It’s the end of the year which means another end of the year list. I’ve read a little over 60 books/short stories/novellas this year. If you want to see a list of them all, you can check out my shelf on Goodreads here.

I thought I would post the top 10 books I’ve read in 2012 (note: most came out years before).

I copied and pasted my Goodreads review under each book, a few contain minor spoilers which I note in the beginning, so be aware.

10. Monster Hunter Alpha


Another great read by Larry Correia. He is fast becoming one of my favorite authors...great dialogue, well-written action sequences, strong plotting that continues what had been built upon in the previous books, and description that's kept to a minimum (just enough to set the scene, but not enough to bog down the pacing).

9. The Heroes


Abercrombie does it again. I can’t wait to get my hands on Red Country next.

Pros:
-Great characterization. He’s one of the few authors who does a good job of ensuring every character has their own distinct personality. It’s hard to feel empathy for the worst of the worst, but Joe manages to pull it off each time.
-Larger than life characters.
-A very honest take on war, examining all of the ups and downs associated with it. Yet, the philosophy/thoughts never feel forced and instead come across naturally in the narrative.
-Great battle/action scenes. One of the best in fantasy. Despite the battle’s scope, everything feels personal.
-After Glen Cook, Abercrombie might be the person at writing dialogue in fantasy.
-The perfect amount of worldbuilding/description…just enough to set a scene and give the reader a sense of place. He never drones on and on about the world, but instead slowly reveals the details throughout the course of the story.
-Stands nicely on its own, yet does a good job of tying in previous works.
-Very satisfying ending for each storyline, yet enough is left unanswered to set things up for future stories.
-Tight plotting that flows very naturally.

Cons:
-After the first chapter (which is great), I found the next several felt a bit off in flow. Some of the characters took a bit longer to get into than others.
-Abercrombie’s prose was a little jarring to read in the first third of the book. I know he’s slowly developed this style of purposefully leaving words out as he combines a limited third person POV narrative with first person POV touches every now and then, yet at times it just didn’t work. Things evened out though as you kept reading.
-Corporal Tunny as a character, and really most of his storyline, seemed pretty unnecessary. I know he showed a different aspect of war unseen elsewhere, but it slowed the pacing at times and didn’t add a whole lot to the story.

8. Fight Club



Wow, this was a great book. Its style and content are so unique I don’t even know if I can properly go over the pros and cons. The narrative is immediately engaging and pulls you right into the story. Something is always going on and the more you read, the more you want to continue. I will say that I saw the movie years ago and for the most part the film stays true to the book. However, I think the book is much better. As a writer, I’m humbled that someone could pull off something so original and something so odd.

Highly Recommended.

7. The Princess Bride


Every bit as good as I hoped it would be and then some. Completely original idea with the framing story. Even without it, the main narrative would warrant 5 stars.

6. The Crippled God


Great ending to a great story. There will be some spoilers.

Pros:
-Lots of emotion and tension.
-The main characters of the series each had a moment to shine.
-Lots of references/nods to other events within the series that really ties things in nicely.
-Managed to tie in all the various plot threads and characters about as good as anyone can imagine considering the scope of this series.
-Great battle sequences throughout. Erikson is definitely one of the best at this in the genre.
-Loved the endings to Icarium/Mappo, the Bridgeburners, the Parans, the Bonehunters.
-The ending of the book had a pretty good mix of happy/sad emotions which I felt matched the tone of the series.
-The last scene (at the dock) in the epilogue was about as perfect of an ending scene as I could imagine. Perfect person to end with and I really like that it tied things back to Gardens of the Moon. Cons:
-As usual, the book could have been significantly shorter (mainly in the beginning). Certain scenes/conversations with the various soldiers were ridiculously repetitive. And as usual, the philosophic moments ran on way too long and just go to be boring in spots.
-In regards to the philosophic moments, my biggest gripe with them has always been that they never sound like the character and instead come across in Erikson’s voice.
-The Adjunct. I felt like her character was just forced on us. Every character tells us how awesome she is, but other than a few minor things here or there, we rarely see her do anything remotely worthy of all the praise she’s given. The whole “she asked” bit just seemed really silly.
-Not enough Karsa. His few scenes were awesome. Yes, I know he’ll get his own trilogy eventually, but man do I wish he had a bigger role in the book.
-No closure to certain characters I felt deserved closure (i.e. Kruppe). This isn’t too huge of a gripe since I haven’t finished reading all of ICE’s books yet to know who gets covered in his books and who doesn’t.

Overall, no one has ever attempted anything this massive and delivered so well in my opinion. Best of all, Erikson churned these doorstoppers out with an impressive amount of consistency.

5. The Forever War


Great book that improved as the story progressed.

Pros:
-Strong narrative voice from protagonist that was both likable and believable.
-Great insight into the psyche(s) of a soldier.
-Though I’m usually not into the hard technical aspects of science fiction, I thought they were handled well within the text.
-Strong dialogue
-Great pacing.
-Really enjoyed the inventive ideas for how technology and general fighting strategies might progress over the years.
-Thoughtful ideas on how society might advance given enough time.
-Found myself looking for reasons to continue reading the story until I finished it.
-An ending I found fitting (although a bit predictable) given the rest of the story.

Cons:
-Started a little slow.
-I liked the relationship between William and Marygay. However, I thought it should have been introduced a bit sooner or at least have had stronger hints that something existed between them before it was presented to the reader. It felt a little odd for their relationship to suddenly become an integral part of the story when it hadn’t been discussed for the first 25% or so of the novel.

I’ll definitely need to pick up more stuff by the Haldeman in the future.

4. World War Z


One of the best books I've read this year.

Pros:
-Completely fresh and original idea on very old topic.
-Well thought out.
-Cool futuristic takes on how certain countries would survive/cope and who would come out on top.
-Great use of real history to forsee this possible future.
-Great voices to each of the people interviewed. Believable characters and situations.
-Felt like a history book.
-Awesome imagery.
-The stories left unsaid held as much weight as those topics covered.

Cons:
-None.

3. Kings of Morning


After finishing two complete series by Paul Kearney (The Monarchies of God and now The Macht Trilogy) I think he might officially be my 2nd favorite author (behind Glen Cook). Another awesome book by perhaps the most underrated writer in fantasy today.

Pros:
- The hallmark of Kearney's writing is that he says so much in so little and it makes me insanely jealous. His books are ridiculously short for an epic fantasy author...so much so that the font is larger and the spacing is wider than most other paperbacks to give it the appearance of being bigger than what it is. Yet, the length is only a bad thing in that I wish it wouldn't end. The man does not believe in unnecessary description, exposition, and scenes.
- Great plotting that is consistent with the rest of the series.
- Awesome characterization which included the addition of several new characters to this book. That could have ended badly if done by someone less skilled.
- Vivid descriptions and great worldbuilding.
- Natural and believable dialogue
- Hands down, Kearney is the best at writing battles/action/fighting and this book is another prime example of his skill.
- A very satisfying ending

Cons:
None

2. Caliban’s War


It's official. After only two books, the Expanse series is now one of my favorite Sci-fi/Fantasy series.

Pros:
- Great characterization...new POVs were introduced and connected to quickly.
- Awesome short and long term plotting.
- Smooth action scenes.
- Witty and natural dialogue.
- Strong and believable world-building.
- Despite its length, the book maintained great pacing throughout.
- Satisfying ending with a great set up for Book 3
- Improved upon Leviathon Wakes.
- Started to make time to read it.

Cons:
- Some of the science/technical tangents got a little longwinded and were ultimately unnecessary to the plot, IMO.

Great book...anxiously awaiting the next one.

1. Leviathan Wakes


Wow. This book blew me away. Highly recommended read to anyone who enjoys the genre. Let's get right into the pros/cons:

Pros:
- Extremely original plot that starts off small and continually escalates as the book goes on.
- Strong characterization.
- Great worldbuilding which I found myself extremely interested in(a rarity).
- Cool and inventive uses of some standard tropes including a joke about "woolgathering."
- Good changes in tone with the right mix of humor and tension.
- Awesome ending that I found completely satisfying. Though the story is pretty self-contained, there are definitely a lot of cool places where it can go in the future and I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Cons:
- Kind of nit-picky but some of the Miller POVs toward the end of the novel could have been trimmed down a bit.

What are some of the best books you’ve read this year?

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2 Responses so far.

  1. Keith says:

    I really need to read Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War. And more Kearney. Definitely more Kearney.

  2. Joshua says:

    I think you'd really like both...especially Kearney. :)

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