2014 Books: Macabre/Fantasy

Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy


I strayed heavily (back) into the writings of King last year. Outside of The Regulators/Desperation in 2012, it’s been 20 years since I read a King novel. Needful Things (1991) is the last work I remember reading prior to the 2012 flirtation and last year’s obsession. I blame Chris Brooks. He recommended 11-22-63, claiming it was a great read. What did I do? I listened Thanks, mate! ;-P

The Crystal Shard (R. A. Salvatore)

This is only one of two traditional fantasy (and non-King) stories in this group! I read and enjoyed the Dark Elf trilogy (Homeland / Exile / Sojourn) a few years ago. I’ve had the Icewind Dale trilogy (The Crystal Shard / Streams of Silver / The Hafling’s Gem) queued up but never pulled the trigger on reading them. I jumped off the starting block with the first volume last year but still need to crack open the other two volumes. As with the Dark Elf books, I enjoyed reading The Crystal Shard. At the same time, there is nothing new here. It is traditional, straight forward fantasy fare. Fans of the character will enjoy and it fulfills that occasional guilty pleasure of reading a swashbuckling fantasy adventure. Jim’s score: B.

11-22-63 (Stephen King)

This is King’s take on time travel and it is not without merit! What would have happened if the JFK assassination was averted? Read this to find out! 😀 It doesn’t reach the heights of The ShiningThe Stand, or It, but it is a good read. Jim’s score: B+.

The Shining (Stephen King)

The Shining

Doctor Sleep

The Shining is King at his best. I re-read this as a precursor to reading, Doctor Sleep, the sequel. Both are great rides but The Shining is, without question, one of the top three books he has ever published.Yes, there is paranormal stuff going on here but watching Jack spiral out of control as his sanity unravels is an amazing piece of writing. In the followup, we learn how Danny’s life turns out and, while different, is a worthwhile read for fans of the original. Jim’s score: A+ (The Shining), B+ (Doctor Sleep).

The Eyes of the Dragon (Stephen King)

This is one of the first non-horror novels King wrote and received considerable criticism since it was outside what everyone (fans and critics) expected from him. It is a solid, young adult fantasy novel with a very clear good versus evil theme. I read it in my run-up to start reading The Dark Tower series since it features (Randall) Flagg as the antagonist who also turns up as the bad guy in The Stand and The Dark Tower novels. Jim’s score: B.

It (Stephen King)

It was another re-read. This, too, was another reading in preparation for starting down the road to The Dark Tower. Like The Shining, it’s been nearly 30 years since I read this and had forgotten how good his material from the ’70s and ’80s was. Beyond the scary monster, King incorporates a number of themes including the magic of imagination and the power of friendship. Jim’s score: A.

The Little Sisters of Eluria (Stephen King)

A short story about Roland sometime before the beginning of The Gunslinger. Jim’s score: B.

The Gunslinger (Stephen King)

The Gunslinger is the first of The Dark Tower novels and concerns Roland as he chases Walter (aka the man in black aka Randall Flagg) across the world. Just as important, though, is what we learn about Roland through flashbacks and reminiscences as the chase unfolds. Jim’s score: A-.

Thoughts on 2015

Without a doubt, more King. I’ve already finished the second book of The Dark Tower and am more than half done with the third. Based on my Dark Tower plan, I will meander through a considerable amount of related material before I am finished and not all of that will be this year. I may knock out the remaining two volumes of the Icewind Dale trilogy and will probably read The Slow Regard for Silent Things while I await the third entry in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.

That’s all I have for 2014! Drop me a line with your recommendations. I’m always looking for great new reads in science fiction and fantasy!


Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy

2014 Books: SF

Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy


I enjoy a good science fiction yarn more than any other genre. I also tend to be far harsher in my judgement of an author when it comes to the plausibility of the science and technology. If you aren’t willing to spend the time and energy necessary to present credible future technology and science, write it as fantasy!

On Basilisk Station (David Weber)

I have a ton of Weber’s Honor Harrington books but have only recently started reading them. This was a great ride. I thoroughly enjoyed the story. If you are a fan of military science fiction, don’t pass up this series by David Weber. Jim’s score: A.

The Expanse (James S. A. Corey)

Leviathan Wakes

Caliban’s War

Abaddon’s Gate

The Butcher of Anderson Station

Gods of Risk

The Churn

George R. R. Martin (A Game of Thrones) plugs the works of his assistant, Ty Franck, on his Not a Blog blog as being well worth your time. Ty is one half of the team publishing under the pseudonym of James S. A. Corey. I took the plunge and read the Expanse material when it became available in the library. If you are a fan of space opera, these books are for you. The novels are Leviathan / Caliban / Abaddon and were a blast. The short material (Butcher / Gods / Churn) is good as well but not essential to the storyline of the trilogy. If you’ve enjoyed Simmons (Hyperion Cantos), Hamilton (Commonwealth Saga, Night’s Dawn) or Herbert (Dune), give this a look! Jim’s score: A.

The Martian (Andy Weir)

This book is an example of why self publishing is relevant and important! The Martian is an intelligent and suspenseful story of what might happen if you were stranded on Mars. After being turned down by several publishers, the author released the book on Amazon. Jim’s score: B+.

Wool (Hugh Howey)

And this is the counter-example to The Martian. Howey is a fine writer who would have benefitted from an editor that would push for changes to make this a plausible science fiction story OR suggest a rewrite to re-theme it as a fantasy or alternate history novel. I stopped reading about two-thirds of the way through the book for a number of reasons. Perhaps reasonable explanations exist in the later stories for the details I saw as problems (e.g., Why aren’t the silos connected? We have miles and miles of tunnel hundreds of feet below ground today. How can you extract and refine fuel [presumably petroleum] from the bottom of the silo for many generations in an area of the country not known for this sort of mining [i.e., Georgia]). If you can move beyond the scientific and technical missteps, Wool and its sequels are likely enjoyable but it wasn’t for me. Jim’s score: F.

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)

The premise is neat and the story engaging but The Long Earth drags in the middle and tends to be predictable. Still, the concept of a multi-verse is intriguing. Jim’s score: C+.

Thoughts on 2015

I have a stack of sf (e)books waiting to be read. I may take a run at Hamilton’s Void trilogy (Dreaming / Temporal / Evolutionary) or Atwood’s Oryx and Crake trilogy (Oryx and Crake / Year of the Flood / MaddAddam). Gibson released a new book in ’14 (The Peripheral) and Scalzi’s Lock In sounds interesting. And I have yet to read Stephenson’s Reamde or Willis’ Blackout/All Clear.


Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy