Awards #2: The Best Books of 2014

In the second Awards post of 2014, I turn my attention to the best books to come out for this year, running down, like I have done in previous years on The Founding Fields, the Top 25 novels of this year from a variety of genres in fiction, but mainly science fiction and fantasy.

A few important things/rules to take into consideration, before we begin.

  • I am writing this on a different computer to my normal one, so apologies if the formatting has changed slightly.
  • I can include books from any genre, be it science fiction, fantasy or a thriller as long as it is released in 2014 and a work of fiction. However, as I have predominantly read SFF this year, you can expect this list to be full of SFF related titles.
  • No author can be included in the same list twice, unless they are collaborating with another author and/or writing in pennames, as is the case with Daniel Abraham, who is included in this list twice, but under a penname with Ty Franck for Cibola Burn.
  • I will not include book review links as the majority have not been published on this site. However, throughout 2015, I will be reposting book reviews from The Founding Fields onto The Fictional Hangout so you will be able to see them then.
  • I will instead be including including links to Goodreads, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com sites where you can buy the book and find out more about it, as well as read what other people thought. If you do want to find out what I thought of the books, you can find my entire history of pre-Fictional Hangout book reviews here.
  • As per tradition, this list remains 25 books per year. I have not read as many titles this year as I would have hoped, with 250 being my intended target (which I managed last year) and as of the time of writing I have managed “only” 194 books. Also, I cannot read every book that’s released this year, so you can expect to see stuff like The Bone Clocks and Skin Game absent because I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. 
  • This is the second out of three parts of my “Best” of 2014 series. The first can be found here, focusing on TV series, and the third will launch either just before or just after the beginning of the year, depending on when I get to see Birdman & Whiplash in my local cinema. However regardless of whether I see those or not, it will go live before the end of January 2015 at the latest. I may get around to writing up a fourth, bonus ‘best of’ list for comics depending on whether or not I have the time, as well as a fifth one for games – but again, that depends on whether or not I can get a copy of Dragon Age: Inqusition before the year is out or not. 
  • You can interact with me on twitter under the username @baneofkings or in the comments below as to what your selections for your favourite books of the year were!

#25) KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY by Kieran Shea (EBK #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Titan Books) | Amazon.com (Titan Books)

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.

#24) HOLLOW WORLD by Michael J. Sullivan

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Self-Published) | Amazon.com (Self-Published)

The future is coming…for some, sooner than others.

Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man who is about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe and done the right thing, but when faced with a terminal illness, he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage, and if it works, he’ll face a world that challenges his understanding of what it means to be human, what it takes to love, and the cost of paradise. He could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…but only if he can survive Hollow World. 

Welcome to the future and a new sci-fantasy thriller from the bestselling author of The Riyria Revelations.

#23) DEFENDERS by Will McIntosh

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

The invaders came to claim earth as their own, overwhelming us with superior weapons and the ability to read our minds like open books. 

Our only chance for survival was to engineer a new race of perfect soldiers to combat them. Seventeen feet tall, knowing and loving nothing but war, their minds closed to the aliens. 

But these saviors could never be our servants. And what is done cannot be undone.

#22) THE ABYSS BEYOND DREAMS: CHRONICLE OF THE FALLERS by Peter F. Hamilton

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (MacMillan) | Amazon.com (Del Ray)

The year is 3326. Nigel Sheldon, one of the founders of the Commonwealth, receives a visit from the Raiel—self-appointed guardians of the Void, the enigmatic construct at the core of the galaxy that threatens the existence of all that lives. The Raiel convince Nigel to participate in a desperate scheme to infiltrate the Void.

Once inside, Nigel discovers that humans are not the only life-forms to have been sucked into the Void, where the laws of physics are subtly different and mental powers indistinguishable from magic are commonplace. The humans trapped there are afflicted by an alien species of biological mimics—the Fallers—that are intelligent but merciless killers.

Yet these same aliens may hold the key to destroying the threat of the Void forever—if Nigel can uncover their secrets. As the Fallers’ relentless attacks continue, and the fragile human society splinters into civil war, Nigel must uncover the secrets of the Fallers—before he is killed by the very people he has come to save. 

#21) SWORN IN STEEL by Douglas Hulick (Tales of the Kin #2)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Pan) | Amazon.com (Roc) 
It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and unexpectedly elevated himself into the ranks of the criminal elite. Now, as the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s learning just how good he used to have it.

With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption. The only problem is the offer isn’t for him.

Now Drothe finds himself on the way to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, with an offer to make and a price on his head. And the grains of sand in the hour glass are running out, fast…

#20) THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN by Brian McClellan (The Powder Mage #2)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

‘The hounds at our heels will soon know we are lions’ Tamas’s invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counter-offensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god. In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers might come too quickly. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself alongside the god-chef Mihali as the last line of defence against Kresimir’s advancing army. Tamas’s generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye.

#19) THE WIDOW’S HOUSE by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger & The Coin #3)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

Lord Regent Geder Palliako’s war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction.

Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall.

And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

#18) THE FOREVER WATCH by David Ramirez

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Hodder & Stoughton) | Amazon.com (Thomas Dunne Books)

All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer…

As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered “mission critical.” She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.

When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply “Retired,” nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.

What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in this thrilling page turner.

#17) SHADOWPLAY by Laura Lam (Micah Grey #2)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Strange Chemistry) | Amazon.com (Strange Chemistry)

The circus lies behind Micah Grey in dust and ashes.

He and the white clown, Drystan, take refuge with the once-great magician, Jasper Maske. When Maske agrees to teach them his trade, his embittered rival challenges them to a duel which could decide all of their fates. People also hunt both Micah and the person he was before the circus—the runaway daughter of a noble family. And Micah discovers there is magic and power in the world, far beyond the card tricks and illusions he’s perfecting…

A tale of phantom wings, a clockwork hand, and the delicate unfurling of new love, Shadowplay continues Micah Grey’s extraordinary journey.

#16) THE SEVERED STREETS by Paul Cornell (Shadow Police #2)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Tor) | Amazon.com (Tor)

Summer in London: a city in turmoil. The vicious murder of a well-known MP is like a match to tinder but Detective Inspector James Quill and his team know that it’s not a run-of-the-mill homicide. Still coming to terms with their new-found second sight, they soon discover that what is invisible to others – the killer – is visible to them. Even if they have no idea who it is. 

Then there are more deaths. The bodies of rich, white men are found in circumstances similar to those that set the streets of London awash with fear during the late 1800s: the Whitechapel murders. Even with their abilities to see the supernatural, accepting that Jack the Ripper is back from the dead is a tough ask for Quill’s team. As they try to get to grips with their abilities and a case that’s spiralling out of control, Quill realizes that they have to understand more about this shadowy London, a world of underground meetings, bizarre and fantastical auctions, and objects that are ‘get out of hell free’ cards. But the team’s unlikely guide, a bestselling author, can’t offer them much insight – and their other option, the Rat King, speaks only in riddles. 

Relying on old-fashioned police work and improvising with their new skills only lands them in deeper water, and they soon realize that the investigation is going to hell – literally. And if they’re not careful, they may be going with it . . .

#15) GLAZE by Kim Curran

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Self-Published) | Amazon.com (Self-Published)

Petri Quinn is counting down the days till she turns 16 and can get on GLAZE – the ultimate social network that is bringing the whole world together into one global family. But when a peaceful government protest turns into a full-blown riot with Petri shouldering the blame, she’s handed a ban. Her life is over before it’s even started.

Desperate to be a part of the hooked-up society, Petri finds an underground hacker group and gets a black market chip fitted. But this chip has a problem: it has no filter and no off switch. Petri can see everything happening on GLAZE, all the time. Including things she was never meant to see.

As her life is plunged into danger, Petri is faced with a choice. Join GLAZE… or destroy it.

#14) THE OVERSIGHT by Charlie Fletcher (The Oversight Trilogy #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

Only five still guard the borders between the worlds.
Only five hold back what waits on the other side. 

Once the Oversight, the secret society that policed the lines between the mundane and the magic, counted hundreds of brave souls among its members. Now their numbers can be counted on a single hand.

When a vagabond brings a screaming girl to the Oversight’s London headquarters, it seems their hopes for a new recruit will be fulfilled – but the girl is a trap.

As the borders between this world and the next begin to break down, murders erupt across the city, the Oversight are torn viciously apart, and their enemies close in for the final blow.

This gothic fantasy from Charlie Fletcher (the Stoneheart trilogy) spins a tale of witch-hunters, supra-naturalists, mirror-walkers and magicians. Meet the Oversight, and remember: when they fall, so do we all.

#13) HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie (Shattered Sea #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Harper Voyager) | Amazon.com (Del Ray)

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…

#12) BREACH ZONE by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops #3)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Headline) | Amazon.com (Ace)

The third book in Myke Cole’s acclaimed Shadow Ops series. The Great Reawakening introduced magic into an already volatile world. Many of those with newfound powers have been conscripted by the US Army … but when the barriers between our reality and the source of this magic starts to fall, they will have to decide who they are really fighting for.

#11) PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence (The Red Queen’s War #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Harper Voyager) | Amazon.com (Ace)

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other.

Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north.

In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

Experience does not lend Jalan wisdom; but here and there he unearths a corner of the truth. He discovers that they are all pieces on a board, pieces that may be being played in the long, secret war the Red Queen has waged throughout her reign, against the powers that stand behind thrones and nations, and for higher stakes than land or gold.

#10) THE 57 LIVES OF ALEX WAYFARE by MG Buehrlen (Alex Wayfare #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Strange Chemistry) | Amazon.com (Strange Chemistry)

For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

 #9) TRAITOR’S BLADE by Sebastien de Castell (Greatcoats #1)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Jo Fletcher Books) | Amazon.com (Jo Fletcher Books)

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are travelling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

#8) CIBOLA BURN by James SA Corey (Expanse #4)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.

But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

#7) OUR LADY OF THE STREETS by Tom Pollock (The Skyscraper Throne #3)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Jo Fletcher Books) | Amazon.com (Jo Fletcher Books)

Four months ago, Mater Viae, the Goddess of London, returned from London-Under- Glass to reclaim her throne. And ever since then, London has been dying.

Streets are wracked by convulsions as muscles of wire and pipe go into spasm, bunching the city into a crippled new geography; pavements flare to thousand-degree fevers, incinerating anyone and anything touching them. Towers crash to the ground, their foundations decayed.

As the streets sicken, so does Beth, drawn ever deeper into the heart of the city, while Pen fights desperately for a way to save her. But when they discover that Mater Viae’s plans for dominion stretch far beyond London’s borders, they must make a choice: Beth has it within her to unleash the city’s oldest and greatest powers – powers that could challenge the vengeful goddess, or destroy the city itself.

#6) ANCILLARY SWORD by Ann Leckie (Imperial Radch #2)

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

What if you once had thousands of bodies and near god-like technology at your disposal? 

And what if all of it were ripped away? 

The Lord of the Radch has given Breq command of the ship Mercy of Kalr and sent her to the only place she would have agreed to go — to Athoek Station, where Lieutenant Awn’s sister works in Horticulture.

Athoek was annexed some six hundred years ago, and by now everyone is fully civilized — or should be. But everything is not as tranquil as it appears. Old divisions are still troublesome, Athoek Station’s AI is unhappy with the situation, and it looks like the alien Presger might have taken an interest in what’s going on. With no guarantees that interest is benevolent.

#5) THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Del Ray) | Amazon.com (Broadway Books)

I’m stranded on Mars.

I have no way to communicate with Earth.

I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m screwed.

#4) STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel 

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Picador) | Amazon.com (Knopf)

DAY ONE
The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
WEEK TWO
Civilization has crumbled.
YEAR TWENTY
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.
STATION ELEVEN
Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world.

#3) THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST by Claire North

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit Books) | Amazon.com (Redhook)

Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. 

Every time Harry dies, he is reborn in exactly the same time and place, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. 

No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, and nothing ever changes. He only knows that there are others like him, living with but apart from the rest of us. 

As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message. It has come down from child to adult, child to adult, passed back through generations from a thousand years forward in time. The message is that the world is ending, and we cannot prevent it. So now it’s up to you.’ 

This is the story of what Harry August does next – and what he did before – and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.

#2) CITY OF STAIRS by Robert Jackson Bennett

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Jo Fletcher Books) | Amazon.com (Broadway Books)

You’ve got to be careful when you’re chasing a murderer through Bulikov, for the world is not as it should be in that city. When the gods were destroyed and all worship of them banned by the Polis, reality folded; now stairs lead to nowhere, alleyways have become portals to the past, and criminals disappear into thin air.

The murder of Dr Efrem Pangyui, the Polis diplomat researching the Continent’s past, has begun something and now whispers of an uprising flutter out from invisible corners. Only one woman may be willing to pursue the truth – but it is likely to cost her everything.

#1) THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by MR Carey 

Goodreads | Amazon.co.uk (Orbit) | Amazon.com (Orbit)

Not every gift is a blessing…

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

The Girl With All the Gifts is a groundbreaking thriller, emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

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2 comments

  1. Great list! I missed out on Koko Takes a Holiday, but really want to catch up before the sequel lands in the summer, and Traitor's Blade didn't make my top 10 list, but I'm anxious to see how the sequel develops things.

    The Martian and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August were both great (solid 4-star reads for me), while we're in complete agreement on City of Stairs and Prince of Fools.

    Like

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