Today we officially reach the halfway point of 2015. Obviously, I tend to read speculative fiction more than anything else, so with that in mind, here are my 10 best books of 2015 so far, in chronological order.
See How Small by Scott Blackwood (January)
From my review in Bookpage:
Scott Blackwood’s latest addition to the Texas literary canon, See How Small, is a brilliant, heartbreaking meditation on grief, parenthood and time. Like his first novel, We Agreed to Meet Just Here, See How Small is grounded by piercing details and a palpable sense of place. Comparisons to The Lovely Bones are inevitable, but Blackwood’s layered work is vastly more adult in scope, tone and execution, and has more in common with Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (minus the dinosaurs). This novel is surreal, emotional and nuanced.
Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (February)
This short story collection from Kelly Link is her best to date. She infuses small-town Southern Gothic tales with concepts from fantasy, science fiction, and weird fiction, not unlike Julia Elliot does in The Wilds or Jeffrey Ford in The Drowned Life. The opening story set in the mountains of North Carolina was my personal favorite, but there isn’t a bad apple in the basket.
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (February)
As a college student, American Gods was my favorite work by Mr. Gaiman, but as I’ve grown older its his short fiction that I’m drawn to most. On the heels of Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things comes his third collection, a diverse assortment of creepiness and imagination that further establishes Gaiman as one of our very best and most consistent storytellers.
The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons (February)
From my review in the Denver Post:
In the spring of 1893, five years before he would publish “The Turn of the Screw,” Henry James decides to celebrate his 50th birthday in Paris by drowning himself in the river Seine. But as his foot hovers over the water, James notices a figure watching him in the dark: the World’s First and Foremost Consulting Detective, Sherlock Holmes.
Simmons has essentially written a literary buddy comedy, and the result is his funniest and breeziest novel to date, despite its heft. Even with a body of work as impressive as Simmons has accrued in the past 30 years, The Fifth Heart is one of his most engrossing and addictive books to date.
House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy (March)
From my review in Bookpage:
Brendan Duffy’s fantastic debut novel is gloomy, small-town Gothic horror in the vein of “Twin Peaks,” Alan Wake and The Shining. House of Echoes succeeds because it contains no familiar creatures. There are no ghosts here, despite some surface similarities to Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers. There are no witches or werewolves. Duffy knows that true horror has neither name nor face. Grounded by emotional realism and nuanced characters, House of Echoes is intense, addictive and genuinely creepy.
Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Hossain (April)
In my forthcoming interview with the author in Bookslut, I called Escape from Baghdad! “an engrossing cross between Zero Dark Thirty and Raiders of the Lost Ark that takes a sobering look at America’s troubled legacy in Iraq.” It’s a hilarious homage to classic pulp adventure novels that mixes science fiction, fantasy, and mythology.
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (May)
Okorafor’s new novel is a prequel to Who Fears Death, which won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. Instead of post-apocalyptic Africa, this story takes place in a ruined New York apartment block where a genetic experiment has left her heroine, Phoenix, with an adult mind and body at the age of 2. There’s really nothing else out there quite like Okorafor’s blend of “magical futurism”, and The Book of Phoenix is a blast.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (May)
It’s long, dense, and crammed with a thousand ideas, but what else would you expect from the author of Anathem and The Baroque Cycle? Admittedly, I haven’t read all of Stephenson’s work, but this novel is my favorite so far. Just take a look at the first paragraph:
The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason. It was waxing, only one day short of full. The time was 05:03:12 UTC. Later it would be designated A+0.0.0, or simply Zero.
Bell Weather by Dennis Mahoney (May)
From my review in Bookpage:
Dennis Mahoney (Fellow Mortals) reimagines the colonial era of the 1700s, when European empires fought over the Americas. Except in his story, the Old World is Heraldia and the New World is Floria. While the geography and historical milieu are familiar, the main departure from reality is in the details of the natural world.
Mahoney’s prose is lyrical and well honed, and his characters are engaging, but it’s the magical realism of the wilderness that makes this world so memorable and fascinating.
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day (July)
I’m cheating, because this book doesn’t come out until next week, July 7. But I READ it in June. I’ll have a review in Bookpage soon, but here’s my interview with the author over at Gapers Block.
Set in the farthest reaches of Chicagoland — a fictional small town called Midway in the cornfields of northwestern Indiana — Little Pretty Things centers on a bizarre murder at a roadside motel, when a maid named Juliet Townsend discovers the body of her best friend from high school. It’s creepy, clever, and full of surprises, the kind of book you stay up all night to read in one sitting.