Only one more day left in 2014! And even though this isn’t really a review blog (though I do mention books I’ve enjoyed), I thought I’d follow in the footsteps of several other bloggers I’ve seen recently and take this opportunity to list a few of the best fantasy and science fiction books that I’ve read this year. I should point out that these aren’t books that were published in 2014, simply ones I read in 2014.
I’ve enjoyed so many books this year, but I’m picking these ones as my top six:
Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
This is a science fiction book with a strong video game feel to it, and it had me hooked from beginning to end. The title has to be one of the best titles of all time, and had me crossing my fingers that the book itself would not disappoint. Thankfully, it didn’t. Not only did the plot and characters suck me right in, but I found myself fascinated and deeply moved by some of the concepts in the novel. That may sound weird to people who’ve read the book, as it’s perhaps not something many would describe as a “moving” book, but it was the misfit character of James Halliday that touched a nerve with me. He found a way to live on after death and to share the things he loved with other people, and I really liked that. It’s also just a riveting book with high stakes and loads of geeky video game trivia thrown in, which I loved (even though I’ve never been a big gamer). I’d highly recommend it (and I’d also recommend the audiobook – the narration is great). Thanks Anjali for suggesting this one to me in the first place!
The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
A young adult fantasy novel about a race on a remote island involving dangerous magical waterhorses, and two young locals whose future hinges on its outcome. The romance is a core part of the book, and it’s really well done – very compelling and heartwarming, and not at all cliché or cringe-worthy (and the male character is very easy to fall in love with!). The worldbuilding is also brilliantly done: the island and its people really come to life, and the setting is so vivid and enchanting you feel like you’re there with the characters. The whole book was thoroughly compelling and beautifully written, and it’s now on my list of all time favourites.
Author: Dan Simmons
This is a real mind-bender of a novel. Inspired by the structure of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, it tells the story of 7 pilgrims making their way to the mystical Time Tombs on a faraway planet called Hyperion. On the journey they share their tales with one another, recounting their past encounters with a strange and terrifying time-manipulating creature called the Shrike. The book is a little slow and stilted at the very start, but once I delved into the first pilgrim’s tale I couldn’t stop – the creepy and mysterious story of the priest visiting the remote tribe literally gave me the shivers. The following tales also didn’t disappoint, each of them filling me with wonder and awe. Really brilliant science fiction.
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author: Scott Lynch
A high fantasy novel with a gritty setting and a group of thieves for main characters. It took me a little while to warm to this book, but after I got into it I really loved it. The characters are cunning and tricksy, so a huge part of the suspense is created by the simple fact that you are wondering whether they have been duped, or are playing at being duped in order to dupe someone else. The intricate plans and schemes, and the way the different characters and story lines start to weave together, really drew me in. You might think it would be hard to warm to a pack of thieves, but the truth is that their cleverness and their code of honour, and the way they are up against those far more rotten and evil than themselves, left me loving these characters and wanting them to succeed. The world itself is also an interesting one, and much more grim and squalid than your usual fantasy setting. And again, the audiobook of this one is brilliant – the narrator Michael Page won an AudioFile Earphones award for this performance and I can see why.
Daughter of the Forest
Author: Juliet Marillier
I’d call this historical high fantasy, with a strong fairy tale feel to it. There’s a romance at its heart that really drew me in, but there’s more to the book than that. The amount of suffering that the main character endures is quite confronting (if you can’t handle violence against women in your novels, this might not be the book for you), but it makes her endurance all the more inspiring and the outcome of her quest all the more uncertain. It’s a novel that very much transports you back in time, and draws on Irish and English history and mythology in interesting ways. It’s certainly not what I’d describe as a fast paced novel (the story plays out over several years), and the majority of the main character’s journey is a personal internal struggle, but it’s an enchanting story that made me care for the character and desperately want to see what would happen to her in the end. It turns out Marillier is also an Australian author – so it’s always nice to read and love a book written by a fellow Australian 🙂
Author: Veronica Roth
I know I jumped on the bandwagon very late in reading it this year (just in time for the movie to come out) but I really enjoyed this book. It’s a dystopian young adult novel in a similar vein to The Hunger Games, and the main character’s struggle to fit in and survive in the new faction she has been assigned to really gripped me. The romance is great, and the final scenes are particularly tense and enthralling. In essence it’s the story of a supposedly utopian society that reveals its dystopian underside, and while there are countless books that tell this type of story, it is always a compelling one if it’s done well – and I felt this book did it well. The story was interesting and different enough that it stood out, and the characters were likeable… altogether it was a very enjoyable read.
I would have loved to include The Rosie Project above (a debut novel by Australian author Graeme Simsion that had me laughing out loud) but given that it is a romantic comedy I couldn’t really earnestly put it in a “best fantasy and science fiction” list. Still, it’s well worth a read.
No matter how many books I read in a year, I never get to read as many as I would like. I know there a hundreds of books I am missing from the list simply because I didn’t have the time to read them, but I guess I’ll just have to tackle them next year, and the year after, and the year after that… and the upside of the plethora of great books out there is that I will never run out of fabulous things to read!
10 thoughts on “My Favourite Fantasy and Science Fiction Books in 2014”
I’ve only read one of those, Hyperion. This year, I finished the Hyperion Cantos, having read The Rise of Endymion. That was actually my favourite of the series.
I need to make my annual 5 best and 1 worst books read post.
I haven’t had a chance to read the rest of the Hyperion Cantos books yet, but I want to, so I’m glad to hear they are likely to be just as good or even better. The ending of the first book left me wanting more (unresolved as it was!), but it’s always a worry with series that they might not live up to the first one. Curious idea to do a worst book as well as best books… I think I’d have two vying for that title, but I didn’t finish either of them so don’t know if that counts 🙂
The style changes for Fall of Hyperion. It’s no longer individual stories of each character, but a more conventional type of novel. The Endymion books are both a mix of first and third person point of view.
I’m so glad you enjoyed Ready Player One! I have to confess to having listened to it at least 3 times (I drive a lot for work). 🙂 Ernie Cline has a new book coming out next year, Armada, and I’m really hoping it doesn’t disappoint. Also, did you know there’s a sequel to The Rosie Project coming out next year? Happy New Year!
Oh great, well I’ll have to keep my eye out for Armada then, I hope it lives up to Ready Player One! Actually that sequel to The Rosie Project has already come out here, but I haven’t bought it yet… I’m hesitant as I wonder if it’s the kind of book that will work as a sequel. Guess I won’t know till I give it a try though.
Happy New Year to you too – only 16 hours to go here!
Daughter of the Forest is probably still my favorite Marillier book. I love its density and the understated yet intense romance.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is another favorite of mine. Plus, bonus points for the main character being named after Locke in Final Fantasy 3/6!
I haven’t read any other Marillier books yet, but after Daughter of the Forest I am keen to. It really was an enchanting book. And I didn’t know that Locke was named after a Final Fantasy character – I haven’t played the game so didn’t make the connection. Interesting! Scott Lynch must be a fan. I wonder if the character in the book is very similar to character in the game, or if it’s just the name they share?
I loved the game too, though it’s pretty old now. Locke in the game is a thief as well, so there’s some similarity.
Really like the sound of a couple of these. Thanks so much for posting this up.
You should check out a recent fantasy novel from David Kuklis, called Escape From Netherworld.
The story follows a group of friends that meet up to role play the dungeons and dragons game by a cave. When the cave collapses they find themselves transformed into the characters and trapped in the fantasy world. This book is so much fun once you get into it and so well written. I was hugely impressed by this author. I had never heard of him before but I will be following everything he does from this point on. Magical stuff. http://www.escapefromnetherworld.com/
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Thanks for the recommendation, it sounds like a good one. I’ll check it out!