Our head of books has been rather busy this year and has had a remarkable turnover of reviews. Reading everything that has come his way, from the big publishers to many a independent press and so we feel he’s the guy to talk to you about his best books of 2018 – or the year we shall call ‘independent publishing strikes back’ enjoy!
2018 has been a very busy year for me, I started a new job working with the homeless, been writing constantly and submitting my writing to many a great establishments, having success in both printed and online publications. As I write this, I am also working on my largest scale writing project ever, as I work on three interconnected novellas and a short story collection. Plus, I’ve read my socks off this year, with reading every entry into our Shallow Creek competition (there were a fair few), works we are looking to publish (novels and collections) in 2019 and my own reviewing schedule for STORGY.
These are my ten best books – in no particular order.
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Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Straight off the bat, I am a huge fan of Palahniuk, he’s the guy that made me want to be a writer, his work is always pushing boundaries and creating a stir and I have devoured every piece of writing he has produced. So, when it was announced that Chuck was returning to the novel after a sustained absence with a graphic novel follow up to Fight Club (aptly named Fight Club 2), a couple of adult colouring books (including short stories) and in my opinion a mediocre short story collection (Make Something Up) which was a shame as I had high hopes – I couldn’t contain my excitement – and man he didn’t let me down. Adjustment Day reads like a greatest hits of Chuck’s work, it’s bold, it’s unashamed and it’s down right brilliant. I reviewed the book here.
The New Uncanny by Various Authors
The New Uncanny is one of the best anthologies I have ever had the pleasure of reading, it’s weird, disturbing and completely mind blowing – the writers in this collection in my opinion have delivered some of their best work to date. So much so that I even contacted a handful of the writers in the collection to tell them how amazing I found their work (not something I usually do, but I think I might do more of it in 2019). If you like creepy, disturbing and challenging fiction then this is the book for you; also if you are learning your trade as a short story writer this book should be on your reading list – masterful in every way. I can also describe to you every story that is in this collection by the title alone…how many anthologies can you say that about? There is not one bad story in here and in my opinion this is a modern classic. My review is here I apologise for the swearing, sometimes no other words will do!
Bindlestiff by Wayne Holloway
I’ve just finished reading Bindlestiff and well it’s a crazy hybrid of a novel. It’s part novel about a struggling writer getting his work turned into a film, it’s part screenplay and part novelisation of the screenplay. The structure alone blew me away – if this was George Saunders writing it, it would be lauded over and winning awards left right and centre! My only hope is that people see the brilliance on offer and it goes on and smashes the awards this coming year. Wayne Holloway might just be challenging Saunders for his crown of experimental literature / prose and in my opinion with Bindlestiff he might just dislodge it! My review is coming out shortly so do keep your eyes open, you don’t want to miss it…
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Well, Melmoth blew me out of the water, such an eerie, engaging read, written with such a mastery of the craft. Words written with such style and intrinsic beauty it was a delight to behold. It’s a full on Gothic tale that keeps on giving. It’s a haunting tale that Perry writes with such a sense of foreboding that it had me at times having to put it down and chill the f**k out. If you are looking for a scary read, then this is for you. The magic of this book is that it stays with you long after you have closed the book and consigned it to the bookshelf – or the freezer. Review here.
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
I really do love Patrick deWitt, the man could right a load of nonsense and it would still be a delightful read. This man does characters so well, conversations are his bread and butter – he’s like the author version of Quentin Tarantino. Plot? Who needs to worry about plot when you have an amazing raconteur who just wants to explore the people he has deftly and painstakingly brought to life. It is these that are the key with French Exit. DeWitt shines head and shoulders above his peers in creating believable and memorable characters – don’t get me wrong there is a loose plot here, but the enjoyment is in the cast of characters he brings to the table and watching them self destruct. Review here.
Katerina by James Frey
James Frey is a little bit like Marmite, you either love him or you hate him, luckily for me I quite like the guy. He’s another heavy influence in my writing and his book ‘A Million Little Pieces‘ still remains one of my favourite books. His writing style shouldn’t work, it is grammatically incorrect, some call it lazy writing. I call it experimental, he is an auteur, his creativity and signature style can be seen in all his works, it’s his calling card and well, Katerina is emblazoned with his signature. He’s been away for a while but this for me was a return to form of the guy who just wants to see the fucking world burn (his words not mine). He is writing free from the shackles of what people want him to and this only makes his work that much more hard hitting which can also have a polarising affect on the literary world. Review here.
The Outsider by Stephen King
Stephen King has again been churning out books like many of us churn out brown cables on the bog. His productivity seems to be increasing with every passing year, the man is a machine. I was delighted to read a few of his books this year Elevation (which I really enjoyed) and Flight or Fright an anthology he edited and also included a new and exclusive short story (which I enjoyed it just left me wanting – especially Kings story). But thank goodness he released The Outsider – such a brilliant book, disturbing, horrific and told with that oh so King masters touch. It was probably one of my favourite books this year and for me showcased the brilliance of this master of horror. If you are looking for a book that delivers on many levels I wouldn’t look much further than here. My review is here I tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible.
The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
I’ve been reading quite a lot of young adult books this year for our sister site STORGY Kids and well Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy was bloody brilliant. The story alone is enough to draw you in, but Ness has a wonderful way of keeping you captive in the world that he has created. In a world where everyone can hear your thoughts, how do you keep secrets and how on earth do you survive? It’s a great collection of books and I wasn’t surprised to find out that the powers that be in Hollywood are now turning these into a film / series of films. Do yourselves a favour if you have not read them, make sure you do before Hollywood prostitute the source material beyond recognition.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I can’t believe that it has taken me so long to actually read this classic book. I’ve always seen such praise for Fahrenheit 451 and now I know why. This has now jumped into my all time favourites – the writing is crisp, intelligent and gripping (and very on the money of a future we are possibly entering into now – around censorship and technology). It’s actually mind blowing how great this book is. It’s dark and brooding and Bradbury’s writing is majestic; he certainly cast a spell on me whilst I was reading. I reviewed The Folio Society edition of this here.
The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor
The Reservoir Tapes is a short story collection by Jon McGregor who the previous year brought us his novel Reservoir 13 – these ‘tapes‘ delve into the lives of the characters that were explored in his novel. Each story adds more to the world and story that McGregor created brilliantly with Reservoir 13 – it was fascinating reading this book and trying to work out what happened to the missing girl…McGregor led me down many a merry path and further showcased his brilliance in the short story form. Review here.
Special mention – well I’m the boss so who’s going to stop me…
Sealed by Naomi Booth
We had the huge pleasure of reviewing the Not The Booker shortlisted book Sealed by Naomi Booth from Dead Ink Books which was terrifying. Not long after reading Sealed we were planning our short story competition this year called ‘Shallow Creek‘ – we were looking for a judge for the competition and we couldn’t think of anyone else we wanted to judge our speculative / horror fiction anthology more than Naomi. Sealed is a fabulously dark book, dripping with eeriness and a story that will disturb you to your very core. We reviewed it, so take a look and we would highly recommend you pick up a copy and help support Independent Publishing and an author we love!
Read the full review here.
This Dreaming Isle by Various Authors
This Dreaming Isle edited by Dan Coxon and published by Unsung. This book has brought together some stunning voices of speculative fiction and horror to create an anthology that is disturbing and challenging. All of the tales within this beautiful book are set around our little Isle…Great Britain. There are also sections of the book broken up by maps and locations denoted to show where these stories take place in a geographical setting – with stories set in the country, cities and the coast around Great Britain. It’s a lovely touch which adds even more to this books fabulous appeal. Each writer packs a punch leaving a collection that will, I am sure, be winning some kind of awards or the stories within will feature in some of the best of collections in 2019 – a story and author of note would be James Miller, I am still thinking of this story now! Are you scared yet?
Read the full review here.
VOICES TO KEEP TABS ON IN 2019
Being a magazine that publishes hundreds of short stories a year and a publisher of many anthologies we’d like to bring some people to your attention.
STORGY always seek to promote undiscovered / emerging and published writers – it’s what we do. Here are some of the voices that have been tickling our fancy this year.
I would advise you check them out…because they are going to explode in 2019.
Twenty-four short stories, exclusive afterwords, interviews, artwork, and more.
From Trumpocalypse to Brexit Britain, brick by brick the walls are closing in. But don’t despair. Bulldoze the borders. Conquer freedom, not fear. EXIT EARTH explores all life – past, present, or future – on, or off – this beautiful, yet fragile, world of ours. Final embraces beneath a sky of flames. Tears of joy aboard a sinking ship. Laughter in a lonely land. Dystopian or utopian, realist or fantasy, horror or sci-fi, EXIT EARTH is yours to conquer.
EXIT EARTH includes the short stories of all fourteen finalists of the STORGY EXIT EARTH Short Story Competition, as judged by critically acclaimed author Diane Cook (Man vs. Nature) and additional stories by award winning authors M R Cary (The Girl With All The Gifts), Toby Litt (Corpsing), James Miller (Lost Boys), Courttia Newland (A Book of Blues), and David James Poissant (The Heaven of Animals), and exclusive artwork by Amie Dearlove, HarlotVonCharlotte, CrapPanther, and cover design by Rob Pearce.
Visit the STORGY SHOP here…
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