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2015 in books

OK OK, time to join in the book review fun.

All these are from memory and goodreads, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I miss one or two. You’ll notice I didn’t list almost no non-fiction here - that’s because I didn’t manage to finish any except one this year. Whoops. Correcting this is on my list of things to do in 2016.

My favorites

  • Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho - a super fun alternate history story set in England during the Napoleonic wars. I loved many things about this book, but my favorite is the way characters in it use the word “exploded”.

  • The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin - this reads like a post-apocalyptic (or maybe meso-apocalyptic?) fantasy story, but comes with a bunch of sci-fi elements. I don’t know if I can say many more non-spoiler things about this other than that I loved it. Can’t wait for the sequel.

  • The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin - these were two pretty great hard SF reads. The second one has a super cringe-worthy stretch, but overall, I enjoyed it more than the first - the two books almost feel like they are set in different genres. These are on my (very very short) pile of books to re-read eventually. Do yourself a favor and catch up: I suspect we’ll see winks and nods to the series in other works soon.

  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor - I loved Who Fears Death, and Book of Phoenix ends up being a prequel. I got a distinct “Falling out of Cars” feeling from some parts, but Okorafor weaves in and handles a bunch more themes like colonialism, scientific misconduct and white entitlement to black bodies. It’s amazingly written and I loved it all.

  • Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie - I loved this book. It’s the last one in a trilogy, and of course, you should read them all. Especially if you love awkward conversations over tea.

Pretty good books

  • A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark by Harry Connolly - pacifist Urban Fantasy. Probably my favorite twist on a genre so far (and it works remarkably well).

  • The Internet Of Garbage by Sarah Jeong - OMFG a non-fiction book! On this list! And it’s really great, too. You really should read this if you build systems that let people talk to each other.

  • Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho - short stories featuring monsters and spirits from Malaysia. Some are extremely touching, and some are hilarious and some are both. My favorite was “House of Aunts”.

  • Sunshine Patriots by Bill Campbell - holy carp, this book is a gut punch. Great commentary on the jingoistic american war machine and all the structures supporting it. A lot of repulsive things are going on in this one (TWs for rape and many more war-related atrocities). I couldn’t say any of the themes are out of line with how I’d project the US will be fighting their wars in that future.

  • Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett - this read like a weird and not-really pleasant fever dream. The writing was great, and I loved the plot.

  • Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) by James S. A. Corey - Spaceships for the spaceship god. Good. I’ll keep reading. (They made this series a TV show recently - it’s not terrible!)

Not for me

  • The Annihilation Score (Laundry Files, #6) by Charles Stross - I read all the books in this series, and starting to show its age. By swapping out the (ridiculously overpowered) protagonist for another (not-quite-as ridiculously overpowered) protagonist, it ended up working out fine… but if I am completely honest, I’m reading this series out of habit, not because I’m particularly enjoying it anymore.

  • Fluency by Jennifer Wells - this was ok, but I’ll skip the sequel.

  • Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi - didn’t really click for me.

  • The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison - reading this book felt like a chore and didn’t come with any pay-off in the end. Try it if you love memorizing names.

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan - this is what happens if you give San Francisco tech workers a copy of Cryptonomicon to read. Don’t do that. (Seriously though, it’s a fun read, despite being extremely predictable and cringe-y. The author sadly has nothing even close to Stephenson’s exposition compensation field.)

Next up

I am looking forward to a bunch of (partially read and unstarted) books in 2016!

  • Einfach Üben - I am learning how to learn to play an instrument, and this book has a bunch of interesting things to say about how we learn to play music in particular, but also how good practice in general can shape your performance. I’m excited to use the things I learn from it.

  • Venus Siegt - german Sci Fi. All I know is that this book has space stalinists. Intrigued.

  • The Obelisk Gate - the aforementioned sequel to The Fifth Season.