There is an odd fascination with End-Of-The-Year lists as if it is rather easy to divide a year in review in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Admittedly, I have never fully embraced the concept myself, but I am more than happy to jump on the bandwagon now. Those are fun, right? 2015 was a good year, reading-wise, and there were more awesome moments than less stellar ones. Still, tough choice to include books as my perception of them changes occasionally. There are a few books I keep coming back to, thinking about them months after having read them, so I guess those are the ones I want to include in my own "best of" list. Your mileage will wary, as those are highly subjective as we all know, but you´re still wrong. :-) In no particular order but since I have to sort them somehow... It goes without saying those books were not necessarily published in 2015, but rather I have read them this year.
Peckerwood - Jedidiah Ayres
Peckerwood is the book that started it all, that is my new found love for crime noir stories. I can´t even remember how I found this one, but I remember I picked it up because I loved the cover so much. Anyway, it made me laugh a lot as the hillbilly characters are nothing short of cray-cray but there is something touching about their nonsense that made me smile a lot too. Told from three different main POVs it is incredibly tight and extremely smart. Interwoven stories of losers and drunkards, who nevertheless are very comfortable in their skins, where blackmail and booze and crime are part of their lives.
My review of Peckerwood
Brother, Frankenstein - Michael Bunker
Brother, Frankenstein falls a bit on the philosophical side of the fence, even it is still fiction, as the main character is an 11-year-old autistic boy who is transformed by a borderline sociopath/genius doctor into an artifical intelligence and deadly weapon. A rather uncomfortable social commentary on the question of makes us human.
The End Of The World As We Knew It - Nick Cole
Nick Cole is the only guy who made me cry this year. Here I said it, you´re welcome. While on the surface it is a zombie apocalypse/end of the world tale it is as much a romance about two lovers hoping to find each other again when most of the population has ceased to exist. Audio transcripts and diary entries fill in the gaps where history has erased their stories. My personal Redemption Song.
Zero Saints - Gabino Iglesias
Zero Saints was the biggest surprise for me. A novel about an illegal alien in the USA who has to flee his homecountry and is pushed into the criminal underworld of Austin. A large chunk is written in Spanglish but those feels as natural as the supernatural elements, the superstition and loneliness, the crime and violence Iglesias describes. It isn´t about someone taking revenge, even it is, but the transgressive powers of violence all around us and how we deal with it.
My review of Zero Saints
The Bastard Hand - Heath Lowrance
Apparently a cult novel, who ever made it into one. It wasn´t me, pinkie swear. Psycho preacher plus slightly naive drifter, who has problems to adjust to reality after he gave psychological care the slip, in a small town full of skeletons. The Reverend is abusive and manipulative, taking over a vacant spot as a pastor in Cuba Landing, while Charlie is his sorta right hand. Lowrance dissects the small town bubbles which are about to burst and mocks the abyss under the surface of their lives until old testamentical judgement is spoken, hellfire and all. I am not quite sure what I adore more in the book, the storytelling skills of Lowrance, his fine craftmanship on a sentence-by-sentence basis or the darkly humorous but perfect dialogue.
Country Hardball - Steve Weddle
A novel-in-stories that follows different characters around in another small town where a failing economy has taken its toil a long time ago on everyone. Weddle uses sparse, almost reluctant, language and comes from unexpected angles to talk matter of factly what is happening. There are simple, even every day events like a busted check, a woman fighting cancer, even some petty crimes but those events are less important than how they deal with it. That is what shapes those characters in Country Hardball. It often reminded me of the visual language of old westerns, and I imagined the book in black/white. No reason, really, just the visuals are reminiscent like that. The atmosphere, the vibe and feel of the place and time are breath taking.
Medium Talent - Forbes West
As some may know I was heavily invested in the Apocalypse Weird metaverse (RIP, sort of) and while there were three books I especially enjoyed - The Serenity Strain by Chris Pourteau and Texocalypse Now co-written by Michael Bunker and Nick Cole being the other two - Medium Talent has left the biggest impression. The aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, a halfcrazed main character, time travel, Hemingway, this book has it all. I still hate the book for how it made me feel though. Mainly I´ve included Medium Talent exactly for that reason, and maybe, but only maybe because Forbes West is the most talented of the lot. He is insane, alright, but fucker knows what he is doing.
My review of Medium Talent
As the story trilogy by Jordan Krall is a different beast as opposed to all those standalone novels I have added it on the bottom. No judgement call about it but more for organizational reasons even personally I see it as one, single unit and entry.
False Magic Kingdom Cycle - Jordan Krall
aka False Magic Kingdom; Bad Alchemy; Your Cities, Your Tombs
No list of mine would be complete without the False Magic Kingdom Cycle. A three part book "series" where traditional or established means of story telling are abandoned in favor of a looser form of interconnected thoughts and surrealistic events. A 9/11 novel, deeply personal in a larger context of the good guys vs the bad guys, who are not always so very different. It is hard to explain what makes this stories so exciting. It is a challening work, emotional too, but how Krall defines metaphors or sounds, while creating an untypical tale of hyperawarness and an odd estrangement to and by his characters - and to the text itself - is nothing short of impressive.