2014 has finally come to an end and good riddance! In terms of quality SFF novels, it's been a decidedly dismal year. By far the worst since I created the Hotlist back in 2005. Many of this year's new releases were so lackluster that they often took the love of reading right out of me. Indeed, as I mentioned a few weeks back 2014 marks my lowest output of book reviews since I started doing this. =(
To those of you wondering why there were no year-end awards last year, the answer is quite simple. My nephews gave me a nasty virus just before Christmas. If that wasn't enough, said virus mutated into an acute gastroenteritis that TKOed me for the Holidays. And since I was flying to Vietnam a couple of days later to spend seven weeks in Asia, well the Hotties just weren't meant to happen in 2013. But we're back at it this year!! However, I had to skip on a number of categories because I had nothing in particular to say about them. Hopefully we can have them back at the end of 2015.
Though it was far from a banner year, 2014 nevertheless saw a number of noteworthy SFF titles get published. So it wasn't a total loss! =) Here is my Top 10 SFF reads of the year. Click on each title to read my review. . .
Top 10 Speculative Fiction Novels of 2014
1- Shadow Ops: Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Canada, USA, Europe)
2- Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb (Canada, USA, Europe)
3- The Last Rite by Jasper Kent (Canada, USA, Europe)
4- Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence (Canada, USA, Europe)
5- Operation Shield by Joel Shepherd (Canada, USA, Europe)
6- Cyador's Heirs by L. E. Modesitt, jr. (Canada, USA, Europe)
7- Willful Child by Steven Erikson (Canada, USA, Europe)
8- Half a King by Joe Abercrombie (Canada, USA, Europe)
9- Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams (Canada, USA, Europe)
10- Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey (Canada, USA, Europe)
FAVORITE SFF BLOG
Staffer's Book Reviews
Although Justin Landon doesn't think much of me and pretty much hates the Hotlist, I always enjoyed reading his reviews and articles. Too bad he had to close down shop in November. . . :/
BEST SFF MESSAGE BOARD
Honorable mention: SFFWorld.com
Hands down, these two remain the most interesting and lively SFF message boards on the web! Though I've become more of a lurker these days, I never fail to peruse the forums a few times a week.
MOST AMBITIOUS PROJECT AWARD
- The Danilov Quintet by Jasper Kent
Spanning over a century and generations of Romanov and Danilov family members, the author wanted to weave his tale with momentous events that left an indelible mark on Russian history. And somehow, he managed to make it all come together! Jasper Kent's Danilov Quintet is definitely one of the very best speculative fiction series of the new millennium!
MOST OVERRATED NOVEL AWARD
- The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan
There appears to be a love/hate relationship between SFF readers and Morgan's A Land Fit for Heroes. Although the final volume hasn't created a lot of waves, those who enjoyed the series have been spreading a lot of love about this book. And though I liked The Dark Defiles, I'm not sure it was good enough to warrant such lofty praise.
MOST UNDERRATED NOVEL AWARD
- Sleeping Late on Judgement Day by Tad Williams
As I mentioned in my review, with urban fantasy being the biggest game in town, I was quite happy with the fact that the Bobby Dollar books turned out to be Tad Williams' most accessible series to date. Still, as entertaining as the novels turned out to be, it appears that they were mostly ignored by the wider urban fantasy/paranormal romance readership. None of the installments received blurbs from bestselling or well-known urban fantasy authors, and there has been a near total radio silence regarding the series on various SFF resources. To all ends and purposes, it seems that only Tad Williams' fans gave this series a shot and no one else. This series deserves to be more widely read, methinks. . .
MOST PROMISING NEW VOICE AWARD
- Helene Wecker
Although The Golem and the Jinni came out in 2013, I only read it last year. And given its originality and quality, I'm looking forward to whatever Wecker releases next!
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR AWARD
- Paul Kearney
Another criminally underrated speculative fiction author, Paul Kearney saw some of his out-of-print works get reissued by Solaris. A Different Kingdom was another terrific read, and I'm looking forward to reading The Way to Babylon and Riding the Unicorn.
UNEXPECTED SURPRISE AWARD
- Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
God knows it wasn't perfect and it was challenging at times to follow what the hell was going on, yet I still found Europe in Autumn to be an original, intelligent, and very entertaining read. Give it a shot!
MOST DISAPPOINTING NOVEL AWARD
- Assail by Ian Cameron Esslemont
Assail was Ian Cameron Esslemont's The Crippled God. The culmination of a variety of far-reaching storylines spread through his last four novels. Some of them first explored by Erikson in the original sequence, years ago. And although many fans doubted that Esslemont could close the show the way Erikson did in the last volume of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, I would never have expected that Assail would be such a disheartening disappointment. . .
- Myke Cole
Winner of the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, Myke Cole is my author of the year in 2014. He brought the Shadow Ops trilogy to a great conclusion with Breach Zone, which holds the number 1 spot on my top 10 list. I'm almost done with the soon-to-be-released Gemini Cell, which is another very good read. So I guess it's safe to assume that this guy is for real!
And yes, his military background sometimes makes him look as though he's allergic to fun and he's known as the annoying author harassing hapless cosplayers about trigger etiquette/discipline at conventions. Needless to say, if those weapons were real, many a Deadpool or a Stormtrooper would have gunned him down already. :P And yes, he's an officer in the US Coast Guard whose duties seem to revolve around taking pics of an adorable dog who's always in the way and tries to bum food from their meals, as well as taking photos of his men and praising them while complaining that he is once again the shortest guy in the pic. But I'm grateful that he spends most of his free Brooklyn summer nights sitting in the fire escape of his building and working on his new novels so that we can have other quality reads down the line.
If you have yet to give Myke Cole a shot, don't let the so-so cover art from the American paperback editions dissuade you from doing so. When it comes to describing the series, bestselling author Peter V. Brett's blurb said it best: Black Hawn Down meets The X-Men. Military fantasy doesn't come much better than this. . . =)