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.
Curses of Scale by S.D. Reeves
A somber tale of love, fey magic, and cursed dragons. The author has a knack for colorful descriptions that pull the reader into the story, and there were many scenes that I could see, smell, and feel as if I was there. Amid a sea of authors who skip setting in favor of rushing straight into the action, S.D. Reeves’ immersive style stands out.
Reeves is also an author who understands human emotion. All too many tragedies that befall fantasy characters never really hit home with the audience or even the characters themselves. Reeves’ protagonists, however, are human and believable in the best way. They experience losses and yearnings that will resonate with anyone who has ever lost a dear loved one (and, for that matter, with anyone who has ever been a teenager yearning to journey out into the world, despite its immense hostility, and find greatness.)
Dark by Paul L Arvidson
Equal parts science fiction and 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. Danger and horror aplenty await in the Dark, along with more than a couple of surprising discoveries. It’s not often that I discover a truly new concept in science fiction, and I was sad to see this book come to an end.
Dial D for Deadman by Barry J Hutchison
This is a superbly executed hybrid: part noir detective novel, part paranormal mystery, part comedy. 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.
Deadman combines everything I enjoy most about the hard-boiled detective/noir crime genre, mixes it with a science fiction world that’s unique, creepy, and well-thought-out in its own right, and adds a dash of dark humor. In a world where so many authors are studiously coloring within the lines, it’s extremely refreshing to read something that mixes genres so well.
Dirty Deeds by Armand Rosamilia
This is a crime novel with a twist– and not the kind you’d expect. It’s packed with gritty, believable characters, plot twists, and enough violence to make it feel wholly authentic without turning into a blood bath. This is gripping fare, and Rosamilia’s writing is truly fun to read.
Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories by Jeanette O’Hagan
Within the pages of this collection lie tales of shapeshifters and seafaring peoples, youthful struggles, first loves, enduring loss, and incredible courage. All but a few of the stories are set in the world of Nardva, and some of the characters will be familiar to readers of O’Hagan’s Akrad’s Children.
Much like science fiction legend Ursula K. Le Guin, O’Hagan shows herself to be a versatile and talented author. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her work become a classic before the end of my lifetime.
Save Our Souls by Leighton Dean
This aptly-named tale follows pilot and Captain’s son, Ford, and his family, the crew of the freighter Jian Seng, as they fight to survive in the face of an unholy trinity of catastrophes. The seemingly lifeless ship that barreled into their craft is only the first salvo of a universe that seems intent on eliminating the crew of the Jian Seng in the most unpleasant ways possible.
A dark descent into the psychological fallout of fear, stress, survivor’s guilt, and the biological imperative to survive no matter the cost, Save Our Souls is sure to find fans among those who enjoy their science fiction with a healthy dose of horror. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re a fan of darker science fiction.
Shadowfest by D.J. Reid
In Shadowfest, author D.J. Reid spins a clever murder mystery out of Celtic and Greco-Roman myth and folklore. It’s a delightfully complex tale, with endearingly well-rounded characters, hidden motives, eldritch magic, and mythical creatures galore.
This tale kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish with all of its unexpected twists and turns, and had one of the most satisfying endings I’ve read in a long time. Like a complex Celtic knot, all of the story’s many threads are tucked into place in the end. Fast paced enough to thrill teen and adult readers alike, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good myth and folklore-inspired fantasy.
Stormhaven Rising by Eric Michael Craig
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.
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.
Tales from Alternate Earths 2 by Inklings Press
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.
It’s a rare anthology that I enjoy through and through. Inklings Press presents a wide range of works to make you think, to inspire you, to remind you not to take for granted where we are– while keeping in mind how far we have yet to go. With something for everyone and a lot to love, this anthology is an instant classic.
Thrill Kings: The Shaftway by Rik Ty
This entry might be best described as Lovecraftian science fiction. An inter-dimensional rescue worker gets skunked by the otherworldly creature he’s trying to rescue, leading to the hallucinogenic trip hinted at in the cover art. Author Rik Ty has a unique writing style that lends itself well weird science fiction, and his descriptions are, as Nonstop would say, ‘ace.’
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.”
I recently picked up another of Rik Ty’s short stories, Thrill Kings: The Gray Walls, and it’s possibly even better than The Shaftway. This is without a doubt an author you should be following if you enjoy interdimensional science fiction with a dash of horror!
Welcome to the Madhouse by S.E. Sasaki
Welcome to the Madhouse chronicles the adventures of Dr. Grace Lord as she begins her residency aboard the medical space station Nelson Mandela. Plenty of challenges are in store, from eccentric surgeons to a dangerously manipulative psychiatrist to an alien super-virus, but Dr. Lord is not entirely on her own: she soon finds an unlikely ally in Bud, an android gifted with artificial intelligence.
This is one of the most unique thrillers I’ve read, and although “heartwarming” is an unusual descriptor for this genre, I think it fits. Madhouse is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-wrenching read that will restore a little of your faith in humanity and provide you with a great escape from the cold, grey light of reality.
If you’re a fan of medical thrillers, space station stories, or really anything science fiction, I highly recommend that you check out this series!
Honorable mentions go to Thrill Kings: The Gray Walls by Rik Ty, which I just finished but haven’t reviewed yet, and Caligation by Brhi Stokes, which I loved but haven’t gotten around to writing a review for. (Definitely going to get to that in 2019!)
It’s been such an insanely busy year that there are a ton of great books on my reading list that I didn’t get to in 2018. If you don’t see your book on this list, don’t despair: I may not have gotten to it yet. Here’s to finding even more awesome authors in 2019!
3 thoughts on “Favorite Reads of 2018”
Leo McBride says:
Many thanks for including Tales From Alternate Earths 2, sir! And now I have to catch up with the rest of the list 😀
D J Reid says:
Happy New Year, Leland! Thanks for including Shadowfest in your list. Will certainly be checking out the rest of your recommendations:-)