Must Reads for 2023
I read and listen to scads of books, mostly science fiction and fantasy but not exclusively. I have returned to some authors time and again, like George R.R. Martin and John Scalzi. I've only discovered other authors due to the wonderful Libby App, which allows you to checkout audiobooks and e-books from your local library.
Let me be straight with you. If George R.R. Martin publishes another volume in The Song of Ice and Fire, that novel will immediately be at the top of my must reads. Barring such a Blue Moon event, here are my must reads for 2023 in no particular order.
Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
OMG!!! Jorg has one of the most spectacular character arcs I have ever read. I just finished King of Thorns, and wow. What a character. What a story. I can hardly wait to discover the conclusion of Jorg’s odyssey. These yarns are for fans of dark tales. Lawrence puts the G & D in grimdark.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
John Scalzi pens a tale about saving giant monsters from humans? Count me in! I'm sure this will be a fun, witty yarn from one of my favorite authors. Also, Scalzi is super supportive of fellow speculative fiction authors. He has done me the honor and favor of recently publishing a “The Big Idea” article of mine on his blog.
Promises Stronger Than Darkness by Charlie Jane Anders
This is the third installment in the wild space opera series Unstoppable. Hands down, this is one of the most compelling series I have come across in ages. Anders possesses an amazing ability to weave themes of inclusivity into her stories without sacrificing a single iota of sci-fi suave.
Wayward by Chuck Wendig
I love some of Wendig’s novels and find others a bit more…well, meh. I thoroughly enjoyed Wanderers, the precursor to Wayward. It's the story of a fungal pandemic, climate change, far-right extremism, and a nifty mashup of sci-fi and horror tropes.
I have met my goal in regard to reading Wayward—done and dusted. This voluminous tome is well worth delving into. If anything, it is better and weirder than Wanderers, which is saying something!
Clown in a Cornfield II by Adam Cesare
This novel’s predecessor is easily the best horror novel I read last year. If Clown in a Cornfield II is half as good as the original, it will be an enjoyable read. Cesare specializes in horror harkening back to the classics of the 1980s. Clown in a Cornfield was creepy, mildly gory in spots, occasionally scary, often darkly funny, and featured an endearing final girl. I hope for more of the same in the second installment.
Any book by Brian Sanderson
Last December, I read Mistborn. It is the first book I've read by Sanderson outside of the two or three novels he penned to finish Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time (WoT). I wasn't too impressed by Sanderson’s WoT novels. However, I've been aware for years that he is a hugely popular and prolific epic fantasy author. So I decided I needed to read a few of his books if only to gain an appreciation of what people dig about his writing.
I found Mistborn to be good, but not great. What I loved about the WoT books were the characters. Even when the series slowed to a glacial pace, I kept reading because I was invested in Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moraine, and Lan. I didn't become vested in the characters in Mistborn. Still, I did discover a fast-paced, if long, story with an immersive secondary world and an easily understood magic system.
Currently, I am reading The Way of Kings, another doorstop of a novel. It's good, but I'm not convinced that I will find it great, not yet. It has all the strengths of Mistborn, but only time will tell if the characters prove more compelling.