Interesting fact: my Favorite Reads of 2018 is one of the most viewed articles on this site. It’s ranked 4th by traffic, behind only articles about Ingram Spark and Kindle Direct Publishing. This surprised me. It also tells me that people really enjoy these end-of-year summaries, and that’s more than enough reason to do another one.
Before we get into the meat of this list, a disclaimer: this isn’t a ranking of books that hit the best seller lists or received a lot of publicity. These are my personal favorites among the books I had the chance to read this year. There are fewer than last year because, unfortunately, the Other Job took a huge bite out of my free time. I haven’t had a chance to do nearly as much reading as I would have liked.
This list covers a range of genres, and many if not all of the authors are indies. (Read indie books! There are a ton of incredible stories out there from indie authors, their books are often more affordable than traditionally published ones, and you’re helping someone fulfill their dreams. What could be better than that?)
A word on how I evaluate books: I’m intrigued by new and unique concepts, subversion of expectations, and genre blending. Bonus points if it makes me laugh. Comparing most of these books to each other would be impossible, so they’re organized alphabetically by title. If you’d like to read more, each heading links to my review of that book.
Now, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2019!
In Dead Inside, deceased detective Dan Deadman’s life takes a darker turn. And that’s saying a lot for a series that started out with Dan hunting a child-snatching serial killer. Although it’s hard to name a favorite chapter, mine would probably be when Dan and Ollie find themselves in the Malwhere. Ollie runs into her ‘father,’ the hideously evil entity that kidnapped her as a small child. And Dan… Dan relives his own death.
One of the things I love about this character is that he’s nearly indestructible. He’s a tank. Whether it’s massive gunshot wounds, brutally destructive beatings, or twenty-story falls, Dan just keeps on ticking. (Sometimes with a little help from his friends, like Ollie, who helpfully stitches on new limbs when Dan’s get mangled or flat out torn off.)
But if Dial D for Deadman proved that Dan can take a beating and keep going, Dead Inside (ironically) proves that he’s still very much human. This is noir detective scifi at its finest, and the author’s mastery of grim humor is the perfect counterpoint to the darkness of Deadman’s world.
In The Grey Walls, our heroes battle an interdimensional intruder like nothing they’ve ever seen. 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. You see, this inter-D creature is quite sentient. And it doesn’t want its latest meal getting away.
Rik Ty is a master of creepy scifi that pushes the edges of our reality, but he also knows how to spin a heartwarming tale of friends coming through to save the day. I really wish I’d found time to read more of his work this year, and I definitely plan to do so in 2020.
A young Adelphi shape-shifter crashes into the side of a mountain during a snowstorm, breaks his arm, and falls into the realm of the subterranean Darane folk. But all is not well in the caverns beneath the mountain. The Glimmer Heart that sustains the Darane is slowly failing, and in its shadow a cruel leader who worships the Dark Ones has risen to power. The shape-shifter and his new friends will need all the courage and cleverness they can muster to survive the approaching darkness and save the Heart of the Mountain.
O’Hagan’s writing reminds me of scifi legends like Ursula K. Le Guin. Heart of the Mountain is a great story for all ages.
Interspecies Poker Tournament takes the cake for the most hilarious fantasy mystery of the year. A murderer has been targeting communities of supernatural creatures, from the brownies to the dryads to the mer folk, and each victim has been killed in the most insulting way possible for their race. Now it’s up to Chief Thief-Catcher Ned Spinks, along with his rag-tag band of mostly-supernatural fellow Thief-Catchers, to corner the devilishly elusive culprit.
While the story has its grim moments, it’s tame enough (and fast paced enough) for readers of all ages. A highly enjoyable read!
Prize fighter Roy von Waldenberger’s inner wolf makes him stronger, faster, tougher– but it also fights for control of his mind.
This is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile what’s right by his conscience with what’s right for his future. A prize fighter on the cusp of retirement, he has been given a choice between retaining his reputation as an honest man, and ‘falling’ to a new fighter in exchange for the ability to leave with a healthy retirement bonus and his good standing intact.
Last Fight of the Old Hound is gripping, evocative, and the best novelette I’ve read this year.
The Shan Takhu Legacy series by Eric Michael Craig
Set in a future where humans have colonized the inner Solar System, multiple story lines converge to produce a gripping blend of mystery and deep-space horror, dark political intrigue and thrilling scientific discovery. Made up of Legacy of Pandora, Fulcrum of Odysseus, and Redemption of Sisyphus, the Shan Taku Legacy is a series that asks the big questions. Like will we survive the transition into a space-faring species? And will we survive what we find out there?
If you enjoyed the hard science, intrigue, and interstellar action of Star Trek, and felt thatTerminator‘s Skynet wasn’t far-reaching or threatening enough, this series is definitely for you!
Grist has built a world that feels truly alien. The world of Soul Jacker is strange and fascinating: memories are injectable, mind bombs can disrupt and destroy thousands of minds without leaving a physical trace, and we’ve honed hacking the human mind down to a fine art. We plumb the depths of a world ravaged by fuel wars and rising sea levels, and the depths of the protagonist’s oft-broken-and-rehealed mind– a labyrinthine maze of hidden memories and missing pieces, hidden behind steel walls of protective scar tissue and stalked by monsters.
Soul Jacker is a wilder ride than I ever expected, full of dizzying highs and sickening lows that I found oddly satisfying. This is a novel that will thrill you, horrify you, and make you think about where we’re going. I loved it, and I think you will too.
Looking Forward into 2020
There were a lot of books I meant to read this year that I wasn’t able to get to. In the coming year, I’m hoping to have time to read (and review) more of those. If you know of a book that you think I might like, feel free to leave a comment or use the contact form to send me an email. Here’s to finding more excellent reads in 2020!