Books read 2013 Part One

Since starting my job at Angry Robot, I’ve had the delightful opportunity to read more, both for work, and for my own pleasure, since far less of my life is spent driving places. I love audiobooks, but in order for an audiobook to play at the speed I read, it has to lose all of the nuance of the performance, which I find unacceptable.

Thusfar, I’ve finished 18 novels in 2013. Some I’d started in late 2012, so my reading rate isn’t quite as impressive as that # might indicate. Some of the books I’ve read I can’t talk about yet, because they were for AR/SC/ExA acquisitions, and the contracts are still in the works. But as those clear, I’ll add them to my review/reflection queue.

Perhaps the happiest part is that even with all this reading, I’ve also written about 50K words of my own prose so far in 2013.

 

Here’s Part One of my 2013 reading list (Books marked AR, SC, or ExA were read for work, coming from Angry Robot, Strange Chemistry, and Exhibit A, respectively):

 

Embedded (AR) – This was my first Dan Abnett book. Abnett has an incredible momentum to his prose, it sweeps you up and carries you along. His fluency and density of technojargon is reminiscent of Neuromancer, if a bit less hard to penetrate. I really enjoyed the central conceit of the book -where a journalist is beamed into the mind of a private security force soldier in a ‘don’t call it a war’ conflict on a colony planet, then has to step up after a head wound that incapacitates his host’s conscious mind. We have a new book coming from Dan late this year called Monstercide, and I’m totally jazzed for that one having read Embedded.

Emilie & the Hollow World (SC) – This book by Martha Wells takes the trope of the Hollow Earth and re-approaches it through the eyes of a teenage girl trying to escape a constricting life to make her own way in the world. She stows away on a ship, not knowing that the ship was going to travel through the aether currents of the ocean to emerge inside the center of the earth! This has both a classic Jules Verne-y feel and the freshness of a YA perspective. Definitely recommended for younger teen readers and fans of less-dark Steampunk-ish things.

Changes – Book twelve of Jim Butcher’s hugely popular Dresden Files series is aptly named. Almost everything about Harry Dresden’s status quo is upset in this novel, which was, honestly, a tremendously bold narrative choice. It seems like there’s a temptation in a long-running successful series to just keep the status quo, adding new adventures but not rocking the boat. Well, in Changes, butcher blows holes in the boat, sinks it, dredges the river to get the boat back and then blows it up. I give Butcher props for taking the bold steps he did, but I really felt the hand of the author in this novel – there were several big things that I felt happened more because the author wanted them to than because they would happen due to the logic already established in the world. But a fantastic ride, and the end battle sequence was amazing.

Fortress Frontier – This is the second book in Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series, following 2012’s Control Point. Control Point was one of my favorite 2012 reads, and I found Fortress Frontier to be even stronger, in concept and execution. Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army logistician who’s never seen combat. Until he manifests as a latent (magic user) and gets whisked away to run logistics for an embattled fortress in the magical realm. Things start bad and then get worse for poor Alan, but with some help, he rises to the occasion. Along the way, Cole deepens the world he set up in Control Point and builds toward even cooler things yet to come.

‘Salem’s Lot – I didn’t read much Stephen King growing up. I read Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three on Semester At Sea back in 2003, but that was really it. Since my girlfriend Meg is such a huge King fan, I took her up on her offer to have my King reading curated. She gave me Carrie first, which I thought was magnificent. ‘Salem’s Lot was much harder for me to get through, partially because I picked it up and put it down so frequently (I was traveling during the time I was reading, and I was also spending a lot of time writing). The way that King develops the town so thoroughly in the novel before the Bad Shit (TM) starts to fly is truly amazing. King has what I find to be a truly enviable skill at character sketches – he can use 500 or so words and paint a clear picture of nearly anyone – giving you their passions, their weaknesses, and their perspectives on the world. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more King. I think The Stand will be next.

Zenn Scarlett (SC) – This debut novel by Christian Schoon is one of my favorite Strange Chemistry books yet. Schoon tacks away from the standard formulae of many teen novels and focuses entirely on the journey of the titular Zenn in her studies as an exovetereranian on a Mars cut off from Earth. The character is well-developed and compelling, and Schoon’s creatures are marvelous and strange. Zenn Scarlett has the Sensawunda I associate with my favorite classic Science Fiction tales, making it a real treat.

 

What have you read this year that stood out? Please share your reading list below.

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