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Fantasy & Sci-fi Must Reads for 2023 update

2023 continues to be an excellent year for science fiction and fantasy reading. I want to update you on my "Must Read List for 2023". Are all the books meeting expectations? Read and find out.

I typically have a love-hate relationship with Wendig's books. His writing style, dare I say voice, is very distinctive. His voice is wondrous in some of his books, adding another layer of meaning to the story. Zeroes, perhaps my all-time favorite Wendig book, is an example of this. In other books, his writing style is a distraction.

His style works great in Wayward. If anything, this novel is better than its predecessor, Wanderers, which is also excellent. A few survivors struggle to survive and eke out a decent life after a triple whammy of disasters: a fungal pandemic, out-of-control AI, and right-wing militias filling the power vacuum left by a defunct United States government.

This novel is sometimes reminiscent of Stephen King's The Stand while still feeling fresh and new. Highly recommended.

Taken as a standalone, the conclusion to the Unstoppable Trilogy (at least, this book certainly seems like the conclusion) is the weakest installment. Despite the abundant action in each scene, the pacing suffered while Anders explored the theme of "you need to understand someone's language before you can really understand them".

Despite any shortcomings, Promises Stronger than Darkness proves an excellent bookend to the trilogy. In the final scenes, the themes dovetail wonderfully with the plot, making for a fantastic end. Also, the antagonist, Morant (guessing at the spelling as I listened to the audiobook), reaches new heights as an all-time great villain. There are scenes where he literally steals the show by channeling the most infamous leaders of the 20th century.

Promises Stronger than Darkness and its predecessors are some of the most wildly imaginative and fun science fiction books I've read in a long time. Highly recommended.

So far, I've been pleasantly surprised by Sanderson's The Stormlight Archive. Before reading these books, my encounters with his work hadn't impressed me. The books he wrote to finish The Wheel of Time (WoT) were meh, at best. Likewise, my one foray into the Mistborn series didn't make me pine to read more.

However, The Way of Kings swept me away into the immersive of world of the Shattered Plains. Words of Radiance and Oathbringer (still reading this one!) have kept me immersed. The closest series I've read to compare it to is Robert Jordan's WoT. I don't identify with Sanderson's characters to the extent I did with Jordan's. I like Sanderson's characters, but I don't flip the page anxious to find out what will happen to any one character next. Sanderson's world-building is top-notch, but what sets his work apart from WoT is that the plotting is much tighter despite the books being as long or longer than Jordan's novels.

If you are looking for a fast-paced fantasy with fantastic world-building and strong characterization, then The Stormlight Archive is a must-read.

I'll finish with a book not explicitly on my must-read list. This is an astounding oversight on my part. After finishing the excellent EXO, the first book in the EXO duology, I've wanted to read Crossfire. I didn't read it sooner because it wasn't available at Powell's, my go-to bookstore. Now that I have fallen in love with my Kindle, I read the e-book.

Hands down, Crossfire met my expectations. In fact, it exceeded them. This book is even better than the first book in the series, and that's saying something coming from me because reading EXO helped me with my writing. Specifically, how to write a conflicted protagonist.

At its heart, that's what the series is about. A protagonist with conflicted loyalties must choose how to walk his own path without betraying everyone he loves. I highly recommend this YA duology. The sci-fi plot where aliens have conquered humanity is engrossing and nuanced.

This leaves three books on my must-read list.

I can't wait to see if these meet expectations!

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