When I began my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge this year, I was intending to cover Lost Tribe of The Sith. And then just last week, or the week before that, I discovered that it wasn’t a series as much as it was a collection of short stories and I was like, uhm… well…., so I rethought the whole thing and added the Fate of The Jedi series to the challenge instead. From what I’ve heard from a lot of friends who are dedicated Star Wars fans, this particular series has a, let’s say, not-so-good reputation. So I decided to take up that challenge because I wanted to get a bit more current with my Star Wars reading, and this seemed like a good place.
Fate of The Jedi #1: Outcast presents a very bold new vision of Star Wars that really might not be for everyone. When this novel begins, the galaxy far, far away has changed considerably since I was last in it. Jagged Fel is now the ruler of the Imperial Remnant. Former Imperial Natasi Daala is now the Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance. The Jedi are a force directly under the aegis of the GA, with much of its freedom curtailed, and so on. To be honest, I loved all of this. Yeah, sure, it was all really weird at first, and I still can’t accept that Daala of all people is now the leader of democracy in the galaxy, but yeah, this was actually quite a fun book!
In the wake of Black Library switching and changing the printing schedules and formats of its flagship Horus Heresy series back in late 2012, I fell off with the series in early 2013. Where before I read the publisher’s novels pretty much as soon as they were released or just prior, months went by before I read anything, and this applied more so to Horus Heresy since I preferred to wait for the regular paperback editions. As such, I am significantly behind in my reading, though the experience of catching up has been fairly delightful thus far, especially with their various audio dramas. I got back on track back in May with Nick Kyme’s Vulkan Lives, and that reignited my interest in the series, though I haven’t been able to read another Heresy novel until just a few days prior.
Mark of Calth is the twenty-fifth novel in the series and to read this one, there isn’t a lot that someone needs to have read already, which is great really. The anthology kicks off from Dan Abnett’s fairly amazing Know No Fear from 2012 and it expands upon a lot of the minor arcs in that novel, as well as setting the stage for more future stories. Guy Haley, David Annandale, Graham McNeill and Anthony Reynolds deliver some really good stories, with lots of action packed in, while the stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, Rob Sanders and John French are good but do miss the mark in some ways.
Steampunk isn’t exactly something that I’ve had much of an experience with. I can remember a few random examples here and there, nothing substantive. In fact, I think I’ve only read five steampunk novels to date, one in 2012, two in 2013 and two this year. Very, very slim pickings indeed here. As a genre, Steampunk doesn’t fascinate me all that much, not as much as straight-up science fiction (usually space opera at that) or epic fantasy, so that is perhaps one of the reasons why I haven’t explored the genre further and kind of what I am attempting to do with my “25 Series To Read in 2014” challenge. Then again, if more books are like Jonathan Green’s Unnatural History, then I’m willing to go further.
Unnatural History presents a steampunk-ified Victorian London where Queen Victoria is indeed still alive and is approaching her 160th birthday. The action centers on hero-adventurerer Ulysses Quicksilver of the Quicksilver who is noted the world over for his many adventures. His return after a particularly long adventure, one in which he was presumed dead, sparks off a new adventure entirely for him and he has to stop his nemesis Jago Kane from perpetrating yet another atrocity against the empire that he loves and is sworn to protect, Magna Britannia.
Last year, Lucas Books began a brand-new Star Wars series, the Empire and Rebellion, wherein we got to read three different stories, each focusing on a different member of the Star Wars trinity: Leia, Han and Luke. The first novel came out last year, Martha Wells’ quite excellent Razor’s Edge, and I’ve been kind of looking forward to the other two books ever since, Corey’s Honor Among Thieves and Kevin Hearne’s Heir To The Jedi. I love reading fiction about the Rebellion Era and Razor’s Edge scratched that particular itch quite well, so I was expecting Honor Among Thieves to be quite good, even though it is written by an author I don’t like.
Honor Among Thieves is the second in the Empire and Rebellion series and it focuses on smuggler and pilot-turned-hero Han Solo as he undertakes another mission for the Rebellion some time after the destruction of the first Death Star and before the events of the second of the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. And it proved to be a very disappointing read since neither the characters nor the premise of the novel made any good impression on me. In fact, it feels most unlike a Star Wars novel, for the characters are nothing like how they’ve been portrayed over the years and the premise is just entirely silly.
It has been a good long while since I’ve read a Forgotten Realms novel. The last one was in December of last year, Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham. It was a fairly good read, but I’ve definitely read better, from the works of Erin M. Evans and Paul S. Kemp and Richard Baker and all. It is definitely a setting that I love exploring and the more I read in it, the more excited I get about it. Forgotten Realms fully explores the multiverse side of things for a fantasy setting, and that is part of the charm, in addition to the utter abundance and wonder of its many different races and cultures and what not.
And in that respect, Richard Baker’s first novel in the Last Mythal Saga, Forsaken House, is really good. It presents many different facets of Elf life in the Forgotten Realms and it also presents a really fast-paced, excitable and intriguing premise paired with some really interesting characters. The only other novel of Richard’s I’ve read before this is his Condemnation, the third novel in the 6-part War of the Spider Queen multi-author extravaganza and that too was a damn fine read. It is great to see Richard’s best replicated here, and the Last Mythal Saga is definitely a tale that I want to read in full now.
Star Trek: The Fall has proven to be a most enjoyable event series from all that I’ve read. My interest was piqued because of the cover to Una McCormack’s Crimson Shadow, and diving into the four-part series with David R. George III’s Revelation and Dust proved to be a good place to get back into the status quo of Star Trek tie-in novel fiction. The nature of these books, taking a look at several major characters and crew and locations of this wonderful universe has been the major attraction for sure, and I really applaud the creators and the publisher for going this route.
The Poisoned Chalice is meant to be the cap-stone to this wonderful series, and it does fulfill that promise. James Swallow has been one of my favourite writers for a number of years, ever since 2006 when I started reading his Warhammer 40,000 novels. He has never really disappointed after an initial hurdle and his output in recent years has been top-notch. The Poisoned Chalice clearly is among his best works to date and it brings this series to a close in a spectacular fashion, with all that’s best about the Star Trek universe and none of the drawbacks.
Last year Jason M. Hough put out one of the best debut novels of the year, one that I even put on my “Best 2013 Debuts” list at the end of the year. The Darwin Elevator was a really fun and fast-paced action SF novel set in a post-apocalyptic future where the only remaining mass of humanity is concentrated in what used to be the (roughly) coastal city of Darwin, Australia and where humanity’s lifeline to the stars, a space elevator built by mysterious aliens, is located. He followed it up with The Exodus Towers and that too was a great read, though not as good as the predecessor. Still, they were both enough for me to love Jason’s writing and I’ve been looking for time to read the final novel ever since.
I finally got the chance to read The Plague Forge last month and the experience proved to be worth the wait for it falls squarely between the previous two novels and he gives quite a resounding conclusion to the Dire Earth Cycle trilogy. The revelations at the end are mind-boggling indeed, and though the ending is rather natural, there are also plenty of hooks for Jason to return to this setting at a later time, which I sincerely hope he does. But in the meantime, I had as much fun reading The Plague Forge as I did the other two novels, and I loved how he closed out the story of all the characters, whether I hated or loved them.
Quite unintentionally, I’ve started on a sort of WarCraft kick this year as far as my reading is concerned. First it was The Shattering: Prelude to the Cataclysm and then it was Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, novels that were set in the World of WarCraft: Cataclysm expansion, and they both proved to be really good reads all the way through. They also helped me reconnect with a game that I’d long stopped playing, and the hit of nostalgia was pretty strong. and also very enjoyable. And since Christie Golden is such a good writer, the experience was better than I’d expected.
Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War is both the epilogue to World of WarCraft: Cataclysm and the prologue to the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria. In this novel, we see how the calculated brutality and savagery of Garrosh Hellscream turns Jaina Proudmoore from a pacifist to one intent on the path of vengeance. It is one of the most stunning character reversals I’ve seen in fiction for a long while, Christie handles it with aplomb. Some of the usual deficiencies of Christie’s writing are evident here, but by and large this novel was a damn good read and very emotional too.
In the last year, roughly, I’ve slowly gotten back on track with reading Star Trek novels. First with James Swallow’s Cast No Shadow last year, and then with the first two books in the Typhon Pact: The Fall 5-book series this year, the experience has reminded me again and again of how and why I fell in love with Star Trek in the first place. The aforementioned series also happens to be on my “25 Series To Read in 2014” reading challenge list as well, and is one of the more rocking series I’ve had the pleasure of reading as part of that challenge. The first book Revelation and Dust was slow-paced and a bit too complex but the second one The Crimson Shadow really blew my mind. Going into the third book, I wanted more the latter and none of the former.
A Ceremony of Losses is written by Star Trek stalwart David Mack and is definitely among the finest examples of tie-in fiction I’ve read to date, in the context of the best novels I’ve read to date in the Stargate, Star Wars, Star Trek, Warhammer, WarCraft and a bunch of others. This time the focus of this novel is on the Andorian fertility crisis and the consequences of the Andorians’ secession from the Federation two years ago. And our characters are also much different, although many of them are drawn from Revelation and Dust since one half of the novel takes place on the newly consecrated Deep Space 9 and on Bajor. Just as Una McCormack did with The Crimson Shadow, so does David Mack with A Ceremony of Losses and presents one of the finest examples of Star Trek fiction.
Lou Morgan’s 2012 debut Blood and Feathers proved to be one of the best novels I’d read that year, and also a fine guide in my exploration of the urban fantasy genre which started that very year with Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest from Angry Robot Books. Blood and Feathers was a great read but it missed the mark a little, yet it was good enough that I looked forward to reading the sequel Rebellion, which was released in early 2012. However, I couldn’t get the time to read it then, which is why I made the effort to finally get through it last month. And it proved to be every bit as good as its predecessor.
Rebellion continues the story of Alice as she tries to find her place in a world where the Fallen have left Hell in a mass exodus and are causing all sorts of trouble in her world. This is also the world where the Archangel Michael will stop at nothing to destroy Lucifer once and for all, even if it means sacrificing his own people, or that of the other Archangels. Rebellion is much more cerebral and fascinating than its predecessor, and that’s what I loved most about it, in the end. That was exactly what I was looking for in the novel and Lou Morgan delivered on that front quite handsomely.
Raymond E. Feist’s Magician remains, to this day, one of the finest examples of traditional epic fantasy that I’ve read. When I started out reading epic fantasy/space opera back in freshman year of high school, it was one of the very first books I read, soon after J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and soon after Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles. That was a really great time for me, because I was discovering so many great books one after the other, and there was something about the adventures of Pug and Tomas and their friends that really drew me in to this world that Feist had created.
Magician is primarily the tale of two boyhood friends’ rise to power from extremely humble beginnings, one the son of kitchen servants to a frontier (but politically powerful) Duke, and the other an orphan with none to claim him. Tomas and Pug experience some really extraordinary adventures in their rise to power and together they become embroiled in some really amazing and epic events that date back to thousands of years in their world’s past. Full of exciting action, interesting characters, a really epic plot and a truly wonderful setting, Magician is a must-read massive novel as far as I’m concerned.