Monthly Archives: December 2019
Time heals all wounds. We argue that it’s time to forgive Batman and Robin in this episode of Three Nice Things. Eric, Nic and Kendra come up with nice things to say about what could still be considered the worst Batman movie, depending on how much you like the Murder-Bat in newer films.
It’s the end of a decade! Wow! The Matrix is ten years old! I have more white in beard than ever! Will this planet even make it another ten years? Who knows!
I tend not to read a lot of books as they’re new. They tend to be too expensive for my tastes, I buy them all used. Or use my library. I’ve become cheap this decade!
The point is, my list isn’t extensive of the years. It is, however, a pretty decent portrayal of my limited tastes. So, without further ado, my favorite books of the 2010s, by year published!
I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
This book actually freaked me out quite a bit and it’s for teenagers! I picked it up because I enjoyed Dan Wells on the Writing Excuses podcast and it was fairly recent to when I was listening. I don’t normally read horror and, actually, this might have been the first real “scary” book I read. I also made the mistake of reading this when I was home alone for a week. I’m a wimp.
The story of a boy who feels predestined on becoming a serial killer and is actively trying to fight it. That is, until someone worse moves into town. It’s a spooky character study aimed at the young adult crown that should creep out the older crowd as well. I liked the sequel even more, which came out the same year, so maybe it should have gotten the award…off to a great start!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I suppose the backlash on this book has tainted it a bit, with it’s detractors calling it a book of lists. But, when I couldn’t put this book down and ate up the world building and concepts of the OASIS, I didn’t notice that. And, being someone who was slowly trying to read the best scifi and see the important films, I even enjoyed the references. Obviously, your mileage will vary on that sort of thing. It got me to watch The Last Starfighter.
It’s pure fulfillment, but what a wish. Would I have plugged my brain into the OASIS and moved in permanently? You bet. I enjoyed the challenges Cline provided for our hero, Wade. Joust, Dungeons and Dragons, Wargames and all that. While I think the opening race of the movie adaptation is pure gold, I did miss some of the geekier quests the book provided. I loathed Armada but I think Ready Player One is Grade A junk food and I’ll defend it for at least one more decade.
Runner ups that year were some real cool books…
Robopocalyspe by Dan H. Wilson
Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston
Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
The Heroes by Abercrombie
The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
This book spoke to me on a level that I didn’t realize I had. It’s not that I find the characters incredibly relatable (though I connect to anyone with a self-destructive genome) but it’s more that I find them endearing. Pat was a character I wanted nothing but the best for. And, sure, his desire to win back his ex-wife Nikki might have actually been relatable in small ways. I’m a liar. Happy?
But Pat’s relationship with his family, with Tiffany, with his therapist really fill this book out. The movie changes some of the characters a bit, putting some into the background while bringing others forward. For a while, I liked having them both to form a full picture. These days, I just need the book. It inspired some of my own writing and made me think through some choices I was making at the time. It’s a humble read, with slow pacing that never meanders, unlike some of Matthew Quick’s other books.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite young adult books I’ve read. Highly recommended.
Of Dice and Men by David M. Ewalt
A bit of a geek’s travelog, but way less self-deprecating and ashamed then the obnoxious Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf. Of Dice and Men still holds Gary Gygax on a pedastle, but it doesn’t cast him in the role of a Frodo Baggins like Empire of Imagination by Michael Witwer did. It’s a fun history through Dungeons and Dragons, with trips and stories and a bit of unnecessary flavor text.
It has a deep respect for the game and those who play it. It’s a fun read, one that makes you want to breakout your own dice while reading. In some ways, it gave me a deeper appreciation for the game. It’s an everyman’s history of the game, one that I could suggest to those with a curiosity of the game, but also had enough for a lover of pen and paper to sink his teeth into.
Runner ups that year have a bit of an unintentional Ewan McGregor vibe…
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
With prose that felt like poetry and a eerily calm look at the end of the world, Station Eleven was unlike anything I had read. The ruin landscape of a world ravaged by a humanity destroying virus was oddly beautiful. Emily St. John Mandel avoids the overdone pessimism of the genre that made the Cormac McCarthy’s The Road almost unbearable. Instead, St. John Mandel goes for an optimistic view of humanity picking up the pieces.
The book is also affecting in how it shows big events having origins in small moments. Independent comic books causing religious cults because they ended up in the wrong hands? It should seem silly but it comes across like a gut punch. The makeshift museum of human history is another element that’s laced in sadness but filled with hope. It really hit me in my heart.
The runner ups this year are crazy.
The Martian by Andy Weir
Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Console Wars by Blake J. Harris
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Jack of Spades by Joyce Carol Oates
What a trip. I don’t know if you could call this horror, but it’s disturbing. Worse, the main character was relatable at times! His journey through madness is subtle at times, intense at others, but always gripping. There’s a Stephen King element, yes, but King would never have the courage to limit his word count to under three hundred pages.
And that’s part of the charm. You can read this book quickly and it never overstays it welcomed, but I wanted more as soon as it was over. Or more like this. I haven’t found anything quite like it, but I’m not great at reading horror, so maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Anyway, Jack of Spades is deliciously dark and bonkers and had me laugh out loud once or twice. I need to reread this.
All young adult books for the runner ups…
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Adrift by Paul Griffin
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The only Ruta Sepetys I’ve read, failing at my job as a youth librarian. But, it was an incredible showcase. Salt to the Sea is about the tragic sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. More than nine thousand people died, with about five thousand of them children.
The story leading up to this horrible even follows four youths during World War II. The road to the ship is fraught and each of the characters have a secret that is exposed. This was a page turner and, though I was reading this for work, I couldn’t put it down even at home. It left me depressed, as expected, and it’s stuck with me. I tend to recommend this to the young adult crowd because, like the movie Titanic, is balances gripping action and romance with a terrible tragedy in an incredibly enthralling story.
Runner up for the year it’s gonna blow some minds when it hits movie theaters.
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
This was not the type of book I normally read but there was so much talk around in 2017 that I had to read it for myself. And I couldn’t put it down. It felt like a thriller at times and I’m not surprised that Martin Scorsese is in talks for a movie. Seriously, even as a history book, it had me audibly gasp at certain revaluations. How fresh of a reader am I at thirty-three?
A history of the crimes committed against the Osage Indian Nation by, you guess it, white Americans, as well as a history of the FBI and it’s formation. It’s money and power telling an unfortunately familiar tale. Grann is keeps things educational, but it moves at a pace of a classic page turner. Hurry up, Scorsese.
Runner up this year is someone I actually interviewed about the book!
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Love Poems for Married People by John Kenney
I don’t get poetry more often than I do. My brain doesn’t work that way. Why doesn’t it always rhyme? Why did you put that word one extra space away? Why can’t you clean up the coffee spill with the rag right next to you, why do you have to use the shirt your mother died in?
Love Poems for Married People, on the other hand, is hilarious and is one of the funniest books I’ve read. And, listen, I saw myself in the book multiple times. I’m now trying to change some behaviors. I’m trying, okay?
Runner ups were some interesting young adult scifi and the best Witcher book since the first…
Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Contagion by Erin Bowman
Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski
You can listen to me talk more about these books and here Nic’s favorites in episode 223 of the All the Books Show!
Oh, hey, it’s the Goodreads Choice Awards! Getting less important every year!
I like a good book award. More than something like the Oscars. But, this award is outliving it’s usefulness. Look, if you voted for The Institute by Stephen King as best horror, you were wrong and wrong to do so. Outside of that book being one of my least favorite reads in a while, it’s in no way horror. Scifi-lite, but not horor.
These awards are really starting to feel like, “Oh, I know that name, sure, I’ll vote…CLICK!” and that means I have less and less time for them each year.
Anyway, we talk the winners.
See you next week, podcats!
It’s already been a decade? Wait, from when? Why don’t we do this every year? Anniversary things like this are dumb, why do we do them? Who cares how old The Matrix is. Ramble, ramble, ramble…
The point is, we talk about our favorite books of the decade. Not the most important books and all that. Literally the books we liked from the decade. Which means your favorite books didn’t make it! Maybe next decade!
Decade. That would be a cool name, right? “Hello, my name is Officer Jacobs and this is my partner, Decade. He’s the best there is at Robocide cases like this and we’re going to find out who deleted your husband.”
See you next week, podcats!
I thought for sure I was done reviewing Michael Crichton books. I mean, the man passed away in 2008. But, I guess CrichtonSun is a thing now and it seems that The Andromeda Evolution is the beginning of a Crichton-verse. What does the future hold for this line? Will all of Crichton’s books start getting sequels? Is this the expanded universe of the techno-thriller. How long until, piece by piece, these books start to take place in the same universe? Will the gorillas from Congo be recruited by Jack Forman from Prey to stop Elizabeth Halpern from Sphere from using her powers to resurrect the Eaters of the Dead from Eaters of the Dead? Will they bring Westworld into it? How small is the market for Crichton-related references like that?
Written by Daniel H. Wilson, The Andromeda Evolution is is not a lost manuscript or unfinished work. This is an original sequel by the Robopocalypse author. Back when I first read that book, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Wilson and Crichton. But, with that book, Wilson was obviously influenced by Crichton’s style. Here, with The Andromeda Evolution, Wilson is trying to mimic Crichton and he can never get the trick to work. You can wear your dad’s hand-me-downs, but it doesn’t mean they fit.
The Andromeda Evolution takes place fifty years after the first Andromeda Strain. The first conceit that took me a second to get through is that this sequel treats the first book as a scientific report released to the public by author Michael Crichton. Luckily, the book doesn’t dwell on that and goes right into this new story. The Andromeda Strain seems to be back, this time in the jungles of South America and a team of four scientist is put together to figure out why, how and what needs to be done.
My biggest issue with this book is how excessively Wilson uses “Crichton-isms”. The first book, and most of Crichton’s writing, had these moments of foreshadowing or reminders that what we were reading was a debriefing, a post-report of the whole situation. And, to be fair, it’s been sometime since I picked up The Andromeda Strain. But, in this book, the amount of “this decision would prove to be fatal”, “inferred footage of the scene shows”, “little did he know, he had determined the fate of four billion people” and all that becomes too much. Perhaps, Crichton was better at following up on those little moments. Perhaps, time has faded those from my memory.
Crichton himself was never great at character work. Many of his protagonist were simply mouthpieces for his ideas and theories and, sometimes, dinosaur food. But, the characters in The Andromeda Evolution are, aside from one or two, incrediblely paper-thin. The backstories that Crichton would provide are lacking in detail with this book. Wilson, I know, can right characters I care about. I couldn’t put down Robopocalypse. But, in trying to ape the coldness of Crichton’s writing without the thoroughly thought-out histories, we’re left with action figures without much to say.
That’s sort of the problem throughout. Wilson is a skilled writer who can write science fiction and action and loves his robotics, but he doesn’t have the interesting ideas of Crichton. There’s no science or theories so detailed and compelling that they feel like they could be their own book, no musings about the danger of our technology that we haven’t seen before. Many of these thoughts feel like Twitter comments made paragraphs. And, when the mysteries of this new Andromeda Strain are revealed, you begin to wonder why Wilson chose this project in the first place. He obviously has bigger things he wants to write about other than humanity dealing with a deadly microorganism. While what Wilson presents at the end of this book is interesting and would be something I’d want to read on it’s own, it no longer feels down to Earth. Some of Crichton’s concepts were so frightening you’d have to simply not think about them in order to live your life. The Andromeda Strain was that type of semi-realistic techno-thriller that, while very much science fiction, had a real world element. The Andromeda Evolution goes full blown science fiction and, while it might have it’s audience, it’s far and away from “smallness” of the original novel.
It took me longer to finish The Andromeda Evolution than any Crichton book or Wilson’s own Robopocalypse. It lacked the page-turning quality of either writers. There’s a twist or two I enjoyed, but the destination was not worth the rather dull journey. A promising start about the failures of human apathy becomes a tour through some rather uninteresting jungles and more.
And, look, I’ll keep reading these things. If they put out Michael Crichton’s The Greater Train Robbery by C.J. Box, I’ll read it. If these are the thing I’m weirdly dedicated to reading, fine. I’ll join the tradition of reading a late author’s universe like Tom Clancy and Robert B. Parker. I suppose that’s what Marvel comics are anyway. But, outside of current Crichton fans, I’m not sure who the audience for this book is. I’ll read anything with Crichton’s name on it, but the random browser? Will that name mean anything to them anymore?
I just hope the quality rises. Daniel H. Wilson is not a bad writer but he took on a task that’s not always so easy. Being influenced is one thing, but imitation is a lot harder.