Next week, I’ll announce my annual Top Ten Books of the Year (first on the podcast and then here on the blog). I’ve been making that list for over fifteen years now, and it was never more difficult than it was for this year. 2015 was an outstanding year for genre fiction — made doubly so by the influx of exciting new voices and authors.
Each year, I end up leaving a few books off the list because I am associated with them in some way. For example, while I’ve seen Geoff Cooper’s ANSWERS OF SILENCE (available in eBook and trade paperback) on a few 2014 and 2015 lists (and deservedly so), it was not included on mine because I edited it, and am therefore associated with it, and to include it on my list would reek of nepotism.
There are four such books for 2015 — three first novels and a first collection — each of which, were it not for my association with them, would have definitely made my Best of the Year list. Therefore, I thought I’d spotlight them here today, because they are books you should know about and read. (Coop’s is not included here, since the hardcover came out in 2014).
My association to this book is hard to convey, and I struggled for weeks with whether or not it was nepotism for me to include it on my list. Finally, I opted to include it here instead. I’d much rather have the Internet saying “Holy shit, Brian Keene was right about that book!” than “The only reason Brian Keene included it on his list is nepotism”. And trust me, this is a book you’ll want to talk about, once you’ve finished it.
J.F. Gonzalez served as a mentor to Lesley, and rightfully so. Reading her fiction, his influence is undeniable. But make no mistake — Lesley’s voice is strong and her own. THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is her first novel, and it’s a ruthless, visceral, merciless bastard of a book. Those who enjoyed KING OF THE BASTARDS and have asked me where they can find more extreme horror – sword and sorcery mash-ups, look no further than this historical horror novel set in 1400’s France. Will most assuredly appeal to fans of Charlee Jacob, Robert E. Howard, Wrath James White, Karl Edward Wagner, or the aforementioned J.F. Gonzalez himself. Purchase it here.
Although best known as an editor, Michael T. Huyck is one of those writers who other writers read and rave about, but whose work has yet to cement itself onto the lips of readers. He also has the distinction of being a tattoo on my back (true story). This collection, for which I supplied the Introduction (thus my association with it and it’s inclusion here, rather than the other list), gathers together much of his best work, published over the last twenty years.
Blurring the lines of literary horror, surrealism, dark fantasy, and speculative science fiction, OF DARK AND YESTERDAY will appeal most to fans of classic-era Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman, Nick Mamatas, Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville, and Peter Straub. Purchase it here.
I met Brian Kirk at the World Horror Convention in 2014. That was the weekend they gave me a Grandmaster Award. It was also the weekend that Jack Ketchum, Joe Lansdale, and F. Paul Wilson — independently of each other — reinforced for me how important it was that I pay it forward, doing for the next generation what they’d done for ours. As a start, I Introduced Brian to my old editor and friend Don D’Auria, and Brian sold him this novel (thus my association with it, and its inclusion here, rather than the other list).
WE ARE MONSTERS is one of the strongest debut novels in years. Doubt me? Have a look at the Amazon reviews. It’s a smart, scary, engrossing look at mental illness and the evil than men do, which will absolutely appeal to fans of Michael Marshall Smith or F. Paul Wilson. Purchase it here.
Anyone who says there’s nothing new being done with zombies hasn’t read THE LAST WEEKEND by Nick Mamatas, LAND OF THE DEAD by Robert Swartwood, SLOWLY WE ROT by Bryan Smith, BRAINEATER JONES by Stephen Kozeniewski, or WELCOME TO NECROPOLIS by Bryan Killian. I wrote the Introduction for this debut novel (thus my association with it, and its inclusion here, rather than the other list).
Full of violent but beautiful imagery and description, and characters who you think you’ve seen before in zombie novels but haven’t, WELCOME TO NECROPOLIS pulls no punches and asks no quarter. It is THE RISING without a conscience, and if my main legacy was to inspire authors like Killian, then I am proud and honored indeed, and my work here is done (well…except for these other novels I have to finish.) Purchase it here.