The challenge with your main character being a murdering psychopath is all about giving your audience a reason to want to be in their head for a couple hundred pages without slitting their wrists. You can do that by creating a small shelf of understanding for their throat-slitting tendencies, as in the case of the criminal-targeting Dexter. Or by telling a sympathetic backstory, filled with the kind of traumatic abuse that shapes the very worst among us, such as *insert horror movie franchise villain here.* In Beverly Kills, however, we get a straight-up serial killer worthy of American Psycho without any shading or excuses.
If you peruse my lists of books on Goodreads, you will immediately see a distinct preference for genre. If the world is ending, I’m reading about it. This list is heavily influenced by the Apocalypse, and certainly by Science Fiction in general, but I’m pretty pleased with the variety I managed to work in this year.
I’m going to cheat a bit in limiting myself to 10 items for this list. I’ve found it impossible to list a number of items without also including their various prequels, sequels, and so forth. I’m a firm believer in consuming the whole story!
These were my favorite reads from 2014, and I hope I inspire you to pick a few of them up.
“In a world where every living thing is forced to become mechanical, the authorities punish those who resist the transformation . . . all wonder about the real reason for the changes.” --AoSComic.com
My first and most lasting reaction to Archaeologists of Shadows was to the quality of artwork found in every page of the series. From beginning to end, the world of Archaeologists of Shadows is a Steampunk, Blade Runner, Matrix-inspired dreamscape, illustrated by Patricio Clarey in absolutely stunning detail. Reading the series took me a significant amount time, simply because I lingered for so long over every page.
I should explain right up front in this review that I am an unmitigated and wildly loyal fan of the Lumberjanes comics. I opened the very first issue expecting great things, and that expectation has continued to be exceeded with every new installment.
I pick up a Young Adult novel, I want to find some very specific things. A spunky, take-no-prisoners heroine. A troublesome love interest. Someone (or something) evil to fight against. Throw in some element of the supernatural, apocalyptic, dystopian, fantastic, the other-worldly, and I'm a happy reader.
In Storm Siren, author Mary Weber brings us a fantasy realm filled with faeries, magic, and monsters, and layers in a gritty social environment filled with slavery, poverty, and political intrigue. Weber echoes themes from The Hunger Games and The X-Men in a unique, imaginative world for the reader to explore.
When I'm asked what supernatural power I would choose for myself, the ability to clone myself has always seemed very tempting. Let my clones do all those things I don't enjoy . . . working out, public speaking, washing the car, etc. Whatever my intent, speculation about the benefits of this power always diverts very quickly into some very questionable moral ground.
Imitation by Heather Hildebrand, takes this selfish impulse and explores the implications of using clones in the larger society. When created by a super-secretive corporation, at the whims of megalomaniacal sociopaths, there are going to be serious moral issues.
How would you like the world to end?
The End is Nigh, the first installment of The Apocalypse Triptych, a collection of short story anthologies from editors John Joseph Adams (Wastelands, The Living Dead) and Hugh Howey (Wool, I, Zombie), gives us a deep menu from which to choose. Alien invasion, artificial intelligence takeover, collision with celestial body, mass suicide (as recommended by THE VOICE OF GOD), drought, killer nano-bots, EMP, all manner of plague (including the zombie variety) . . . and in at least one case, apocalypse by unknown event.
It took a little while to get hooked into this story. Terms of Enlistment promises to be an action-packed thriller but starts off more like a military memoir. Sure, that assumes a fair amount of exciting stuff can happen, but I was beginning to despair that it would all be portrayed from a safe distance, instead of sticking me right into the thick of things.
I needn’t have worried.
I began my review of Terms of Enlistment, the first installment in the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos, by stating it took me a little while to get hooked into the story. The sequel, Lines of Departure, suffers from no such acceleration delay. We jump immediately ahead five years into Andrew Grayson’s military career, and then we are [literally] shot into almost incessant action for the remainder of the story.
There is a particular quote from Annihilation that sums up my entire experience with it:
“When you see beauty and desolation, it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you.”
I teetered between loving and seriously not liking this story. It wasn’t until the very last scenes that I came to some degree of reconciliation with my reaction to it. To Jeff VanderMeer’s credit, I think that this is the exact experience he intends for the reader to have, as he skillfully manipulates the reader into the same difficult emotional journey that his main character is taking.