Top Ten Tuesday—the ten best books of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

http://www.thatartsyreadergirl.com/top-ten-tuesday/

This week‘s topic / December 28: Best Books I Read In 2021

These books haven‘t necessarily been released in 2021, that‘s just when I read them… I left out all of my re-reads of Dragonriders of Pern, The Expanse, The Imperial Radch, etc. etc.:

Rovers by Richard Lange — A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. 

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky — Space opera with a touch of The Expanse and Babylon 5, with a great ensemble cast on a scrappy scavenger ship, fighting against the odds and pretty much everything else. The proverbial underdogs against the universe.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir — Mark Watney in space! And he sciences the sh*t out of his situation… so, yes, very much reminiscent of The Martian. And then some. I loved it and could barely put it down. So much fun! 

The Prefect (Prefect Dreyfus Emergency, #1) by Alastair Reynolds — On the surface this comes along as a police procedural in a SF setting. Dreyfus is a cop with a strong moral code of right and wrong, committed to justice. My first association was Miller from The Expanse, with a bit of Blade Runner and minus any projectile weapons. Space opera, ultimately, with the many and very varied habitats of the Glitter Band, artificial intelligences, body modifications, uplifted mammals, many political systems, states of being and an elaborate polling system — fascinating! 

David Mogo, Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa — Gods have rained down on Lagos, the capital of Nigeria. We enter the story some time later, into the dystopian society that has developed here in the aftermath. David Mogo, our 1st person narrator, is a demi-god working as an illegal godhunter. An old wizard with dubious morals sends David Mogo off to catch two high gods, Taiwo and Kehinde. David is in need of money to fix his roof, so off he goes, despite his misgivings about this wizard. Obviously things don’t go as expected. 

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells — Muderbot is back in novella length. Snark and sarcasm abound. Just another crazy day, tracking down a murderer and making sure one’s humans don‘t come to harm. All the stars.

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9) by James S.A. Corey — A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope.

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4) by C.J. Sansom — Historically pretty sound, as far as I can tell. Very homogenous. Full of suspense towards the end, could not put it down anymore. The murders are gruesome and reminiscent of a famous 90s movie. With the context of Henry VIII, his dissolution of the monasteries and the religious upheaval of that time it works well.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega, #6) by Patricia Briggs — The FBI shows up at the doorstep of Anna and Charles and asks for help. A village in the mountains has disappeared and something potentially evil lurks in the woods.

The Whale Library by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael — Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

Besides this one I also read some very good more traditional graphic novels. But that probably needs another entry…

How the Dragonriders of Pern came to life…

Dragonsdawn by Anne McCaffrey

Pern (Chronological Order) #1Pern #9

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Pern Colonial Expedition had reached the most exciting moment of its fifteen-year voyage: the three colony ships, the Yokohama, the Bahrain, and the Buenos Aires were finally approaching their destination.

The story of how it all started. Three colony ships reach the planet of Pern, the colonists settle and all seems to be going well—until the first time deadly thread falls from the skies.

I read this shortly after it had been published in 1988 and then again around 2004. However, I didn‘t remember any of the plot. I knew the general storyline, but didn‘t recall any details. 

I could have done without the conspiracy. It would have been fine for me if McCaffrey had simply concentrated on the settlers‘ struggles to survive and establish their colony. However, that drama lead to one of the most exciting and emotional sequences in the book, so I shouldn‘t complain.

It‘s also a pity that McCaffrey is so conservative regarding gender roles. There are heroic women that fly shuttles and fight thread, but my general impression was that they were the unusual ones. Generally women and men here follow gender stereotypes that feel outdated. And there is an angry guy again, shaking a woman. What is it with the shaking of women?

On the plus side the book is filled with a plethora of unusual vocabulary that I had to look up. Very educational. Beragged (is that really a word or did she make that up?), vituperative, bollixed, primipara, carborundum, cadged… And I rediscovered the Panspermia theory of Hoyle and Wickramansingh.

Despite my misgivings I actually enjoyed myself. There was a complex plot or rather several overlapping plots with good pacing. I never felt bored or lacked action. I liked the main characters and there was just enough character development for them to stay interesting. I adored the dragons. This was a nice backstory to the story arcs of the major books with Lessa, Robinton and Co.


Review from 2004:

This is a re-read, I read it when it was first published, in 1988. 

Not set at the same time as most of the other Pern novels. Instead this is set in the time of the colonists coming to Pern from Earth a long time before that. A bit more Sci-Fi than the others. You find out how the dragons came to be and the dragonriders of Pern, why the dawn sisters are up in the night sky and you live through the founding of Landing – the site where much later Aivas is re-discovered. Some action, some drama and intrigue, something to laugh, something to cry – the usual reliable and entertaining Anne McCaffrey.

New Year New Challenge — Reading Writers of Color 2022

This challenge was a lot of fun in 2021, even if I fell off the wagon in November and December. If you are lacking challenge ideas for next year, maybe this could tempt you…

This post is part of the Reading Writers of Color challenge hosted by Lonely Cryptid Media’s staff writer and editor, Dan Michael Fielding. I cannot …

New Year New Challenge! Get Ready for Reading Writers of Color 2022!

So far I haven‘t committed to this challenge yet and I am unsure if I will—I want to concentrate on my owned books. Those include some authors that work for this challenge and that I want to get to in 2022, so maybe I‘ll contribute to the odd month here or there.

Harperhall concluded

Dragondrums (Pern: Harper Hall series)
by Anne McCaffrey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Piemur became Menolly‘s best friend in Dragonsinger and here is his coming-of-age story. We pick up a few years after Menolly walked the tables and became a journeyman and follow Piemur to his destiny…

“Of all the young singers at the Harperhall of Pern, Piemur was the one chosen for the leading role at Lord Groghe’s Gather…and then his voice broke. Suddenly his whole future at Harperhall became uncertain. But Masterharper Robinton, Menolly and Sebell had other plans for Piemur.“

From the book blurb

Entertaining story of his misadventures, that eventually take a positive turn for him. Not quite as well plotted or as gripping as the two Harperhall novels Dragonsong / Dragonsinger with Menolly as main character. But nice enough. And it gives an enticing glimpse into the Southern Continent.

All good things come to an end

Leviathan Falls (The Expanse #9)
by James S.A. Corey,  Jefferson Mays (Narrator)

A well done ending to the series. I did not expect it to go into the direction it did, so that was satisfying. It ends bittersweet, with some sadness, but also hope. The epilogue was fun.

I am sad that the series ended, but it was a good time for it. 5 stars for the happy feels and the action and Amos Burton.

“I absolutely believe that people are more good on balance than bad,” he said. “All the wars and all of the cruelty and all of the violence. I’m not looking away from any of that, and I still think there’s something beautiful about being what we are. History is soaked in blood. The future probably will be too. But for every atrocity, there’s a thousand small kindnesses that no one noticed. A hundred people who spent their lives loving and caring for each other. A few moments of real grace.”

2021 Hugo Awards

I didn‘t really follow the whole process, as I only vaguely care about awards, but here you are anyway—the results!

Best Novel
2040 final ballots cast (86.4%)
1093 nominating ballots for 441 nominees, finalist range 309-132

  • Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com) —> I agree, Murderbot is fun, even if the middle dragged a bit.
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit) —> read and disliked this one.
  • Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
  • Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press / Solaris)
  • The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books / Solaris)
  • Harrow The Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)

Best Novella
1691 final ballots cast (71.6%)
778 nominating ballots for 157 nominees, finalist range 219-124

  • The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Nghi Vo (Tor.com)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor.com) —> on my TBR pile… soon! Maybe…
  • Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com)
  • Upright Women Wanted, Sarah Gailey (Tor.com) —> did I just get that?
  • Finna, Nino Cipri (Tor.com)
  • Riot Baby, Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com) —> on my TBR pile… soon! Maybe…

Every single one of that category is from Tor. Apparently they give good Novella… *smirk*

Best Novelette
1499 final ballots cast (63.5%)
465 nominating ballots for 197 nominees, finalist range 108-33

  • Two Truths and a Lie, Sarah Pinsker (Tor.com)
  • “The Inaccessibility of Heaven”, Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny Magazine, July/August 2020)
  • “Monster”, Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “The Pill”, Meg Elison (from Big Girl, (PM Press))
  • “Helicopter Story”, Isabel Fall (Clarkesworld, January 2020)
  • “Burn, or the Episodic Life of Sam Wells as a Super”, A.T. Greenblatt (Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2020)

Best Short Story
1574 final ballots cast (66.6%)
586 nominating ballots for 634 nominees, finalist range 65-35

  • “Metal Like Blood in the Dark”, T. Kingfisher (Uncanny Magazine, September/October 2020)
  • Little Free Library, Naomi Kritzer (Tor.com) —> a friend of mine did the podcast narration, I really need to listen to it…
  • “A Guide for Working Breeds”, Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Made to Order: Robots and Revolution, ed. Jonathan Strahan (Solaris))
  • “Open House on Haunted Hill”, John Wiswell (Diabolical Plots – 2020, ed. David Steffen)
  • “The Mermaid Astronaut”, Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, February 2020)
  • “Badass Moms in the Zombie Apocalypse”, Rae Carson (Uncanny Magazine, January/February 2020)

Best Series
1872 final ballots cast (79.3%)
727 nominating ballots for 180 nominees, finalist range 300-87

  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tor.com) —> totally agree!
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction/Solaris) —> read the first one and one or two short stories. It was ok, but not enough for me to continue..
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager)

Quite a good run for Martha Wells and Murderbot!

Best Graphic Story or Comic
1048 final ballots cast (44.4%)
303 nominating ballots for 254 nominees, finalist range 43-24

  • Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)
  • Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire, Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosi Kämpe (Marvel)
  • Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda (Image Comics) —> Still very, very good!
  • Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire (BOOM! Studios)
  • Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author: G. Willow Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward (Dark Horse Comics)
  • DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image Comics)

I am tempted to get Parable of the Sower, I will see. My track record with Octavia Butler so far was mixed.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
1551 final ballots cast (64.7%)
574 nominating ballot for 192 nominees, finalist range 164-56

  • The Old Guard, written by Greg Rucka, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Netflix / Skydance Media)
  • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), written by Christina Hodson, directed by Cathy Yan (Warner Bros.)
  • Soul, screenplay by Pete Docter, Mike Jones and Kemp Powers, directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, produced by Dana Murray (Pixar Animation Studios/ Walt Disney Pictures)
  • Palm Springs, written by Andy Siara, directed by Max Barbakow (Limelight / Sun Entertainment Culture / The Lonely Island / Culmination Productions / Neon / Hulu / Amazon Prime)
  • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, written by Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele, directed by David Dobkin (European Broadcasting Union/Netflix)
  • Tenet, written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Warner Bros./Syncopy)

Old Guard is on my Netflix watchlist and the comic is kicking about in my comiXology app as well. Another one I finally want to get to in the new year.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
1667 final ballots cast (70.6%)
454 nominating ballot for 321 nominees, finalist range 130-30

  • The Good Place: Whenever You’re Ready, written and directed by Michael Schur (Fremulon / 3 Arts Entertainment / Universal Television, a division of Universal Studio Group)
  • The Expanse: Gaugamela, written by Dan Nowak, directed by Nick Gomez (Alcon Entertainment / Alcon Television Group / Amazon Studios / Hivemind / Just So) —> what season and episode is that??? Expanse is great!
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 16: The Rescue, written by Jon Favreau, directed by Peyton Reed (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+) —> so good! One of the reasons I got Disney+. Just for this series totally worth it!
  • The Mandalorian: Chapter 13: The Jedi, written and directed by Dave Filoni (Golem Creations / Lucasfilm / Disney+)
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Heart (parts 1 and 2), written by Josie Campbell and ND Stevenson, directed by Jen Bennett and Kiki Manrique (DreamWorks Animation Television / Netflix)
  • Doctor Who: Fugitive of the Judoon, written by Vinay Patel and Chris Chibnall, directed by Nida Manzoor (BBC)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book (presented by the World Science Fiction Society)

  • A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, T. Kingfisher (Argyll Productions)
  • A Deadly Education, Naomi Novik (Del Rey)
  • Elatsoe, Darcie Little Badger (Levine Querido) —> pretty good UF, I don‘t regret reading it.
  • Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Margaret K. McElderry/ Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)
  • Cemetery Boys, Aiden Thomas (Swoon Reads)
  • Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko (Amulet / Hot Key)

I left out a few. If you want to see the full list, just follow the link at the top.

The Moon is still Calling…

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of the very few Urban Fantasy series that I still follow. I used to read almost nothing but UF for the best part of a decade, until the genre was so oversaturated with new, mediocre stuff that I lost the taste for it.

Last year, when another book in the spin-off series Alpha & Omega came out, I re-read both series in chronological order, which took quite a while. It was fun and an excellent reminder of some foggy details and hotly debated points of the fandom.

In June 2022 another installment of the series will be published, Soul Taken (Mercy Thompson, #13). Counting the spin-off series, that brings us to book 19 in this universe, ignoring a bunch of short stories, comics, etc. Book #12 of the main series dealt with some marriage problems between our titular hero and her mate, that hopefully will get resolved in the new book.

I liked that book, but this is another series where I am starting to wonder if it‘s perhaps time to wrap things up for good. Definitely still getting the new one in June though! Pre-ordered!

The Architects may be back. And they’re still angry.

Shards of Earth (The Final Architects, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of my favourite books of 2021. You can read my review here. An excellent piece of space opera with great world building and a nicely imagined ensemble cast, that reminded me a little of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

The Arthur C. Clarke award-winning author of Children of Time brings us an extraordinary new space opera about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all.

I listened to the the audiobook, narrated by Sophie Aldred. It‘s worth getting, she is good. She also narrated his Doors of Eden, another book with very imaginative world building.

I think that fans of the author know by now that the man is a writing machine. I was very happy to discover that part 2 of this trilogy, Eyes of the Void (The Final Architecture Book 2), will already be published at the end of April. I hope there will be an audio again, with the same narrator.

Mentioning Small, Angry Planet obviously reminds me again, that I still want to continue with that series. Maybe I‘ll manage to get to A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers in 2022…