Best Reads 2013

2013, sadly was a year I didn’t read as much as I wanted to. In fact, I didn’t work around the book number I set in the beginning of the year. Finishing university in a rush, applying for a US visa, summer work in the USA and back home – it was a fine, fun ride. I met Neil Gaiman at his book signing and Scott Snyder and a bunch of awesome comic book artists at Comic Con.

Still, I do have a list. Big thanks to John Wiswell for hosting #bestreads2013 !

Kicking it in with 7 pieces of art in the Graphic novels, Horror, YA, Sci-fi genre. Voila!

Graphic Novels  

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

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What’s not to like about a breath of fresh air when it comes to well-known super heroes? And what’s not to like when Neil Gaiman does it? Beautifully drawn, this graphic novel takes us from modern day America and transports us to 1602, Elizabethan England, where our favorite Marvel heroes find themselves in the birth of an age that brings people with odd abilities into the light. It’s a trilling mystery told in eight issues and it re-introduces characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Dr. Doom, Black Widow, Fantastic Four, Captain America, Dare Devil, Magneto and more. Will you recognize them without their famous attire? Will you spot them in this different spin-off to a famous bunch we love and remember?

I dearly enjoyed the whole story, and how the characters interacted with each other to create this new mystery narrative that evolved into an action sequence, revealing characters by the next page. It’s spoils all the way so I won’t let out much. There’s this twist in the end though… I’ll shush. I highly recommended it: it’s worth the attention and the art will keep you wanting more. Just check it out!

The Nightmare Factory based on the stories of Thomas Ligotti

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I love Thomas Ligotti and I love graphic novels, so when something like this comes forward I accept it with opened arms. Ligotti is such a masterful storyteller and his works are bizarre! He toys the sub-genre so well, it’s beyond me to say with what insanity and provocation one story begins and with what horror parallel it finishes. He is a contemporary horror writer.

Four stories find themselves in this beautifully delivered anthology, written by Stuart Moore and Joe Harris and each done differently by brilliant artists and colorists. The art is magnificent!

The first story is The Last Feast of Harlequin and it pays tribute to a Lovecraftian tradition of short story telling – the masterfully handled first person witness narrative that chills your bones. We get no name, but we are introduced to an anthropologist obsessed with clowns and their portrayal. This passion of his takes him to the town of Mirocaw where an annual Fools Feast is celebrated. In a celebration ritual on the streets of the town he becomes amused in the strange natures of the celebration itself, and follows a procession believing it to be a traditional ritual, only to find himself questioning his own sanity.

The second story, Dream of a Manikin introduces the possibility of shared dreams. A man psychologist investigates the a patient’s dreams which seem not to be fantasy at all, but rather glimpses of a fully separate life. I dare not go further on, as my next word will fail to prevent a spoiler. And this is a story you’d want to see for yourself.

Third story names itself: Dr. Locrian’s Asylum

Years passed and no one in our town, no one I could name, allotted a single word to that great ruin which marred the evenness of the horizon.”  An asylum and its burial grounds creeps over a town that despises it; it’s an abomination to the people there. So they decide to demolish it, casting away the shadows in the windows. Alas, old Locrian has a secret to tell – the sanitarium must never be disturbed.

Fourth story calls: Teatro Grottesco, is a mind-bending unknown, a form of mise-en-scene of our lives that is cruel and incoherent. It is destructive. It is provocation. It is anxiety. It’s a subconscious trial that results in the death of creativity.

I loved this anthology. It’s done masterfully. And if Ligotti is a new name, it most definitely should become a familiar one. He is too versatile to miss out.

Horror

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

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“Poor strangers, they have so much to be afraid of.”

And indeed you should be, for you too are a stranger to the Blackwood sisters! Alas, you are safe, for you are an invisible stranger. I say this book welcomes to a normality that is chilling and to a mystery that is making you nervous, the tea in your hand shaking. Did you put any sugar in it? “Merricat, said Connie, would you like a cup of tea?” When this normality becomes disturbed, infiltrated by an outside force of evil, that destroys all magic totems, all spells and magical words, the oddity increases. This is not a novel about monsters or ghosts. It lacks gore. But it has something much more frightening then those. It messes with your mind, with your own normality and comfort. And as you keep following the narrative masterfully told by Jackson and by Merricat Blackwood, the younger of the two Blackwood sisters. It’s a macabre novel spiced with sinister humor; it abandons time and moves through a distorted pattern of days; it invites you into seclusion.

I read it in one seat or so, and loved every page of it. A classic without doubt! And a chilling one too! If you haven’t you should check it too.

N0s4a2 by Joe Hill

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I absolutely love supernatural suspense! I finished “The Talisman” and “The Black House” works of Stephen King and Peter Straub and I wanted more of this breathtaking pace and horrid atmosphere, but somehow different. Then I found N0s4a2 and I was happy again. So you have a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wrath and a man with a very special talent riding in it – he can take children to a very special place called Christmasland. But this man doesn’t drive on state roads, he knows hidden paths, that swirl from here to beyond.

Then we have this little girl that has the nag of finding things previously misplaced. With her bike- one Raleigh Tuff Burner- she goes in and out of a dangerous crumbling bridge that takes her wherever she wants to go, be it across the country or just across a road.

One day the two find each other.

Spoiler ended.

It’s a thrilling adventure, this novel, with its almost 700 pages. It’s a disturbing ride, dark and twisted, that tempers with your Christmasy mood and your trust in strangers. Care to test your fear? Open up the pages. I did. It’s scary.

YA/ Horror

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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I’ve already reviewed this novel, but as best reads 2013 go, this was one of my most enjoyable reads.

Stories shelter us from the darkness, and by the laws of imagination and breathing life into scary things we understand what makes us human, what makes us fear. This novel is a fable, an enigmatic read throwing the reader into a story narrated by a little boy whose grasping the nature of his surroundings and their sudden, terrifying destruction.

It’s a novel about friendship. Though short it carries much love and strength.

YA/Sci-fi/Dystopian

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

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I love the hate this novel is receiving. I dig the novel, it’s geeky and rebellious and got me all excited to “ravage” the Internet, anonymously bringing justice amongst my fellow citizens. I played with that thought to the point where I made a blog for university constructed around quotes and inspired by the cyphered anonymity that the novel projects. It’s a fun thing, fooling around. But for me the novel did what it had to; it made me want to stir the boat a bit, and poke where it bled the most. In parallel with student protests in my country, it worked rather well I think.

Back to the novel.

I believe it takes place in 2015 where a geeky, hacker, role-playing 17 year old Marcus aka w1n5ton aka m1k3y finds himself skipping school only to be in the center of a terrorist attack over San Francisco. He and his friends get held up by the DHS and tortured in interrogation on a secluded island prison not far off town. When the DHS decides to release Marcus under supervision he vowels to take them down and end their terror over citizens and his fellow students. By operating a complicated network that invites users only by trusted keys called the Xnet, Marcus and friends combine on making chaos in the plans of the DHS.

Now it’s not 1984, but it’s a pretty nice generation shift, and it has a ton of tech language slipped into the plot, which I found cool and smart. I had fun reading it, and experimenting its ways irl.

Science Fiction/Short story

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

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Last year I had Harlan Ellison, this year I cannot turn away from something of his. This something I read on the plane flying away from home. I didn’t even know I had it, till…

It’s a postapocalyptic story that takes places 109 years after the total destruction of human kind. A war between China, Russia and the USA spawns post factum the Cold War, and allegedly the three warring nations each create a super- computer to run the war for them. They are referred to as ‘AM” which finds different meanings. One of the computers however becomes self -aware and absorbs the other two computers, carrying on the war and committing mass genocide leaving only four men and one woman. They inahibt a seemingly endless place, the only habitable area left, and each hour AM spends torturing them, killing them from hatred. Alas he has made them immortal, virtually and incapable of taking their own lives. Food is scarce and the group take on a journey to find more, when on the way AM sends them disaster after disaster. It’s a complex story testing human nature under impossible hostile situations. It’s so prolonged and exhausting it has changed the nature of their being, made them senseless and aggressive.

I’ve said before, I absolutely love Harlan Ellison and his works. This short story carries a lot in its scarce length. If you are a fan, or got a hint of wow from the small description above, look up the story – it’s good and disturbing.

Overall, not a bad year!

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10 thoughts on “Best Reads 2013

  1. God, I love We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Perhaps my all-time favorite novella. Jackson was on another level of Horror and Literary fiction.

    And it’s always a pleasure to read you gushing about Gaiman, Cindy!

  2. Shirley Jackson and Harlan Ellison on your Best Reads list… How have I not been following your blog all this time? Nightmare Factory looks wonderful. I have room for a horror novel/anthology this year, right? Definitely.

  3. I love the cover for that Shirley Jackson one.

    Also, glad to hear The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman was good. Neil Gaiman is a little hit and miss for me.

    • A part of why The Ocean at the End of the Lane got to be a favorite read of mine is because Neil himself read bits of it, and he does that in a brilliant way, with all the voices and the pauses. So afterwards reading it was a great experience.

      I was looking for that cover of Shirley Jackson and Barns & Noble had it, so lucky me!

  4. Great list, thank you!

    Harlan Ellison is amazing. I’m so glad his books are becoming more available again!

    I added the Shirley Jackson and the Neil Gaiman to my Goodreads list.

    • Thank you, Katherine! I added almost every book from your list. Good stuff there!

      As to Harlan Ellison – He is epic! I fell in love with Deathbird Stories and now I have pretty much a ton of his works.

      Jackson and Gaiman are true gems – you’ll love them!

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