SF & fantasy books I can’t wait to read in 2014

I have a staggeringly huge to-read list, yet thanks to my slowish reading speed, other things competing for my attention, and the fact that I’m in the second year of a PhD, I know I won’t get through too many books this year. In the last few years I managed around 45-50 books per year. Anyway, I thought it would be fun to list off some of the SF&F fiction I can’t wait to get stuck into this year. It’s not a comprehensive list, and I’ve left off non-genre fiction and nonfiction because that’s not what this blog is about. Here are my “can’t wait to read” genre fiction titles for 2014:

NEW BOOKS

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – I have, shamefully, never read a Jeff VanderMeer novel, so I intend to start with this new book before making my way through his back catalogue. He is often compared with China Miéville, and I find myself having a hankering for some New-Weirdness. This book sounds like an expedition into VanderMeer’s version of Miéville’s Cacotopic Stain: nightmarish and bizarre, and I am down for the ride!

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias – A debut novel with hard-sf, alien contact and galactic politics? I’m there! This does sound rather similar to City of Pearl by Karen Traviss, only set underwater, but I’m a sucker for first contact stories (or any stories with well-realised alien races).

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher – I haven’t read any Adam Christopher but the synopsis of this book (creepiness and suspense on a space station) makes it sound like he wrote it specifically for me!

Echopraxia by Peter Watts – Sequel to Blindsight, one of the scariest and smartest SF books I’ve ever read. Cannot wait.

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Talus & the Frozen King by Graham Edwards – The new fantasy novel by the author of a series I love very much, the Stone Trilogy. This one is a murder mystery set in the neolithic past. I’m really keen to find out how the “world’s first detective” solves the crime of a frozen king with no modern techniques up his sleeve.

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson – Minotaurs get a tick from me. Positive reviews comparing this book to China Miéville’s work gets another tick. The gorgeous cover art gets a third tick. Take my money now!

Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams – An anthology of entirely new stories centered around a weird-western theme. China Miéville’s Iron Council made me love the idea of that genre, but I haven’t really read much else in it. This anthology should satisfy my curiosity; plus it has a new story by Alastair Reynolds too!

Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman – The Magicians is one of my favourite fantasy novels ever. It’s such a gorgeous, multi-layered work with an excellent world and loveable characters. It’s also a very smart novel about depression. The Magician King I did not like. It felt all over the place structurally, the chatlog chapters were excruciating, and it felt like some of the great worldbuilding of the first book became undone with the laziness of the second. Nevertheless I am in this until the end. I hope the final book returns to the greatness of the first.

(Edit November 2014: I think I was too harsh on the second book here. I re-read it recently and liked it far more the second time around, and the third book indeed was excellent, which elevates the entire trilogy to one of my favourite trilogies ever.)

A new collection by China Miéville – Railsea was two years ago. I’m dying here.

BACK LIST

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Hyperion by Dan Simmons – Everyone raves about this book. I was very impressed by The Terror, which I read last year and which was my first Simmons book; so the idea of a sprawling, dense space opera by a talented horror writer really appeals to me.

Pandora’s Star by Peter F. Hamilton – Another sprawling space opera which I’m dying to get into. This is lauded so much in the world of SF, that I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet.

Stealing Light by Gary Gibson – Another series-starter that really appeals to me, with a mix of hard-sf and alien races. It gets a ton of praise and it will probably be my next space opera fixation.

Regeneration by Julie E. Czerneda – The third book of the Species Imperative trilogy. These books are fun, optimistic space operas with bucketloads of endearing alien characters, and the main character is a biologist in the future. I love the mix of science and science fiction in these books. They never fail to make me smile.

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A whole lot by Iain M. Banks – I’ve only recently discovered the wonderful, intelligent space opera books of Iain M. Banks, and I’ve read three (The Player of Games, Use of Weapons and The State of the Art). My next few will be Consider Phlebas, Excession, and the non-Culture The Algebraist.

A whole lot by Alastair Reynolds – Reynolds is my favourite science fiction author, and I’m despairing because I’ve nearly finished his back catalogue. Luckily he’s producing great novels quite often these days, so there’ll be more in the future to look forward to. The extant Reynolds books I have left to read are The Prefect, Century Rain, Pushing Ice and the Doctor Who novel, Harvest of Time. There’s also a lot of his short fiction I haven’t read. Hopefully there’ll be another collection sometime soon.

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Some SF collections – I much prefer single-author collections to anthologies, but I’m not sure why. Some of the ones I plan to read this year are Luminous by Greg Egan (his first, Axiomatic, is one of the best collections I’ve read), Adam Robots by Adam Roberts, and Wireless by Charles Stross.

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The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin – This has been a must-read for me for over a decade but I’ve just kept putting it off. Well, no longer. I’m finally going to discover why this fantasy series is one of the most beloved fantasy works of all time.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman – Two wonderful authors collaborated on this, what I’ve heard is an absolutely hilarious novel. I’m very keen to get to it.

Discworld books by Terry Pratchett – A series I recently finally discovered, and wished it had been in my life from a much earlier age. I’ve read 14 of the books so far, and I have so many to go (which is such a wonderful feeling)! I figure I can fit in at least half a dozen more this year. The next few will include Night Watch (the next Watch book, my favourite subseries) and Witches Abroad (I’ve neglected the Witches subseries so far but Wyrd Sisters was hilarious and now I see what I’ve been missing).

RE-READS

There are so many books I want to read that I’ve never read, so I don’t want to do too many re-reads. But there are some books that I can’t shake the desire to read again and again.

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Perdido Street Station by China Miéville – This will be maybe my fourth time reading this book. It’s not as good as The Scar but it’s still one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time. I’m really looking forward to a leisurely dip back into Bas-Lag with this re-read.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King – The first time I tried the Dark Tower series was in late 2004/early 2005, and I got up to the fourth book, Wizard and Glass. I was enjoying them, but I just got distracted by other things. I really want to finish the series so I figured I’d start again (and I’m having a bit of a Stephen King renaissance lately).

OH GOD WHY CAN’T I READ FASTER?

There are so many books I didn’t mention, such as the Uplift series by David Brin, of which I have three books to go; Cibola Burn, the fourth book in the Expanse series by James S.A. Corey; more Laundry books by Charles Stross; and so on.

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never read everything I want within my lifetime. Maybe I need to stop making impulse purchases of new novels and focus more on the books I’ve had waiting on my shelves for years. Or maybe I need to waste less time online and work on improving my attention span. Sigh.

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