In 2022, I read 30 books (novels, graphic novels). The complete list looks like:
Last House on Needless Street – Catriona Ward
1777 BC the year civilization collapsed – Eric H Cline
The Marco Effect – Jussi Adler Olsen
The Hanging Girl – Jussi Adler Olsen
Summer Bludgeon – Various (Unsettling Reads)
The Crystaks of Mida – Sharon Green
Talking about Detective Fiction – PD James
The Death of Stalin – Nury & Robin
Batman Year One – Frank Miller
Ronin – Frank Miller
Perfume – Patrick Suskind
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – Haruki Murakami
Malorie – Josh Malerman
Mirror Man – Lars Kepler
Maus – Art Spiegelman
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides
The Cathars – Sean Martin
Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Fall of Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Endymion – Dan Simmons
Rise of Endymion – Dan Simmons
Terror – Dan Simmons
They Thirst – Robert R. McCammon
The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino
Technocolor Time Machine – Harry Harrison
Cibola Burn – James SA Corey
Nemesis Games – James SA Corey
Babylon’s Ashes – James SA Corey
Persepolis Rising – James SA Corey
Stories of Your Life and Others – Ted Chiang
I’ve again gotten hooked on The Expanse series by Corey. For some reason, when I started reading these the other year, I stopped at book 3 (probably because the TV show season 4 had just come out and I wanted to binge it without thinking). This time around I finally got around to continuing the series (since the TV show ended) and it’s been quite pleasant and surprising – particularly book 7 with the surprise time jump and new narrative direction.
Olsen’s Department Q series continues to be addictive and enjoyable Scandinavian Noir with its wonderful cast of characters revolving around curmudgeony detective Carl Morck.
Revisiting my love of graphic novels has also been a nice change of pace.
The Disappointments (and there were many)
The first book of the year was also, well, the worst.
The Last House On Needless street was an incredibly hyped “horror” story. Everyone sang its praises, including apparently Stephen King. It even started off strong, with intriguing ideas tossed in all over the place and the promise of going somewhere but…
I think it was around page 30 where I realized how the book was probably going to end. I hoped that I had gotten it wrong – no way the book would end like that, the author would have seen through and lined up some other twist. After all, the ending that came in my mind was probably the dumbest way the book could end. It had to be something else.
But unfortunately not the case. Not the case at all.
Very early on, the novel made it clear it was using the “unreliable narrator” trope pretty liberally, and being no stranger to having apparently read other books, it jumped out that more likely than not this wasn’t a true horror book but that everything was in the main character’s head more or less.
And it was. After over two hundred pages of build up, it pulled out the big “gotcha” that was neither a surprise, nor pleasant, nor anything really. I suppose some folks must have found it surprising (such as people who have never read, say, a book like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), but it was sadly just a confirmation of my first fear of what would be the worst ending to the book, and then the slow pain of watching it actually be the case.
The second biggest disappointment was another book that pulled a “gotcha” out right at the end which I also guessed (albeit, about 50% of the way through the book) – The Silent Patient. While this “twist” was also unfortunate, predicatable, and kind of unfair, the book was nevertheless written with a fun sort of manic, no-shits-to-give energy up until that point that I would probably read another book by Michaelides… but not so with Ward.
The third true disappointment was 1777 BC The Year Civilization Ended. True, it was about 1777 BC, but a more appropriate name for the book would have been “A brief history of royal paperwork from the ancient world” or “The exciting hidden lives of financial ledgers.” Yes, there is an interesting narrative in there somewhere, but it’s largely buried under the authors (most likely) graduate work on papyrus, tablets, and other material remains.
And the final pair of disappointments in the year of many, were books 3 and 4 of Simmons’ Hyperion series. For some time I had ranked the first book of the series as one of the all time great science fiction novels. I still might, but it was inevitably lessened by the catastrophes that made up the final two books. Where the first was a brilliant collection of literary science fiction stories bound together by mystery and thematic beauty, and the second a more traditional space opera, I have few words of praise after that.
Book 3 (Endymion) had some promising elements but it is ultimately reduced by the appearance of a direct sequel fourth book that is one part meandering, two parts auteur excess, and a sprinkling of bloviating kumbaya. I can compare it to Moby Dick in the sense that both books fill up more pages with descriptive, fascinating nothing that does little to propel a story along and in fact more often than not kills it on the spot.
And then there’s the creepy voyeurism of a middle aged author having a strange fixation on teenage heroines (both here and in Terror too, for that matter). In the age of #MeToo and more awareness of sexual misconduct, it’s hard to read any story about a much older man who befriends a teenager only to later become lovers with them. Making the teenager a willful, “adult” spirit does little to hide the sense of grooming that goes on and what comes across as some honestly creepy wish fulfillment on part of the author.
Needless to say, it was hardly a powerful conclusion to the series, nor a strong incentive to come back to it any time soon.