Wednesday, December 14, 2022

2022: The Year in Books Part 2 (Fantasy and SF)

Something like 2/3 of all the books I read this year were in this bucket, which isn't really surprising. Since I discovered Middle Earth and Narnia and the Forgotten Realms in 4th grade, it's probably been my most-read genre in most given years except while I was in college and right afterward. 

About a quarter of these books were re-reads. I went into a Discord dedicated to R. Scott Bakker's works and engineered a re-read of his Prince of Nothing trilogy and the follow-up The Aspect Emperor quartet. We're reading (theoretically 15-20 pages per day, and it's a bit of a slog at times, but it's overall been a good experience so far. It's a dense work with a lot of deep world-building. The writing is very good and doesn't spoon-feed the reader anything, so it definitely rewards a re-read, especially one accompanied by discussion to sort out the details. 

I also re-read Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy. I should say I'm a HUGE fan of her Realm of the Elderlings series. Last year I did some re-reading in those 13 books and really appreciated it. Soldier Son I remembered as being overall inferior to Hobb's other work, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how good it actually is. It hit differently this time around and I really enjoyed it in a way I don't think I did the first time I read it. 

And then there were wholly new things I read! I think my favorite was Fonda Lee's Green Bone Saga books, starting with Jade City. It's kind of like The Godfather meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The characters are well-drawn and the plot can surprise you. 

I read the last several books of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey. I read the first few some years ago, then I watched the six seasons of the tv series, and then I picked up the books where the series left off. Although there were some changes from book to tv, it was easy enough to slide right back in and see how it all turns out. By the way, this Corey fellow is actually two writers under a penname, and one of those writers is Daniel Abraham; here at the end of the year I read the first 3 books of his The Dagger and the Coin series. Very solid fantasy, well above average. It's not my new favorite or anything, but it's quite good. 

Right up there among the best fantasy I read this year was the last two-thirds of R.J. Barker's Tide Child trilogy. It's a dark world of vanishing sea dragons and ships made out of their bones. War and death and a fight for something better. 

No surprise, but Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the end of the Lane was just great. It was also wonderful to hear him read his own work live at Playhouse Square this year. 

I enjoyed the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells (starting with I Am Not a Serial Killer). The premise is basically a young sociopath who is obsessed with serial killers (and obsessed with not becoming one, despite his sociopathic tendencies) finds himself fighting supernatural serial killers. It was a really good series from top to bottom, and one thing I appreciated was the fact that Wells wrapped it up in 6 books rather than trying to milk the premise indefinitely (and, at the same time, I was disappointed to run out of books in the series!). 

I enjoyed Katherine Arden's The Winternight Trilogy with its Russian folklore. I enjoyed Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, though I didn't love it as much as her other series whose name escapes me. Tasha Suri's Books of Ambha was also notable. 

I didn't enjoy Nona the Ninth (3rd book in Tamsyn Muir's The Locked Tomb) as much as I hoped I would, but I'm still excited to read the next book whenever it comes out, because I enjoyed the first two books so well. And perhaps I'll appreciate Nona on a re-read. 

I also recently read book 3 of Naomi Novik's Schoolomance trilogy (The Golden Enclaves). Very good. It walks the line of being allegorical, in that the magical premise that threatens its world maps so well onto the problem of global capitalism, and I appreciated just how difficult the problem is in the books, mirroring real-world complexity. In that sense, it was a little disappointing that the solution is ultimately magical and not readily applied to our own real-world dilemmas, but there's something to be said just for people trying to avoid the horns of a dilemma and find a third way that's neither complicity nor resignation. 

One final thing to mention. I read several comic book collections this year. I got started because Robin Hobb recommended Dark Knights of Steel, which is basically a reimagining of the DC universe in the medieval period. I read the book that collected the first three or four issues and very much enjoyed it, but have not continued following it (maybe at some point I will). I was hardcore into comics from late elementary through high school and only stopped a year or so after I went away to college. In fact, I had subscriptions that were being delivered while I was away, and my local-ish comic shop was holding things for me, many of which I bought but never got around to reading. I felt moved to take several days organizing my much-neglected collection just to see what I had, and then I picked up collections to try to revisit some of the old X-Men storylines in hopes of re-reading the comics in my collection. I never did quite make it, but I did read some. It was interesting to see how mediocre the storytelling was back in the '80s in comics, even when there were some good bits. Still, it was a nice sort of nostalgia. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes! Well said! There's definitely "something to be said just for people trying to avoid the horns of a dilemma and find a third way that's neither complicity nor resignation."