In 2014 I had more free time than usual to look through books I read prior to starting the blog, as well as read fresh books, and write reviews. (With a new child in the house, I do not expect this to continue in 2015.) The result is a review count much higher in 2014, making a large possible selection for the year-end summary, and in turn a longer ‘best of’ list than usual. Without further ado, the best books reviewed on Speculiction in 2014 are:
Gormenghast cycle by Mervyn Peake – Not only the best of the year, but Titus Groan, Gormenghast, and Titus Alone are some of the best of all time. Peake’s fantasy achieves the utmost in gothic subtlety (like a sublimely dark Alice in Wonderland). And don’t let anyone tell you Titus Alone is the weakest novel; the mode is indeed different, but the imagination is every bit as rich. Curse the fates that deprived us of Peake and the completion of Titus’ story.
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon – Perhaps the single greatest science fiction novel ever written, Stapledon takes the human soul to the infinity of the universe and time in a quest to understand them all. I don’t think there is a stronger philosophical inquiry in all of genre; the jaw is truly left hanging.
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh – A novel that feels as though it shouldn’t succeed due to the disparity of its elements, this story of a young man living in a US in the grip of Chinese power nevertheless engages the reader from page one for McHugh’s tight minimalist style, and the heartbreak and success that ensue his plight for identity and place.
Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle – Not only brilliant historical fantasy, this novel is likewise the greatest statement regarding feminism in Medieval speculative fiction I have yet to read. Completely re-visioning and humanizing the idea of the ‘woman warrior’, it makes laughing stock of epic fantasy. While telling the no-holds-barred story of a young woman trying to come to terms with herself, it not only circumvents all the familiar tropes but puts to shame the buxom sword-mistress. An intrinsically visceral story, it hits the reader, and hits hard.