Barbarian Book Club: Best of 2017 and Planetary Awards Nomination

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It dawned on me that I never got around to putting together a best of 2017 post. It’s tough for me and somewhat useless because my reading choices are completely organic. I chose my reading material based on split-second emotion without rhyme or reason when it comes to publication date, genre, topic, or length. I also impulse buy Kindle books when they go on sale so I have a significant back catalog that I go through based on whatever dark mood takes me.

In 2017 I finished 39 books give or take a few re-reads and research for my day job that I don’t keep track of.

The Genre breakdown is as follows:

  • Fantasy: 12
  • Sci-Fi: 4
  • Historical Fiction: 2
  • History: 5
  • Crime/Detective: 2
  • Other Nonfiction: 25

Favorite Fiction Read: Thune’s Vision by Schuyler Hernstrom

516TtCvHahLThis is hands down one of the best short story collections I’ve read in a long time. Hernstrom writes like a savage clone abomination of Robert Howard and Jack Vance. Barbarians, reptilians, shamans, witches, walking dead, and all sorts of dark gonzo madness fill the pages of this collection. Thune’s Vision is the Fantasy version of an underground death metal LP that you can only pick up at an invite-only exclusive show held in some cave in the middle of a dark wood. I read the whole collection in one sitting and immediately had to run to the gym to knock out a few sets of deadlifts so I could feel somewhat worthy. Read it now.

Favorite NonFiction: Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

One of the best biographies I have ever read. Masterfully written covering the life of one 20170928_211824.jpgof the worlds greatest general and conqueror of Europe since Alexander and Cesar. The massive tome covers Napoleon’s life from his youth in Corsica through the French Revolution, the Egyptian expedition, his triumphs at Austerlitz, and finally his catastrophic campaign in Russia, defeat at Waterloo, and exile and death on St. Helena The book gives us an in-depth picture of Napoleon’s personal thoughts due to the recently released collection of 33,000 letters written during his life. It paints a fascinating picture of a vastly intelligent and complex man who micromanaged every little detail of his reign and was able to shoot off a letter focused on winning over the Austrians one minute then switch gears and write a missive correcting the improper wear of uniform by a private he saw a week prior and his recommendation and opinion on the latest Operas playing in Paris. My favorite sections focused on Napoleon’s interaction with his soldiers and the extreme respect he had for the common grunt and how he showed a genius understanding of the psychology of the soldier. Excellent reading for anybody interested in military leadership, history, the 19th century, and great men in general.

Biggest Disappointment: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

RedSisterA joyless book lacking the interesting characters of The Broken Empire and the joyful wit and comedy of The Red Queens War. Lawrence took every grimdark cliché, amped up the blood to 11, but left out the realism; creating a superhero pre-pubescent murder fantasy lacking any emotional punch, stretching the believability of the characters beyond all plausibility. Red Sister committed the biggest sin, it bored me. So much so that I would make up excuses to avoid returning to it, spending my reading time reading articles or just browsing the internet. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that I paid 12.99 for the damn ebook and that everybody that also didn’t like it said that the last 20% picked up. It does a bit but not enough to make it through the slog of following a 9-year-old going through a nonsensical ninja nun school.

The thing that pissed me off about this turd is that Mark started hyping it up with the cover art, art that clearly shows an adult woman. I expected a violent dark fantasy featuring some sort of assassin nun. Instead, I got fucking Harry Potter with a feral girl-child in some shitty predictable post-apocalyptic or future fantasy setting that replaces the magic houses with castes which are obviously powers due to mutations either from being space colonists or some sort of post-apocalyptic bioengineering. Either way, the whole damn thing was boring.

2017 Planetary Award Short Story Nomination: 

The First American, by Schuyler Hernstrom

The Barbarian Book Club nomination for short story comes from Cirsova #5, the wholecover damn issue is fantastic. It was hard to choose between The First American and Burnett’s In the Gloaming O My Darling, a fantastic Lovecraftian tale with a hint of homoeroticism and a dollop of horror. In the end, I had to go with The First American because the whole insane Vancian madness is unforgettable. Barbarians, lasers, reptile-men, time-traveling astronauts, holy shit I had to take a breath after finish this one, climb to the top of my house, and play the Star Spangled Banner on my fucking Stratocaster, and I don’t even own a guitar.

On the topic of nominating, I also want to remind everyone following the Planetary Awards Blog, that my story, A Tiger in the Garden, came out this year in Storyhack #0.

There you go, the Best of the Barbarian Book Club reading list. A lot of the other stuff I read this year was great. Not to mention that I read a bunch of Shakespeare, and honestly, I had to leave out the Bard because nothing compares.

So the final take away is that you should click on the above link, drop the two bucks, and read Thune’s Vision immediately.

Barbarian Book Club: 11 May 2017

April was a slow month for reading. I turned 34 in the middle of another beautiful Japanese Spring. When your whole world explodes with beautiful cherry blossoms, light rains, amazing greenery, the last thing you do is sit around and read all day.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I discovered Mark Lawrence throughRedSister one of his short stories in Grimdark #1. It was a raw, brutal tale about a farmer who avenges himself on a band of thugs that murdered his family. On the strength of that story, I bought his entire Broken Empire trilogy and continued to read all the way through the Red Queen’s War series. So when Red Sister, a brand new standalone was announced, I was excited and preordered. Sadly it was a total let down; stupid, silly, filled with cliche, and downright boring. Lawrence stuffed everything I hate about modern fantasy into one book. It was such a boring chore to get through that I would make excuses to myself and ended up taking over two weeks to read a novel that I would usually finish in a day or two.

The Green Pearl by Jack Vance. To get the bad taste out of my mouth and break my reading slump that started to overtake me I went back to a master. The Green Pearl is the second book in the Lyonesse Trilogy. Wow… I loved Suldrun’s Garden but this one solidifies Lyonesse as one of my favorite fantasy TheGreenPearlseries ever. This novel is pure fantasy,  beauty, and magic mixed with sorrow and darkness. The story continues where the last one left off and it is full of battles, truly magical magicians, multiple worlds, sinister creatures, and everything that is missing from modern fantasy. Vance is a master and this trilogy has to be one of the most underappreciated pieces of fantasy written in the last thirty years.  Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Soto recap, a disappointing attempt at reading modern Fantasy left me dejected so I turned to a classic master to rejuvenate me. I enjoyed The Green Pearl so much that I jumped right into the final book in the series, Maudoc and looking forward to finishing it as soon as I publish this post.