Favorites of the Season: Winter 2014.

It says a lot about how much being an accounting professional warps one’s mind that I kinda wanted to title this post “Favorites of the 1st Fiscal Quarter.” Fortunately I realized in time that would be… weird. To most people, anyway.

Moving on:

I read a lot of great SF/F this winter; a dozen some-odd novels and at least twice that many shorts. While I’ve enjoyed all of it (I find it impossible to finish a book that I think is merely “meh”), these are my favorites.

Favorite SF/F short story: Mari Ness’ In the Greenwood.

Favorite fantasy novel: Caitlin Kiernan’s The Red Tree.

Favorite science fiction novel: Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow.

I love In The Greenwood so much I want to read an anthology (preferably one edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling) of short stories like it. Mythic fiction is my favorite subgenre of fantasy, and that usually means retellings of fairy tales or epics or religious myths; this may be the first time I’ve read a transformative tale of a legendary historical figure.

The Red Tree I love because of its wit and tenacity and multilayered manifestation of horror — from the visceral to the psychological — and because I’ve read five or more books since and I’m still thinking about it. And because I haven’t been so scared by a story since I saw The Ring in theaters, but this book is so much smarter than that. It’s dark on levels heretofore untouched upon.

The Sparrow is a book that will stick with me for the future of ever, because I will never forget that tiny group of characters that summoned impossible bravery and overcame insurmountable odds to establish interplanetary contact, nor their hope and anguish along the way. I love it for its intelligence, its questioning philosophy, its enduring hope.

And all of these stories have prose that is simply outstanding — Ness’ heroine’s voice is engagingly lyrical; Kiernan’s prose creates terrifying unreality within its very syntax; Russell’s dialogue is sharp and evocative, hilarious and heartbreaking by turns.

While all of the books I review bear the Manic Pixie stamp of approval (again, can’t get through a book that I don’t find good), these are must-drop-everything-you’re-doing-now-reads.

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