The new year of reading is a bit more eclectic for me than usual, considering my typical fare is fantasy, science-fiction, and suspense/thriller. This month I expanded my horizon by reading a mainstream novel. I can say, without a doubt and much to my astonishment, it is the best novel I’ve read in 2020.
Lock In by John Scalzi
I’m a huge fan of John Scalzi. In fact, it’s advice that he gave at a talk at a local library that inspired me to try my hand at penning short stories. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every novel of his that I have read. Like many readers, I suspect, I adore his Old Man’s War novels. In some ways, Lock In feels very similar to Old Man’s War. Scalzi is a master of taking an idea, in this case, a disease that totally incapacitates individuals physically while leaving them mentally able, and spinning out all the societal impacts to stunning effect. I enjoyed Lock In, which at its core is a murder mystery set in a near-future sci-fi environment, but I don’t think it’s quite at the level of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War or Collapsing Empire novels. Having said that, anyone looking for a quick, engaging sci-fi read will relish this novel.
ZE0RES by Chuck Wendig
ZE0RES is my favorite Wendig novel, hands-down. I just re-read it to study the master craftsman’s work. It’s great. Everything that occasionally bothers me in some of his other novels (he's overly imaginative metaphors and similes, and tap dancing between points of view) all work GREAT in this novel. Plus, it’s just a plain fun ride that mashes up the sci-fi, horror, and thriller genres in an impressive fashion.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow was recommended to me by a member of my critique group. Well, now a year after that recommendation, I got around to reading the novel. I'm thrilled I did. It’s wonderful. I didn’t expect to like it very much since it is outside my usual reading repertoire. I enjoyed the book so much, I am tempted to read Rules of Civility by the same author. Anyone interested in 20th-century Russian culture and immersive character studies will find this novel fascinating.