have a busy year ahaed, Stefan ;-) . Great list. If you take this list and put them together with all the good books that are going to be released in 2013, I think there aren't enough days in a year to read all of them.

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    1. Oh, there definitely won't be enough time to read everything. Even if I had nothing else to do, was being paid to do so, I doubt I'd be able to read ALL of the awesome books. This makes me a little sad. And overwhelmed. But also very happy I'll never be lacking for choice.

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  4. Read the firsts from Michael J. Sullivan, Kameron Hurley, Daniel Abraham and Richard K. Morgan, too. Resolve to get further along in those. I'm comforted to hear you haven't read Hobb's Farseer trilogy as well. I've been meaning to read that series for a while now.

    In addition, I'd really like to get to Chimera, Bitter Seeds, and Night Circus sooner rather than later.

    It's great to have such a long list of fantastic books to read but a bit frustrating, too.

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    1. I decided to remedy one of the missed books right away, and have dived straight into Heir of Novron. It's really good so far.

      Bitter Seeds (and the sequel, The Coldest War) is absolutely superb, definitely read that! Night Circus is another I wish I'd got to - I think Alyssa enjoyed it.

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