Thursday, November 30, 2017

The United Federation of Charles 2017 Book Awards

Hey folks,
Sculpture of HP Lovecraft by Bryan Moore/copyright 2009.
It occurs to me that I have reviewed a staggering amount of stuff here on my blog but never was so arrogant to give out my own personalized awards. Well, I've decided to be every bit as arrogant as that decision deserves. This is going to be a collection of awards presented to those works of media that I feel like stood above the rest this year.

You may wonder why I'm presenting a bust of H.P. Lovecraft as my award. Well, for two reasons, the first is the World Fantasy Awards aren't using it anymore and second since this is just a picture of a bust that costs nothing--I might as well actually make it look good.

All of the contest awards are judged and presented by me with no input involved. I am completely fair in my judgement and will explain why I made the choices I need. If you have a problem with my decisions, well, it's just a blog award dude. I know a couple of these authors but that has not influenced my vote and even if it did--it would still be more honest than Hollywood.

Best of 2017

I might as well get the big award out of the way before anything else. After all, it's the one everyone is looking forward to.

Winner: The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah Wolf

I confess, I was actually back and forth on this one because there were a lot of incredibly good books which came out this year. Generally, the awards went to either Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames or Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. It kind of annoyed me this one didn't get nearly the attention it deserved.

The Dragon's Legacy is a massive book which takes place in a fantasy version of the Middle East and China that discusses the nature of everything from family as well as what to do when the world is ending (and there's not a damn thing you can do about it). Deborah A. Wolf's prose is amazing and she deserves every bit of success she can get.

Runner Up: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

What? I didn't say Kings of the Wyld didn't deserve all of the praise it was getting. I just thought it wasn't quite as good as The Dragon's Legacy. It's a hilarious story about a bunch of over-the-hill mercenaries which combines Dungeons and Dragons with This is Spinal Tap. Saga is one of the great collections of heroes in fantasy fiction--and I mean all of it--that it's a shame the book ever had to come to an end.

Best Grimdark

Why best grimdark? Why not best grimdark? If you love gritty and dark fantasy (and you know I do), there's nothing better. Besides, it's what I enjoy reading the most and if you're going to do a book award then you should have categories which reflect your interests.

Winner: A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden

I confess I was surprised by this one as well since, like The Dragon's Legacy, it was a bit of a sleeper hit compared to some other works out there. However, this book is frigging dark and wonderful. The story of the last monster in the dying age of paganism, it has an amazing knowledge of both Norse mythology as well as history. The characters are fascinating but flawed with no one having a claim to good but many having one to evil. Everyone who loves their fantasy bitter and bleak should pick up a copy of this. The fact it ends up on a ray of hope is perhaps the most surprising thing of all.

Runner Up: Where Loyalties Lie by Rob Hayes 

I feel like kicking myself for not giving Rob Hayes the award here but A Gathering of Ravens was so good! Even so, Where Loyalties Lie really is perhaps my "favorite" book of the year. It's got pirates, grimdark, intrigue, sexy pirate wenches, and moral ambiguity up the wazoo. It comes in second here and third for Best of 2017. You'd be a fool not to buy it as well as its sequel The Fifth Empire of Man.

Best Independent Fantasy

Why Independent Fantasy and not Fantasy in general? Well, I think it's better to acknowledge the people who may have fallen through the cracks. Plus, there's been a lot of really good independent fantasy I've read this year.

Winner: Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer

Darkstorm is probably the sleeper hit of my year because it's just damned good no matter how you slice it. It reminds me a bit of the D&D fiction I used to read religiously at my local Waldenbooks in highschool. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and so on but with a lot more edge to it. The story of a coming apocalypse, two feuding brothers, a beautiful young mage, and how the heroes will NOT succeed in saving the world. Darkstorm is actually a prequel to the rest of the series but I have to say it's better by a mile (and I liked the others).

Runner Up: Shattered Dreams by Ulff Lehman

This was a particularly tough one as while I liked Darkstorm most out of all the independent fantasy novels I read this year, there were a lot of other really good ones. The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French, which I look forward to being published by a mainstream publisher, and Faithless by Graham Austin King both qualify.

In the end, though, I'm inclined to give this one to Ulff Lehman for the fact he managed to craft a multifacted dark epic fantasy which contained some truly great characters. He came within inches of toppling Darkstorm but I have to say I liked its prose just a wee bit better. Still, an impressive accomplishment and I hope people will pick this book up.

Best Independent Sci-Fi

Same for Independent Fantasy, there's just so many good books out there written by those unencumbered by the machine. Indeed, I actually had to split this award into two given my reading tastes.

Winner: Mercury's Son by Luke Hindmarsh

Where to place Mercury's Son is a work which confounded me for a lot of times because I fully admit to knowing Luke Hindmarsh. I also read the slightly-less awesome version of the book followed by its much more awesome re-write. I'm judging on the version currently out now, though, which is just pure awesome.

So, take my award with a grain of salt but I couldn't not give it to him because it was the sci-fi book I most enjoyed this year. Independent or otherwise. What is Mercury's Son about? The story of a dark and dying Earth, a theocracy, and a cyborg with no memory. There's so much good dystopian fiction out there, it's amazing I can say this is the best right now.

Runner-Up: The Secret King: Lethao by Dawn Chapman

I actually had this one as the winner for a bit because it's such a beautiful space opera with intrigue, social conflict, love, and war. The similarities to the 70s Battlestar Galactica only increased my enjoyment along with its Flash Gordon-esque grandeur. There's some parts which stumbled but I still felt this was an amazing work.

Best Cyberpunk

What can I say? I love cyberpunk so much it needed its own category.

Winner: Ghosts of Tomorrow by Michael R. Fletcher

There was really no contest for this one as Ghosts of Tomorrow is among the best cyberpunk novels ever written: comparable with Snow Crash, Neuromancer, and Altered Carbon. It's the story of the brain trade of the minds of children in a world where A.I. scans are a premium market but can only be made once from the living (something quantum mechanics says may actually be possible). It's dark, extreme, beautiful, and insane all at once. It also has a cowboy samurai cyborg assassin.

Runner Up: West End Droids, East End Dames by Brian Parker

West End Droids is an interesting addition to this list because it's actually the third book in a series and you don't see too many sequels winning awards. However, this is a great story about cyborgs, crime, as well as casual police corruption in a cyberpunk New Orleans. Zach Forrest is a great character and watching him reach his limit with the men who are supposed to watch is back is great.

Best Cthulhu Mythos 

It's a bit unfair to give an award to a genre completely made of pastiches but H.P. Lovecraft IS on the bust and he's already upset with me for profiting from his work. So, I'm going to appease his ghost with this category.

Winner: The Statement of Andrew Doran by Matthew Davenport

There's a lot of crappy Lovecraft pastiches out there and very few novelists bother to take risks. So, really, it was down to either The Statement of Andrew Doran or Winter's Tide for the best of the year. Matthew Davenport wins, in the end, because his novels involved punching Nazis in the face and finding the girl of your dreams actually is just a product of sorcery.

Runner Up: Winter's Tide by Ruthanna Emrys

Is it right to do a story where it turns out all the monsters of H.P. Lovecraft were misunderstood victims of government persecution and racism? Well, maybe, maybe not but Ruthanna makes a powerful story about the last surviving member of the Deep One hybrids after the Innsmouth raid. Not quite as good as the original Litany of the Earth but damn close.

In any case, hope you enjoyed!