The Failed Apocalypse Awards – Best Books of 2012 [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings selects his twenty-five favourite novels of 2012.
“2012 has been a great year for books, with some spectacular picks that will please fantasy, historical fiction and science fiction fans alike.” ~The Founding Fields
It’s the time of year now where bloggers are starting to put up/have put up their best of 2012 novels and as I posted my highlights last year, I thought I’d contribute with my own. Wheras last year there were categories like “Best Sci-Fi” or “Best Fantasy” novel of 2011, the format for this year is going to be slightly different. Because I’m going to be giving a straightforward list, counting down from 25 to one, of my favourite novels of 2012. The genres that I’ve covered are fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction – namely because these are the genres that I’ve read the most this year. There are three rules for this year’s “Best of..” awards – and that is that the novel’s first release must have been in 2012. I can’t include a novel with a hardback release of 2011 and a paperback release of 2012. I also can’t include a novel with a release of 2013 that I read as an ARC in this list (otherwise Laura Lam’s Pantomime would certainly be on there), and finally – I also can’t include two books by the same author. (Including pennames – unless it’s two different authors working together under one penname. For example, I can have a book by Daniel Abraham and a book by James SA Corey) because even though James SA Corey is a penname of Daniel Abraham, I can include Caliban’s War in the list because Ty Frank (George RR Martin’s assistant) helped Abraham with Caliban’s War like he did with Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the Expanse series (Caliban’s War being the sequel).
And of course, after the wild speculation of there being an Apocalypse on the 21 December only to find out that there wasn’t (which is a shame as I was ready to do battle with zombies, my personal preferred doomsday scenario), I decided to name this year’s Awards The Failed Apocalypse Awards, following on from my best novels of the first half of the year post on my personal blog, named The Amazing Spiderman Awards, after the fact that it was the only major superhero film (behind The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers) which I hadn’t seen. I still haven’t.
So now, without further ado – after that long and lengthy introduction, I present to you…
[All Blurbs are from Goodreads and all official pages are linked to UK publishers where possible, and failing that – either the author’s website or their US counterpart.]
25 – Knife Sworn by Mazarkis Williams (The Tower and Knife #2)
After spending most of his life in captivity, Sarmin now sits upon the Throne of Cerana. But his reign is an uneasy one. And the emperor’s own heart is torn between two very different women: Mesema, a Windreader princess, and Grada, a lowborn untouchable with whom Sarmin shares a unique bond. In times past, a royal assassin known as the Emperor’s Knife served to defend the throne from menace, but the last Knife has perished and his successor has yet to be named. Sarmin must choose his own loyal death-dealer . . . but upon whom can be he bestow the burden of the Knife-Sworn?
24 – The Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton
In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.
Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo.
But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra …
23 – Sharps by KJ Parker
For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money…
Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.
When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?
22 – Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow
1565, Malta: a vital outpost between the divided nations of Europe and the relentlessly expanding Ottoman Empire. Faced with ferocious attack by a vast Turkish fleet, the knights of the Order of St John fear annihilation. Amongst those called to assist is disgraced veteran Sir Thomas Barrett. Loyalty and instinct compel him to put the Order above all other concerns, yet his allegiance is divided. At Queen Elizabeth’s command, he must search for a hidden scroll, guarded by the knights, that threatens her reign.
As Sir Thomas confronts the past that cost him his honour and a secret that has long lain buried, a vast enemy army arrives to lay siege to the island…
21 – Chimera by TC McCarthy (The Subterrene War #3)
Escaped Germline soldiers need to be cleaned up, and Stan Resnick is the best man for the job. A job that takes him to every dark spot and every rat hole he can find.
Operatives from China and Unified Korea are gathering escaped or stolen Russian and American genetics, and there are reports of new biological nightmares: half-human things, bred to live their entire lives encased in powered armor suits.
Stan fights to keep himself alive and out of prison while he attempts to capture a genetic, one who will be able to tell him everything he needs to know about an newer threat, the one called “Project Sunshine.”
Chimera is the third and final volume of The Subterrene War Trilogy, which tells the story of a single war from the perspective of three different combatants. The first two volumes, GERMLINE and EXOGENE, are available now.
20 – Fear by Michael Grant (Gone #5)
It’s been one year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.
Despite the hunger and the lies, even despite the plague, the kids of Perdido Beach are determined to survive. Creeping into the tenuous new world they’ve built, though, is perhaps the worst incarnation yet of the enemy known as the Darkness: fear.
Within the FAYZ, life breaks down while the Darkness takes over, literally–turning the dome-world of the FAYZ entirely black. In darkness, the worst fears of all emerge, and the cruelest of intentions are carried out. But even in their darkest moments, the inhabitants of the FAYZ maintain a will to survive and a desire to take care of the others in their ravaged band that endures, no matter what the cost.
Fear, Michael Grant’s fifth book in the bestselling dystopian Gone series, will thrill readers . . . even as it terrifies them.
19 – Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds (Poseiden’s Children #1)
BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH is the first volume in a monumental trilogy tracing the Akinya family across more than ten thousand years of future history…out beyond the solar system, into interstellar space and the dawn of galactic society.
One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey’s family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey’s grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked – well, blackmailed, really – to go up there and make sure the family’s name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise – or anyone else in the family, for that matter – what he’s about to unravel.
Eunice’s ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything.
Or shatter this near-utopia into shards…
18 – Tomorrow the Killing by Daniel Polansky (Low Town #2)
Once he was a hero of the Great War, and then a member of the dreaded Black House. Now he is the criminal linchpin of Low Town.
His name is Warden.
He thought he had left the war behind him, but a summons from up above brings the past sharply, uncomfortably, back into focus. General Montgomery’s daughter is missing somewhere in Low Town, searching for clues about her brother’s murder. The General wants her found, before the stinking streets can lay claim to her, too.
17 – Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
From the acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World, blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.
Joe Spork spends his days fixing antique clocks. The son of infamous London criminal Mathew “Tommy Gun” Spork, he has turned his back on his family’s mobster history and aims to live a quiet life. That orderly existence is suddenly upended when Joe activates a particularly unusual clockwork mechanism. His client, Edie Banister, is more than the kindly old lady she appears to be—she’s a retired international secret agent. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. Having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the British government and a diabolical South Asian dictator who is also Edie’s old arch-nemesis. On the upside, Joe’s got a girl: a bold receptionist named Polly whose smarts, savvy and sex appeal may be just what he needs. With Joe’s once-quiet world suddenly overrun by mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realizes that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she abandoned years ago and pick up his father’s old gun . . .
16 – The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief #2)
“The good thing is, no one will ever die again. The bad thing is, everyone will want to.”
A physicist receives a mysterious paper. The ideas in it are far, far ahead of current thinking and quite, quite terrifying. In a city of “fast ones,” shadow players, and jinni, two sisters contemplate a revolution.
And on the edges of reality a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrödinger box for his patron. In the box is his freedom. Or not.
Jean de Flambeur is back. And he’s running out of time.
In Hannu Rajaniemi’s sparkling follow-up to the critically acclaimed international sensation The Quantum Thief, he returns to his awe-inspiring vision of the universe…and we discover what the future held for Earth.
15 – Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Night Lords #3)
The third book in the Night Lords trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Aaron Dembski-Bowden. Talos and the rest of First Claw continue down their dark path, until it crosses that of the alien eldar – the Farseers of the Ulthwe craftworld divine a great threat posed by the Night Lords, and seek to bring the myriad skeins of fate back into alignment before their prophecy can be fulfilled. With the wrath of the ancients upon them, Talos reluctantly leads his warriors into battle once more..
14 – Control Point by Myke Cole (Shadow Ops #1)
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer.
Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the dead, and set everything they touch ablaze.
Army officer Oscar Britton sees the worst of it. A lieutenant attached to the military’s Supernatural Operations Corps, his mission is to bring order to a world gone mad. Then he abruptly manifests a rare and prohibited magical power, transforming him overnight from government agent to public enemy number one.
The SOC knows how to handle this kind of situation: hunt him down–and take him out. Driven into an underground shadow world, Britton is about to learn that magic has changed all the rules he’s ever known, and that his life isn’t the only thing he’s fighting for.
13 – Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch (Peter Grant #3)
A WHOLE NEW REASON TO MIND THE GAP
It begins with a dead body at the far end of Baker Street tube station, all that remains of American exchange student James Gallagher—and the victim’s wealthy, politically powerful family is understandably eager to get to the bottom of the gruesome murder. The trouble is, the bottom—if it exists at all—is deeper and more unnatural than anyone suspects . . . except, that is, for London constable and sorcerer’s apprentice Peter Grant. With Inspector Nightingale, the last registered wizard in England, tied up in the hunt for the rogue magician known as “the Faceless Man,” it’s up to Peter to plumb the haunted depths of the oldest, largest, and—as of now—deadliest subway system in the world.
At least he won’t be alone. No, the FBI has sent over a crack agent to help. She’s young, ambitious, beautiful . . . and a born-again Christian apt to view any magic as the work of the devil. Oh yeah—that’s going to go well.
12 – Percepliquis by Michael J. Sullivan (Riryia Revelations #6)
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS…THE ELVES HAVE CROSSED THE NIDWALDEN. TWO THIEVES WILL DECIDE THE FUTURE.
“I saw a great journey. Ten upon the road, she who wears the light will lead the way. The road goes deep into the earth, and into despair. The voices of the dead guide your steps. You walk back in time. The three-thousand-year battle begins again. Cold grips the world, death comes to all, and a choice is before you.” — Fan Irlanu, Tenkin Seerer of Oudorro Village
Percepliquis is the final installment of the epic fantasy, The Riyria Revelations. In this saga that began with The Crown Conspiracy, two thieves caught in the wrong place at the right time were launched on a series of ever escalating adventures that have all lead to this moment. Three thousand years have passed and the time for Novron’s heir to act has arrived.
11 – The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle (The Night’s Masque #2)
Exiled from the court of Queen Elizabeth for accusing a powerful nobleman of treason, swordsman-turned-spy Mal Catlyn has been living in France with his young valet Coby Hendricks for the past year.
But Mal harbours a darker secret: he and his twin brother share a soul that once belonged to a skrayling, one of the mystical creatures from the New World.
When Mal’s dream about a skrayling shipwreck in the Mediterranean proves reality, it sets him on a path to the beautiful, treacherous city of Venice – and a conflict of loyalties that will place him and his friends in greater danger than ever.
10 – The Wrong Goodbye by Chris F. Holm (The Collector #2)
Meet Sam Thornton, Collector of Souls.
Because of his efforts to avert the Apocalypse, Sam Thornton has been given a second chance – provided he can stick to the straight-and-narrow.
Which sounds all well and good, but when the soul Sam’s sent to collect goes missing, Sam finds himself off the straight-and-narrow pretty quick.
9 – Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
Tony Prosdocimi lives in the bustling Metropolis of San Ventura – a city gripped in fear, a city under siege by the hooded supervillain, The Cowl.
When Tony develops super-powers and acts to take down The Cowl, however, he finds that the local superhero team Seven Wonders aren’t as grateful as he assumed they’d be…
8 – 1356 by Bernard Cornwell (The Grail Quest #4)
Go with God and Fight Like the Devil. A fascinating hero and the pursuit of a sword with mythical power – this is the remarkable new novel by Britain’s master storyteller, which culminates at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.
Thomas of Hookton, a veteran of Crecy and many other battles, is the leader of a mercenary company of bowmen and men-at-arms who ravage the countryside east of Gascony.
Edward, Prince of Wales, later to be known as the Black Prince, is assembling an army to fight the French once more but before Thomas can join, he must fulfil an urgent task.
La Malice, a sword of mythical power guaranteeing victory to its owner, is thought to be concealed somewhere near Poitiers. With signs that a battle between the English and the French is looming others are seeking the treasure too, and some – French, Scots and even English – are pursuing their private agendas against Thomas.
But all – Thomas of Hookton, his enemies and friends and the fate of La Malice – become swept up in the extraordinary confrontation that follows, as the large French army faces the heavily outnumbered English in battle.
7 – The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and Coin #2)
The sequel to the acclaimed series launch, The Dragon’s Path, is the perfect summer read for fans of George R. R. Martin.
War casts its shadow over the lands that the dragons once ruled. Only the courage of a young woman with the mind of a gambler and loyalty to no one stands between hope and universal darkness.
The high and powerful will fall, the despised and broken shall rise up, and everything will be remade. And quietly, almost beneath the notice of anyone, an old, broken-hearted warrior and an apostate priest will begin a terrible journey with an impossible goal: destroy a Goddess before she eats the world.
6 – Caliban’s War by James SA Corey (The Expanse #2)
We are not alone.
The alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.
When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.
Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.
CALIBAN’S WAR is an action-packed space adventure following in the footsteps of the critically acclaimed Leviathan Wakes.
5 – The City’s Son by Tom Pollock (The Skyscraper Throne #1)
Expelled from school, betrayed by her best friend and virtually ignored by her dad, who’s never recovered from the death of her mum, Beth Bradley retreats to the sanctuary of the streets, looking for a new home. What she finds is Filius Viae, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London, who opens her eyes to the place she’s never truly seen.
But the hidden London is on the brink of destruction. Reach, the King of the Cranes, is a malign god of demolition, and he wants Filius dead. In the absence of the Lady of the Streets, Filius’ goddess mother, Beth rouses Filius to raise an alleyway army, to reclaim London’s skyscraper throne for the mother he’s never known. Beth has almost forgotten her old life – until her best friend and her father come searching for her, and she must choose between the streets and the life she left behind.
4 – Know No Fear by Dan Abnett (Horus Heresy #19)
Unaware of the wider Heresy and following the Warmaster’s increasingly cryptic orders, Roboute Guilliman returns to Ultramar to muster his Legion for war against the orks massing in the Veridian system. Without warning, their supposed allies in the Word Bearers Legion launch a devastating invasion of Calth, scattering the Ultramarines fleet and slaughtering all who stand in their way. This confirms the worst scenario Guilliman can imagine – Lorgar means to settle their bitter rivalry once and for all. As the traitors summon foul daemonic hosts and all the forces of Chaos, the Ultramarines are drawn into a grim and deadly struggle in which neither side can prevail.
3 – The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer #2)
Gavin Guile is dying.
He’d thought he had five years left—now he has less than one. With fifty thousand refugees, a bastard son, and an ex-fiancée who may have learned his darkest secret, Gavin has problems on every side. All magic in the world is running wild and threatens to destroy the Seven Satrapies.
Worst of all, the old gods are being reborn, and their army of color wights is unstoppable. The only salvation may be the brother whose freedom and life Gavin stole sixteen years ago.
2 – Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell, her brother and sister stolen, and knows she’ll have to go back to bad old ways if she’s ever to see them again. She sets off in pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier.
Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels, and massacres, high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, a man no one should ever have to trust . . .
1 –King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (Broken Empire #2)
The Broken Empire burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings battle for the all-throne. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.
A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.
Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.