2018 in books (LONG)
Once again, I was too shy and blew away my challenge of 42 with reading… 100 1! This was an exceptional year for reading. Not that I mind though but I shall try next year to be more precise… :)
As always, a mix of re-reading books I like and new authors & series and some disappointements as well, nothing is perfect… This article is fairly long of course, due to the much higher number of books :)
To the books!
Author of the Year
Without any contest, the best author for me this year is Adrian Tchaikovsky. I discovered him in “Children of Time” and read two more of his books, with a lot of enjoyment each time. It is difficult to stress out of much I enjoyed this first book and there is a following book next year (“Children of Ruin”). Can’t wait to read the Shadow of the Apt fantasy series :)
- In addition to Children of Time, I read Dogs of War and Spiderlight. The first was an eye opener not on spiders (which I kind of liked already) but on the wonder of evolution of a whole species as described; the second depicts augmented animals used as weapons of war and the 3rd, while being more standard Fantasy, managed to talk about other species in a way I have not read before. All recommended.
I know that I have so many books to read that I should try to focus on the new ones but I always find myself going back to books I’ve loved, like old friends :)
- Tim Powers remains on my all-time favourite authors’ list and these two books are very high. The Anubis Gates is one of the books that founded Steampunk (even though there are no steam machines) and On Stranger Tides is my favourite pirate book.
- The Rings of the Master series is always a nice one to reread: story is not groundbreaking but it can generate some thoughts on how far one can go or sacrifice to achieve one’s goals. Lords of the Middle Dark, Pirates of the Thunder, Warriors of the Storm and Masks of the Martyrs by the late Jack L. Chalker.
- The Hidden City is the last book in The Tamuli series by David Eddings. Again, not earthshaking but a good ending for a nice series.
There we find series I started before 2017, like Ambassador or The Secret Histories.
- The Man With One Name is a novella in the God’s Fragments series by Tom Llyod, giving a bit more background on the main character, Lynx.
- one more book in one of my favourite series, Ambassador by Patty Jansen, The Enemy Within. Space-Opera at its best.
- At last! The final volume in the The Blood of Earth series: Roar of Sky by Beth Cato. Magic through earthquake is a fantastic magic system. I loved the series. Oh and handsome cover art as well.
- It has been some time since my last Lindsay Buroker book but it is always a pleasure to read her books. Back to the Dragon Blood series for two short stories, The Fowl Proposals and Shattered Past and the final book, Oaths. The story in “Shattered Past” is a pretty close copycat from the first book though.
- With Lake Silence, Anne Bishop takes us in the The World of The Others, exploring different places and characters of the awesome The Others series. I’m still a huge fan of the series, characters and writing.
- The Iron Souls series is one of my favourites as well. Like Beth Cato, Andre Becca has created a magic system quite different from the others and I love it. The story is not that complicated in itself but the way it is told, with lot of humour from the characters makes it very funny and lovable. Another series & author with strong female leads, something I love. I read Soul Singer, Heart of Iron and Corroded. Waiting for the next one :)
- When I started the Laundry Files series, I found that Charles Stross was leaning a bit too much on the geeky stuff but it gets better and I really enjoy it. This year, two full novels The Fuller Memorandum and The Apocalypse Codex and the shorter novella Down on the Farm. The novella format is less suited to the stories & characters though.
- It is always a bit sad to see a series ending but I must say that Simon R. Green managed it rather well with Night Fall, last of the Secret Histories series. It is kind of “James Bond in a Fantasy setting”, always fun, especially with Molly.
- While waiting the last book in the Lightbringer series, I read the short story Gunner’s Apprentice by Brent Weeks. It wasn’t quite what I expected and that’s what the author wanted, nicely done :)
- I discovered Genevieve Cogman and The Invisible Library series last year and it was pretty short of being my series of the year (but V.E. Schwab stole it with brio). I love the world, the characters (strong female lead, a librarian!)and the stories. And of course there are dragons! Under cover of stealing books to stabilize the various worlds in the Multiverse, you get witty dialogues, politics and action in The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word. Highly recommended.
- The Dresden Files is a long-running series by Jim Butcher. Despite a few annoyings things from time to time, he manages to keep it interesting (even if I wish he’d be a bit nicer to Harry in his love life :)) After Death Masks and Blood Rites, things are getting even more interesting for Harry…
- While I have seen (and appreciate!) all the episodes in the TV Series, I’m way behind the books for The Expanse by James S.A. Corey… I still manage to read the novella about the birth of the Epstein drive: Drive.
- Books by Aliette de Bodard are always different, be it the Dominion of the Fallen or her Xuan universe. It is a wonderful way of learning more about other people’s cultures, not everyone is a white westerner… Aliette uses her vietnamese roots to weave brilliant stories and her rendering of Sherlock Holmes (The Tea Master and the Detective) and “Beauty and the Beast” (In Vanishers’ Palace) are magnificient. I also read a novella in the Dominion of the Fallen universe with Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship. Impatiently waiting for the 3rd book there in 2019! (The House of Sundering Flames).
I’m not often reading a whole series in one go but that one did clicked enough inside me :)
- What if at your death, your spirit/soul/whatever you think it is was recovered and put into a computer, prefereably along with a 3D printer? This is more or less the basis of this series by Dennis E. Taylor. That got me hooked pretty fast :) There are three books and I read them one after the other: We Are Legion (We Are Bob), For We Are Many and All These Worlds.
New Series (and/or authors)
Lots of new series and authors this year (which means also a lot of upcoming books!).
- Let us start this section with older stuff from Charles Stross who we know for The Laundry Files. I expected the Merchant Princes series to be Fantasy stuff but is really more about a Multiverse kind-of-thing along with Mafia characters. It has many volumes but I read only the first two — The Family Trade and The Hidden Family (they are really intended to be read two-by-two). The World building is nice, the economics well done and the characters likable.
- After hearing a lot of the series, I finally started The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It can be seen as a darker adult Harry Potter (and it is in many ways). Overall I liked it although you sometimes want to shake the characters a bit and the writing style could be better. I may see the TV series later.
- Can you believe that it took me until 2018 to read my first Ursula K. Le Guin book? Well, it is true (although I may have read one or two in French too long ago but I can’t recall). I read the first two books of the Earthsea Cycle — A Wizard of Earthsea & The Tombs of Atuan — and I liked them so I will keep on fixing this flaw of mine :)
- Now for something different. Imagine that in some distant future, half of the humans have been wiped out and the rest of them are more or less savages. Later some of the survivors made it into a janitor unit (our heroes) and they have to repeal an alien invasion. Just read the book: Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines. It is not as absurd as the Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy but it tries :)
- I begun to read John Scalzi and went with one of his most well-known books: Old Man’s War. While I’m not a fan of Military Sci-Fi in general but I liked that one, characters are really nice and the story believable. Next was the Lock In series describing the Haden’s syndrom and its impact on the life of people. It is nicely woven with the thriller part of the stories and he used the characteristics of the Haden people to the full: Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome as the introducing story (it really help to read it before) then Lock In and Head On.
- In the same league as Simon Green (Secret Histories) or Charles Stross (Laundry Files) on the secret-agency-you-have-never-heard-of-but-save-world-every-day theme, I present you The Rook from the The Checquy Files series by Daniel O’Malley. The main character is not a field operative but she is more or less the best adminstrator ever. The twist is that she is an amnesiac and that does not help :) Fun and fast-paced, I’l surely read the other books. Did I mention I loved strong female leads?
- A markwoman (read: assassin) in one of the few sisterhoods of highly trained warriors, fights within and outside the order is the settings of Markswoman from the Asiana series by Rati Mehrotra. Add a mysterious transport system across the desert and encountering one of the warriors of the only men clan makes for an interesting adventure! Next one soon I hope.
- After reading the novella Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™ by Rebecca Roanhorse in Apex Magazine, I pre-ordered Trail of Lightning first of the upcoming series The Sixth World. The former has an Ubik-like feeling and it is pretty good. The latter is an post-apocalypse novel when the main character is a woman using her special powers to hunt monsters. I really enjoyed stories by people of colour like her because it gives insights into different cultures.
- In a distant future with planetary exoplorations are protected by corporate security robots, one of them manages to hack its control system and become independent, something unheard of. Follow the adventures of Murderbot in All Systems Red from The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.
- One of my favourite sub-series in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett is the one with Moist von Lipwig, starting with Going Postal. I have watched the two-episode movie several times so it was time to read the novel :)
- Based on many reviews, I read An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. Not an easy read by any means, as the main topic are slavery and violence in an SF ship but I enjoyed it, it show a different perspective on things we may not think about. This is the kind of book writers of colour write and their views are often radically different from the too-often white men found in SF&F. We need more of these.
- After reading Old Man’s War, I went to that another classic The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. The concept and viewpoint is different from Scalzi’s, more centered on time and its subjectivity, esp. with relativity playing around.
- My friend and colleague Barry has a split personality, he write SF as Barry Kirwan and thrillers as J.F. but I do enjoy both. I read the first in his SF series Eden Paradox and the plot was very interesting and not something I expected (always nice when you are surprised by an author!). Very nice The Eden Paradox. The rest of the series next year :)
- He is also an accomplished diver and use his knowledge heavily for the Nadia Laksheva Spy series. All characters in the series are definitly human with all the flaws and weaknesses associated, making the series very credible. Read it! 66 Metres, 37 Hours and 88˚ North as J.F. Kirwan
- I like pirates books and The Isle of Gold by Jane Seven didn’t disappoint. An orphan begins to unravel the secret of her past and end up hidden as a man on a pirate’s ship, as she has always wanted to sail. Playing on legends, the story is nicely woven and wonderful. I want more!
- I have always loved assassins in litterature and these books manage to add some new twists in the genre; the main character is a club-footed cripple and a sorcerer to boost (in a world where they are sacrificed). Interesting story with lots of enemies, one of the best series of 2018 for me. There are Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins in the The Wounded Kingdom series by R.J. Barker. The third and last one is waiting for me in 2019 :)
- I’ve known Jen Williams for some time as an author and follow her on Twitter like I do with many others but I had yet to read her books. This has now been fixed :) I read both The Copper Promise from the The Copper Cat series and its short prequel Sorrow’s Isle. Good and very enjoyable fantasy with yet another female lead. I also have books from her other trilogy The Winnowing Flame to read in 2019.
- In my pursuit of different genre and authors, I found K.D. Edwards on Twitter and got his book The Last Sun, (Yet another first in a series, The Tarot Sequence). Not many authors have LBGTQ+ characters and it is nice to see more (always in my research of diversity and expansion of my universe), this one combine a thriller theme with vengeance for a old massacre in a Atlantis setting, after Atlantis itsef was destroyed by humans. Very original and the second one The Hanged Man will be out soon in january !
- Set in old Middle-East, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty (again a first book) in The Daevabad Trilogy, tells the story of Nahri, a successful con-woman with healing magic who one say summons a dijnn warrior, pushing her into a near-war between the six djinn tribes in the legendary city of Deavabad, city of Brass. We see how she will use that power in the courts politics…
- New Moon by Ian McDonald, first in the Luna series shares a few things with Artemis (see below) with the moon having been more or less divided into families, each of them (like the mafia) controlling part of the lunar ecosystem & industry. It describe the struggle of Adriana, newly vested at the head of Corta Helio empire, surrounded by enemies. It uses the specifics of the Moon to spice the Mob story.
- The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang was one of the books I anticipated reading in 2018 and it didn’t disappoint. I like Dark Fantasy and boy, was it dark… Inspired by the rape of Nanjing during the second Sino-Japanese war, it touches many things in Chinese history (war, drug, bloody battles) and can be quite disturbing at times. Great book, hopefully the next two books will follow soon.
- The Black Tides of Heaven, first in the Tensorate series by J.Y. Yang left me with a mixed feeling, while the stories is interesting, the writing confused me greatly at the beginning. I know them/they is singular in English (and often used to describe people of any gender) but there, it described people undecided at the beginning of their life (and they later choose one)… Time to get used to it :)
- say “black chamber” to me and I get interested as I associate it with cryptography of course. There, the US Black Chamber is just yet another secret spy agency. What makes it much more interesting is that, S. M. Stirling being one of the masters of alt-history/uchronia we all know, it takes place in a slightly different USA with Teddy Roosevelt is President again for WWI. The main character is a very strong woman and the story nice and fast-paced. Black Chamber
- I was very impressed by both book and the movie taken from The Martian by Andy Weir (see last year’s article below) so I took Artemis with a lot of enthousiasm. It was interesting but less so I’m afraid. It is more a thriller on the Moon with the added complexity and I spent half the book wanting to bash the main character on the head for taking so many bad decisions in short time…
- V. E. Schwab was my author-of-the-year in 2017 so I naturally keep on reading her books. This time the two duologies Villains and Monsters of Verity. They are very different, one describes some alternate US city filled with monsters and in the other, the monsters are the main characters. I wonder where she find the ideas behind her books, it is wonderful. Recommended both. Vicious and Vengeful for the first series; This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet for the second one.
- Military SF is definitely not my thing but I’ve known and appreciate Tanya Huff for a long time and enjoyed her books so I tried Valor’s Choice first in the Confederation series. I liked the character building, action and the way she waves her story. I will read the next ones :)
- If Adrian Tchaikovsky had not taken the trophy very early, my “Author of the Year” would go to Mary Robinette Kowal for the Lady Astronaut series. Wonderful alternate history on Space Exploration in which after Earth is hit by a meteor killing half of the east cost of the US (including Washington DC, the President, Congress etc.), Earth is ultimately doomed, space exploration become THE priority to save humanity, computers are women and one of them finally become astronaut. It is also an excellent story on how bad misoginy and racism were in the ‘50 in the US. Truly wonderful books. There are The Calculating Stars, Fated Sky and the short story The Lady Astronaut of Mars. I can’t recommended these enough.
- I was a bit surprised at the beginning of The Armoured Saint by Myke Cole and it took a while to see where it was headed. The twist in the plot was very nicely done. Enjoyed it as a whole. Will see how the second one develop :)
Like many Froggies, I’m fan of comics, european-style. I didn’t count all the albums I read individually (see below) but I re-read the entire Tanguy & Laverdure set for example.
- I have been following her on Twitter for a long time, enjoying her short webcomics so it was natural to get her books as well: the entire Sarah’s Scribbles series: Adulthood Is a Myth: A Sarah’s Scribbles Collection, Big Mushy Happy Lump and Herding Cats. I like both the drawings and the message below, I could even make some of them mine :)
- Who does not know Hergé and his famous Tintin series? For some reson I can’t really remember now, I just found myself re-reading Le Sceptre d’Ottokar.
- Some of you know I’m an introvert (INFP to be precise) and I follow some introverts on twitter as well. One of these people is a comic writer and she rreleased her book at the beginning of the year. It is Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung. It won’t surprise anyone that I can relate to many of these strips.
- At the end of 2017, I saw a nice animated movie called Zombillenium. It is also a comic series by Arthur de Pins: Gretchen, Control Freaks and Ressources Humaines. I just heard the fourth one is out \o/
- Edgar P. Jacobs died after the Les 3 formules du professeur Satō but the series lives on, written by Yves Sente and different illustrators. I read the last two, Le Bâton de Plutarque in which we learn how The Espadon came to life and what lead to the very first album of the series, it was an excellent prequel; and Le Testament de William S.. Many criticized the second one but I liked it.
- I have been interested with military stuff (mostly airplanes) for a very long time so it was only natural to get into this comic series about two French fighter pilots and their various adventures around the world (litterally) by Albert Uderzo and Jean-Michel Charlier It is the French equivalent of the Buck Danny series (also written Jean-Michel Charlier): L’Ecole des aigles.
As many readers of my Twitter feed or this blog, know, Cryptography (mainly the history thereof) is one of my main hobbies and of course, books talking about it as well :)
- This was one for a long time on my TO-READ list: The American Black Chamber by famous US cryptographer Herbert O.Yardley. He was one of the most well-known (more than William Friedman probably) mostly because he talked about his work (and didn’t make any friends) in this classical book. Most of the content I did already know through other books, it is nice to read it firsthand :)
- Before reading Yardley’s book, I read David Kahn book on Yardley himself, The Reader of Gentlemen’s Mail. I loved reading all Kahn’s book so I was a bit disappointed by this one, less content and we can feel that Kahn is not a fan of Yardley, I think that the closeness Kahn had with Friedman (mainly because of The Codebreakers) may have coloured his words here.
- my friend Steven Bellovin recommended this book: The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. It is wonderful book about how a few people manage to decode an ancient script coming from a Bronze Age civilization, with Alice Kober and Michael Ventris. Excellent book.
- I read two books by Stephen Budiansky: Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II and Code Warriors: NSA’s Code Breakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union. The former tells us about World War II and the breaking of German and Japanese codes while the latter is more about what happened after WWII and the Cold War that followed. The writing is excellent and I learn many things.
- Finally, a book by Michael Smith about how the US and the Brits before (yeah, part of Bletchley Park was working on these and the first one to dig into them was British) broke the Japanese codes: The Emperor’s Codes: Bletchley Park’s role in breaking Japan’s secret cyphers. Lots of interesting anecdotes and new stuff you can not find in The Codebreakers (my reference), mainy because the British de-classified the data way later than the Americans.
It will come to no surprise for you readers of my annual article, I’m not much of a French language reader (although I love it) so this section is scarse :)
- Even as a not-so-much fan of the pulp genre, I enoyed Dino Hunter by Olivier Saraja a lot. Good pace, nice writing and lot of humour.
- A friend of mine, Jean-Christophe Piot historian and journalist has a weekly chronicle on a radio station, talking about History. After a while, he wrote a book with all these nice stories about famous people across History called Avec un grand H. Recommended even if many of these stories sound familiar, you’ll learn something :)
Ok, every year, some books do not make it and stay on the “Reading” list or even fell to the “Nope” one. I have not given up on these two, I know a lot of people appreciated them (I mean, N. K. Jemisin did not win a Hugo for every book for the last three years for nothing!) but sadly they didn’t caught me as I expected. Maybe later.
Trust me, I’m surprised too.
- The Fifth Season, first book in the Broken Earth series by N. K. Jemisin. I rather like gritty books in dark world or universe but for some reason, neither story nor characters got me.
- Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. I’m a big fan of the former and his humour but again, it failed to move me out of the “Yeah, right” state. It probably tries too much.
After a thread on Twitter about how so many people need to relate to the main character(s) in order to appreciate a book, here is my take:
I’m a white cis-het male and I absolutely love books about PoC/WoC/women/LGBT+/aliens/whatever. I want and need to read about everything I do not know.
Some people want to read about aliens, magic and unicorns but can’t stand books by/with PoC or women? Get lost.
And as always, read books by and on women, they know their stuff.
- Blake & Mortimer
- Blood of Earth
- The Bobiverse
- The Broken Empire
- The Checquy Files
- Children of Time
- The Daevabad Trilogy
- Dominion of the Fallen
- Dragon Blood
- The Dresden Files
- Earthsea Cycle
- Eden Paradox
- The Forever War
- The God Fragments
- The Invisible Library
- Iron Souls
- Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse
- The Laundry Files
- The Lightbringer
- Lock In
- The Magicians
- The Merchant Princes
- Monsters of Verity
- The Murderbot Diaries
- Nadia Laksheva Spy Thriller
- Old Man’s War
- Rings of the Master
- The Rook
- Sarah’s Scribbles
- The Sacred Throne
- The Secret Histories
- The Sixth World
- Tales from the Black Chamber
- The Tamuli
- Tanguy et Laverdure
- The Tarot Sequence
- The World of The Others
The officiel sites for the authors, GR or WP if no site are available.
- Sarah Andersen
- Becca Andre
- RJ Barker
- Anne Bishop
- Aliette de Bodard
- Ryk Brown
- Stephen Budiansky
- Jim Butcher
- Beth Cato
- Jack L. Chalker
- Genevieve Cogman
- Myke Cole
- James S. A. Corey
- David Eddings
- KD Edwards
- Margalit Fox
- Neil Gaiman
- Simon R. Green
- Lev Grossman
- Ursula K. Le Guin
- Joe Haldeman
- Jim C. Hines
- Tanya Huff
- Seven Jane
- Patty Jansen
- N. K. Jemisin
- David Kahn
- Barry/JF Kirwan
- Mary Robinette Kowal
- Tom Lloyd
- Michael Warren Lucas
- Niccòlo Machiavelli
- Rati Mehrotra
- Daniel O’Malley
- Arthur De Pins
- Jean-Christophe Piot
- Tim Powers
- Terry Pratchett
- Rebecca Roanhorse
- Olivier Saraja
- Yves Sente
- John Scalzi
- V. E. Schwab
- Michael Smith
- Rivers Solomon
- S.M. Stirling
- Charles Stross
- Dennis E. Taylor
- Adrian Tchaikovsky
- Debbie Tung
- Albert Uderzo
- Brent Weeks
- Martha Wells
- Jen Williams
- J. Y. Yang
- Herbert O. Yardley
I basically cleared the challenge in… May. I know I’m terrible at predictions ↩