This Year's Reading

I thought, this close to year's end, it might be worth taking a peek at some of the books I've been reading. as well as making some recommendations if you're looking for something for the new year. 

First, a quick look back over my last year in writing. Marauder is almost finally definitely complete, bar a final line-edit due in January. I've seen the cover design, and it's very pretty and shiny and, once I get the go-ahead, you'll see it here as well as at Torbooks.co.uk. The Thousand Emperors, a loose-kinda-sorta-sequel to Final Days came out, as did the paperback edition of the latter. Earlier in the year I had a non-fiction article on Hard SF published in Keith Brooke's collection of essays Strange Divisions and Alien Territories, with the other pieces written by some very notable and extremely respectable genre names. Back in August, I took part in a three-day writing event in York which, following a brief testing-the-waters stint teaching sf writing at Strathclyde University the year before, was my second paid teaching gig. With Thousand Emperors completed, I finished my most recent book deal with Tor, and now have a new deal. The first book to come out of that next year was originally going to be called Touring the Apocalypse, but is now in search of a new title - possibly The Extinction Game. Way back in January, I launched the 'Brain in a Jar Books' ebook imprint, rereleasing out of print work by authors such as Duncan Lunan, Angus McAllister, Michael Cobley and Hal Duncan alongside original material by Fergus Bannon (here and here). In the New Year, I'm expecting to publish a short story collection by Phil Raines, who has appeared in numerous pro anthologies, magazines, online zines and year's best lists. It's going to be called The Cowboy Saints and Other Lost Wonders.

I don't think I've missed anything out.

I read just under forty books this year. One notable surprise was an independently published ebook that not only wasn't rubbish, but was in fact great: Ian Sales' 'Adrift on the Sea of Rains', a novella-length piece of literary hard sf. It's highly recommended. It's the first in a quartet, with the second due to be published in January. 

Although I'm far from a fan of epic fantasy, I found myself more than pleasantly surprised by Gaie Sebold's Babylon Steel. I might not have known of this book if I hadn't frequently run into Gaie at various Eastercons over the years, as well as other members of her writers group. Curiosity drove me to check this first novel when it finally came out, and I'm glad I did. It's an excellent piece of work, fantasy or otherwise, and also has the distinction of having a far more interesting and original take on the fantasy genre than most other books out there. 

Not published this year, but earlier in the century, is Lev Grossman's Codex. I got it after buying and really enjoying his second most recent novel, The Magicians, which came within a hairsbreadth of being made into a tv series by either AMC or HBO (I forget which. Or maybe it was Showtime?) It's a contemporary literary puzzle thriller which appealed to me greatly, despite some really terrible and quite undeservedly negative reviews on Amazon. I suspect the reviews are so negative because the author eschews an easy plot resolution and opts for something a little more twisty. Read it if you like books like John Fowles' The Magus.

I was also pleasantly entertained by the Ian Whates edited anthology, Fables from the Fountain, being pub-based fiction inspired by Arthur C. Clarke's 'Tales from the White Hart,' which I read numerous times when I was a kid. Definitely on the whimsical side.

I also particularly enjoyed 'The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death', a crime thriller by Charlie Huston. At the moment I'm reading JMR Higgs' 'KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money' which, being the huge fan of Robert Anton Wilson's 'Illuminatus!' that I am, as well as KLF's music, could prove to be one of my favourite books of the year. And, shock horror, it appears to be self-published - by an author with some notable pro publishing books under his belt, including a biography of Timothy Leary, 'I Have America Surrounded' (which I read last year). 

Somehow, I don't seem to have read as many books this year as in the previous few. I did also re-read some old favourites, mainly because I've been buying some of SF Gateway's back catalogue of ebook sf classics. I revisited, amongst others, Robert Holdstock's amazing 'Mythago Wood', and Greg Bear's equally remarkable 'Eon'. Other old favourites I've re-read on the Kindle are the aforementioned 'Illuminatus!' trilogy (I've lost count of how many times I've read those books), and I currently have the new edition of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic waiting for me to read next year, along with a number of Jonathan Carroll novels finally available as ebooks. Other favourites recently released digitally I'm looking forward to next year include Graham Joyce's first published novel, Dreamside, and Rudy Rucker's Complete Stories.