Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015: Part 2

In Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015: Part 1, I note the tops in Poetry, Nonfiction, Graphic Publications, Anthologies, and Creative Writing Blogs. Part 2 continues and concludes with the Prose Fiction Categories. Most of the 300+ reviews I’ve done this year have been short stories and novellas thanks in part to a hefty dose of anthologies. I considered all stories and novellas for the anthologies published this year even if the tale had been previously published elsewhere. Very few are older than 18 months.

FANTASY [Novel]:

Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2)–Joe Abercrombie’s Half the World (Shattered Sea, #2) continues and builds on a wonderful story in a dark world. [5 sea-faring stars]
Starwatch–Honorable Mention #1 goes to Ian Blackport’s Starwatch that centers on a fantasy world heist. [4 clandestine stars]
1001 Islands–Honorable Mention #2 is for K. T. Munson’s 1001 Islands for its sea battle and island-hopping tactics. [4 pirate stars]
 
 
 
 
 
FANTASY [Novella]:

–Patrick Rothfuss’ The Lightning Tree (The Kingkiller Chronicle #0.5). Tightly plotted and extraordinarily moving, this tale outshines the novels in the series. [5 stars, YBSF&F:N 2015]

FANTASY [Short Stories]:

–Kali Wallace’s “Water in Springtime”. Like a prose version of the animation Howl’s Moving Castle. [5 stars, YBDF&H 2015]

STEAMPUNK [Novel]:

The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key, #1)–Clay Griffith & Susan Griffith’s The Shadow Revolution (Crown & Key, #1). Victorian era mash-up of steampunk and urban fantasy levels magicians and alchemists against werewolves. [4 bloody-fun stars]
 

STEAMPUNK [Novella]:

–Stan Swanson’s “Wind Up Hearts”. So good, so moving. If the opening montage of the animation Up was steampunk, this would be it. [5 stars, Chronology 2015]

SCIENCE FICTION / SPECULATIVE FICTION [Novel]:

Golden Son (Red Rising Trilogy, #2)–Pierce Brown’s Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, #2). When the sequel tops its predecessor which was my top pick for 2014, you know this is special. Dystopian, space series with class warfare layered with civil war and intrigue. [5 War-mongering stars]
Déjà VuChaos StationAlive
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Honorable Mentions:
–Ian Hocking’s Deja Vu (Saskia Brandt, #1) is a speculative decades-spanning policing story with murder and mayhem to be solved. [4 stars]
–Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen’s Chaos Station (Chaos Station, #1). Space-based, post-war tale with military secrets to drudge up and an interesting little ship of queer-inclusive characters. Firefly-like. [4 stars]
–Scott Sigler’s Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1). Young adult, lost-in-space version of Lord of the Flies when memory-deprived teens awake from deep sleep on a space ship. [4 stars]

SCIENCE FICTION / SPECULATIVE FICTION [Novella]: [tie]

The Churn (Expanse, #0.2)–James S. A. Corey’s The Churn (Expanse, #0.2). A cross section of the undesirables left on Earth try to get by when anybody who’s anybody has left for space. [5 stars, YBSF&F:N 2015]
–Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jete (The Great Leap)” relates the moving tale of an immigrant’s dying daughter and his attempt to capture her consciousness in a clone-like living doll. [5 stars, YBF&SF 2015]

SCIENCE FICTION / SPECULATIVE FICTION [Short Stories]:

–Matthew S. Cox’s “Innocent Deception” shows a dystopian future of haves with their clones and privilege and the have-not’s left without treatment from a pandemic called “The Fade”. [5 stars, Chronology 2015]
–Samuel R. Delaney’s “Driftglass” shows the daring pioneers on the forefront of exploration and life below the ocean as human’s experiment with mutational and bodily changes. [5 stars, Mermaids 2015]
–Robert Reed’s “Pernicious Romance” chronicles a bizarre, time-bending event experienced by a stadium full of sports’ fans. [5 stars, YBSF&F 2015]

HORROR / DARK FANTASY [novel]:

Cynopolis (Nightscape #2)–David W. Edwards’ Cynopolis (Nightscape, #2) brings outre shape-shifting monsters to down-trodden Detroit. [4 Lovecraftian stars]

HORROR / DARK FANTASY [novella]:

Ghost Summer–Tananarive Due’s “Ghost Summer” which literally brings spectres of the racially-tense past up from the depths of the Florida swamp. [5 stars, GS]
 
 
 
 
 
 
HORROR / DARK FANTASY [short stories]:

Unknown Sender–Ryan Lanz’s Unknown Sender. An urban legend turns real as a cell phone without reception brings threats to an isolated location. [5 stars]
–V. H. Leslie’s “The Quiet Room” sees absence-by-death take form in a lofty house. [5 stars, YBDF&H 2015]
–Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter’s “The Female Factory”details terrible abuses at a Tasmanian women’s prison in the 1800’s. [5 stars, YBDF&H 2015]
–Wilbert Stanton’s “The Room Below” is a psychological nightmare at a girls’ mental hospital. [5 stars, YBDF&H 2015]
–Damien Angelica Walters’ “The Floating Girls: A Documentary” verges on absurdism as it provides social commentary on gender disparities still present in treatment between the sexes.

POST-APOCALYPTIC [novel]:

The Alpha PlagueThe Alpha Plague 2The Alpha Plague 3–Michael Robertson’s Alpha Plague series [The Alpha Plague, The Alpha Plague 2, The Alpha Plague 3] details the first few days of a rage-style zombie outbreak. While the read is guilty pleasure, the pacing and growing intrigue through the series rise to the top. [5, 4, & 5 predatory stars]

POST-APOCALYPTIC [novella]:

The Beauty–Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty takes a Lovecraftian turn after all females die in a pandemic. [4 stars]

POST-APOCALYPTIC [short stories]:

–Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s “Danger Word” which show a grandfather and grandson trying to outlast a predatory zombie apocalypse. [5 stars, GS]
–Tananarive Due’s “Herd Immunity”, the second of a short story trilogy, shows the isolating bleakness after a pandemic nears reaches 100% fatalities. [5 stars, GS]

URBAN FANTASY / SUPERNATURAL [novel]:

Superhighway–Alex Fayman’s Superhighway ( Superhighway Trilogy, #1) is a young adult, cyber-thriller, superhero story. This coming-of-age tale sees an orphan-turned-man take a Robinhood-like stance with his new abilities. [5 Cyber Stars]

URBAN FANTASY / SUPERNATURAL [novella]:

–Seth Chambers’ In Her Eyes follows a Chicago-based shape-shifter in her troubled relationship with a museum curator. Issues of gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia emerge. [5 stars, YBSF&F:N 2015]

URBAN FANTASY / SUPERNATURAL [short stories]:

–John Grant’s “Ghost Story” has a guy potentially experience an ultra-dimensional event as his memories and realities no longer align for his life. [5 stars, YBSF&F 2015]
–Caitlin R. Kiernan’s “The Cats of River Street (1925)” [5 stars, YBDF&H 2015] and “The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings” [5 stars, NC2] both make the list. The former explores the disconnectedness of various relationships, while the latter shows a deeply intimate analogy to cancer in one of the most devastating stories I’ve read in years.
–Tanith Lee’s “Magritte’s Secret Agent” shows a student obsessed with an wheelchair-bound stranger’s uncommunicative, unresponsive mental and emotional state. Isolation and secrets oppressively persist. [5 stars, Mermaids]
–Sarah Monette’s “Somewhere Beneath Those Waves Was Her Home” has two rival women find commonality in their situations despite one being a mythic selkie. [5 stars, Mermaids]

DETECTIVE / THRILLER [novel]:

All the Old Knives: A NovelOlen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives weaves a tale of political intrigue over decades and from two unreliable sources. [4 spy-vs-spy stars]

DETECTIVE / THRILLER [novella]:

John P. Murphy’s Claudius Rex is a near-future detective story in which advanced AI hijacks the detective’s neural implant to solve its own cases. [5 stars, YBSF&F:N 2015]

DETECTIVE / THRILLER [short story]:

Steve Pantazis’ “Switch” is a near future detective noir told through a haze of psychedelic drugs. [5 stars, WotF 31]

HISTORICAL FICTION [novel]:

Hawser–J. Hardy Carroll’s Hawser is a fascinating, immersive WWII tale narrated by a B-52 bombardier.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
These are my picks for 2015. Do you agree? Disagree? Did I overlook a big one? Feel free to let me know.

For novellas and short stories, the following abbr. were used to denote specific anthologies:
ChronologyChronology
GS–Ghost Summer
MermaidsMermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep
NC2–New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird
WofF 31–Writers of the Future Volume 31
YBDF&H 2015–The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015
YBSF&F 2015–The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015
YBSF&F:N 2015–The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Novellas: 2015

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2 responses to “Jaffalogue’s Best Reads of 2015: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Novel Review: The Alpha Plague 4 by Michael Robertson | Jaffalogue

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