Keeping with traditions, we will post our separate top 10 reads of 2022 lists throughout January. Well, it might be top 5 in some cases, but all 4 of us had books we’d like to shout about and that’s what’s important.
Our only rule was that any book on these lists has to be read during 2022, regardless of when they were published and by whom. And we had to love them, obviously. Maybe. I mean, when you keep shouting at the author in private for things they did, it’s surely a sign of love, right? Even if you call said author names… *ahem*
With starting a new job, racing through the final years of my degree, and a lot of personal baggage to manage at the same time, 2022 ended up being a pretty slow reading year for me. Even so, I managed to come out with a few new favorite authors, whose stories I loved to discover.
It was a pretty slow year, reading-wise, and most of it was comp-related, but I unearthed some gems that I really wanted to tell you about.
Steel Guardian by Cameron Coral
I read this book for the inaugural SPSFC, and among a roster of 300 books, this one stood out the most to me. I was never a fan of cozy tales, but Steel Guardian showed me that the things we less expect to enjoy are the ones that most surprise you. Setting a wholesome character against a grim backdrop was a stroke of genius from the author, and both elements pair as well as sweet-and-sour sauce.
The AI Uprising destroys society.
No internet, phones, or electricity. Machines turn against humans. The military SoldierBots have one function–seek and destroy.
Block is a simple CleanerBot programmed to scrub floors and serve hotel guests. Forced to leave his city, he must avoid dangerous SoldierBots and find a new hotel he can call home.
But when Block discovers a human infant, his surprise attachment to the girl compels him to protect her while traveling across the metal-infested wastelands of America to a safe haven. When he encounters Nova – a surly soldier who becomes an unlikely ally – they must tackle the biggest challenge of their lives.
Together, they face mortal danger from bands of scavengers, militaristic SoldierBots, and Combat Mechs. A cyborg Bounty Hunter will stop at nothing to find Block and the child – an infant who holds the key to humanity’s future.
“On the surface, a quiet introspection about humanity through the journey of a loveable cleaner bot, but dive deeper into its pages, and you’ll find Steel Guardian ignites a thoughtful and fun discussion on parenthood, gender roles, and the unsung strength of our uniqueness.”
Half a Lion by Palle E. K. Oswald
A brutal tale of conquest, tribal warfare and betrayal, Half a Lion satisfied my craving for the darker side of fantasy. Intricate of plot and hungry for battle, it was easy to read in one sitting. Palle‘s writing is fantastic, and his imagination even more so.
Half a Lion, a coming-of age epic fantasy, follows the adventures of three siblings as they struggle for survival, embrace forbidden magic, and class for thrones in the shadow of an enemy that threatens to drown their world in blood.
The half-blood fights shamans and skinchangers, all while caring for an ailing mother and vowing to win an unwanted throne. Betrayed, hunted and alone, the exile dreams of revenge and must rely on the loyalty of sworn enemies to do so. The cripple has lost everything, but loss can be the deadliest of weapons wielded by the coldest of hearts.
Amid poetry and politics, magic and murder, who has the strength to take the throne, and keep it? Enter the jungle.
Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham
Daniel is probably most known for his (co-authored) Expanse series, but I’ve never actually read those books or any other previously built into the author’s bibliography. So, Age of Ash was my introduction, and maybe that’s for the best because it was one of the best books I’ve read in (ba-dum tsss) ages. I love how quietly clever this book is, how it builds an identity around a city, and how it fleshes it out in such intelligent ways. This book really is a testament to how a great author can make a smaller setting feel so expansive. I fell in love with Daniel’s approach and am eagerly awaiting the sequel.
And as a little bonus, it has one of the best-written sapphic characters in the history of epic fantasy. I was quite happy about that 🙂
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys’s.
When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.
Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.
The Future God of Love by Dilman Dila
I’d read Dilman’s work first in the Dominion anthology, so I was very excited to read this one. Now, it’s never the cleverest position to go into something expecting a whole lot. But I’ve never been the cleverest, only the hottest. And damn, was this novella good!
I absolutely loved it. It’s like every element was written especially for me (I know it wasn’t ok, I’m not a narcissist, but it spoke to me, ok!!), the world has this sombre, terrifying note to it, the writing is majestic, and the story is unlike anything else I’ve read. If you’re on the lookout for something short that takes you a long way, this is it.
The Future God of Love is a romance fantasy, set in an African world where stories are essential for the survival of humanity.
Jamaaro, a struggling storyteller, is the future god of love and must create a story every full moon for the prosperity of his town.
When he falls in love with a strange woman, having known loneliness all his life, he ignores the clues that she might not be what she seems.
Noor by Nnedi Okorafor
Continuing what appeared to become my yearly trade of experiencing seasoned authors through their most recent work, Noor was the first piece I’ve read by Nnedi Okorafor. Well, that’s a lie. I’d read her fantastic graphic novel, After the Rain, and was blown away by the storytelling. So when this bad boy popped up on Netgalley, I weakened.
This is another short novel that packs a punch (starting to realize those are my Achilles’ heel). Lush mythology blends into intriguing worldbuilding while raising a middle finger to imperialism.
Anwuli Okwudili prefers to be called AO. To her, these initials have always stood for Artificial Organism. AO has never really felt…natural, and that’s putting it lightly. Her parents spent most of the days before she was born praying for her peaceful passing because even in-utero she was wrong. But she lived. Then came the car accident years later that disabled her even further. Yet instead of viewing her strange body the way the world views it, as freakish, unnatural, even the work of the devil, AO embraces all that she is: A woman with a ton of major and necessary body augmentations. And then one day she goes to her local market and everything goes wrong.
Once on the run, she meets a Fulani herdsman named DNA and the race against time across the deserts of Northern Nigeria begins. In a world where all things are streamed, everyone is watching the reckoning of the murderess and the terrorist and the saga of the wicked woman and mad man unfold. This fast-paced, relentless journey of tribe, destiny, body, and the wonderland of technology revels in the fact that the future sometimes isn’t so predictable. Expect the unaccepted.
These Lifeless Things by Premee Mohamed
I’m just realizing 2022 was a fantastic year for me to explore new authors. And quite a lot of them became favorites. So perhaps it was a slow year, but it was still a great one! I read this one for SCKA, and funnily enough, I decided to start with it because I am eternally bored by apocalyptic stories and wanted to get it out of the way.
Although, I did expect to enjoy it, given what I’d heard of Premee. And I freaking loved it. Its weirdness is captivating, it kicks boring apocalyptic stories to the curb and shouts, “hey, I did what you couldn’t!”. The writing is what draws you in, but the world, the characters, and everything about it is fantastic.
Eva is a survivor. She’s not sure what she survived, exactly, only that They invaded without warning, killed nearly all of humanity, and relentlessly attack everyone who’s left. All she can do to stay sane, in the blockaded city that’s no longer home, is keep a journal about her struggle.
Fifty years later, Eva’s words are found by Emerson, a young anthropologist sent to the ruins to study what happened. The discovery could shed light on the Invasion, turning the unyielding mystery of the short war into a story of hope and defiance.
Let us know which of these books you’ve read or would like to read and what you think about them!