Set in a future where Earth has become all but uninhabitable and human colonization has extended throughout the inner Solar System, Legacy of Pandora follows two separate storylines. Out in the cold dark of the Neptune L-4 Trojan Cluster, the ice harvesting research vessel Jakob Waltz is about to run into serious trouble. Back home in the governing Council of the Human Union, FleetCartel Chancellor Katryna Roja is just beginning to uncover a twisted web of corruption, resource theft, and murder.
In The Grey Walls, our heroes battle an interdimensional intruder like nothing they’ve ever seen before. Having taken over an office tower, the creature seems to be slowly absorbing its hapless victims– which include Nonstop, Krork, and all of the office workers, as well as a multitude of nightmarish creatures from other dimensions.
The result is an office tower filled with a maze of constantly-shifting gray walls– walls which bear still-living impressions of the creature’s meals.
I discovered a ton of new favorite authors this year!
Those who know me know that I enjoy a wide range of genres. I’m intrigued by writing that’s unique: new concepts, subversions of expectations, genre blending. Interestingly enough, most of the books that fit my preferences this year came from independent authors.
This list covers a range of genres. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title instead of numerically. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.
Without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2018.
The haunting and all-too-believable tale of the first woman cosmonaut to reach space. A Handmaid’s Tale-esque account of a present day where witch trials never went out of style. An alternate past where Hitler was diverted from the course that eventually saw him rise to power and orchestrate the largest genocide in recorded history. An alternate history where an Andalusian polymath invented the glider and gave birth to a future utterly unlike that which we know today.
Dial D for Deadman is a superbly executed hybrid: part noir detective novel, part paranormal mystery, part comedy. The action takes place on a popular interstellar crossroads called Parloo, in the gritty, downtrodden surface city known to its inhabitants as Down Here.
Our hero is Dan Deadman, deceased detective at large. Between ne’er-do-wells opening portals to the Malwhere, interdimensional amnesiacs, and a missing-persons case with an exceptionally gory twist, Dan quickly finds himself up to his eyeballs in trouble.
At times like this, he’d give his left nut to be a real detective. If he still had nuts.
A short story about an inter-dimensional rescue worker who gets skunked by the otherworldly creature he’s trying to rescue, Thrill Kings: The Shaftway might be best described as Lovecraftian science fiction. And as such, it brilliantly succeeds.
Protagonist Nonstop corners a small, furry, brownie-shaped creature in a ruined warehouse and sends it back to its home dimension– but not before the terrified creature gases him with something unpleasant and highly hallucinogenic. What follows is a harrowing climb out of a ruined elevator shaft while our hero struggles in the grip of an incredibly bad trip.
Author Rik Ty has a unique writing style that lends itself well to this futuristic scifi-Lovecraft blend, and his descriptions are, as Nonstop would say, ‘ace.’ Here are a couple of my favorites.
Nonstop revved and drew nearer. The Inter-D looked like a bath mat, like a bath-mat-cake, or a brownie, or a cake-loaf, or something else that was low and thick with a top coating of acorns. He guessed its sustained speed to be about seven miles an hour, which, in his opinion, was respectable for a rectangle.
The moonlight, the beautiful moonlight, showed herself in several shafts of low light haze, which streamed down from holes in the ceiling and seemed to announce: “Here: take a closer look at some old file cabinets.”
These evocative descriptions and their subtle humor are the icing on the cake of a truly excellent weird scifi short story. If you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, what are you waiting for?
Thrill Kings: The Shaftway and Thrill Kings: The Size Of Minneapolis Upright are available on Amazon and will be free every Saturday in October 2018. Check out author Rik Ty’s website for more info about this promising series.
In the wake of the discovery of an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, the United States government scrambles to contain the news before it can spark a panic– but some secrets are too big to keep. Soon they aren’t the only ones rushing to devise countermeasures.
Their most viable competitors are the Chinese, and a global megacorporation to end all megacorporations: Stormhaven, founded and run by uber wealthy reclusive genius Colton Taylor. (Think Elon Musk, but considerably more altruistic and an all-around decent human being.)
Set in a near future where the US Department of Defense and NASA have only become more encumbered by bureaucratic gridlock (and in NASA’s case, insufficient funding,) private sector technologies have evolved leaps and bounds beyond that of the public sector. As such, Taylor’s Stormhaven may be the only real hope Earth has. There’s just one problem: private spaceflight is strictly forbidden, not just in the US, but on a global scale. In light of the strained political climate of impending doom, the last thing the US government wants to do is grant Stormhaven permission to reach space.
The tense and at times disastrous narrative that evolves from this situation is equal parts grim and inspiring. Stormhaven Rising represents an interesting blend of genres: part political thriller, part hard scifi, and part impending disaster. Together they make for a fun and fascinating read.
Paul L Arvidson’s Dark is an unexpected hybrid, part science fiction and part heroic fantasy. The residents of the place known as the Dark inhabit a labyrinth of pipes and drains surrounding a central aqueduct known as the River, and readers will quickly realize that it is a created world rather than an organic one.
Dun, a budding shaman, and his boisterous friend Padj, along with a clever alchemist named Tali and their mysterious guide, Myrch, are tasked with following the River to its source and finding out what has become of their clan’s upstream neighbors.
Grounded: A Dragon’s Tale follows a young dragon named Manycolors who has been burdened with the care of a flightless sibling. The narrative takes short breaks to focus on a human youth named Hote, who battles a mysterious illness as he works with the Watchers studying the dragons’ planet.
With its themes of misfit youngsters, youthful rebellion, and the looming threat of greedy poachers, I quickly formed suspicions regarding how the story might turn out. I’m thrilled to report that the author broke out of those tropes to create something unique, intriguing and unusual.