December Redux: festive reads

A pair of burgundy boots rest on a bookshelf of fantasy novels

I’ll look back at 2022 in a couple days; for now, let’s wrap up December. The end of the year inevitably involved a lot of travel, a round of is-it-a-very-bad-cold-or-is-it-COVID (I didn’t have any LFTs on hand), and thankfully relatively little other seasonal drama. A quiet Christmas with family somehow resulted in very little reading, but as they wisely gifted me books I am all set for the new year.

Reading Round-up

I tend to use December to mop up ARCs and 2022 releases ahead of Subjective Chaos Kind of Nominations in January. This year, I leaned into mood reading instead, although I was in the mood for 2 recent ARCs!

Andrew Skinner’s milSF space horror buddy love story Steel Frame got far less attention than it deserved on debut. Giant robots, mysterious relics, emerging sentience and the bond between mech and pilot made it one of my 2019 favourites, but lack of traction left the sequel without a publisher. Thankfully, Skinner self-published Origin Complex last month so I started December on an atmospheric thrill ride of ancient alien artefacts, a race against time and odds, and the bond between an analyst a space archaeologist and their machine mirror. This is a sidequel that works as a point of entry and again comes highly recommended by this reader thanks to Skinner’s prose and knack for writing irresistible mech/meat relationships.

After 24 hours struggling to reorient my reading self, I dived into The Godbreaker to see whether Mike Brooks could bring his epic social fantasy to a satisfying close in just one more doorstop. While I love Brooks’s handling of conventions, there are too many subplots and POVs here for my taste; however, there’s lots to like, not least the vibrant characters and non-traditional outcome.

I finally completed the 2021 Solaris Satellites (now to start on the 2022 batch, ahem), which has persuaded me I probably don’t want to read Derek Künsken: I liked everything about Pollen From A Future Harvest except the execution. Don’t get me wrong – I highly recommend this novella to those seeking a hard SF whodunnit meets political thriller; perhaps too hard SF for me – I didn’t particular enjoy the way it was told in spite of liking the ingredients.

John Wyndham’s posthumously published Plan For Chaos is a bit of a mess. Cloned Nazis, flying saucers and killer satellites fall flat thanks to a protagonist who wrestles with patriarchal panic in the face of unconventional ideas, and the supposedly wise feminine insight that all women want babies very nearly had me throw my Kindle out the window. Approach with caution if you’re curious.

Christmas travel was accompanied by Our Wives Under The Sea, which is a literary reverie on love, grief and guilt with a side of weird body horror. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected, although I think this was largely my own end of year over tiredness – I should have listened to something louder, maybe with explosions. I’m wrapping the year with Audible’s excellent Arctic horror production The Nox, which I’m enjoying enormously (which I will finish by year’s end, although not before publishing this post).

  • Origin Complex – Andrew Skinner ★★★★☆
  • The Godbreaker – Mike Brooks ★★★★
  • Plan For Chaos – John Wyndham ★★
  • Bite-size Reads: Pollen From A Future Harvest – Derek Künsken ★★(★)
  • Audio Reads: Our Wives Under The Sea – Julia Armfield ★★★(★)

Additional Reviews

When I dusted off my December schedule, there was little left but overdue reviews that I promptly got too sick to write. Expect nothing but lists and recs in January – but in the meantime, a couple of thoughts on reading from earlier this year:

Stacking the shelves

I talked in more detail about my festive haul earlier this week, to which I can now add Bang Bang Boddhisatva as I found an ARC on my doorstep when I got home.

Reading statistics

My primary goal – always – is to read diversely and to love every book. This year, I failed to focus on books off the shelf in spite of good intentions, but did well at reading beyond bestsellers and big label publishers.

Books completed: 82 | DNFs: 7*

  • 12 off the shelf (i.e. not acquired in 2022)
  • 35 ARCs
  • 18 bite-size (excl. short stories)
  • 16 audio reads

Authors: 29 male (35%) / 38 female (46%) / 9 trans, enby or genderqueer (11%) + 6 collaborations (7%)

  • Authors of colour: 24 (29%)
  • LGBTQIA authors: 21 (26%)
  • Non-US / UK based authors: 10 (12%)
  • Small press / independent: 32 (39%)

* I only track DNFs where I made significant in-roads into the book – rapid bounces don’t count. Percentages are calculated across both completed reads and declared DNFs.

What’s coming up?

I’m starting January with a week off and then getting stuck into a new role. Yes, this is the second new job in six months – this is an internal transfer to a team I’ve been working closely with since September. I’m excited, intimidated and undaunted by the challenge this will present.

Here on the blog, January will be the usual mix of looking back at 2022 and forward to 2023, potentially with some reviews mixed in. I’m likely to keep a relatively low profile this year, as I expect blogging to take a back seat to priorities out in meatspace.

How was your December?