Friday, December 30, 2016

Count Agranoff's Top Ten Reads of 2016

2016 Top Ten Reads!

*released this year

Number 10: The Surgeon's Mate by Alan M Clark*

I read two novels by author/ artist Alan M.Clark and both were excellent works of horror. The other A Brutal Chill in August was in his series of novels about Jack The Ripper’s victims. That was good but this Surgeon’s Mate was a fucking weird part memoir part meta exploration about what drew this artist to work on the darkside. The final act of The Surgeon's Mate is like woven tapestry being pulled tight. The ending is both thrilling and heartbreaking. This is a horror novel that balances a dark bizarro high concept with a emotionally rich character study that is clearly written in front of a mirror.

Number 9: Long Form Religious Porn by Laura Lee Bahr

Laura Lee Bahr is one of the most talented people in the bizarro movement. This is a weird funny book about Hollywood. The coolest thing is this novel is not about the vast movie machine. It was cool that this is about a struggling indie filmmaker that is more LA or Hollywood that walk of fame superstars. This novel includes vampire celebrities, kinky sex, murder and above all a well structured story. Laura's strength is being a natural story teller.

Number 8: Abomination by Gary Whitta

This is the debut novel of the writer of The Book of Eli and Rogue One. Abomination is a dark fantasy novel that skips a world like Middle Earth or Narnia for England of the dark ages. It is a really interesting time to set a monster novel. With elements of high fantasy, historical fiction and straight brutal Lovecratian monster horror Abomination is high concept awesome-fest.

Number 7: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia*

Certain Dark Things is excellent example of what a vampire novel could be. The Characters are strong, the writing is fast-paced, and it paints a vision of world we have not seen before. Mexico City, narco gangs and Aztec vampires. this is a really cool novel.

Number 6: Underground Airlines by Ben Winters*

This alternate history set in modern Indianapolis is about a modern world where slavery still exists in two states. This world is well realized even if it is a little far fetched, you just kinda have to ride with the idea to enjoy what the author is trying to get across. In 2016 when a national movement exists just to remind many in this country of the basic concept that human rights and black lives matter I think this is a important novel. Speculative fiction at its best is a story not grounded in realism, but one that explores ideas. I loved this novel and thought it was quick and powerful read.

Number 5: Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones*

This is such a good werewolf novel it immediately became a classic in the subgenre. It also had one of the most hilarious paragraphs I read in a book all year. But it is not all fun and games. Mongrels is a fantastic novel that feels dangerous, semi-feral and raw. It is unlike any werewolf novel I can remember and considering it is 2016 that is saying something. Smart, funny, sad and scary at times like most great novels Mongrels is a journey of discovery. SGJ violates many of the sacred rules of writing almost wire to wire but with zero fucks given and he makes it work beautifully.

Number 4: Stranded by Bracken Macleod *

My pick for best horror novel of 2016 goes to the second novel of the northeastern author Bracken Macleod. This book is a doozy and plays with isolation and paranoia so well it will blow your mind. This novel has the cold isolation of The Thing mixed with the descent into madness from Jacob's Ladder and at times reaches Phillip K. Dick levels of paranoia. I know that is pretty high praise but this book earns it. This is a horror novel that works on every level. A masterpiece of slow-burn insanity and isolation. This novel uses nature and the arctic cold in the same way Danny Boyle's Sunshine uses the power of the sun.

Number 3: The Bird Box by Josh Malerman

The best horror novel I read this year was from last year. Late to the game I can’t say enough about this novel. Bird Box is one of the strongest most frightening horror novel I have read this year, and it is built on a high concept. The execution with a non-linear plot structure is so well done it is hard to believe this was the novel of a first time writer. The first 50 pages are almost impossible to put down. I went into the novel completely blind (pun intended) and I believe my enjoyment of the novel was boosted by that.

Number 2: The Warren by Brian Evenson*

This short 96 page novella is part sci-fi, part horror but all amazing. Evenson is as reliable a storyteller as there is. While this story is written with incredible poetic prose and style the story is not lost in the mix. Read it to the end and you will feel paid off for all the creepy build-up. The Warren is tiny book but damn is it powerful and worth every penny, an absolute masterpiece.

Number 1 Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson*

The best novel I read all year by a long shot. I can’t express the feeling I was left with in the last 100 pages of this novel. Aurora is a thrilling novel, it places you in the universe of the story. It feels lived in and believable, and it provided jaw dropping awe. The most fascinating aspect is that it uses science to put roadblocks in front of the characters who have to survive incredible odds. Thick of the Apollo 13 astronauts trying to survive, but on a much larger and insane scale. While scientists and engineers often say that some day we will be able to make these journey to other solor systems this novel is 466 pages of Robinson calling bullshit.

These thinkers are just looking at the nuts and bolts of the travel time and propulsion. What Aurora does is look at the science not only of the travel but biological, ecological and sociological. Because that kind of journey will be effected by all those things. Some science fiction readers might find KSR's point of view to be a total downer. A surprise after the uplifting story and message at the heart of his novel 2312.

The reality of this novel when you boil it all down is this: Earth is a starship, and it is the only one we as a species can count on. Aurora is a epic science Fiction novel with a simple message one important enough for me to call it a masterpiece. I was blown away.

** Honorable Mention

Best Short Stories Any Corpse by Brian Evenson, Free School by Cody Goodfellow

Books I read in order: Three Body Problem by Liu Chixen

Consumed by David Cronenberg

The Surgeon's Mate by Alan M Clark

King Space Void by Anthony Trevino**

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Inherit The Stars by Tony Peak

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson

Holy Cow by David Duchovny

A Necessary End by F. Paul Wilson & Sarah Pinborough**

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey**

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing**

The Howling by Gary Brandner

A Splendid Chaos by John Shirley

Junior Seau: The Life and Death of a Football Icon by Jim Trotter

The Things That Are Not There by C.J. Henderson

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson**

Tin Men by Christopher Golden

X,Y by Michael Blumlein

SEAL Team 666 (SEAL Team 666 #1) Weston Ocshe

Wire and Spittle by Chris Kelso

The Free School by Cody Goodfellow**

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) by Chuck Wendig

Dungeons & Drag Queens by MP Johnson**

This Census-Taker by China MiƩville

States of Terror edited by Matt Lewis & Keith McCleary

Predator Incursion by Tim Lebbon

The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

Towers by Karl A. Fischer**

The Principle by J.David Osborne

The Acolyte by Nick Cutter

The Big Sheep by Robert Kroese**

Star Wars Bloodline by Claudia Gray

The Fireman by Joe Hill

Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Abomination by Gary Whitta

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Arkwright by Allen Steele

The Lost World (Kolchak, The Night Stalker) by CJ Henderson

Wraith by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Carter & Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Malediction by Lisa Morton

Pressure by Brian Keene

The House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

God's War by Kameron Hurley

Panacea by F.Paul Wilson **

Star Wars Aftermath: Life Debit by Chuck Wendig

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Eternal Frankenstein Edited by Ross E.Lockhart

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer **

Rattled by the Rush by Chris Kelso

A Brutal Chill in August by Alan M. Clark

The Last Days of New Paris by China MiƩville

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Warren by Brian Evenson

My Damage: The Story of a Punk Rock Survivor by Keith Morris & Jim Ruland

The Wild Shore (Three Californias Triptych #1) by Kim Stanley Robinson

And Kid Ghost by Desmond Reddick **(unpublished)

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley**

Stranded by Bracken Macleod

Fellside by MR Carey

Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad

Invasive by Chuck Wendig

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno Garcia

States of Terror vol.3 edited by Matt Lewis

Star Wars Catalyst by James Luceno

Mortuary Monster by Andrew j Stone

Dracual vs. Hitler by Patrick Sheane** Duncan Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

Long form Religious Porn by Laura Lee Bahr

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