The reason I was a bit reluctant to make up a year-end list this year was because I only read about half the number of books I read last year. But I still managed to read more than a book a week, so it all works out to provide me with a healthy list of books I'd heartily recommend to fellow genre mutts. I basically came up with a top ten of books, then threw in one more I really felt deserved to be included to make it eleven, then remembered a half-dozen comic book series I loved, too.
So, here they are, in no particular order I might add: seventeen of my favorite reads from 2015!
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Tor Books, 2014) - I received this as part of the Hugo Award reading packet along with the other nominated books, and it wound up being the one I voted for. It didn't win, but whatevs. Addison is actually a pen name for Sarah Monette, whose short stories I have quite enjoyed in years previous, so it was cool to see she can just as handily write a sweeping, fantastical novel.
Knuckleball by Tom Pitts (One Eye Press, 2015) - A crime novella based in San Francisco, and as the first 2015 release of the One Eye Press Singles, I dare say it set a high bar for the subsequent releases under that banner. This also marked my first time reading one of Tom's books, despite having bought a couple others previous to reading this one, thanks to high praise from some of his peers.
Batgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside by Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, & Babs Tarr (DC Comics, 2015) - I have never really read many superhero comic books, mainly because of the learning curve for a series' canon, not to mention the infuriating crossover events that demand you read multiple series just to get a grasp of what's happening. This book was great in that the backstory was taken care of succinctly and the new approach to the character was done wonderfully, with artwork to match. It made me a fan of Batgirl, that's for sure.
Mercy House by Adam Cesare (Hydra, 2015) - Holy crap, this book was like something Richard Laymon would've written after he'd been bitten by a radioactive spider. Intense, relentless, with a backdrop you don't often see in horror, and a tangible sense of glee from Adam's words as he unleashes a hundred-mile-an-hour horror show.
Fuckin' Lie Down Already by Tom Piccirilli (Crossroad Press, 2010) - After a hard fought battle with cancer, Tom PIccirilli died this year. He has fast become one of my all-time favorite authors, despite having read but a handful of his books. Each one though just devastates in remarkable fashion. And word of his passing compelled me to reach for one of his books to read. I picked a doozy with this hard-bitten bit of noir that is as riveting as it is remorseless.
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro (Image Comics, 2015) - I first heard about Kelly Sue when her weird western series, Pretty Deadly, started up. That was pretty great. Then I heard this one was coming out and upon reading the premise for it, I was immediately sold. Take the women-in-prison genre from the old exploitation films, set it in space, and slip in a little commentary for good measure, not to mention DeConnick's inimitable style, and this was just pure entertainment all the way around.
It's Only Death by Lee Thompson (DarkFuse, 2015) - I suspect there isn't a genre Lee Thompson couldn't nail. Horror, check. Fantasy, check. Thriller, check. Noir, you betcha. This novella was just riveting and he has two more out in the noir genre that I am very keen to check out in 2016, plus he's got more in the horror and thriller and who knows what other genres coming down the pipe. The dude's a machine.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn & Cliff Chiang (Image Comics, 2015) - If you grew up in the 80s and you go in for that nostalgia vibe with your genre fiction, then baby, this one is for you. Take a little Stand By Me and mix it up with some E.T. and Back to the Future, and you might have something like Paper Girls. It's only three issues in, but I'm already overjoyed with how it's shaping up.
Prodigal by Melanie Tem (Dell, 1991; re-released by Crossroad Press, 2010) - It was with the news of Melanie Tem's death back in February that I figured I was overdue in reading her work. So I opted to go for her debut novel. It earned a nomination for a Locus Award for Best First Novel, and tied with Kathe Koja's Cipher to win the Stoker Award for Best First Novel. It was easy to see how it garnered such acclaim, and I'm definitely making it a point to read as much of her work that I can track down in the years to come.
Preacher Vol. 9: Alamo by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon (Vertigo Comics, 2001) - I have held off as long as I can, but this year I had to finally stop pretending there was more story coming in this series. I didn't want it to end, as Preacher became my favorite comic book series ever. It is like some perfect storm of everything I love about storytelling. And this final volume in the series, with Custer on his hellbent mission to hunt down God, did not disappoint.
Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler (Titan Books, 2015) - Good lord, if you want some high-octane sci-fi pulp, this book delivers. I had initially thought this was gonna be some kind of satire take on Nazis in space, but it actually feels more like a love letter to the serial adventures of yesteryear, with enough no-holds-barred, tongue-in-cheek attitude to keep it from feeling old-fashioned. I knew Victor Gischler wouldn't disappoint.
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Double Feature Vol. 3 by Alex de Campi & others (Dark Horse Comics, 2015) - Speaking of no-holds-barred, Alex de Campi's minor masterpiece continued this year with even more blood-spattered, obscenity-laden action. "Slay Ride" and "Blood Lagoon" differ in tone and delivery, but each one fits snugly in the grindhouse motif, and it was cool to see "Blood Lagoon" offered up as a sequel of sorts to "Bee Vixens from Mars," which kicked this whole series off.
Hashtag by Eryk Pruitt (280 Steps, 2015) - I actually interviewed Eryk about his book earlier in the year (you can read that by clicking here). A crime novel that's a little bit social commentary and a lotta bit gritty character study, with three lowlife characters given the spotlight in succession for one wild ride. It's a bit of a slow burn in spots, but Eryk really lets each character stand out and build to a satisfying end.
The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block (Hard Case Crime, 2015) - What I initially thought was going to be a straight forward private-eye story turned out to be way more than that. In one sense it felt like vintage Block, in another it felt like a thumb in the eye of conventional crime fiction. Block presents his main character with no filter on the lens. The guy is damaged goods, but it's not until your knee deep in the story do you realize just how damaged.
Harrow County Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook (Dark Horse Comics, 2015) - Cullen Bunn's The Sixth Gun was a year-end recommendation I saw a few years ago from someone, I forget who, that had me very interested in his work. I only just read that one this month, and checked out his take on DC's Lobo earlier in the year. But this southern gothic series that really stands out as a gem in horror, and really shows off how great a collaboration Bunn and Crook have here.
Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley (Shock Totem Publications, 2012) - Is this the only short story collection on my list? Jeez, it is. Well, I didn't read too many this year, but even if I had there is no doubt Yardley's collection would have a secure spot on this list of favorites. She's turned a lot of her attention to the novel-length fiction, but if you want a glimpse of just how whimsically dark she can get, then you really need to check out this book.
Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch (Image Comics, 2014) - I really didn't know what to make of this series when it first came out. I thought it was gonna be a by-the-numbers epic fantasy, but it's the furthest thing from. It's a foul-mouthed feast of female ass-kickers. Imagine a swords and sorcery version of the A-Team, but with much stronger writing than anything George Peppard and gang had to work with.
Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (Mulholland Books, 2015) - If I had to choose, my love of Lansdale tales would force me to pick Paradise Sky as my favorite book of the year. The book is over 400 pages, but it's a rocket ride like the slim western novels of yesteryear. The legend of Deadwood Dick is brought to life like no one else could do it, with a book that feels very much like a Lansdale novel, yet sets itself apart. I don't know if I would label it his best work yet, but the argument can certainly be made, because it's that damned good.
So there's my list, folks. What book or books did you love this year? Let me know with a comment or leave a link to your own list of faves, so I can check 'em out.
Oh, and have a MERRY MERRY and a HAPPY HAPPY!