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

2014 Books: Suspense

Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy

Let’s break up my review of last year’s reading along genre lines. First up, suspenseful novels or thrillers!

Dexter (Jeff Lindsay)

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Dearly Devoted Dexter

Dexter in the Dark

I caved and started power watching Dexter on Netflix earlier last year and had a blast with it. Michael C. Hall is spectacular as Dexter, the serial killer with rules. Consequently, I couldn’t resist checking out the source material. The books are good. I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve read so far. That being said, Dexter on celluloid will likely satisfy any and all interest in this subject matter! Nevertheless, the books will entertain. Where the TV Dexter is smooth and has it together, the literary Dexter is a bit more edgy and gives you the feeling of someone about to lose control. Jim’s score: B.

Jason Bourne (Robert Ludlum)

The Bourne Identity

The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Ultimatum

I read these 20+ years ago with many other Ludlum novels and watched the original mini-series with Richard Chamberlain as Bourne and Jaclyn Smith as Marie. They came up in the library so I decided to give them a re-read to see how well they have aged. The novels are dated but enjoyable, particularly for anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s with a fondness for cloak and dagger stories. If your first experience reading these novels is after watching the movies starring Matt Damon as Bourne, you may be disappointed. The ‘reimagined’ movies are but loosely based on the source material and the plots of the 2nd and 3rd movies have nothing to do with the novels of the names they bear. Jim’s score: B (A for Identity with the sequels trending to the low B range).

Virgil Flowers (John Sandford)

Rough Country

Sandford’s 3rd entry in the series is as solid as the previous two. Flowers is as unorthodox as ever. Jim’s score: B+.

Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly)


The Burning Room

Switchblade is a Bosch short story while The Burning Room is a full length novel. Here’s the thing with Connelly … he’s a great crime writer. I’ll continue to read what he publishes because I enjoy his writing style and his stories. But … what he has written recently does not hold a candle to the early Bosch novels. I happily read (and enjoyed) the new Bosch material since the library carried it. Harry is edging ever closer to retirement and playing it safer and safer as his time with Open/Unsolved draws to a close. Go read The Black EchoThe Black Ice and The Concrete Blonde. Avoid the later material until you’ve read these … that is the real Harry Bosch! Jim’s score: C+.

Kidd & LuEllen (John Sandford)

The Fool’s Run

The Empress File

The Devil’s Code

The Hanged Man’s Song

Before Davenport and Flowers, there was Kidd. These are fun romps with Kidd as a computer hacker and LuEllen as a cat burglar. There are only four books in the series and no new books are expected in the future. The tech is so 90s! Jim’s score: B.

Jack Reacher (Lee Child)

Not a Drill


Not a Drill (short story) and Personal (novel) are new stories in the Reacher canon. Like Connelly’s handling of Bosch, Child takes fewer risks with Reacher as each new story is published. These stories are fine for Reacher fans but go read Killing FloorDie Trying and Tripwire if your are new to Child/Reacher. Jim’s score:  B-.

The Bat (Jo Nesbo)

The Bat is the first entry in the Harry Hole series by Norwegian crime writer, Jo Nesbo. Harry travels to Australia to unravel the death of a Norwegian citizen. Jim’s score: B.

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling)

J. K. Rowling works at distancing herself from her Harry Potter legacy with a conventional mystery/detective novel. All-in-all, a very ho-hum affair. Jim’s score: C.

Mitch Rapp (Vince Flynn)

Transfer of Power

The Third Option

Separation of Power

If you are a fan of Clancy’s books or Jack Reacher (Lee Child) or Will Robie (David Baldacci) or cloak and dagger, go read these books. They are are a blast! Jim’s score: A.

Suspense • Science Fiction • Macabre/Fantasy