I have read a lot in 2018. I completed my Goodreads challenge of 60 books, started reading graphic novels more regularly, diversified my short fiction reading, and covered this year’s Hugo Awards, even though I dropped the ball a bit when it came to the Retro Hugos. I have had so much fun with my reading this year, and I’ve also enjoyed raving and ranting about the books I’ve encountered on this blog. With 2018 on it’s last legs, it’s time to recap some of my highlights. Whilst I have read a lot of great stories this year, for this post at least I’m going to focus on 2018 releases.
2018 Releases I Read
Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi (translated by Jonathan Wright)
I read this one back in March, and at the time wasn’t sure how I felt about it and gave it a score of 6.5. Looking back, that score was way too low. I have been thinking about parts of this book a lot over the last year. Whilst there are some parts of the book that bored me greatly, there were also thought-provoking, and disturbing parts that a year on, are what stays with me. Plus the talking Saint George painting still makes me giggle. This isn’t a particularly easy book to read, and if you’re into a more science-fiction Frankenstein story, you’ll be disappointed, but this book says a lot about war and innocence and the cycle of revenge and whilst there were parts that I didn’t get or that bored me, I’d still like to read it again some day. Even though I remember some parts of the book feeling like a chore to get through. Despite my initial ‘meh’ feelings, I’m still glad I read it.
Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee
Great ending to the Machineries of Empire trilogy. If you enjoyed Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, you’ll be very happy with this conclusion. This series has a lot of crazy, far out worldbuilding, with weird and fantastical technologies and one of the most evil Evil Empires I have ever come across. All written with Yoon Ha Lee’s beautiful style. I’m really looking forward to re-reading this series one day, as I know there’ll be a lot of details I missed first time around.
Deep Roots – Ruthanna Emerys
A sequel that I loved a lot more than the first book. Emerys’s Innsmouth Legacy series is an amazing reinterpretation and subversion of the Lovecraft Mythos. The protagonist of the series is Aphra Marsh, one of the last survivors of the Deep Ones from Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth. After recoonecting with her family beneath the water and forming a bond with a new found family in Winter Tide, Aphra is in New York to find other distant relatives. Her search leads her to cross paths with the Outer Ones from The Whisperer in the Darkness. If you’re looking for a taste of the series, the novelette that started it all, The Litany of Earth can be read for free on Tor.com
The Quantum Magician – Derek Künsken
I read this story as it was serialised in Analog, meaning I read it really spread out. I enjoyed it, but think it would have been better to read the whole story all together, because it is a very complicated heist set in a big, strange universe full of interesting – and sometimes disturbing – transhumans. I would like to re-read it, but doing so isn’t a huge priority at the moment. There are other stories Künsken has published in the same universe, which explore similar issues of human evolution. I’ll try to read more of Künsken next year.
Witchmark – C. L. Polk
I enjoyed this book a lot. It was a super charming fantasy set in a magical fantasy world similar to Edwardian England, and featured a great m/m romance. It reminds me a bit of Full Metal Alchemist in regards to the world and magic system, and some elements of the magical society reminded me of Harry Potter, though you really have to squint to see the resemblance. Despite how much I enjoyed Witchmark, it has begun to fade from my memory. I still want to read the sequel, Greystar, which will be out in July next year, but I’m not as excited about it as some other sequels.
Space Opera – Catherynne M. Valente
This book was hilarious. Comparisons to Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are common and well deserved. The plot of Space Opera can be summed up briefly as ‘Space Eurovision with planets getting destroyed’. Earth is invited to join a galactic community, but to prove humanity’s sentience, we must participate in space Eurovision and not come last. The story is as crazy as it sounds and I loved it.
Semiosis – Elizabeth Burke
A stunning debut featuring one of my favourite alien types, intelligent plants. This book follows a human colony across seven generations as they learn to live alongside the plant life of their new world. The multi-generational aspect of the story can be a bit of a turn off for some, but it allowed for some amazing worldbuilding and a chance to explore a lot of issues about pacifism and inter-species communication.
The Consuming Fire – John Scalzi
The sequel to The Collapsing Empire and part of Scalzi’s Interdependancy series. This series talks about climate change denial using an awesome interstellar empire and plenty of Scalzi’s sarcastic humour. I read this as an audiobook narrated by Wil Wheaton, which made the humour even better. Whillst there is a lot of laughs, this is not a comedy book. There is tons of political intrigue, though not as much action as in the first book. This series keeps getting better.
Trail of Lightning – Rebecca Roanhorse
I just finished reading this one, and given how little I’ve read this month I think this little snippit may be the closest to a review I give Trail of Lightning. It took me a while to get into this story, as there were a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences near the start, but once I did I was hooked. So hooked that the cliffhanger at the end would have driven me crazy, if my copy of the book hadn’t come with an excerpt from the upcoming sequel that answered one important question. Oh yeah, there is a sequel, Storm of Locusts due for release in April next year.
Trail of Lightning follows Maggie Hoskie, a monsterslayer living in Dinétah, formally the Navajo Reservation. Outside the Rez, the world has been nearly destroyed by climate change, but inside the monsters and legends of old have risen once again. This is essentially an urban fantasy story that plays respectfully with elements of Navajo mythology and beliefs. We are presented with a dark tale in a magical realm about a troubled girl. I am eagerly awaiting more.
The Murderbot Diaries – Martha Wells
I’ve read and reviewed a lot of great novellas from Tor.com this year, but the series I really want to give an extra shout-out to is Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diaries. The first entry in the series, All Systems Red, was released last year and has won both the Hugo and Nebula Award for Best Novella. The following three stories in the series, Artificial Condition, Rouge Protocol, and Exit Strategy all came out in 2018 and this whole series was so great. I listened to them on audiobook with my partner and we both loved the series. Murderbot is a Construct; part human, part machine. It was built to be a security guard with no free will, but it hacked it’s governor module, gained free will, and used it’s new freedom to do a halfarsed version of it’s job whilst bingeing TV shows. Despite trying not to care about anything, Murderbot ends up forming a lot of connections with both humans and bots, and learns to see the world and itself from the media it consumes. Watching it grow throughout the series was an absolute joy. Oh yeah, and the action scenes were amazing.
There is a Murderbot Novel in the works with an expected 2020 publication date, and last week a Murderbot short story was published in Weird titled The Future of Work: Compulsory
Want to Read 2018 Novels
As I said before, there were a lot of great books released in 2018, and the ones I’ve mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a list of 2018 books I put on my To Read List this year and a sentence or two about why I want to read them.
The Vanishers Place – Aliette de Bodard
A f/f Vietnamese retelling of beauty and the beast, where the beast is a dragon who traps the protagonist because she needs a tutor for her children. And it’s written by Aliette de Bodard, who’s work I’ve enjoyed before, and am starting to take a greater interest in.
Annex – Rich Larson
I’ve been impressed by a few of Rich Larson’s short stories this year, especially Meat and Salt and Sparks, so I’ve been wanting to check out his debut novel, which features teens trying to survive after an alien invasion. One of these teens is Violet, who is trans and only able to live as a girl because of the freedom the apocalypse has given her.
The Thousand Year Beach – Hirotaka Tobi (translated by Matt Treyvaud)
This looks like a weird story. Thousand Year Beach is set in a post-human virtual world that is supposed to be a recreation of a nice European harbour town populated by A.Is, but then it gets invaded by spiders. That’s about all I know, and all I think I want to know before I read it.
The Book of M – Peng Shepard
A story about the Forgetting – a strange plague that involves shadows disappearing, new powers being bestowed, and the loss of all memories – and one couple’s quest to survive in this strange world after one of them loses her shadow. It sounds really sad, but very interesting.
My Boyfriend is a Bear – Pamela Ribon (Writer) and Cat Farris (Illustrator)
I know nothing about this except what is in the title, the concept and a few screenshots of the art and that is enough to sell me on this book. And no, this is not a gay romance; wrong bear.
The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal
An alternate history where an asteroid in bikmpact speeds up the space program and colonies are established on Mars much earlier. This is the first novel in the Lady Astronaut series, which started as a short story in 2013. I loved how Kowal explored the role of women in WWI during her novel Ghost Talkers, and this series follows Elma York as she aims to become an astronaut and go to Mars despite the sexism and bias of the time.
Record of a Spaceborn Few – Becky Chambers
The 3rd book in Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series. Each book tells a different story in the same universe, with only minor connections between the three books. I loved Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit a lot and I think I put this one on my list before I knew anything about the story. The Wayfarers universe contains some amazing aliens and a galactic community that strikes a good balance between alien-aliens and the human-like alien communities we see in places like Star Trek. This book is set on a fleet of human generation ships that has to ask itself a hard question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?
Senlin Ascends – Josiah Bancroft
Originally self-published in 2013, but re-released this year by Orbit. Senlin Ascends is a story about a man who goes to the Tower of Babel – a mountain-like ancient building full of wonders – for his honeymoon. He gets separated from his wife, and to find her must climb the tower. Everything about this tower sounds crazy and I want to learn more.
Vita Nostra – Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (translated by Julia Meitov Hersey)
The English translation of a best-selling Ukrainian dark fantasy. Sasha goes to school at an Institute of Special Technologies, which turns out to be a magic school that uses terror to keep the students in line. Being more into science-fiction and fantasy, I was originally uninterested in this one, but after hearing how much it has been praised, I think it’ll be worth giving a go.
Nine – Zach Hines
A Young Adult story where humans have nine lives and get physical and mental upgrades each time they die. Burning through lives is a huge thing in this world, and I really want to see what a culture obsessed with death and rebirth looks like.
I would like to read a book from this list next. Or at the very least, a 2018 book next. I would love to hear suggestions for which book I should read next, so feel free to leave a comment or vote in this poll.
These 2018 releases only made up a small part of my booklist this year. I also read nominees for this year’s Hugo Awards, which introduced me to some amazing stories I missed last year, like John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire and Seanan McGuire’s Down Amongst the Sticks and Bones. Both of these books really got me hooked on their series too. I also read three amazing previous Hugo Award winners (American Gods, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Demolished Man) and a lot of great short fiction. Two highlights of my year were Nova by Samuel R. Delany, a hidden gem from the 60s that has convinced me that Delany deserved every word of praise he has received over the past few decades, and The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer, the third book in her Terra Ignota series, which since finishing back in January I have been dying for the conclusion to the series. There is no series quite like Terra Ignota and I can’t wait to read all four books back to back.
So, that’s my 2018 in books. Well, a brief look at it anyway. Next up I’ll be looking towards 2019.
Happy Reading Everyone,