I’ve always intended this place to be partly fro talking about the various rabbit holes I’ve fallen down. The stories and media that have sucked me into their worlds, set up a little home for themselves in my consciousness, and made me love them.
Unfortunately, sharing stories I love is just one of the many things I haven’t been doing around here with much consistency. So today I thought I’d do a little mental housekeeping and tell you about some of the things I’ve been reading (some recently, some less so) that I not only enjoyed, but that have more coming down the line for their continuing series.
If you haven’t read these things yet they get my strongest personal recommendation. Go get them, read them, and join me in jittery anticipation waiting for the next fix these authors have lined up for us.
Bone Street Rumba – Daniel José Older
This one is a *slight* cheat for the list because the newest book is already out. Midnight Taxi Tango was released about 5 days ago. But that just means if you’re not familiar with this series correcting that should be top of your list. Midnight Taxi Tango is the second Bone Street Rumba novel, and the first was Half-Resurrection Blues, but I first was hooked by Older’s collection of stories in this world Salsa Nocturna, which seems to be currently out of print but available at audible.
See the otherworldly side of New York from the perspective of Carlos Delacruz, agent for the Council of The Dead and straddler of the line between the worlds of the living and the dead and prepare to be sucked in and swept away by Older’s prose.
For books about the world of the dead the Bone Street Rumba stories are incredibly alive. Older’s character are some of the most fully realized, realistic I’ve ever encountered and in these that includes the city of New York itself. The streets, the neighborhoods, all come alive. This is not Urban Fantasy in the sense of using a city location for some supernatural creatures to hang out in, this is a series where the city and it’s people are integral components to the experience of reading it.
Three Body – Cixin Liu
I took in the first book The Three-Body Problem, as an audiobook and it blew me away. I was happy to nominate it for a Hugo, give it my first place vote and see it win. It is thoroughly deserving of all the accolades its received. In my opinion this is one flavour of science fiction at it’s finest. No spoilers here, but I’ll say it has mystery, science, weirdness, conspiracies, and Chinese history. The translation of the second book The Dark Forest came out recently and it has a place of prominence on my TBR pile. Catch up now before the third book of the series, Death’s End, drops in August. And join me in hoping that the success of Liu’s trilogy will encourage more publishers to put the time, effort, and money into bringing the English-speaking market more translations of the fantastic speculative fiction the rest of the world has been enjoying.
Miriam Black – Chuck Wendig
Ok. So due to some changes in publishers and a relaunch of the series it’s going to be awhile before those of us already fully immersed in the series get the next Miriam Black book (look for it February 2017) but that just means you’ve got plenty of time to catch up if you’ve been missing out on this. Miriam Black is an angry woman in a gritty, perhaps even grimy world who really would rather just be left alone by everyone, but is too much of a survivor to not keep carrying on. Oh, and she knows how you’re going to die. One touch is all it takes. Starting with Blackbirds Chuck Wendig brought us the something of an anti-hero or perhaps, reluctant hero, Miriam Black and I’ve loved her books ever since. They’re fast paced, full of snarl and acid and scene after scene that I’m confident you’ll never forget. Miriam may be one of the most fun (despite being generally unlikable and very dark) I’ve ever read.
And here’s the real kicker: despite all the gritty and grim and zany and supernatural death-obsessed fun at the end of the third book it was right in the feels that I felt punched because the emotional impact of the ending was earned by the journey we’d taken with Miriam over the first three books. Read Blackbirds. Then grab Mockingbird. For you newbies The Cormorant comes out Feb. 23rd. And then you can join me in waiting on the edge of your seat for Thunderbird.
Sin Du Jour – Matt Wallace
Envy of Angels came out in October as one of the titles leading the way for Tor.com’s new line of Novellas. Matt Wallace is no stranger to the idea of a series of novellas having self published his own wild series of future death-sport the Slingers Saga (start with volume 1 here) in 2014. I can only assume that when deciding to start a novella line someone at Tor.com thought bringing in a writer plunging forward with the form already was a great idea. I further summarize that when first reading what Matt Wallace brought to the table for his Tor.com Novella series at least one person turned to whatever deity they believe in and asked “What have we done?” Of course someone else there must have realized the answer was “Struck brilliant, brilliant gold!” because the book was released and the second in the series Lustlocked releases near the end of the month.
So what is it all about? Well…it’s about some cooks. And their jobs catering to the supernatural community as part of the very exclusive kitchen Sin Du Jour. And it is one of the most audacious things I’ve ever read. Let’s just say you’ll never look at a chicken nugget the same way again. I’ll also say I got really cocky as a reader at one point. Even went so far as to think that Mr. Wallace was being just a bit too obvious. And then I ran smack dab into a scene that I literally would never have predicted. Ever. And if I never get to see this scene brought to life in a TV show or movie then there is no justice in the Universe.
The Broken Earth – N.K. Jemisin
I saved this one for last, because if I didn’t everything else I wanted to talk about would feel pale by comparison. And I love each of those books and series I talked about first! But this book. Wow. Look, there are certain books, formative books for me, that will always rank at the very top of my personal reading life. If for no other reason than the length of time they have been with me and revisited by me they will probably always be my favorite books. But if we put those books and stories aside for now it will leave room for me to say The Fifth Season might be my favorite book ever read. It as at least and without a doubt the most impactful book I’ve ever read. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it months ago. When I read best of lists for last year and don’t see it listed? I have to stop myself from leaving angry comments for the list makers. The last book I was this blown away by was Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death—and that was a hell of a book!
Along with stunningly original world building, great characters, some powerful emotional gut punches and a truly epic scope N.K. Jemisin has also packed in a stunning use of form and structure for this book. As someone trying to figure out this writing thing myself I was literally in awe after finishing this book about what Jemisin had done with it. And I will be desperately awaiting book two, The Obelisk Gate, and dropping everything when I get my hands on it to read it.
I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll just copy-and-paste the Amazon blurb for the first book here:
THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.
A season of endings has begun.
It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun.
It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter.
It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.
This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
Unless you absolutely cannot handle books that deal with a lot of darkness (much like our own world the Stillness is full of injustice) you need to read this book.