I’ve been really bad at blogging last year. Too much writing and editing. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more. So, here we go – I’ll have my review of 2014 coming up later in the week sandwiched with this and some big news (if you’re on the mailing list, you’re going to get it today).
Anyway, my favourite books of 2014… It was a tough year, reading-wise, as I was doing so much writing and self-editing. I couldn’t look at words in July. I just couldn’t process them, but that’s another tale. Anyway, I did manage to love some books, so here’s a list of the top 5 things I did enjoy. As you can see, my tastes are reasonably diverse…
Notable mentions go to Alex Sokoloff (HUNTRESS MOON) and Craig Robertson (RANDOM) [always good when the nice crime writers I meet actually write awesome books, though those books were published a few years ago] and the four Stuart MacBride novels I read this year (one of the very few writers who I can’t find anything I’d edit). Also OLD MAN’S WAR and REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi, which really freshen scifi for me, tight stories rather than tracts of “world building” harking back to the glory days of Philip K Dick, when scifi novels were as long as other novels and not the sort of thing you’d use to prevent entry to your property. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten about… Oh, Douglas Lindsay’s third DS Hutton novel was a damn good read.
Anyway, the top 5 is as follows –
5 John Scalzi LOCK IN
I’ll be honest and say this has possibly the worst opening in a book I’ve ever read. Well, that I didn’t give up on. That it’s on this list should show something… One of my favourite TV shows of the year was the sadly cancelled ALMOST HUMAN, and this filled that void – a future police procedural. The buddy cop pairing of the seasoned female cop and the avatar of the locked-in male officer gave a new take on the dynamics and showed a plausible world, rather than dumped forty pages of tell about it. Really enjoyable. After that first chapter.
4 Joe Abercrombie HALF A KING
I have an uneasy relationship with fantasy novels. The works of JRR Tolkien really left me cold – I took about six goes to get past the nonsense with the dwarves in THE HOBBIT and the tedium of THE LORD OF THE RINGS in book form makes the films seem that bit better (yeah, shove it) – and I’ve never really got into the genre, aside from some China Mieville and Michael Moorcock. This book was my entry point – focused and immediate storytelling from the start, the world of the SHATTERED SEA shown rather than told. This is aimed at a young adult audience, so it’s maybe a bit light and relies on too many coincidences, maybe, but it’s certainly hooked me on his work. I’ve spent the first couple of weeks of 2014 getting stuck right into his earlier (and better) works.
3 Eva Dolan LONG WAY HOME
I write police procedurals for a living. It’s hard to read them without either 1) wanting to edit the hell out of them, 2) picking at the research errors or 3) not ripping them off. Ahem. This is one of those books that came out of nowhere and just blew me away. Very modern, and reflecting the racist hell England is in danger of becoming. Not afraid to tackle big issues and her style is electric when writing immediate scenes, a masterclass in letting the reader sense the book.
2 Gerard Brennan UNDERCOVER
I started this not expecting much but it soon gripped me from the sheer pace of the start. A tight tale of kidnapping and greed, Brennan doesn’t try anything flashy, just delivers a solid tale and does it well. Vivid characters, sharp dialogue and action I could be more than bothered to follow (I usually skip action scenes). It gives a fresh spin on Belfast, the Troubles only a looming menace to its gangland children. (Note – this is published by Blasted Heath, co-run by my agent, but I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest.)
1 Nic Pizzolatto GALVESTON
TRUE DETECTIVE was the TV highlight for me this year, that rare show we’d catch as near to live as to be able to fast forward through the adverts. GALVESTON is what the show’s writer did before, a noir so dark it sucks all light in. I read this in one sitting on the train to London in March when I was in the middle of the editing slog, having done a full redraft of FIRE IN THE BLOOD, and it’s testament to the quality that it dragged me put of my funk and made me focus on just reading. Incredible.
I’m trying to read a lot more this year, so maybe I’ll get up to a top ten…