Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Ten Reads of 2012

So this is a strange reading year for me. I read 130 books over the year, but I read almost no brand new releases. That is why there are only four new books on the list. I kept a pattern of reading two books at one time most of the year. I was reading one original fictional novel and one tie-in novel (mostly Star Wars/Trek but several other franchises as well).

I devoted a lot of my reading this year to F.Paul Wilson's Secret History of the World. This is a saga that starts in his classic horror novel The Keep and spans four different series (Repairman Jack /Adversary Cycle/ Secret Histories with Young Jack/ Cold City Jack novels), two dozen or so novels and ends in one novel Nightworld. I am finishing the secret history as I write this with 150 pages left in Nightworld.

Wilson was my plotting teacher at Borderlands(writer's boot camp). The Secret history is like a four train narrative track that ends with them all crashing together in Nightworld. It is an amazing feat of narrative story telling. I could have filled my list with F.Paul Wilson titles but choose my favorite Repairman Jack novel. I am intending to write at length about the series in the future.

1. Harbingers (Repairman Jack #10) by F.Paul Wilson:

In a series that spans fifteen books with a major character whose name is in the title suspense can be hard to manufacture book after book. You know Jack is going to be around for fifteen books and he is the hero. F.Paul Wilson plays with the expectations and puts our heroand his journey through an unexpected wringer that would surprise the hell out of Joesph Campbell. This is a dark and brutal twist on the clasic mythology of the hero's journey that I read in just over 26 hours. When I put it down I was floored. Just blown away and could not believe what just happened. Best read of the series, and the year.

2. A Matter of Blood (Forgotten Gods #1) by Sarah Pinborough

This trilogy was released in England under the title Dog Faced Gods, but will be published here in America in April under the title Forgotten Gods. I wouldn't wait for the American grammar version. This is a brutal mystery with a weird crime backbone. The world that Pinborough has created here is filled with very dark shades of grey with almost zero characters worth rooting for. Oh you’ll be interested in them; you’ll want to keep turning pages.

On top of all those elements this novel also has a powerful plot line about a serial killer, including one of the creepiest killers I have read about since Brite’s Exquisite Corpse, but at the same time were talking about a novel with a subtle social conscience. I'm dying to read the next two books when I can get my hands on them.

3. All Monster Action by Cody Goodfellow

Jeremy Robert Johnson's Swallowdown Press has a focus on horrific dark bizarro, and Goodfellow's new short story collection might be the most gonzo of releases that the press has done. That doesn't make it any less of gem and fits perfectly into Goodfellow's expanding catalog of fucked up weird-ness. There is no author in genre fiction that is more deserving of the title Mad Scientist. That is what he is, a straight up batshit crazy mad scientist of prose.

4. One Second After by William R. Forstche

I am I am not in the habit of reading books with a forward by Newt Gingrich. I still think Newt is a far right wing windbag, but we now have something to agree on – This is a must read book. One Second After is a warning novel, the author wasn’t shy about telling us up front that he wanted to make this book a entry in a pantheon that includes classics like On the Beach and Alas Babylon. I personally would add John Brunner’s classic “The Sheep Look Up” Or Norman Spinrad’s “Greenhouse Summer.” He is warning about the effect that an EMP would have on our world. Most important is the characters are rich, the setting detailed and the drama intense. It is a story so well told you don't feel preached at you just feel uncomfortable.

5. Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

The series and it’s story is a cross between Fringe and Repairman Jack, but don’t take that comparison the wrong way – it has an original feel to it. Maberry weaves several influences together so well it is hard not to do comparisons. It’s part Tech-thriller, part zombie, part military sci-fi/horror, part witty crime novel, and part character study. Great read for horror, action and weird crime fans. I’m ready for the second book, here is hoping Maberry keeps this series going strong for a long time.

6. Everything is Broken by John Shirley

Shirley’s original title was “Welcome to Freedom,” While probably a more proper title it might have been a bit too much on the nose. It would be easy to say this novel is a 280 page argument against libertarianism, but it is much deeper than that. It is also about social controls that hold the socio-paths among us from running wild.

I’d put it up there with some of the great non-supernatural horror novels like David Morrell’s Testament or Jack Ketchum’s Girl Next Door. At the same time it’s an important novel that explores issues we as a society need to discuss.

7. Ghost Brigades/ The Last Colony (Old Man's War #2 and 3) by John Scalzi:

The best and fastest Science Fiction read of the 21st century in my opinion is Old Man’s War In Ghost Brigades I can say that Scalzi has crafted a second flawless masterpiece of military sci-fi that expneat ideas just hinted at in the first book. Far future special forces that are badass and not written with a right kneejerk that makes some military sci-fi hard to swallow. The last Colony wraps up the story with a honest look at the effects of intersteller Colonization.

8. Leather Maiden by Joe R. Lansdale:

This novel Leather Maiden is a murder mystery and the humor comes mostly in the third person narration of Iraq war vet and small town Reporter named Cason. The fantastic dialogue between characters is a highlight, Lansdale shares the skill for dialogue that is only matched by Tarantino, Elmore Leonard, and Gregory Macdonald. If you have a dark or grumpy sense of humor you can’t really go wrong with this, or any other Lansdale novel.

9. Monsters of LA By Lisa Morton.

of LA is a concept collection. Lisa Morton is a creature of LA and her work is as firmly placed in LA as Early Stephen King was placed in Maine. This is an excellent and diverse collection of horror, dark humor and weird fiction. It is also an informative love letter to the city Morton calls home. Each story comes with a short explanation that has insight into the ways that the city inspired each story. What we need now is a collection of Morton's already vast amount of published short stories.

10. Star Wars: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter by Michael Reeves:

I read a ton of Tie-in novels this year, and this one took me by surprise. This might for real be the best Star Wars novel I have ever read. None of the major characters, no problem. This novel is perfectly paced action adventure with strong characters that set up characters for novels Reeves wrote down the line.

Star Noirs really... Reaves did such a great job they brought him back to do a trilogy of Coruscant nights noir novels set against the dark times after the fall of the empire.

Honorable Mentions: The Fury and The Terror by John Farris, Keepers by Gary Braunbeck, Raylan by Elmore Leonard, Redshirts by John Scalzi, 3001 by Arthur Clarke, Hellhole by KJ Anderson and Brian Herbert and Full Dark,No Stars by Stephen King.

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