Top Reads of 2020

Another year draws to a close, so it’s time to publish my Top Reads of the year. These are the stories that stood out for me over the past 12 months. They are listed in no particular order; just the ones I enjoyed reading the most during this crazy year of 2020. If you click on the title, it will take you to my review.


Best Books Read in 2020

Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
Dune Messiah (1969) by Frank Herbert
Europe at Dawn (2018) by Dave Hutchinson
In the Forests of Serre (2004) by Patricia McKillip
Utopia Avenue (2020) by David Mitchell
The Folding Knife (2010) by K.J. Parker
The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman
Lancelot (2018) by Giles Kristian
The Stand (1978) by Stephen King


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A Good Marriage (2010) by Stephen King

Happy Halloween!

I’m currently working on a longer review of Stephen King’s Night Shift, but I wanted to post a review of a horror story today, Halloween 2020. So here is a brief review of King’s A Good Marriage. It was published in 2010 as part of the novella collection: Full Dark, No Stars. The story was adapted for the big screen in 2014.

Publisher’s Synopsis

What happens when, on a perfectly ordinary evening, all the things you believed in and took for granted are turned upside down?

When her husband of more than 20 years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband.


My Thoughts

How well do you really know someone? Could a close member of your family be hiding an incredible secret? In “A Good Marriage”, Stephen King explores these ideas with the skill of a truly gifted writer.

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The Devil You Know (2016) by K.J. Parker

Author: K.J. Parker
Title: The Devil You Know
Series: Saloninus #2
Format: Kindle Edition
Length: 124 pages
Rating: ★★★★☆


Publisher’s Synopsis

The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.

But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus–the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.

He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?


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The Haunting of Tram Car 015 (2019) by P. Djeli Clark

“The tram in question is a design of the djinn,” he explained. “It is endowed with a machine mind imbued with magic. The tram is thus capable of thought, which it uses to guide itself and its passengers safely.”

P. Djeli Clark’s The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is a story set in an alternate 1910s Cairo where supernatural beings such as djinn and angels exist alongside the regular citizens. It’s a population which includes mystics and sorcerers, as well as our two main characters: agents Hamed and Onsi of ‘the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities.’ They are called in to investigate the reported haunting of a tram car.

clark 1

The case seems simple enough at first. After a meeting with the tram company’s Superintendent Bashir, the two agents proceed to the haunted tram car to see what they are dealing with. Continue reading

The Doctor of Death Island (1978) by Gene Wolfe

“You mean I’ll live forever?” The thought was almost too great for him to grasp. Words in his mind became fleeting pictures of a hillside covered with long, sweet grass. A hillside smiling in the sun. Day always. No night ever.

In Gene Wolfe’s 1980 collection The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, there are three tales which play with the words of the book’s title:

  1. The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories
  2. The Death of Doctor Island
  3. The Doctor of Death Island

I read the first one last year and really enjoyed it. I haven’t read the second one yet. I’ve just finished reading the third one for my Short Story Tarot Challenge.

Brief Summary Continue reading

2020 Novella Reading Challenge


I’m a fool for a challenge, especially a reading challenge. I’m already undertaking my own Short Story Tarot Challenge-attempting to read 78 short stories over 78 weeks, one for each card in a Tarot deck. Its purpose is to both get me back into reading more regularly and to finish a few collections from my TBR pile. I’ve kept it going for seven weeks so far and I am enjoying the short story format.

So, onto this latest reading challenge. As we all know, there is so much great fiction out there that is just waiting to be read. But–like you I’m sure–my reading time is limited. Therefore, I am launching a 2020 Novella Reading Challenge. My aim is to read more works by more authors, especially authors new to me. So I think the novella format is a great way to achieve this goal with its shorter length and reasonable price. Continue reading

Tracking Song (1975) by Gene Wolfe

‘I want to leave a record of what has happened to me, so that if someone comes for me, and finds me dead, he will understand.’

 

TRACKING SONG by Gene Wolfe was originally published in 1975. It first appeared in the anthology In the Wake of Man, which also featured stories by R.A. Lafferty and Walter F. Moudy. The story’s next appearance was in Wolfe’s own collection The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (1980). It is 70 pages long. (You can find it here in issue #90 of Lightspeed Magazine.)

in the wake of man

Cover art by Nick Aristovulos

Brief Summary
The protagonist of the story has lost his memory and his way. He wakes up in a wintry landscape after being found by a local tribe of animal-like humanoids. He cannot remember his own name nor where he is from. The tribe members call him “Cutthroat” due to a birthmark on his neck. They tell him they discovered his unconscious body in the snow after the ‘Great Sleigh’ had passed. What the Great Sleigh is, he also can’t recall. Cutthroat sets off on a journey to find the Great Sleigh, seeking answers to who he is and where he came from. Continue reading

Holt House (1972) by L.G. Vey

‘When you watch someone, you know them. You know them better than themselves.’

9781911585428 (1)

My Thoughts

Is memory the ultimate unreliable narrator? In L.G. Vey’s creepy novella Holt House, memory plays an integral part in the story. It is a childhood memory that has led Raymond to camp out in the Holtwood as he searches for the truth. Just what exactly did old Mr. Latch show Raymond all those years ago? It was something horrible in the wardrobe of the spare room, something that terrified Raymond as a young boy. Continue reading

The Murders of Molly Southbourne (2017) by Tade Thompson

To run or fight is the most important rule, but there is also the blood rule. Don’t bleed.’

 

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My Thoughts

I’ve been hearing great things about author Tade Thompson over the last couple of years. ‘Rosewater,’ his 2016 Nigeria-set sf novel, has been receiving high praise around the blogosphere. (I recently bought a copy and will be reading it in November.)

I chose The Murders of Molly Southbourne as one of my 2018 Halloween reads. It’s a very readable horror novella about coming of age, survival and murder. It has a nonlinear narrative, opening with a tense scene that occurs right near the end of the story. Learning how we reach that scene is both compelling and disturbing. Continue reading

Hallowe’en Reads 2018

The sky before a typhoon. View from my garden.

Happy Autumn!

As the days cool and grow shorter and the darkness spreads its ebony fingers, are you ready for some chills and thrills?

Yes, it’s that time of year again when I make – and often fail to complete – a plan for my October reading. As the theme is Hallowe’en, my chosen genre is horror or any kind of weird fiction. I’m planning to focus on novellas and short stories this year as my reading-time has shrunk over the last few months. So, without further ado, here is my list of stories to read as I tentatively set foot into the October country. Continue reading