Top 10 Books of 2022

10. Empire of Exiles

Books of the Usurper #1
by Erin M. Evans

You can tell that Evans poured all of her nerdery into this book and it’s impressive to behold...The world feels ripe for exploration and it’s setting up for a great trilogy.

FULL REVIEW


9. The Bone Orchard

by Sara Mueller

The Bone Orchard is an ambitious and inventive novel about the lengths someone will go for self-preservation amidst extreme trauma. 

FULL REVIEW


8. How High We Go in the Dark

by Sequoia Nagamatsu

There is no shortage of dark humor to be found among the increasingly macabre story beats of How High We Go in the Dark. Even so, some sections are just incredibly devastating to read and that’s a credit to Nagamatsu’s excellent writing.

FULL REVIEW


7. Lark Ascending

by Silas House

House’s no-frills, plainly-told story is a refreshing change of pace from similar novels that might get bogged down with worldbuilding about the fall of our civilization. It’s visceral, heart-rending, but filled with hope and promise about the resiliency of a boy growing up under unspeakable conditions. 

FULL REVIEW


6. Fevered Star

Between Earthy & Sky #2
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Fevered Star is a worthy follow-up to Black Sun, one of my favorite books of the last few years. This is epic fantasy of the highest order and Roanhorse’s writing is a joy to read. 

FULL REVIEW


5. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Monk & Robot #2
by Becky Chambers

A heartwarming continuation of the adventures of our beloved robot and human companions, Mosscap and Dex. Much like the first novella, I so enjoyed the time spent in this world and with its inhabitants. 

FULL REVIEW

4. The Jade Setter of Janloon

The Green Bone Saga #0.5
by Fonda Lee

Fonda Lee was still able to craft an exciting, tightly-plotted, and complete story featuring many of the hallmarks that made the Green Bone Saga so compelling…if you loved the Green Bone Saga and aren’t ready to leave Janloon behind just yet, this is a supremely satisfying read.

FULL REVIEW


3. Neom

A Central Station Novel
by Lavie Tidhar

This was superb and I’m in awe of Tidhar’s vision. He’s conjured up a futuristic city that feels simultaneously ultramodern and also run down. The rich histories of the region and its cultures are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of this fully-realized world.

FULL REVIEW

2. Venemous Lumpsucker

by Ned Beauman

This is the most delightful book about mass species extinction that you’ll ever read. Ned Beauman employs pitch-perfect gallows humor to engage with human-caused environmental destruction in a fresh and exciting way…very, very funny…fast paced, an engaging story, smart humor, and interesting characters. This book is a winner.

FULL REVIEW


1. The Spear Cuts Through Water

by Simon Jimenez

What. A. Novel. Simon Jimenez is operating on another level with The Spear Cuts Through Water. This is an evocative tale that beautifully blends fantasy, reality, and fable into a perfect package. To summarize the plot here would deprive you of the wonderful journey that awaits you once you crack open the first page. 

Jimenez simultaneously (and effectively) tells multiple nested stories, while exploring the nature of identity, love, and intergenerational trauma. The book is unwavering in its commitment to its characters, its story, and its structure. And it’s told with such fierce confidence and love that I was totally mesmerized from start to finish.

If The Vanished Birds (also excellent) didn’t put Jimenez on the map, The Spear Cuts Through Water definitely will. This is a special book.

FULL REVIEW


Review: Lark Ascending

I’d open my eyes and look out at the aching blue of the ocean–a color I had never seen in nature and that most likely only exists in the middle of the Atlantic, a gray blue like a storm cloud full of unspent lightning and unfallen rain.

Title: Lark Ascending (2022)
Author: Silas House
Pages: 288


I wasn’t just seasick; I was undone in sorrow.

Lark Ascending opens with our protagonist’s harrowing journey across the Atlantic Ocean as he flees fire-ravaged America. It’s a brutal voyage, rendered with mesmerizing imagery and soaked with angst. 

This is post-apocalyptic fiction, but House’s no-frills, plainly-told story is a refreshing change of pace from similar novels that might get bogged down with worldbuilding about the fall of our civilization. It’s visceral, heart-rending, but filled with hope and promise about the resiliency of a boy growing up under unspeakable conditions. 

★★★★

Review: Empire of Exiles

Title: Empire of Exiles (2022)
Author: Erin M. Evans
Pages: 432
Series: Books of the Usurper #1


A ruined civilization. A sequestered city. And a story told through the eyes of archivists who study the collected works of those cultures lost to time and war. 

You can tell that Evans poured all of her nerdery into this book and it’s impressive to behold. She throws everything under the sun into the worldbuilding and while that sometimes overshadows the murder mystery and character work, it all gels nonetheless.

The world Evans has built up feels ripe for exploration and it’s setting up for a great trilogy. With the murder mystery solved and a larger conspiracy laid bare, I’m intrigued to see what shape the next book will take.

The book is worth it for the incredible maps by Francesca Baerald alone.

★★★¾

Review: The Half Life of Valery K

Title: The Half Life of Valery K (2022)
Author: Natasha Pulley
Pages: 384


A former nuclear scientist, imprisoned in a Siberian gulag, is transferred to a mysterious city where unknown levels of radiation are currently bombarding the unaware populace. It’s not the most uplifting of scenarios, but Pulley tackles a dour topic with verve and a light touch.

The science-heavy narrative is very accessible and compelling and I was sucked into the “all is not as it seems” story. Valery, our main character, peels back the layers and layers of the mystery surrounding City 40 to reveal the conspiracy at its core. Once that’s done, though, the narrative loses momentum, especially with the frequent flashbacks threaded throughout the book. This, plus a too tidy ending, kept this novel from reaching higher heights, but it was a compelling read nonetheless.

Whether or not this qualifies as speculative fiction is debatable, as it hews closer to historical fiction than anything in the SFF realm, but the lines of genre demarcation are often blurry, and who really cares? This is a solid book and I think SFF fans and non-SFF fans would like it all the same.

★★★½

Review: The Spear Cuts Through Water

Title: The Spear Cuts Through Water (August 30, 2022)
Author: Simon Jimenez
Pages: 544


What. A. Novel. Simon Jimenez is operating on another level with The Spear Cuts Through Water. This is an evocative tale that beautifully blends fantasy, reality, and fable into a perfect package. To summarize the plot here would deprive you of the wonderful journey that awaits you once you crack open the first page. 

Jimenez simultaneously (and effectively) tells multiple nested stories, while exploring the nature of identity, love, and intergenerational trauma. The book is unwavering in its commitment to its characters, its story, and its structure. And it’s told with such fierce confidence and love that I was totally mesmerized from start to finish.

If The Vanished Birds (also excellent) didn’t put Jimenez on the map, The Spear Cuts Through Water definitely will. This is a special book.

★★★★★
✪ SPECULATIVE SHELF STARRED BOOK

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Neom

Title: Neom (November 8, 2022)
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Pages: 256
Series: Central Station


Every time I turn around Lavie Tidhar has published another novel. I’ve only had the chance to read Unholy Land, which I loved, but each book he puts out sounds imaginative and entirely original. With Neom, Tidhar returns to the world of his most popular book, Central Station. Having not read it, I was unsure if I’d be missing the proper context to evaluate this one, but Neom works perfectly well as a standalone story.

Neom is (or at least was) a techno-paradise in the Arabian Peninsula, surrounded by remnants of the endless wars that once ravaged the desert. We’re introduced to several inhabitants of Neom and its surrounding environment. These folks, both human and robot alike, grapple with surface level post-war scars/memories and ones that must be, both literally and figuratively, dug up.

This was superb and I’m in awe of Tidhar’s vision. He’s conjured up a futuristic city that feels simultaneously ultramodern and also run down. The rich histories of the region and its cultures are seamlessly interwoven into the fabric of this fully-realized world. Tidhar writes beautifully, as well. The chapters fly by as the seemingly disparate lives and motivations of the characters tidily intertwine, as Tidhar explores the nature of belief, memory, and love.

I’ll surely seek out more of Tidhar’s back catalog, including Central Station, as well as whatever he thinks up next. He’s clearly producing some really outstanding science fiction right now.

★★★★½

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Fevered Star

Title: Fevered Star (April 19, 2022)
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Pages: 384
Series: Between Earth and Sky #2 (Series Tracker)


Fevered Star is a worthy follow-up to Black Sun, one of my favorite books of the last few years. This is epic fantasy of the highest order and Roanhorse’s writing is a joy to read. 

While Black Sun was constructed like a ticking time bomb with a narrative structure that built towards an epic conclusion, Fevered Star is a quieter tale. It’s the calm after the storm that that hit in book #1. It’s a transitory time in the Meridian as factions grow, contract, splinter off, or soldier on. The characters scramble to consolidate power and lines are drawn in the sand.

Despite the more subdued action, I’m fully invested in these characters. Each POV brings something interesting to the table and Roanhorse uses this novel to position her chess pieces for the coming conclusion/confrontation/clash to decide the fate of this world. Several fuses have been lit, but we’ll have to wait until the third book to see them pay off. I know I’m looking forward to it.

★★★★

Review: The Art of Prophecy

Title: The Art of Prophecy (August 9, 2022)
Author: Wesley Chu
Pages: 544
Series: The War Arts Saga #1


After a very promising start, this one lost its hold on me along the way, as I struggled to stay invested in the secondary characters and plotlines. That said, The Art of Prophecy is action-packed, funny, and puts a fresh spin on the prophesied chosen one trope. Others will surely enjoy this more than I did, as there were a lot of elements to like here.

★★★¼

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

Title: A Prayer for the Crown-Shy (July 12, 2022)
Author: Becky Chambers
Pages: 160
Series: Monk & Robot #2 (Series Tracker)


A heartwarming continuation of the adventures of our beloved robot and human companions, Mosscap and Dex. Much like the first novella, I so enjoyed the time spent in this world and with its inhabitants. The shared bond between this unlikely pair is wonderful, as is the throughline exploring the nature of humanity. I hope this is not the end of their travels, because Becky Chambers has created a winning formula here – further cementing herself as a beacon for hopepunk storytelling.

★★★★¼

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.