2013 was a slow year for me, book-wise. Apparently. I only read 26 books, and there were a couple of large gaps during which I was too focused on other projects to do much reading. (And since 2014 was, uh, not a good year—for many reasons—I never finished typing this up until April 2015!)
|1||The Complete Robot||Isaac Asimov||1982||05-01-13|
|2||Pacific Vortex!||Clive Cussler||1983||31-03-13|
|5||Raise the Titanic!||Clive Cussler||1976||20-04-13|
|6||Monster Island||David Wellington||2006||21-04-13|
|7||Monster Nation||David Wellington||2007||07-05-13|
|8||The Girl with the Long Green Heart||Lawrence Block||1965||25-05-13|
|9||Monster Planet||David Wellington||2007||09-06-13|
|10||Night of the Living Trekkies||Kevin David Anderson
& Sam Stall
|11||Vixen 03||Clive Cussler||1978||19-06-13|
|13||Brave New World||Aldous Huxley||1931||29-06-13|
|15||Ready Player One||Ernest Cline||2011||30-07-13|
|19||Robopocalypse||Daniel H Wilson||2011||07-09-13|
|20||Ravenshoe (pre-release)||Jenifer Jones||2014||27-10-13|
|25||Discount Armageddon||Seanan McGuire||2012||26-12-13|
|26||Rosemary and Rue||Seanan McGuire||2009||27-12-13|
The Complete Robot
by Isaac Asimov
In 2012 I started reading Asimov. The Complete Robot is the continuation of that; both a collection of all his Robot-related short stories, and the first book on Asimov's own "Recommended Reading Order" list. I enjoyed it, but by the time I finished it I was all robotted out! Other projects intervened, and it was almost three months before I picked up another book—and not an Asimov book, either. No doubt I'll get back to that list sometime!
Raise the Titanic!
by Clive Cussler
Having amassed an almost complete set of Clive Cussler novels, I decided it was time to start working my way through them. I had already read the first 15 or so of the Dirk Pitt series back in the day, as they were released, but it had probably been 20 years since I last read one, so I decided to start again at the beginning.
Pacific Vortex! was actually the first book Cussler wrote, but not the first book he published. This was actually printed once he had several other books under his belt—so, of course, the quandary here is the same facing people wanting to watch Star Wars now: Original first, or Prequel first? I decided I'd start with Pacific Vortex! this time around—and as it turns out, the next book (Mayday!) actually references events from this one, so I guess I, uh, chose wisely.
These early books about the adventures of Dirk Pitt pretty much established the formula: a seemingly impossible discovery, a mystery with its origins lost to history, and plenty of action as Dirk Pitt, troubleshooter for NUMA, investigates. The books are rather fun—although I must admit, re-reading the early ones here, I was particularly struck by the casual sexist behaviour on display by some of the characters.
Pacific Vortex! gives us Cussler's version of the Bermuda Triangle, a section of the Pacific Ocean where ships have vanished without a trace—and combines it with a similarly vanished nuclear submarine, the logs of which are discovered, washed up on the beach, by Dirk Pitt. Mayday! has a US Air Force base attacked—its entire force of jets destroyed on the ground—by an old World War I German biplane that vanishes without a trace after the attack. Iceberg begins with the discovery of an entire ship frozen into the side of an iceberg, its interior, including crew, incinerated by an intense heat. Raise the Titanic!—well, it's all right there in the title; the quest to bring the doomed ship back to the surface (written at a time when the prevailing belief was that she had gone down in one piece rather than having been torn in two) is driven by the quest for the contents of her hold, perhaps the only known supply of an incredibly rare substance that is critical to the defense of the US—or, in the wrong hands, a terrible weapon.
Of the four, the last is perhaps the most famous of Cussler's novels—and also probably the least enjoyable. Dirk Pitt is off-screen for large portions of the book that are taken up by the various powers jockeying for position, and the raising of the ship itself is time-compressed in ways that seemed a little jarring. Perhaps that was why I took a small break from the series...
by David Wellington
When I first found two of these novels in my local bookshop's cheap bin, I was intrigued enough to buy them (and track down the third online.) The "Monster" of the title refers, of course, to zombies. Once upon a time I intended to write my own great zombie novel—but before I could finish it the market became completely saturated with them, so instead, I restrict myself to reading what others have written.
This trilogy introduces an interesting new wrinkle to the usual problems faced by survivors of a zombie apocalypse: intelligent zombies. Not only that, but intelligent zombies with telepathy and, basically, superpowers. Those are rare, of course, three of them—one for each novel—along with a few extra followers that they create along the way. A fourth, an old, old zombie. Oh, and a cadre of mummies for good measure.
Despite the logical progression/expansion of the Island/Nation/Planet titles, the first book (which was actually originally published online in episodic format) does not cover the origin of the zombie outbreak. It presents a world overrun, and a lone American—stranded in Africa with his daughter and a small band of well-armed survivors—who leads a team of young female warriors to Manhattan to forage for the medical supplies they need to keep their leader alive.
The second book is the prequel, and follows a few different characters as they fight to survive the zombie outbreak—or, in some cases, to come to terms with the fact of their undeath.
The third introduces a new threat, and brings together the survivors from the first two books as they dig deeper into the origins of the zombie uprising—and the possibility that there may be a way to end it.
The Girl With the Long Green Heart
by Lawrence Block
I actually took a small break from the Monster trilogy—that's a definite pattern for the year—to read this novel, although I never really planned it that way. However, I also reviewed this book separately, so I'll just point you across to that article: The Girl with the Long Green Heart
Night of the Living Trekkies
by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
I first heard of this novel when I discovered the trailer somebody had made for it and placed on youTube (watch it here!) As it turns out, the trailer is actually misleading in one particular detail: in the trailer the "sexy female eye-candy" character is dressed (and painted) as a green Orion slave girl; in the book the girl in that role (based, I'm almost certain, on Adrianne Curry) is actually dressed—for reasons—as Slave Leia. I guess it would have been too difficult for the trailer to explain what Leia was doing at a Trek convention.
So, yeah: zombie uprising at a Trek convention. What more is there to say, other than that this book is wildly funny. It's packed full of Trek (and Star Wars) references and quotes. Pop culture and zombies; what more can you ask for? (That said, if you're after pop culture and zombies (well, sorta) check out my own Array Wars trilogy! )
by Clive Cussler
Vixen 03 is the first Cussler novel I ever read. I bought it new at an airport (or rather, I probably chose it, and Mum or Dad bought it for me) as we were boarding a plane to somewhere. Given the year of publication, and the timing, I suspect it must have been our 1979 flight to Malaysia—in which case, I was probably 10 or 11 when I read this. It's a great book to read on a plane, too, given that the first thing that happens is a plane crash!
Overloaded by her top secret, lethal cargo of nerve gas, Vixen 03 flies into a storm, is blown well off course, and crashes in the mountains where she disappears from history for 30 years until she is discovered by Dirk Pitt. However, Dirk was not the first to find the missing plane, and the race is on to unravel the mystery and recover the missing canisters before their contents can kill millions of people.
by John Scalzi
In the original series of Star Trek, red was the colour of the Security uniform. It was widely recognised among fans that whenever a nameless security dude in a red shirt was added to an away team, the poor guy was doomed. (From the script-writer's point of view, somebody has to die and it's not going to be a regular, so the obvious answer is to include "Security Guard 1" in the script.) Redshirts explores this phenomenon from the point of view of the guys in red. A new crewmember in a Trek-esque ship discovers that his life is in grave peril due merely to the colour of his uniform and the apparently charmed lives—and bizarre, illogical behaviour—of the bridge crew. When he investigates deeper he discovers an awful truth.
Redshirts is one of those "gee, I wish I'd thought of that first" novels—and, indeed, a couple of the ideas Scalzi investigates can also be found (albeit not as fully developed) in my own books! I'd actually been following Scalzi on Twitter for a while, mostly because of Redshirts, so when I finally got my hands on the book it went straight to the top of my reading list.
Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
This is one of the novels that laid the groundwork for many of the dystopic tales which followed it. Perhaps not an easy read, but worth the effort.
by Ann Aguirre
I first became aware of Ann Aguirre when she became the target of some misogynistic nastiness; as a result of what happened and the furore that surrounded it, a challenge was made: read more books by women writers (and more generally, by any writers outside of the white-male set which dominates much of popular fiction.) Personally I did not feel that my reading habits were at all problematic—I've never consciously chosen male authors over female—although a quick glance at my reading list for the first half of 2013 shows all male authors (and, indeed, the 2012 reading list only has four (of 30) books written by women.) Regardless, I decided to be a little more conscious of such things—ultimately, I'm still only going to be choosing books that I think I'll enjoy—and so I started off with Ann Aguirre's Grimspace series.
I loved it.
Grimspace is Aguirre's answer to FTL travel. Every ship needs a pilot and a navigator/jumper; Sirantha Jax is one of the rare few who carries the J-gene which allows her to jump a ship into grimspace and bring it safely out again in roughly the right place. Of course, every jump is killing her—navigators don't die of old age—and the book opens with Jax imprisoned and in disgrace; her last jump went bad, and everyone on board died but her. March breaks her out because he wants to use her to break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel. He has his own secrets—he's an illegal telepath—and the two of them may just fall in love, if they don't kill each other first.
There is romance in this novel—in this series—but it is not the primary focus. The story always comes first, and indeed, neither Jax nor March allows their feelings for the other to get in the way of what must be done—and their agendas do not always align.
Grimspace is written entirely in first person, from Jax's POV; it had been a while since I'd read something in first person. It took a little getting used to, but I enjoyed it.
Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
After finishing Grimspace I ordered the rest of the series; while I was waiting for them to arrive I picked up Ready Player One because I had heard good things about it. If you're a child of the '80s—and, I guess, if you like Science Fiction and more pop culture references than you can poke a stick at—you have to read this book.
by Daniel H Wilson
After finishing book 4 of the Grimspace series—mostly because I was nervous about where book 5 might go—I felt the need for a break. What better book to chose?
Robopocalypse tells of the rise of the Robot Apocalypse—as pretty much every robotic appliance on the planet with an AI, from cars to servant-bots to toasters, decides to destroy their human overlords. They are led—driven—by a rogue AI. Much of the story is set in the aftermath of the uprising, as the surviving humans try to fight back.
Spielberg is making the movie.
by Jenifer Jones
Ravenshoe is my cousin's second book, and I said I'd proof-read it for her. It will be available soon through Lulu.com—and you can find her first book, Malanda, there too. I'll admit they're not my usual cup of tea—historical fiction with a smidgin of fictionalised autobiograpy just doesn't have enough zombies—but they're pretty good. And there is a possibly mythical element—but nope, no spoilers! Check 'em out.
by Chuck Wendig
Along with Scalzi, Chuck Wendig is a guy I've been following online for a while; I figured it was time I read one of his books, too.
Miriam Black has the ability—although it's a "gift" she wishes she could lose—to see the moment of your death simply by touching your skin. She has learned the hard way that she cannot save anyone, and indeed, on the few occasions she has tried, her interference has caused the death she saw. But when she hitches a ride, and sees the truck driver die with her name on his lips, she knows she cannot save him, but she knows she has to try.
I loved this book, but oddly I haven't yet read the second in the series. Time to dig it out, I guess...
by Ann Aguirre
As well as her SF Grimspace series, Aguirre has an Urban Fantasy series; I haven't read them yet because, at the time, I was feeling a bit burnt-out on that genre. However, I was more than eager to start a new SF series by her. Set in the Grimspace universe, Perdition unites a secondary character from Jax's world with a whole new cast. Jael is—well, let's not go into details. Suffice to say that he finds himself on the prison ship Perdition. No-one escapes Perdition, although that won't stop Jael from trying. First, though, he has to survive, and teaming up with the leader of one of the prison's six factions, the Dread Queen—AKA Dresdemona "Dred" Devos—may be his only hope.
This is the first of The Dred Chronicles, so the focus is more on the Dread Queen rather than Jael himself, but unlike Grimspace, these books are in third person, and the POV switches between the two characters.
by Seanan McGuire
These last two books by Seanan McGuire, I read over the Christmas break. Because I was aware I was burnt-out on Urban Fantasy I figured I'd dip my toe back in with McGuire's books (rather than Aguirre's) just to be safe...
Discount Armageddon is the first of the Incryptid series. Verity Price's family has spent several generations fighting to protect non-human species—from gorgons to bogeymen, from chupacabra to sasquatch, all of which live among us, more or less—from their most dangerous foe; humans. Specifically, from the Covenant of St George, whose stated goal is the wholesale slaughter of all such abominations. Verity's territory is Manhattan, and she patrols it to keep the local cryptids both safe, and in line; if one breaks the rules and eats a human or two, it must be put down. The cryptids themselves don't particularly trust the Price family, since at one time they were members of the Covenant.
All hell is about to break loose: a (cute) Covenant killer has arrived in New York to determine whether to send a full squad; the Aeslin Mice in Verity's flat keep her busy; and all Verity really wants to do is pursue her dancing career.
Rosemary and Rue
by Seanan McGuire
This is the first of the October Daye series. October ("Toby") Daye is a changeling: half human, half fae. After spending fourteen years as a fish, she just wants to put everything behind her and live a "normal" human life. The world of Faerie—in particular, the Countess Evening Winterrose—has other ideas; the Countess is murdered, and with her dying breath, places a curse on Toby; she must investigate, or suffer the effects of the curse.
Also great fun!