Word Foreword
Will's Weird Words

Word Foreword

Retrospective: Books in 2018

It’s almost April and I’m still doing retrospectives. Last year I did an overhaul of this website in an attempt to make it prettier, more professional, and easier for me to deal with. And while it did those things it didn’t make it more accessible as much as I wanted. It required a lot of work, and frankly it still looks empty – which is not what I want. So I’ve found a new website creator and over the next few months I’ll be working on that and move it over hopefully around June or July.

This retrospective I’ll be taking a look at my Top 9 books from 2018 – if you don’t know why I do a Top 9 then go find it somewhere else I’m tired of telling you. Of these, I wanted to note that there were a lot of stories I read that didn’t quite cut the list but there were some that I struggled a lot to try and not cut but it ended up happening anyway. Witchmark by CL Polk was really a lot of fun with an alternative/hidden Victorian world and lots of Gay Strength – the characters in particular were super interesting and well written. Rogue Protocol was a blast and an up-tick from the weak plotted second book in The Murderbot Diaries, and I love Murderbot but I already had one of these books in my list, so it ended up not making the cut. And finally The Only Harmless Great Thing which is a novelette by Bo Bolander which is about super smart elephants and nuclear war but is told out of sync and makes for a super exciting read that I devoured in one sitting.

On to the list!

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9. Starless by Jacqueline Carey

In the world of Starless some gods have been exiled and live on the ground with people, but they are still worshipped and revered. The world feels like a long-forgotten science fantasy world, but it definitely lines into the fantasy part and I think the “science” feel comes from the fact that the world feels old so many apocalyptic fantasy is a better category. Khai and his soul-twin Zariya are bound on a journey to the west to defeat the dark god Miasmus. On top of the super in-depth world building, fun and complex magic, and the breadth of history and culture, but Khai and company are incredibly compelling characters. It’s also worth noting that Starless is a Young Adult book that deals with some heavy transgender issues, and focuses on it during the second act and if you have a problem with that you can fuck off.

8. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Here’s more Young Adult Fantasy with purpose. One of my favorite things in storytelling is how to re-tell already great stories in new and meaningful ways and one of my favorite examples is Eragon by Christopher Paolini. This book, the first in the Legacy of Orisha, starts off in just that way as a fantasy retelling of Star Wars but adds and removes its own tropes and elements that make it stand on its own and by the end of the first act is off and running to be its own story with its own characters and meanings.

7. Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne

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There’s so much trope-y, punny fun here to start off The Tales of Pell. If you’re a fan of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the jokes and humor from Xanth, check this out because it mashes up many retellings and stories in a fun and humorous way that also tells a heartwarming story.

6. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

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Cassidy Blake can see ghosts ever since she had a near-death experience. As a matter of fact, her best friend is a ghost and follows her around – the most friendly haunting. I went on a trip for a few weeks and brought only two books with me (I expected to be busy, don’t judge me) – one of them was City of Ghosts and I had finished it before getting off the plane. This is quick, easy to read, and so much fun.

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5. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

This is the finale of The Murderbot Diaries – and other than the first one all of these novellas came out during 2018 and all of them are fantastic. This is really sort of a placeholder for the entire series and, as I mentioned above, they all had a place in my favorites even though I felt weird taking up a third of these slots with Murderbot. All of them have wonderful ambition and show humanity through a startlingly bizarre and unique lens of Murderbot – a hacked bot who has hacked their governing module for freewill and all they want to do is Netflix and chill solo. While each novella has their own standalone story, the four together tell an overarching story but the world is deep and interesting which has opened the way for a full-length novel that will come out next year.

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4. Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

Oh shit. I loved this book so much. The characters are stupid and loveable, and the premise is ridiculous as hell. Imagine Hitchhikers Guide (twice this blog, huh) meets Eurovision. After the Sentience War the galaxy has created a competition to dole out resources to planets and that competition: a pop music contest. Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes were one-hit-wonders who have been chosen to perform as Earth’s representatives who must train, meet new aliens, and impress the galactic with glitter and lipstick.

3. Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuide

The Wayward Children series has been a wonderful exploration of portal fantasy to the point that it has some tongue-in-cheek things to say about the genre. There seems to be an overarching story about a Professor Xavier style school while students talk about their times in Narnia or Wonderland analogues. Each novella explores a different character (or set of characters) in a new world. Beneath the Sugar Sky imagines a confectionary-focused world where even the ground is cake and quickly become great when not all is what it seemed in this sweet world.

2. The Midnight Front by David Mack

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World War 2 is a tired setting that has been done to death but Mack reinvigorates this with a story that spans years and years and has one of the most fun and challenging systems of magic that I’ve seen in modern fiction that seems to mirror the Warlock from Dungeons & Dragons with a whole cavalcade of more detail. Sorcerers must make a pact with a great demon, which gives them access to lesser demons who all have a specific ability or effect attached to them. While using a demon, they have access to that ability but the demon is in your head, chiding and talking to you. The Midnight Front follows a group of sorcerers who work for the allies against the Nazi sorcerers. The characters are brilliant but the system and the demons are really where the story shines in a wonderful, thematic way.

1. Kings of the Wyld by Nicolas Eames

Imagine getting the band back together to play Dungeons & Dragons. I mean that quite literally, because Eames runs a parallel between music and adventuring in a perfect and thorough way.  In The Band (the name of the series) adventurers are given contracts by agents to fight monsters or perform in arenas with other bands. To take the parallel a step further, Eames draws correlation between certain band roles and adventuring roles; Mat is a rogue who dual wields knives which is a parallel for drumsticks. The story involves an ancient race using magic from another world to open portals to this world, and then being wiped out – but one remains and entices a horde of monsters to lay siege to a city where one of the bandmates daughter is. He gathers the bandmates back together for one last adventure to save her.

Hope you enjoyed this, and found something that sounds interesting. Pick one up at your local book store and don’t forget to rate and review your books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads.

Will Sobel