5 absolutely wonderful books from 2016

Happy 2017 and goodbye 2016. I have no complaints about the year. It was the year I got my ass back in gear with working out. The year I watched a lot of good sci-fi movies. The year I received a PlayStation 4. The year I played the best videogame every made (Uncharted 4). 2016 was a great year for reading too. I averaged 2 books a month. I wanted 24 books read by the end of the year. I got 24 books read.Yay me!

There were definitely some duds in that jumble of books and genres. There is a sci-fi one that still has me scratching my head as to why people heap praise on it. Sometimes I can figure out why certain books are so widely praised. But this one makes no sense, to me at least, as to why and how people enjoyed it all the way through the end.

I read another that rivals Dark Intelligence as the best sci-fi book I’ve ever read.

But, if I were forced to whittle the list down to 5 great reads of 2016, here would be that list:

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This story had it all for me. The scope of it, puts Neal Asher at the top of the list in respect to science fiction authors. For my money, no one writes better sci-fi, and The Line of Polity is some of his best work.



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To say this is a good book would be an insult to Brian Staveley. The Emperor’s Blades is ridiculous in how great of a story it is. If you enjoy great storytelling, you owe it to yourself to start this amazing trilogy.



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Simply put: This is the best fantasy novel ever written



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This was fun from beginning to end. I normally HATE time traveler novels. I’m talking, so much so, that I want to rip apart the book some 50 pages in. Not so with Time Salvager. I had a grand ol’ time reading this. Wesley Chu is one talented sonofabitch.



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This series has turned into my guilty pleasure series. I finished Hounded last year after having it languishing unread for well over a full year. It took me all of 6 hours to finish it. Riot of a good time. This is now my go-to series when I want something light and easy to read, but will entertain me from page 1 to END.







Now these are just five picked from a great year of reading. I’m hoping 2017 turns into another bumper year of great books read. If it’s as wonderful as 2016 then I may have to add a few more books to the list I post next January.

 

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5 AMAZING SCI-FI READS – AN UNCONVENTIONAL LISTING

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Ahh, the list of things to read. As varied as fingerprints and as accurate to the total stranger as Steve Harvey announcing a winner of a beauty contest. They are fun to read though, as a book lover will eventually run across one or two books they haven’t read before, books that catch their eye and entice them to read.

Now, this is not an essential read list. There’s no such thing. To claim a book is an essential read is the same as saying, “That’s the best movie ever!”. It’s pure opinion and does not take into account the preferences of generations. For what is considered wonderful writing to an older generation is now considered stilted and out of touch with a younger generation.

For instance, most people who began reading between the ‘50s and ‘80s will refuse to believe that Asimov, Herbert, Niven, Clarke (to name a few) don’t resonate very well with today’s generation. Yet the writing is so drastically different, stilted if books published in the 2000s are the new standard bearers, that people who began reading in the 90s and 00s will look at those authors, from the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction, as boring compared to the authors who have begun publishing during the last twenty or so years.

If you flip the train, the same holds true. The older generation will try out some of the newer books, but for the most part stick to the long dead writers or those authors who began writing back in the ‘60s. The newer generation of authors are just uninteresting to them.

So, essential read lists? An emphatic, NO.

A list of novels with tight writing, gigantic ideas, and ridiculous action? This is for you.

 

FORTUNE’S PAWN

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Fortune’s Pawn is a blend of ideas taken from pop-culture sci-fi movies and books. There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

There is a mysterious ethereal force akin to Star Wars. Mercenaries (warriors) wear giant suits of armor, with some serving a monarchy, similar to Warhammer 40K. The crew of The Glorious Fool is ragtag, digging up thoughts of Firefly. And there is a type of xenomorph like from Alien.

The thing about Fortune’s Pawn isn’t so much about the extraneous parts—the universe is quite interesting—it’s that Rachel Bach has created a main character in Devi Morris who has so much panache and badassery, she will grab you by the throat on page 1 and won’t let go until the last word of the last sentence. And you’ll thank her for it.

Action upon action, hurtling toward conclusion at a breakneck speed, Fortune’s Pawn is the most entertaining book you’ll have read in years.

 

BLINDSIGHT

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Hard sci-fi. A tough sell to the crowds that want more fiction than science in their stories. However, sometimes an author comes along that manages to bridge that gap. Alastair Reynolds comes to mind, and now Peter Watts, both utilizing a mixture of hard sci-fi and outlandish fiction to create something memorable.

Blindsight follows a handpicked crew sent to investigate an alien object transmitting a signal. Standard fare right? Well, throw in a man with half his brain carved out at a young age who can’t feel empathy, a woman literally living with multiple people in her head, a man who may has well be a cyborg, a highly lauded soldier who is now a pacifist, and a vampire from the Pleistocene era resurected to be the ultimate soldier; you now have the makings for one strange story.

This first contact story is so marvelously written that you may be a little bummed at the end of it when you remember not every story is written so great. It is recommended to be read on an ereader with a dictionary downloaded, as the biology terminology is a bit heavy at times.

Blindsight is a first contact story completely unlike any you have ever read before.

 

DARK INTELLIGENCE

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Neal Asher writes like Peter Watts; you want to read every word in every sentence, not skipping so much as a “it” or “the”. In regards to Watts, every word needs to be read as near every sentence is crammed with difficult language, making it easy to get lost. Asher on the other hand, spins such a brilliant tale, you’ll find yourself not speed reading simply so you can savor every morsel of what he dishes up.

Dark Intelligence is that and more.

In what is possibly the finest science fiction novel ever produced, we find ourselves immersed in a story following the machinations of the single most fascinating character in literature: Penny Royal, an evil genie AI. The rest of the cast is as memorable: Thorvald Spear, a resurrected human with a chip on his shoulder; Riss, the snake-like assassin drone; Isobel Satomi, a career criminal who should have been more cautious when speaking to a genie. There is so much greatness crammed into this book, it is a shame not every sci-fi lover has read it.

Next to Hyperion, Dark Intelligence may just be the greatest sci-fi novel ever written.

 

REDSHIRTS

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Enjoy Star Trek? Did you get a kick out of the “third man” during the free fall scene in the Star Trek reboot movie? Hell, do you enjoy reading humorous books? If you can say yes to any of them, do yourself a favor and read Redshirts by John Scalzi.

From an author who has the balls to do stand-up comedy on occasion, the story of a redshirt ensign stationed on a starship that may resemble the USS Enterprise is exactly what you’d think: an absolute riot. The dialogue and description Scalzi creates in Redshirts is not only gut-busting funny, it’s some of the best he’s produced across all his novels.

Redshirts is a great read to start your week, end your week, or just lose yourself in any day of the week.

 

 

ANDROID HUNTERS

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Androids, an existence stricken from record and unofficially public enemy number one for the butchery of an entire world. Android Hunters, genetically enhanced humans with a singular resolve to hunt down and destroy every last android. The most powerful criminal empire in the history of humanity. And an android who wants to be human, who also may be the most powerful weapon ever created.

Characters inspired by mythological heroes, gods, and titans. Technology that follows Clarke’s third law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Betrayal. Manipulations. Terrorists.

Android Hunters checks every box a sci-fi fan could want; and then when you blend all of those elements together, and throw in a world of pristine beauty juxtaposed against the brutality of a secret war fought by android hunters against androids, you get a story with a blistering pace that will leave you on the edge of your seat; wanting, wishing, waiting for more.

 

 

GRIMDARK FANTASY IS FUN. WAIT, WHAT? – THE BLADE ITSELF

I all but gave up on fantasy not too long ago; as little as one year ago I refused to read a fantasy novel. The reason I gave to myself is that I read too many fantasy books growing up, so many that I’ve been indoctrinated into every trope there is in the genre. What is original to someone else, is tired and worn out to me. Turns out I was being really picky and choosing the wrong books to read.

The genre of fantasy is filled with stories that use the same old tropes—good vs. evil, chosen one who happens to be a peasant and 4 years old, old gods wanting to get back into the game. However, the same goes for every genre out there, and it’s that way for a reason. Tropes are not to make a story original, rather they are used for familiarity, to increase reader enjoyment and, at the same time, sales.

So, when I gave up on fantasy because I claimed everything to read was just tired and worn out, that was just me not giving the genre a fair chance. Instead I wrote the entire genre off and ran to the sci-fi side of the fence. There I learned my reasoning for giving up an entire genre sat on thin-ice, and the tremendous value of Goodreads Groups; for I got to a point that I didn’t even like reading sci-fi.

How do Goodreads Groups and really awful picking of books figure together? If you’re a connoisseur of Goodreads, then you know the answer.

Movies. There are so many of them out there, so many painfully awful ones, that most of the time it’s better to wear an old hat than to pick out a new one. It’s one of the reasons Rotten Tomatoes was created; to help people learn which movies to stay away from and which to watch. The rating system on that site is so uncanny that if there is a green splat next to the rating, just about everyone is going to agree it’s not a good movie.

The rationale behind Rotten Tomatoes is more or less the same as the one Goodreads uses. What would happen if, in one place, anyone could rate and post a review of a book? Not only that, what would happen if people could create groups on that site, with posts that linked to the books that anyone—not just a book critic—could review and rate? You, I, get a site that is an absolute boon to your, my, book choosing needs.

Goodreads, the reviews I read there, and a Goodreads fantasy group are the sole reason I wandered back into fantasy with The Emperor’s Blades, and the only reason why I read The Blade Itself. And oh how happy I am for that.

The Blade Itself is a feat of storytelling. Joe Abercrombie somehow takes the old trope of a quest of strangers and turns it into THE MOST ENTERTAINING FANTASY NOVEL I HAVE EVER READ. If you read my thoughts on The Emperor’s Blades, you’ll know I love that book. However, The Blade Itself is in its own class.

I’ve read books that are more thought provoking; stories with sentences that are a feast for the mind; novels with plots vastly more complex, but never have I read a fantasy novel more entertaining.

It’s the little things that create the amazing entertainment value. Jezal yelling really loudly when talking to someone he thinks can’t speak his language. Glokta angry at stairs because he moves like a wizened ancient man. Logen’s practicality. Everything, and I mean everything, fits together so seamlessly that Joe Abercrombie has joined the short list of authors I will reread with glee:

  • Neil Gaiman
  • Neal Asher
  • Robert Jordan
  • Dan Simmons
  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Rachel Bach
  • Peter Watts

Should you purchase, or check out from the library, The Blade Itself? Do I really have to answer that? Yes? Well then, do yourself a favor and give in to the hype surrounding Joe Abercrombie; I did and found it to be completely justified, which is why I am so happy I stopped being a book snob and jumped back in the fantasy pool. Read The Blade Itself like I did. Read it now.

Shadow of the Scorpion – Another Amazing Neal Asher Novel

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Neal Asher is, without a doubt, my favorite science fiction author and quickly on his way to supplant Neil Gaiman as my all-time favorite author. The level of story telling Asher is at, very few attain.

In his Polity universe of novels, he has created something that puts so-called ‘epic fantasy’ series to shame. The level of nuance is staggering and can’t be properly appreciated with just one or two books read. There are two series and a bunch of standalone books that all work off each other, in a way I’ve never seen done. And the absolutely baffling part about the books, is that you don’t have to read both series and every standalone to enjoy the story he is telling. You can start either series or any of the standalones and be entertained.

He’s an inspiration to me and my writing.

Shadow of the Scorpion is actually what sealed Neal as my favorite sci-fi author. It tells the story of Agent Cormac, filling in a lot of backstory that isn’t explained in detail elsewhere. Superb writing. Great action. Believable characters. Just a damn great book.

Should you read it? The answer to that is a resounding YES; and why haven’t you started reading Neal Asher’s books yet?

Sci-fi doesn’t get much better than this – Gridlinked

I’ll get it out in the open, I’m a giant Neal Asher fan. Right now, I can’t find another author who writes more entertaining stories.

I read DARK INTELLIGENCE a few weeks ago, maybe a couple months ago, and when I finished that book I was at a loss for words. It checked every box on my non-existent Things that make a science fiction book great checklist. I stayed away from Neal’s books for a little bit after I finished DARK INTELLIGENCE. If the book is so great that I could not nitpick even the smallest thing, then how could any of his other books measure up?

GRIDLINKED measured up.

It’s obvious GRIDLINKED is his first published novel. He got screwed on the editing front, at least with the ebook version. There’s a ton of missed punctuation and two-letter words. Aside from that, which doesn’t affect the story at all, GRIDLINKED is amazing.

Actually, you know what? Search for synonyms on amazing, and then search for synonyms on every word that comes up. That’s what GRIDLINKED is.

As I go through the story in my head, while I write this post, I realize it’s just as great as DARK INTELLIGENCE. There’s no happy Disney endings here, which authors should be ashamed of. Every story line ending in the book ends on a natural note, not the fluffy hunky-dory endings publishers are enamored with right now.

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The story line with Arian Pelter ends precisely how you expect it to, which should be anti-climatic, but it’s just so damn satisfying, any other ending would be terrible. How Mr. Crane gets ripped apart, after Arian is convinced the golem is the most dangerous thing in the entire universe and invincible…I just had to laugh.

Neal Asher has an amazing way with putting together stories with characters that are just fun to follow and a joy to read; and I believe I do a terrible job with summing up how enjoyable these books are. I think because of how much I love the books, analogies fall short, because not everyone can agree on one particular analogy. For example:

The awe and amazement that comes from reading a book written by Neal Asher is the same as looking up at the nighttime heavens far from city light, witnessing the vastness of the universe, staring in awe at the glory of the celestial bodies.

Some people will look up, shrug, “It’s juts black with a bunch of dots.”

Others will say, “It looks pretty.”

Some will read that analogy, grab their head, and freak out by how correct the latter part of that analogy is. That’s how I am when I think through GRIDLINKED and DARK INTELLIGENCE. I can literally freak out, by how AWESOMELY AMAZING the stories are.

Needless to say, you need to go out and buy books written by Neal Asher.

The most satisfying sci-fi novel in years – Dark Intelligence

Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher

Dark Intelligence is just an incredible piece of science fiction. I don’t recall the last time I finished a book and couldn’t find even one tiny thing I didn’t enjoy about the book. Even the books I give my thoughts on, on my blog, I can find something I didn’t enjoy about them if I dig hard enough. Not so with Dark Intelligence by Neal Asher.