Top 5 Books of 2014

This list is what I read for every year. My favorite aspect of reading is finding the ones that turn story into an addictive escape. The following books are this kind of pleasure, and it is my pleasure to share them with you. You can vote for some of these on Reddit’s 2014 Stabby Awards.

Bunker_PENNSYLVANIA_Omnibus_EbookEdition1-640x1024#5. Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker

I’ve written a lot about this book already. If you’ve heard me praise this book, know that it is for good reason. I prefer sci-fi to science fiction, if you’ll allow the distinction, because I prefer story over science. I’m impatient and distracted by all the books out there, so when I pick up a book, I want a clear hero that makes me care combined with an adventurous plot that only gets more surprising and intense as the book progresses. I’m disappointed by stories that focus so much on science that I have to fight to hold onto the connection with the characters. Pennsylvania has its share of science, but not at the expense of story. The focus is the story of an Amish young man volunteering to help farm humanity’s next planet turned into conspiracy, his time travel, his struggle dealing with mind computer technology, dystopia and world war, and a bonus of a nice love story to keep us grounded in his heart. The Amish SciFi brand that Michael Bunker created in this story also supports discussion over peace versus war, humanity’s effort to control others, and whether or not we are better off with such a busy, technology praising lifestyle. If you like his style, be sure to check out one of his other novels, Wick. (full review and podcast)

91bldT8CbtL._SL1500_#4. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Not a novel, but a graphic novel fairy tale collection of some of the scariest stories I’ve ever seen. This is perfect for Horror fans who’re looking for a little more of a visual medium, but are bored with the options on Netflix and Redbox. This stuff will actually scare you, and the artwork is amazing, used to a perfect harmony with the prose and in timing. Even the paperback version is a collector’s item, with the raised texture of the trees on the cover. Fans of Walking Dead comics should check this out and see how much of a punch can be delivered in so few pages. (full review, with pictures)

 

Girl-e1403792335482#3. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

I interviewed M.R. Carey on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast #270, and at about the halfway point I told the audience to stop listening and go read his book, right before I mentioned the genre. This has been out for a while, so you may already know, but I highly recommend coming into this strange world not too unlike our own without any preconceived ideas. Carey has an incredible gift with pacing, character development, scientific development while keeping character and tension at the highest levels of engagement, and the ability to write an ending that so perfectly evokes the intended emotion while also coming full circle. (full review)

 

GrasshopperJungle June 27 13#2. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

I picked this one up because who isn’t interested about a praying mantis apocalypse invading Iowa? What I wasn’t expecting was the narrator’s unique voice combining the emotion of a young man’s sexual confusion and yet true love for the most important man and woman in his life, not to mention some of the funniest lines I’ve ever read. I also had the pleasure of Andrew joining my podcast (AISFP 248). Not only is this an amazing story, but so is his near quitting of the writing industry, only to come back and write what he wanted in Grasshopper Jungle. We need to read more books written by authors who don’t care if anyone else reads them. (full review, includes live reading by Andrew)

Sand#1. Sand by Hugh Howey

Again, I’ve been praising this one all year, because I read it in January and read it four times. I haven’t read a book that many times before. I cried twice. Hugh Howey took the emotional investment in characters he wrote in his Wool series (The Silo Saga) and tightened his skills into his next adventure in Sand. The Silo Saga was fantastic, but his pacing improved in this one. This story is set in a future America covered in sand, where people fight just to stay above, and others risk their lives to dive for the treasure below. Sand focuses on a family that lost their father, and emotionally disconnected from their mother soon after. I loved their adventure for the lost city of Danvar, but more so for the journey of emotions within their connections as a family. The sequel is scheduled to publish in 2015, and will be my most anticipated book. (full review)

(*Full disclosure, I wrote a fanfic novel in Sand’s universe (with permission), but it’s more that I wrote that because of my love for Sand than that I voted it #1 to publicize my story, or anything like that. To get the chance to write fan fiction in the world of my favorite book of the year is an incredible, humbling experience among the best in my life. It’s also no coincidence that I had so many of these fine authors on my podcast. 2015 will be difficult for me in my retirement from podcasting because of that honor.)

Runner’s Up

Nameless by Mercedes Yardley – demon hunting heroine with a strong personality and humor engaging in some of the most visceral demon battles I’ve read. Very strong debut novel from one of the most talented female authors out there. (full review and podcast)

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole – Call of Duty meets Diablo II, a future where video gaming can be a career, but when one guy goes to the seedy underbelly of that enterprise, he ends up in a game as fantastic as it is world threatening. If I was a bigger gamer I would have been more engaged in those parts, but I’m still very impressed with the story and how hard he hit me with the climax. I can’t wait for the prequel he has planned. (full review and podcast)

Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards – Epic Fantasy with grit and humor, this sequel to Scourge of the Betrayer excelled over its predecessor in showing us more of the mystery of the world and how our archivist main character will struggle to survive the leader of his group’s plan to uncover the magical realm while saving the physical realm. Jeff is one of the most talented writers of action and dialogue; it amazes as you read. (full review and podcast)

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh – social scifi about a future program to cryofreeze women where their only chance for survival is a kind of marital slavery. Changed my life. Putting it on this list would be unfair to the other novels published this year. (full review and podcast)

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a former executive producer and Hugo Nominee of Adventures in SciFi Publishing. He has been broke and lost on the other side of the world and now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer, he released his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant, and a new series that begins with Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss. Sign up for his newsletter for news, sales, giveaways and more: http://www.timothycward.com/newsletter/.

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