My Best Reads of the Year 2014
Posted December 19, 2014on:
2014 has been a pretty good year for me. Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*. To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.
Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book. Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (2014) – I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.
California Bones by Greg van Eekhout (2014) – If all Urban Fantasy was this good I’d read nothing but UF. I loved the characters, the world building, and it’s a caper/thief story! Also? an alternate southern California where Walt Disney is still alive (sort of), and water magic floods the place making it look like Venice. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Pacific Fire.
Defenders by Will McIntosh (2014) – I remember staying up way too late at night to finish reading this. It was like 1am, and my husband was nagging me to come to bed. And I said I couldn’t, because if I didn’t finish the book I’d wake up the next morning and everyone in the book would be dead. And come on, it’s McIntosh, you know it’s going to be good, and that he’s going to break you into a million little pieces.
The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (2010) – This is the middle book in The Inheritance Trilogy. I loved, loved LOVED the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kindgoms, but I read that in 2013, so it couldn’t be on my “best of 2014” list, now could it? Good thing I enjoyed the middle book just as much! Again, fantastic characterization, one of the best epic fantasy worlds I have ever come across, gods who are angry, bitter, and regretful, and the petty short lives of humans. (not that book 3 in the series was crap, it was only eleven out of ten, whereas the first two books are twelve out of ten.)
Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (2012) – fantastic worldbuilding, dead gods, corporate lawyers, incredible characters. Gladstone writes the book on how to make a magic based fantasy world feel alive and plausible. Dude is writing books faster than I can read them!
The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan (2014) – This book hit close to home for me. Even widowed, Isabella Camherst can’t help but go off on another adventure. But what to do with her young son while she’s away? There is a lot of painful honesty in this book. When I think of “strong female characters” whose struggles I identify with, Isabella Camherst is at the top of my list.
The Martian by Andy Weir (2014) – damn did I love this book. I cried a LOT at the end. Stranded on Mars and assumed dead, astronaut Mark Watney is going to run out of air long before he starves to death. Luckily he’s got plenty of water, and plenty of gallows humor. One of the more optimistic hard scifi books I’ve read in a while.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (1984) – Gloriously fanciful, and pure absolute fun. Number Ten Ox and Master Li chase across ancient China in search of a cure for the ill children in the village. Along the way, they’ll meet lonely misers and forgetful goddesses, cheerful soldiers and bitter magicians. This book is a breath of fresh air, when i was in a slump, it gave me back the joy of reading.
And in the Short Fiction category:
“The Crows her Dragon’s Gate” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Beneath Ceaseless Skies April 2013) – If you purchased her novella, “Scale-Bright”, this short story comes along with. It’s a pre-pre-prequel to “Scale-Bright”, and follows Xihe, the Goddess of the Sun. The story follows Dijun’s courting of Xihe, and how their marriage didn’t quite work out, even though he twice gave her the most precious of gifts. I love Sriduangkaew’s poetic and lyrical language. This story absolutely glows.
“Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar (Kaleidoscope anthology 2014) – this one is funny because it creeps up on you. Presented as a teen’s school paper, Yolanda doesn’t quite know what the point of her paper is. This is a story about bullying, and hope, and regret, and not knowing how to ask for help, and finally realizing you care for someone even if it’s too late, and even if you don’t know the right words to use.
“muo-ka’s Child” by Indrapramit Das (Clarkesworld, Sept 2012) – Intensely weird, which gives it instant brownie points. A lone colonist lands on a planet to learn it’s a horrible place for a human colony, and that she most likely won’t be rescued. She’s adopted by one of the local creatures, and it of course has no idea what she is or how to keep her alive, so they must learn to somehow understand each other.
“Knotting Grass, Holding Ring”, by Ken Liu (Long Hidden anthology, 2014) – When I first read this, I thought Sparrow was the main character. She might be, but the story is all about Green Siskin, an expensive entertainer. It’s no secret what Green Siskin does with her clients, and it’s no secret that the other women look down their nose at her, expecting her to be ashamed. Green Siskin knows exactly what she’s doing, and she knows exactly how to manipulate people, and in the process, she’ll save a good many lives.
“Moving Past Legs” by Jamie Lackey (Bast10n Magazine, May 2014) – what a strange but effective story. It’s a little sick to think about getting high off of cognitively connecting yourself to an octopus, but doesn’t that sound alluring? To understand how they think? I could be convinced to try it. But once the high of a new experience wears off, what then? And what if it turns out this practice is abusive to the octopus?
“The Awakened Kingdom”, by N.K. Jemisin – a fairly recent read, but I can’t get it out of my head. A new godling has been born, and she doesn’t know what her nature is. She also doesn’t know how to tell a story, or why adults grieve, or that it’s never as simple as being a replacement for a missing sibling. If you loved the Inheritance Trilogy, I’ve got great news for you: this novella is being published as part of the new omnibus, and it takes place in Yeine’s homeland.
Fun question of the day: what would happen if Shill visited Bulikov? Would Shill and Jukov have gotten along?