Best of the Best Part 1
Twitter has been buzzing lately with “best of the year so far” and “most anticipated lists”. Looks like everybody and their fictional cat is on the bandwagon. So I thought I’d do one too, a “best of the half-year” list that is. I mean why not, I’ve read so much good stuff this year that it all deserves recognition anyway. I already do a top-of-the-month list anyway, as you can see on the Reading Awards page, so this should be good fun either way.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
In a slight departure from how I do my Reading Awards and because I hate being so damn picky and because this really is a best of the best list for me, I’m going to be presenting the Top 6 here, not the Top 3. The list is also divided into three sections – Novels, Audio Dramas and Comics – , each with two subsections – Top 6 and Honourable Mentions. And just to repeat, this is a January-June 2012 list.
So let’s have at it, yeah?
Best of the Best Novels
The Top 6 -
1. Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan Long
Jane Carver is nobody’s idea of a space princess.
A hard-ridin’, hard-lovin’ biker chick and ex-Airborne Ranger, Jane is as surprised as anyone else when, on the run from the law, she ducks into the wrong cave at the wrong time-and wakes up butt-naked on an exotic alien planet light-years away from everything she’s ever known.
Waar is a savage world of four-armed tiger-men, sky-pirates, slaves, gladiators, and purple-skinned warriors in thrall to a bloodthirsty code of honor and chivalry. Caught up in a disgraced nobleman’s quest to win back the hand of a sexy alien princess, Jane encounters bizarre wonders and dangers unlike anything she ever ran into back home.
Then again, Waar has never seen anyone like Jane before . . . .
Both a loving tribute and scathing parody of the swashbuckling space fantasies of yore, Jane Carver of Waar introduces an unforgettable new science fiction heroine.
2. Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders
Following the trajectory of a blood-red comet, the berserk World Eaters blaze a path of destruction across the galaxy in its wake. The small cemetery world of Certus Minor appeals to the Space Marines of the Excoriators Chapter for protection, but the force dispatched to deal with this grim threat is far too small and their losses against the renegades are high. Just as all seems lost, salvation is borne out of legend itself as sinister spectral warriors descend upon this planet of the dead, and the enemies of the Imperium come face to face with those who have already travelled beyond the realm of the living…
3. Riyria Revelations Vol3: Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan
The New Empire intends to celebrate its victory over the Nationalists with a day that will never be forgotten. On the high holiday of Wintertide the empress will be married and two traitors (Degan Gaunt and the Witch of Melengar) will be publicly executed. Once the empress suffers a fatal accident, the Imperialists will finally reign. There is only one problem–Royce and Hadrian have finally found the lost heir and the time to act has come.
Note: This should actually be Percepliquis, the sixth novel in the series. However, it is not either in print or in digital format as Michael had been self-publishing the novels until they were picked up by Orbit Books for print as 2-novel omnibuses.
4. The Emperor’s Gift by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The Grey Knights are all that stands between mankind and the ravages of Chaos. Since their secretive beginnings during the Horus Heresy, these legendary Space Marine daemon hunters have journeyed into the dark realms of the warp – and beyond – in pursuit of their supernatural enemies. Through an intensive regime of psychic training, new recruits are brought to the clandestine fortress of Titan to join the hallowed and vaunted ranks of the 666th Chapter. More than ever, these legendary battle-brothers must be vigilant and ever ready to defend the Imperium for the forces of Chaos are never truly defeated, and Armageddon beckons…
5. Amortals by Matt Forbeck
Today you die. Today you are reborn. Today you hunt the man who killed you.
It’s Lee Child vs. Altered Carbon in a high-tech blast of tough-as-nails future thrills. Matt Forbeck arrives as the new king of high-concept – with a blockbuster action movie in a book. In the near future, scientists solve the problem of mortality by learning how to backup and restore a persons memories into a vat-bred clone. When Secret Service agent Ronan “Methusaleh” Dooley is brutally murdered, he’s brought back from the dead yet again to hunt his killer, and in doing so uncover a terrible conspiracy.
6. Obsidian & Blood by Aliette de Bodard
A massive fantasy omnibus containing all three novels in the Obsidian and Blood series:
Servant of the Underworld: Year One-Knife, Tenochtitlan – the capital of the Aztecs. The end of the world is kept at bay only by the magic of human sacrifice. A priestess disappears from an empty room drenched in blood. Acatl, high priest, must find her, or break the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead.
Harbinger of the Storm: The year is Two House and the Mexica Empire teeters on the brink of destruction, lying vulnerable to the flesh-eating star-demons – and to the return of their creator, a malevolent goddess only held in check by the Protector God’s power. The council is convening to choose a new emperor, but when a councilman is found dead, only Acatl, High Priest of the Dead, can solve the mystery.
Master of the House of Darts: The year is Three Rabbit, and the storm is coming… The coronation war for the new Emperor has just ended in a failure, the armies retreating with a mere forty prisoners of war – not near enough sacrifices to ensure the favor of the gods. When one of those prisoners of war dies of a magical illness, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, is summoned to investigate.
Honourable Mentions –
1. Night’s Masque Volume 1: Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods – and a skrayling ambassador – to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?
Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems. What he learns about the skraylings and their unholy powers could cost England her new ally – and Mal Catlyn his soul.
2. The Collectors #1: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm
Meet Sam Thornton. He collects souls.
Sam’s job is to collect the souls of the damned, and ensure they are dispatched to the appropriate destination. But when he’s sent to collect the soul of a young woman he believes to be innocent of the horrific crime that’s doomed her to Hell, he says something no Collector has ever said before.
3. Erevis Cale #3: Midnight’s Mask by Paul S. Kemp
The shadows deepen in every corner of the Realms.
The sun no longer shines on a man who has embraced the darkness within him.
The day’s opposite finds Erevis Cale so far along the path away from his own humanity, he may never again walk as a man.
In the end, to be Chosen by a god like Mask is more curse than blessing…
4. The Macharian Crusade #1: Angel of Fire by William King
At the dawn of the forty-first millennium, Lord Commander Macharius and his forces embark upon the re-conquest of over a thousand worlds. A man of steel and fire, Macharius is the only one with the will to lead the massed armies of the Imperium to victory. As the crusade rolls onwards, it reaches the world of Karsk. In the city of Irongrad, the Imperial forces face the crusade’s end, unless Macharius and his army can defeat the dreaded Angel of Fire.
5. The Widdershins Adventures #1: Thief’s Covenant by Ari Marmell
Once she was Adrienne Satti. An orphan of Davillon, she had somehow escaped destitution and climbed to the ranks of the city ’s aristocracy in a rags-to-riches story straight from an ancient fairy tale. Until one horrid night, when a conspiracy of forces—human and other—stole it all away in a flurry of blood and murder.
Today she is Widdershins, a thief making her way through Davillon’s underbelly with a sharp blade, a sharper wit, and the mystical aid of Olgun, a foreign god with no other worshippers but Widdershins herself. It’s not a great life, certainly nothing compared to the one she once had, but it’s hers.
But now, in the midst of Davillon’s political turmoil, an array of hands are once again rising up against her, prepared to tear down all that she’s built. The City Guard wants her in prison. Members of her own Guild want her dead. And something horrid, something dark, something ancient is reaching out for her, a past that refuses to let her go. Widdershins and Olgun are going to find answers, and justice, for what happened to her—but only if those who almost destroyed her in those years gone by don’t finish the job first.
6. X-wing #1: Rogue Squadron by Michael Stackpole
They are sleek, swift, and deadly. The are the X-wing fighters. And as the struggle rages across the vastness of space, the fearless men and women who pilot them risk both their lives and their machines. Their mission: to defend the Rebel Alliance against a still-powerful and battle-hardened Imperial foe in a last-ditch effort to control the stars!
Its very name strikes fear into enemy hearts. So when Rebel hero Wedge Antilles rebuilds the legendary Rogue Squadron, he seeks out only the best — the most skilled, the most daring X-wing pilots. Through arduous training and dangerous missions, he weeds out the weak from the strong, assembling a group of hard-bitten warriors willing to fight, ready to die. Antilles knows the grim truth: that even with the best X-wing jockeys in the galaxy, many will not survive their near-suicidal missions. But when Rogue Squadron is ordered to assist in the assault on the heavily fortified Imperial stronghold of Black Moon, even the bravest must wonder if any at all will survive. . . .
Best of the Best Audio Dramas
The Top 6 -
1. Horus Heresy: Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe
After the horrors of the Dropsite Massacre, the Raven Guard are trying to survive in the caves and mountains of Isstvan V. Their plight is desperate, and escape from the roaming Chaos Legions seems impossible. Can they hold out against the forces of the World Eaters long enough to reach an unlikely salvation?
2. Thorn and Talon by Dan Abnett
Thorn and Talon is available as a two-disk CD set or as an MP3 download. It contains three separate audio dramas featuring Inquisitors Eisenhorn and Ravenor.Master Imus’s Transgression
Master Imus, a mild-mannered clerk, has a confession to make – he has unwittingly conspired in a crime. Inquisitor Eisenhorn investigates, and finds that the trail laid by this unassuming servant of the Imperium leads to unexpected places and a dangerous showdown.Regia Occulta
On a world wracked by storms, Inquisitor Eisenhorn investigates a series of bizarre murders. Aided by local officials and using arcane methods of detection, Eisenhorn must decipher the secret of Regia Occulta and stop the bestial killer before it strikes again.Thorn Wishes Talon
Inquisitor Ravenor travels to a distant world, summoned by a mysterious message. Attacked by vicious Chaos cultists, Ravenor’s faithful companions battle to survive, to meet their mysterious correspondent and to discover the meaning behind the message: Thorn Wishes Talon.
3. Horus Heresy: Garro – Legion of One by James Swallow
Nathaniel Garro, loyalist Death Guard, and hero of the Eisenstein, has found a new calling in his service to the Emperor. Surrounded by a cloak of secrecy, Garro travels the galaxy in pursuit of his new goal. His quest will lead him to heart of the most destructive warzones, and reveal a secret that will change the course of the Horus Heresy itself…
4. Judge Dredd: 99 Code Red! by Jonathan Clements
There’s a big new attraction at the White Cliffs of Dover, a Brit-Cit theme park where the inhabitants of Mega-City One can blow off steam. But the local law enforcement officers have got a grudge, because the famous Judge Dredd is patrolling on sector rotation, and that means they can’t be as easy as usual on the tourists. When Dredd finds arch-snitch Max Normal running for the radioactive hills, he suspects that there’s more to a recent laboratory break-in than meets the eye. Someone has stolen three precious vials of a lethal plague, and they intend to release it in a public place. But as the barometer rises and tempers fray, Dredd has to call in a Code Red – the signal for a wounded Judge in need of immediate assistance. With Mega-City One in the grip of a fearsome tempest and all aerial vehicles grounded, Dredd must brave the overcrowded, understaffed squalour of Mega-City General, soon in the grip of a viral outbreak. Dredd must lock the hospital down before the occupants take the disease outside. But there are several patients who will do anything to escape, even if it means carrying a lethal virus into the streets of Mega-City One!
Things are just about to get Ugly. And we mean that.
5. Dark Angels: Malediction by C Z Dunn
On the world of Amadis, veteran Imperial Guard officer Regan Antigone is being honoured for his role in the planet’s liberation from the forces of Chaos, some twenty-five years earlier. But when his old comrade, Master Tigrane of the Dark Angels Space Marine Chapter, arrives to join the festivities and asks to hear the glorious tale told once more, Antigone falters. With the details of his account cast under close scrutiny and with the judgement of the Imperium hanging over him, will his noble reputation remain intact?
6. Stargate SG-1: Savarna by Sally Malcolm
“My twelfth grade teacher once told me, ‘We don’t regret the things we do in life, it’s the things we don’t do that haunt us’. And she was right.”
Returning from a mercy mission, the Prometheus is attacked and Doctor Janet Fraiser is kidnapped. Finding herself amongst a crew of outlaws, the Doctor must treat a desperately ill patient and keep herself alive long enough to escape. But are things all that they seem?
Honourable Mentions -
1. Stargate Atlantis: Impressions by Scott Andres
“I’ve painted this city from every angle – inside, outside, day, night. I suppose you could say I’m trying to tell its story.”
Plagued by blackouts, painting strange pictures in his sleep, Major Evan Lorne begins to fear that he’s losing his mind. Has the stress of life in the Pegasus galaxy pushed him over the edge? Then, when Atlantis itself begins to behave strangely, the Major wonders if something else entirely is going on. But with his behaviour becoming increasingly erratic, who can he trust? And can the soldier convince his colleagues that the answer lies in his paintings?
2. Stargate SG-1: First Prime by James Swallow
Teal’c’s past as First Prime of Apophis comes back to haunt him when Colonel O’Neill and Daniel Jackson are taken captive by the system lord’s forces. As Teal’c struggles to free them, he finds himself confronted by an old friend and fellow Jaffa, Sebe’t. Can this warrior really be trusted? Or has Teal’c reopened an old wound that can never be healed?
3. Ultramarines: Eye of Vengeance by Graham McNeill
When the twisted Dark Mechanicus priests of the Bloodborn descend upon Quintarn, the Ultramarines are quick to move in defence of their prized agri-world. However, it soon becomes apparent that the planet’s fate will not be decided by the massed battle companies of the Space Marines, but by the actions of just one lowly sergeant – Torias Telion. A master marksman and Scout with a long history of service to the Chapter, Telion must now face the worst of the Bloodborn’s technological terrors and secure the city of Idrisia from the enemy advance, if the Ultramarines are to have any hope of prevailing against an enemy whose numbers swell with every victory.
4. Bloodspire by C Z Dunn
On the world of Axonar, a squad of Blood Angels Scouts scale the dizzying heights of a mighty hive city as their battle-brothers fight far below. Their objective: to open the way for a daring aerial assault that will crack open the city and ensure victory.
5. Time of Legends: Aenarion by Gav Thorpe
The Sword of Khaine resides upon the Blighted Isle, veiled in mystery and guarded by forces both living and dead. Despite the warnings, Aenarion rides out upon his dragon Indraugnir to seek the prize in order to save his homeland of Ulthuan. The journey is fraught with danger, and Aenarion must confront daemons, spirits and the elemental forces of nature itself if he is to succeed. But in drawing the blade from the Black Anvil, he will unleash the ancient and malevolent force that will tear the elven race apart…
6. Horus Heresy: Butcher’s Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The primarch Angron: gladiator-king and Horus’s lunatic attack dog. Never having hidden his resentment for his brothers, he now carves a bloody swathe through the galaxy in the Warmaster’s name, with the Heresy providing a convenient excuse to indulge his love of brutal warfare. When they are tasked with a secretive mission alongside the Word Bearers Legion, the World Eaters’ violent tendencies soon attract the attention of xenos raiders, troubled by the portents surrounding the primarch’s berserk fury and his ultimate destiny as ‘the Blood God’s son’…
Best of the Best Comics
The Top 6 -
1. New 52: Batman #1-6 by Scott Snyder
Following his groundbreaking, critically acclaimed run on DETECTIVE COMICS, writer Scott Snyder (American Vampire) begins a new era of The Dark Knight with artist Greg Capullo (Spawn) and a new beginning for BATMAN! In this hardcover collecting the first six issues, a series of brutal murders rocks not only Gotham City to its core but also the Caped Crusader himself when the prime suspect is one of Batman’s closest allies – Dick Grayson!
Note: These six issues are currently available in trade paperback format as Batman: The Court of Owls.
2. Kill Shakespeare Volume 2 by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
An epic adventure that will change the way you look at Shakespeare forever.
In this dark tale, the Bard’s most famous heroes embark upon a journey to discover a long-lost soul. Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff, Romeo and Puck search for a reclusive wizard who may have the ability to assist them in their battle against the evil forces led by the villains Richard III, Lady Macbeth and Iago. That reclusive wizard? William Shakespeare.
A combination of “Fables”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “Lord of the Rings”, Kill Shakespeare offers a remixed re-envisioning of the greatest characters of all-time, featuring action, romance, comedy, lust, drama and bloody violence. It is an adventure of Shakespearean proportions.
3. Magic: The Gathering – Spell Thief #1 by Matt Forbeck
Planeswalker Dack Fayden has followed Sifa Grent into a mysterious plane, where a Titan’s castle looms invitingly in the distance. Entering the castle in search of Sifa, Dack is soon imprisoned by the Titan and added to his vast collection. Dack must find a way out before the trail to Sifa runs cold and he remains the Titan’s prisoner forever! Special playable Magic: The Gathering card polybagged in each issue!
4. Warlord of Mars Volume 1 by Arvid Nelson
The original warrior of Mars comes to Dynamite! Warlord of Mars is an incredible enhancement of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs story, Princess of Mars. If you thought you knew the story, think again! Featuring John Carter, an ex-cavalry officer in the Confederate Army who finds himself mysteriously transported to Mars, joined on his adventures by Tars Tarkas, his Martian comrade, and Dejah Thoris, a Martian Princess.
5. G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero #176 by Larry Hama
It’s pure pandemonium, as three sides rush to track down the leader of the Blue Ninja menace. Can Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes and Baroness find a way to aid each other in their quest for vengeance? Or will their animosity toward each other give their common enemy the upper hand? Tension runs high as the Blue Ninja threat escalates in G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #176!
6. Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris Volume 2 – Pirate Queen of Mars by Arvid Nelson
Greater and Lesser Helium are united behind Dejah Thoris. But just when things seem to be getting back to normal, Helium’s precious supply of water begins running dry. Dejah heads to the Antarctic ice caps to investigate, only to find herself pulled into the deadly mysteries of the forbidden south. A swashbuckling adventure of sky pirates, renegade princesses, lost treasure, and ancient curses abound in Dejah Thoris: Pirate Queen of Mars!
Honourable Mentions -
1. G.I.Joe Cobra Command Volume 1 by Chuck Dixon
The Cobra Civil War is over, but there’s no risk of a peace outbreak. “Cobra Command” starts here as the new Cobra Commander kicks off his reign with total war as he invades a sovereign nation with all the military might under his power. The world is outraged but uncertain of how to retaliate. So the JOEs take to the field to battle a new, more dangerous version of their oldest foe.
Note: This is a trade paperback issue which includes issues #9 of all three ongoing series of G.I. JOE, Cobra, and Snake Eyes, as well as G.I. JOE #10.
2. Magic: The Gathering #4 by Matt Forbeck
Dack Fayden has finally caught up to the mage that destroyed his home village, but it might be too late: she has begun casting a deadly spell that will drain hundreds of their life force. And, now that Dack has arrived, he may fall prey to the same dark magic as the rest! Find out more in this explosive fourth (and last) issue of the first mini-series featuring the new Planeswalker in town, Dack Fayden.
Note: This is also currently available in trade paperback format as part of Magic: The Gathering by Matt Forbeck.
3. Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #1 by Darwyn Cooke and Amana Conner
Laurie Juspeczyk would one day play a pivotal role in the fate of the world in the pages of WATCHMEN, but before then, she was a young girl trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps as one of the world’s greatest crime-fighters–whether she wanted to or not. Plus: Don’t miss the CRIMSON CORSAIR backup story by writer LEN WEIN and artist JOHN HIGGINS!
4. New 52: Wonder Woman #1-6 by Brian Azzarello
The first six issues of the critically acclaimed new WONDER WOMAN series are collected in hardcover! Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, has kept a secret from her daughter all her life – and when Wonder Woman learns who her father is, her life will shatter like brittle clay. The only one more shocked than Diana by this revelation? Bloodthirsty Hera – so why is her sinister daughter, Strife, so eager for the truth to be told?
Note: These six issues are currently available in trade paperback format as Wonder Woman: Blood.
5. Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 by J. Michael Straczynski
When the original Nite Owl Hollis Mason retires, who will answer the call to take his place? Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artists Joe and Andy Kubert team to assemble the tale of tech-wizard Dan Dreiberg–the man who would carry the mantle of one of the world’s greatest heroes. Plus: Don’t miss the CRIMSON CORSAIR backup story by writer LEN WEIN and artist JOHN HIGGINS!
6. Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #1 by Chris Roberson
The pairing you never thought could happen! IDW Publishing and DC Comics are proud to present the greatest tale of the 23rd century! Or is that the 31st century? As you’ll see here, it’s both. Eisner-nominated writer Chris Roberson and Star Trek and Legionnaires veteran artist Jeffrey Moy partner up to bring you the most bizarre partnership of any century! In this first issue, a group of Legionnaires end up lost in the 23rd century, but it’s a universe that isn’t familiar to either the Legion or the crew of the USS Enterprise!
As you’ll notice, this isn’t quite a “Best of the Best” in that not all the entries here are from the list on the “Reading Awards” page. When I was putting the list together yesterday, I was considering my entire reading list so far for the year and there were quite a few entries there that I would have really liked to see make this list. So I’ve made a few concessions here in the interest of keeping this very list refreshing and varied so it’s not just a regurgitation of the “Reading Awards” page. That would have been boring, extremely so.
So please excuse that slight misdirection! As far as I’m concerned, in totality, this really is a “Best of the Best” of the Half-year for me!
Posted on July 7, 2012, in 2012 Reading Challenge and tagged 2011 Debuts, 2012 Debuts, Aliette de Bodard, Amanda Conner, Angry Robot Books, Audio Dramas, Batman, Before Watchmen, Big Finish, Black Library, Blood Angels, C Z Dunn, Comics, Corvus Corax, Darwyn Cooke, DC Comics, Dejah Thoris, Dynamite Entertainment, G.I.Joe, Grey Knights, Heavy Entertainment, Horus Heresy, IDW Publishing, James Swallow, Jane Carver of Waar, John Carter, Judge Dredd, Kill Shakespeare, Larry Hama, Legion of Superheroes, Legion of the Damned, Magic The Gathering, Marvel Comics, Matt Forbeck, Michael J. Sullivan, Nathan Long, Nathaniel Garro, Nite Owl, Obsidian & Blood, Paul S. Kemp, Raven Guard, Reading Awards, Riyria Revelations, Rob Sanders, Rogue Squadron, Sarah Cawkwell, Scott Snyder, Sergeant Telion, Silk Spectre, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1, Ulrika the Vampire, Ultramarines, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000, Warhammer Fantasy, Warlord of Mars, William King, Wonder Woman, X-wing. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.