Overall, although most of my favorite reads in 2015 were from authors familiar to me (James S.A. Corey, Louise Penny, Peter Brett, Jo Nesbø) whom I had read before I was also introduced to several new authors who I am confident will become some of my favorites for years to come: Brian Staveley, Cixin Liu, Ben Winters and Karin Slaughter.
I'm always looking for more good books and authors to start reading! Feel free to make suggestions of books or authors you think I would like in the comments after seeing what books have resonated with me previously.
Below are my favorite reads for 2015 in the genres Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller.
Favorite Science Fiction Novel Read In 2015: Nemesis Games (The Expanse, #5) by James S.A. Corey
Runner-Up Favorite Science Fiction: The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu.
The Three-Body Problem is the first book originally written in a foreign language to win the most prestigious award in science fiction and fantasy (the Hugo award). Cixin Liu has been described as the Chinese Isaac Asimov and The Three-Body Problem and The Dark Forest are definitely space opera in the classic tradition of the most well-known Grandmaster of Science Fiction. Both books have ideas which are so original they are unlike anything I have read in other books. These original ideas come from the setting, which include multiple time periods set in China, including Maoist China is not only the setting, but also the story itself, which involves a slow-motion invasion of the Earth by an alien race who live on planet called Trisolaris located hundreds of light years away in an improbable and unstable trinary star system. There are far more details of the story which I don't want to give away here. Basically, the tension in the plot(s) revolve around how specific people respond to the knowledge that we are not alone in the Universe by (1) collaborating with our future alien overlords and (2) coming up with brilliant strategies to defend Earth despite being technologically outmatched by the Trisolarians. The Three-Body Problem is primarily about the discovery of the Trisolarians and is dominated by the idea that there exist humans who would willingly collaborate with beings who are devoted to their species' extinction. The Dark Forest is primarily about humanity's realization that the Galaxy is a dangerous place for species once they reach a level of technology that allows them to perceive and interact with other civilizations on interstellar scales.
One of the most engrossing reading experiences I had all year was with the David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. Mitchell is most well-known for his award-winning Cloud Atlas which was adapted into a gloriously disappointing movie starring Oscar winners Tom Hanks and Halle Berry directed by the Wachoski siblings. Cloud Atlas was also one of my favorite books of the first decade of the 21st century. I will not be surprised if Mitchell's The Bone Clocks makes the list of my favorites for this decade. Bizarrely, it is one of two books I read in 2015 which has the idea of consciousness shifting between bodies (the other is Claire North's Touch). Like Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks is written as a series of interlocking chapters, some of which are long enough to be considered novellas or novellettes. Part of the delight of the book is trying to figure out the connections between the characters in the consecutive chapters as the story continues to move forward in time. However, The Bone Clocks is memorable for much more than any one particular plot device or literary trope it deploys; it is memorable because it is a stunningly original story brimming with mordant social commentary all in the service of a captivating SFnal plot.
Favorite Fantasy Novel Read In 2015: The Emperor's Blades (The Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1) by Brian Staveley
Runner-Up Favorite Fantasy: The Skull Throne (The Demon Cycle, #4) by Peter V. Brett
my reading list in 2014 reveals I'm much pickier about titles in the fantasy genre than in the others that I consume. If I don't get caught up by a fantasy book early I am far more likely to give up on it than I would be if it were a mystery or science fiction book. One of my favorite fantasy authors that I have discovered in recent years is Peter Brett, and the bestselling series that he is known for is The Demon Cycle, which began with The Warded Man (back in 2009) and is now up to Book 4 with The Skull Throne. The Demon Cycle is set in a world where humanity is in a state of pre-industrial technology (i.e. flintlock rifles and no electricity) terrorized by the nightly appearance of various deadly creatures (called Demons) which materialize out of the ground but can be deflected by intricately drawn symbols, called Wards. This latest book shows how rich the story has become, having expanded far beyond the confines of Leesa, Rojer and Arlen from their small town of Tibett's Brook. Now we have an entirely new set of characters from the Muslim-inspired Krasian desert: Ahmann Jardir, Inevera and Abban. In The Skull Throne the stakes are raised as high as possible as the clash between the two competing civilizations comes to fruition. Brett surprised me (and shocked fans) by killing off one of the main characters in this latest book, while simultaneously removing the titular Warded Man for most of the story. I can't wait to see how Brett will resolve the entire tale in The Core (scheduled for release in 2017).
Favorite Mystery Novel Read In 2015: World of Trouble (The Last Policeman, #3) by Ben H. Winters.
the books I read in 2015 were science fiction or fantasy which is much higher than it was in 2014, when about half the books I read were mysteries or thrillers. What I have been looking for for years is a really good book that combines both genres (mystery/thriller and science fiction/fantasy). Amazingly, this year I finally discovered not one but four books that meet this standard. Three of them are part of Ben H. Winters' Last Policeman trilogy, which consists of The Last Policeman, Countdown City and World of Trouble. The entire trilogy is astonishingly good, but the third and final book is (literally) earth-shattering. The situation is that these are murder-mystery police procedural books with the twist that the Earth is about to be destroyed by a collision with an asteroid in the next six months. It was a complete eye-opener to me that a pre-apocalyptic work of fiction could be just as compelling as much of the post-apocalyptic work that has pervaded popular media. All good genre works force the reader to confront questions and the questions raised by Winters' The Last Policeman trilogy are devastating. Why are people still killing each other when there are only 6 months for every human being to live? Why should the police still try to find and punish evildoers? The very nature of responsibility and the usually hidden rules and protocols by which civilization functions are exposed by the imminent end of everything. And through it all we follow Hank Palace, a tall, geeky young police detective in Concord, New Hampshire as he lives, loves and sleuths before the world is destroyed in a final fireball. It is incredibly compelling, with both the mystery/thriller (Hank is originally called to the scene of yet another suicide and realizes it is actually a murder) and the science fiction (the way Winters portrays the many little details of how civilization falls apart as the asteroid gets closer feels very realistic) aspects executed with great flair and panache.
Runner-Up Favorite Mystery: The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson.
The Last Policeman trilogy and enjoying it so much I redoubled my efforts to find other mystery-scifi hybrids. I ran into Patrick Tomlinson's The Ark and took a chance on it despite the limited number of reviews and ratings it had received. However, I was blown away by how much fun it is. The setting is on an arkship containing 20, 000 survivors of an Earth that was destroyed by a collision with a black hole 200 years ago. The protagonist is Bryan Benson, a former sporting hero who is now the police chief on the ship. He finds a dead body and has to grapple with the fact that there is someone on a ship containing the last vestiges of humanity who is a murderer. And that they have a secret so important to them they are willing to kill one of the few remaining humans to keep it. The story becomes quite thrilling as the stakes are incredibly high since the ship contains all of humanity.
Honorable Mention (Mystery): The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache, #11) by Louise Penny.
The mysteries of Louise Penny have been some of my favorite reads for quite awhile. They are rather traditional: set in the mythical small town of Three Pines, with a cast of quirky characters that we have slowly been learning more and more about as the series progresses. The main protagonist is Armand Gamache who is a (former) Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec but the attraction of these books is the familiar rhythm of the interactions between the characters, which are complemented by the deviousness of the murders.
Favorite Thriller Novel Read In 2015: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles.
Runner-Up Favorite Thriller Read in 2015: Phantom (Harry Hole, #10) by Jo Nesbø.
Honorable Mention (Thriller): Blindsighted (Grant County, #1) by Karin Slaughter.
Another one of the great author discoveries I made in 2015 was Karin Slaughter. In some ways her Grant County series has a lot in common with Greg Iles' Penn Cage series: they both involve a married couple living in a small southern town trying to investigate murderous and other criminal behavior. Slaughter, like Iles, does an excellent job of placing her central characters in extremely dangerous situations which are very harrowing to the reader.