I like to think I’m showing up fashionably late to the “Top 5 of 2015” party. Then again, a lot of you are already blitzed out of your mind and laying haphazardly strewn across every plushy and hardwooded surface imaginable, so I might just be tossing this post up into the ether never to be seen or heard from again.
*shrug* So it goes.
In 2015 I read 133 books–which isn’t bragging, because let’s be honest, reading ain’t exactly the sexiest of activities in the world (not when there’s such a thing as naked bowling.) Now, I don’t have the numbers, nor the inclination, to go digging through that pile of books to break them into subcategories, but if I had to venture a guess off the top of my head, the genre breakdown would look something like this.
I can use my imaginary statistics to go even further if you’d like:
Science Fiction: 40%
Writing Craft: 15%
Books on how to get rich: waytoomany% (these are my guilty little pleasure)
Alright, so now that I’ve broken this list down into totally arbitrary subdivisions that bear little to no resemblance to reality, let’s move forward and talk about which books in particular rose to the top in 2015. To be clear, these aren’t books published in 2015, merely read by yours truly. Also, they are listed in no particular order (or if there is an order, I sure as hell don’t know what it is.)
TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2015
Okay, so before, you remember how I said, “In no particular order”? Yeah, that was a lie. This is tops. Easily. Altered Carbon was Richard K. Morgan’s DEBUT!!! novel, and holy balls is it good. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have read this after writing Time Heist cause a lot of the technology and world building are similar and I’m afraid there would’ve been nothing stopping my subconscious from going all unsupervised kid in a candy store on those five finger discounts (for those who don’t understand my weird metaphors, that means I would’ve stolen everything not bolted to the floor.)
I reviewed this book earlier in the year, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I’m just going to let past-me do all the heavy lifting:
“Altered Carbon has absolutely everything you could want out of a futuristic cyber-punk, mystery thriller. A compelling lead character not so dissimilar from Han Solo, a murder mystery that’ll leave you scratching your head until the very end, action and suspense up, and then out, the wazoo, and worldbuilding of the sort you would expect in a Brandon Sanderson novel.
Simply put, if you’re a fan of cyberpunk there are three authors you really need to read: William Gibson (Neuromancer), Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), and Richard K. Morgan (Altered Carbon). Do it now. you won’t regret it.” – Me (circa 2015)
Again, I’m going to quote the hell out of past-me, that poor, overworked sap:
“If I was handing out Hugo Awards City of Stairs would have won Best Novel in 2014. There aren’t enough words to describe how much I loved it. So, suffice it to say, I liked it a whole lot.
City of Stairs defies the oddsr with a weird urban fantasy genre buster of a story about dead gods, magic, a city half destroyed, bureaucracy, and all sorts of other things.
In terms of building a complex world filled with intricate overlapping parts, City of Stairs stands alone (okay, maybe not entirely alone. Rise of Two Serpents by Max Gladstone was pretty good at this, too).
As always, I award bonus points for stories that feature strong female leads who are not simply caricatures of a male, but with female parts. I’ll continue doing this until we arrive at the time and place as a culture where this is no longer praise worthy. For now, unfortunately, it is.
If you’re into urban fantasy with complex characters all trying to act according to their own needs and wants, then you really can’t go wrong with City of Stairs.”
The Red by Linda Nagata was such a breath of fresh air in the military sci-fi genre. I reviewed this entire series (and interviewed Linda for good measure) over at SFSignal.com so you should definitely head over there to see why you should read this book. (Hint: it’s because it’s fantastic!)
“Every epic fantasy is judged to a large extent by the quality of its world-building. The type of reader who likes to lounge in the Epic Fantasy pool is looking for immersion. They want to feel as though this other world is real, tangible. This is part of the experience, and one that Ken Liu delivers in spades. He has created a robust world filled with a unique pantheon of capricious, unknowable gods; technologies similar to, and yet entirely unlike, anything we are currently familiar with; and complex political histories and interactions between neighboring cultures. The level of detail to which Liu flushes out all these categories is truly astonishing. By the end of the book, I was left with this sad, forlorn feeling upon realizing that this world wasn’t actually real. Which is pretty much the highest praise I can give to an Epic Fantasy.”
I have a confession to make: I am a story structure nerd. So when my buddy Ernie Luis put me onto this book, I dove in feet first and holy balls am I glad I did. This is the most thorough book I’ve ever read on the quantitative analysis of story craft. It doesn’t really matter where you are on the road to publication (nervous noobie, irate intermediate, exasperated expert), you’re going to gleam some useful nuggets of knowledge in here. The book, in and of itself, would be enough, but Shawn Coyne has gone one step further and done a very thorough podcast with Tim Grahl where they break down each chapter of this book (Podcast LINK). Also, he’s thrown up a number of video series on youtube AND is maintaining The Story Grid website which he updates constantly with new and insightful tidbits.
Doesn’t matter if you’re a story nerd like me or just a closet writer, if you want to improve your craft, get this book.
P.S. Get the paperback. It’s a huge book more akin to a textbook. I know the $30 price point might be off-setting, but seriously, you’re going to come back to this book ALOT. You want it on your shelf.
And that about does it for me. Keep your eyes to the sky ’cause in the next couple days I’m going to do a similar blog post for The Leighgendarium where I outline the 5 Best Indie Books I read in 2015. In the meantime, scoot on down to the comments section and tell me your top 5 books of 2015!