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]


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]


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]


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]


–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]


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


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.


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]


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]


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]


–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]


–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]


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]


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]


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:
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


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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