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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Lukasz's Top Reads of 2021



Globally speaking,  2021 wasn't that much better than 2020. And yet, for me, it was a great year both personally and professionally. So here's hoping 2022 won't break the spell.

I've read quite a few spectacular books this year. Here's the list of my ten top reads from 2021. These are the books that stayed with me and that I can't get out of my head.

1. Last Days by Brian Evenson (FBC Review / Amazon) Wow. Just wow. Last Days is brilliant, deeply disturbing, and unforgettable. And definitely not for the faint of heart. The story follows Kline, a maimed detective kidnapped by a cult that believes amputations bring people closer to God. It blends body and psychological horror with black humor. In fact, it's way funnier than it has any right to be given the subject matter and brutal narrative.


2. Speaks The Nightbird (FBC Review/Amazon) by Robert McCammon - Speaks the Nightbird is a masterpiece. It's been on my Kindle for a while, but the daunting page count terrified me. Silly (or lazy?) me. It's magnificent. It is one of the best books I've ever read. A slow burn, sure, but with depth, intelligence, and a fascinating story to tell. Despite tackling dark themes and showing both violence and disturbing deviations, it doesn't lack subtle humor and hope. And did I mention it contains mysteries within mysteries and visceral action scenes? Anyway, after finishing Speaks The Nightbird I've binged the remaining six books in the Matthew Corbett series and I consider it one of the finest series ever written.


3. The Empire's Ruin by Brian Staveley (FBC Review / Amazon)- The Empire’s Ruin opens a new chapter in the Unhewn Throne world’s history. It follows separate (but converging) plotlines for three characters, all (except one) known to Staveley’s fans. The story opens in the middle of the action and never slows down. The first book in a series has the difficult job of being a compelling novel in its own right while preparing for what will follow. The Empire's Ruin delivers on both fronts. This ferociously gripping, blood-soaked, and character-driven epic is outstanding. 



4. She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (FBC Review / Amazon) -  She Who Became The Sun is phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and order it. Especially if you appreciate unclichéd characters, excellent but restrained worldbuilding, and the author‘s gift for breaking you. The story follows a peasant girl who refuses her fate and steals her dead brother’s identity to survive. She rises from monk to soldier and then to rebel commander. Her obsession to achieve greatness against all odds drives the plot and makes her a fascinating character. 



5. Founders series by Robert Jackson Bennett - Pure awesomeness. I have no idea why I waited so long before giving it a try. It's brilliant.


6. Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder (FBC Review / Amazon) - Norylska Groans is, probably, the darkest book I’ve ever read. It’s disturbing, brutal, and bleak. It contains scenes of extreme violence but it also feels deep and thoughtful. I won’t forget it soon. The extreme content will polarise readers so think twice before starting it. There is context to the brutality but the authors’ unflinching approach to it won’t sit well with everyone. Personally, I think Norylska Groans is a fantastic and unforgettable book but I’ll understand why others will DNF it shortly after starting it.




7. Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Amazon)- Yes, it's not published yet. I know. I had enormous luck getting an ARC of this novella and I can only encourage people to preorder it now and thank me in March 2022. It's brilliant.



8. A Song For The Void: A Historical Horror Novel by Andrew C. Piazza (FBC Review / Amazon) - A Song for The Void is one of the best horror novels I have ever read. The engaging narrative, suggestive descriptions, and disturbing atmosphere make reading it a pure pleasure. It’s intelligent (and hopeful!) take on nihilistic philosophy underpinning the cosmic horror genre.



9. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey - It doesn't reinvent the subgenre but remains one of the most imaginative and well-written zombie books I have ever read. Plus, the audiobook is great!


10. A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli-Clark (FBC Review / Amazon- A Master of Djinn is the first novel set in a world outlined in a novelette A Dead Djinn in Cairo and the novella The Haunting of Tram Car 015. Djèlí Clark delves deep into this world and ups the stakes considerably. With great success! The ending left me with a satisfied smile and appetite for more.

GRAPHIC NOVELS


1. Locke & Key by Joe Hill (FBC Review / Amazon)- Locke & Key exceeded my expectations. In a big way. I can see it becoming one of my all-time favorite graphic novels. With stunning art, an engrossing plot, and relatable characters, it tells more than just a horror story. It goes much deeper than that. It's an excellent book about family, grief, and growing up.




2. Rachel Rising by Terry Moore - Rachel's Halloween sucked. Somebody strangled her to death and buried her in the woods. End of story? Nope. Quite the opposite. She woke up and dug her way back to the surface. 

Now she wants to get the bastard who did it to her. If only she could remember anything about that night. Oh, and there's one more thing. She's dead. But not. It's complicated.




3. Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker & Sean PhilipsFairy tales are full of good guys and bad guys and good guys usually win. Then, they have a cake and the princess. Unfortunately, the real world isn't like that. In the real world, the bad guys have already won and tend to rewrite the rules in their own favor.

Kill or be Killed follows a man who stopped putting up with it all. Armed with a gun, hidden behind a mask, he starts to kill bad guys. Because violence begets more violence, innocents are killed. There's also a demon forcing our (anti)hero to bring justice. Possibly, cause he can also be on the wrong meds.

All told, it's an excellent and addictive graphic novel with a unique take on vigilantism.




4. Descender by Jeff Lemire - A terrific read. And rather sad. The conclusion shows that there can be no peace where humans are involved. Humanity has twisted the gift of creation and built slaves, not companions. When machinekind fought back, the fear led humanity to hunt robots down and destroy them. In the end, though, organic lifeforms are just meat. Soft and full of fear. And dreams. I loved the ending; It's darker than I expected from this story but leaves a glimmer of hope.

TV SERIES


1. Forbrydelsen - not fantasy but, probably, my favorite TV series ever. Dark. gritty, slowburn, character-focused. I've heard the USA remake is ok but after watching the first two episodes I felt it was sanitized as compared to Danish original. It's marvelous. My wife and I binged three series in an obscenely short amount of time.


2. Doom Patrol Season 3 - it's unlike anything else on TV, now or ever. Weird, emotional, character-driven. A must-watch.


3. The Expanse Season 6 - so, to me it's the finest sci-fi show on TV. I know two episodes will air in January but whatever.

So that's it, my list of favorites. I hope 2022 will be as good.



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