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Saturday, January 18, 2020

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Łukasz Przywóski




I love Top Ten lists! Not that there's anything wrong with Top Five or Top Twenty lists. It's just that with ten places I can highlight a lot of books without feeling that I omit true gems.

Without further ado, here are my ten favorite reads of 2019. Not all were published last year. I see no reason to limit myself this way. 





  1. The Gameshouse by Claire North - I'll open with my favorite book and the first cheat. The Gameshouse compiles three interconnected novellas. North writes great, three-dimensional characters, engaging dialogues, and intelligent plots. I daresay North packed more creativity and fresh ideas in each of those novellas than many authors do in their bloated epic creations. It has it all - strong intrigue, politics, philosophy, elegant and precise language. Brilliant.
  2. Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman - I loved the Theory of Bastards. It's almost perfect. I'm not sure if it will appeal to fans of edge-of-your-seat-style narratives, but it should engage readers who enjoy a literary blend of academic research, evolutional psychology, and philosophy. It offers a brilliant mix of ecological and speculative fiction and proves that a skilled writer can turn the scientific study of human and bonobo sexual preferences into exciting fiction. 


3. Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence - A brilliant conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series ever. I absolutely loved it
4. Kings of Ash by Richard Nell - a powerfull sequel to Kings of Paradise. Epic, terrifying, inventive. I can't wait to read the conclusion of the series.





5. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow - The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a special book: immersive and genuinely moving. The ending is fully satisfying. It gives a possibility of a sequel but doesn't require it if Harrow wants to focus on other stories. No matter what she writes next, I’ll buy it and read it as soon as it’s published.
6. Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey - another cheat, it's a series of four novels that focus on a student/master relationships. It's stylized as a Gothic horror and written with a beautiful poetic language. Not a joyous read, but definitely memorable.





7. A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie - say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he's a hell of a writer.
8. The Sword of Kaigen by ML Wang - Wang plays with tropes and makes a middle-aged mother a compelling and memorable character you root for. The other character starts as a young prodigy and just when you think you know what will happen, Wang will crush your expectations. Important characters die. Some deaths are brutal and gruesome, some tragic. One of them will tear you apart and is, for me, one of the most beautiful death scenes in all fantasy.





9. Touch by Claire North - What's not to love in Touch? It has it all - the writing is beautiful, the plot unpredictable, the pacing breakneck and the stakes high. Plus, the protagonist is fascinating. Claire North is brilliant.
10. From the Wreck by Jane Rawson - Blending facts with fiction, From the Wreck tells a touching story about loneliness and the need for belonging. An excellent read. 



SHORT STORIES




I know. Another cheat. Just to find a way to throw a few more recommendations at you. The thing is I love short stories and I consider them worthwhile. So my Top 5 read in 2019 were:

  • All Ends by Quenby Olson (Heroes Wanted Anthology)
  • Ratman by Laura M. Hughes (Heroes Wanted Anthology)
  • The Wandering Library by DK Mok (Ecopunk! - speculative tales of radical futures)
  • Milk and Honey by Jason Fisher (Ecopunk! - speculative tales of radical futures)
  • Hands by Tiah Beautement (Terra Incognita: New Short Speculative Stories from Africa)

OTHER MEDIA


I don't play games, but I tend to binge TV Series from time to time. The ones that thoroughly impressed me this year were:


Doom Patrol - I don't know how, but Doom Patrol creators have managed to recapture the magic Morrison brought to these characters. It's emotionally resonant and offers a balanced mix of action and comedy. I loved Doom Patrol's oddball adventures and series' unpredictability. It's strange and delightful.

Watchmen - Thrilling, scintillating, ingenious. 


The Boys - a brutal but entertaining deconstruction of superheroes tropes. I loved the way it flips the script.


Killing Eve - Jodie Komer, will you marry me?


Anticipated in 2020





A Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence - I'll read anything Mark Lawrence writes.
The Shattered Sphere by M.D. Presley

Anything Craig Schaefer writes. I need to feed my addiction.


Kings of Paradise by Richard Nell - I have high hopes for this one. Ash and Sand trilogy was brilliant so far.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher - do I really have to explain this one? 

Problem with Peace by Joe Abercrombie - Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he's a hell of a writer. I can't wait to read it and see what happens to the next generation.

The Shattered Sphere by M.D. Presley - Sol's Harvest comes to an end. I'm beyond excited to read this.


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