As editors at Harper Voyager, we often get asked: “How great is it that you get to read for your job?” And the answer is, of course “Really, really great.” And yet, a lot of our reading (and general consumption of science fiction and fantasy) is still work. Our ability to find time to experience what else is going on in the genre can sometimes feel limited.
And yet, because we love this stuff so much, we are always sure to make the time.
So while we’ve already listed our favorite books of 2015 here, we will admit to liking some things that we didn’t happen to work on for Voyager. :p
From each editor, here are our favorite sci-fi, fantasy, and horror—let’s say—moments of 2015.
Lock In by John Scalzi
Starting with the I-was-really-late-to-this-party books on my 2015 reading list, first is John Scalzi’s 2014 science fiction police procedural Lock In. The protagonist is a rookie FBI agent who has what’s known in this world as Haden’s syndrome – his mind is fully functional, but his body isn’t, so he exists mostly in a robotic body. When what looks like a Haden-related murder crops up, the investigation quickly turns complicated. This was a fun twist on crime fiction, and, while it’s not a world I’d want to live in, it’s certainly a (terrifyingly) plausible one.
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Second on my late-to-the-party reading list this year was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. I’ll admit – at first I was hesitant, because airships are not really my thing. But if that’s the case for you too, don’t let that stop you. This story is so much more, and it’s all thanks to the amazingly complex and real characters Addison has created. Maia is the half-goblin emperor of an elven kingdom, abruptly thrust into power when his father and his father’s other heirs are all killed in an airship explosion. Maia must navigate the snarled world of politics, the expectations of his advisors, and the darker side of his family’s legacy. And the best part? He’s possibly the kindest, nicest protagonist I’ve read about in years. A lovely, intricate story I was sad to put down when it ended.
A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is one I automatically pre-order as soon as the title appears on the online retailers, so you can bet I was reading this one the day it went on sale. The ninth installment in the series, this story really pushed our protagonist to the limit, putting all her friends at risk as they negotiate with a rival kingdom to prevent war. Just super fun urban fantasy with a wonderful cast of characters you fall in love with from book one. I’m looking forward to seeing where the series goes next.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
My fourth top read this year is Zen Cho’s Sorceror to the Crown, a fantastic blend of fantasy and historic England. Like in The Goblin Emperor, this novel’s protagonist isn’t the most popular choice for his position, which only makes you root for him all the more. Great for anyone who misses Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, or just wants to spend a few hours lost in a much more fun Downton Abbey.
Once Upon a Time, created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
I really enjoy reading fairy tale retellings, so it’s no surprise that I’m a Once Upon a Time addict. Once Upon a Time takes all our fairy tale favorites (and a ton of Disney-created characters), and sticks them in the modern world – Storybrooke, Maine. This season had a number of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. The show is on its mid-season break, which means it’s the perfect time to start watching from episode 1 if you haven’t given this one a try yet.
This movie redefines “high-octane action” and when I left the theater I was overwhelmed with the desire to hijack a muscle car, spray-paint my mouth chrome, and die historic on the Fury Road. Second best to that was insisting in all-capitals texts/emails/tweets that everyone see this film. Furiosa is a total badass and I love that she is the hero – even saving Max’s hide. It’s raw, intense, and unapologetic and sets the bar for female action heroes to come. (Also, where can I get a guitar that shoots flames?!)
Bitch Planet comic series by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
Speaking of badass female heroes…Kelly Sue and Valentine explore what happens when the Patriarchy literally blasts non-compliant women out of Earth’s orbit and onto a planet prison. This book is changing the game in comics, and should be declared mandatory reading ASAP. The story follows total bosses Penny Rolle and Kamau Kogo and fellow inmates as they fight to maintain their dignity, sanity, and win back their freedom in the living hell that is B Planet. If you need fuel for your righteous anger, there’s more than enough within these pages.
After the People Lights Have Gone Off by Stephen Graham Jones
This is kind of a cheat, as it was published in 2014, but I didn’t get a chance to read it until this year. Beautifully written, quietly unsettling, and deeply frightening, this collection of stories is a perfect introduction to the masterful genius of Stephen Graham Jones. The title story is a ghost tale that left me shaking and turning on all the lights in my apartment; “Doc’s Story” is an incredible reinvention of werewolf lore; and “Thirteen” is a bittersweet mix of coming-of-age and haunting urban legend – but all 15 stories are must-reads.
Planetfall by Emma Newman
This is an incredibly nuanced science fiction story that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I put it down (which was back when it was out on submission!). The world-building is marvelous, the characters are fully formed, and the mystery at the heart of the story will blindside you as it simultaneously breaks your heart. But don’t take my word for it – Roxanne Gay just gave it a glowing review!
The Martian (book & film)
I preferred the film – it was tighter and funnier, and simply incredible to see. But, when I picked up the book at the start of a long train ride, I couldn’t put it down until I found out what happened to Mark Watney. And when I realized that author Andrew Weir had researched everything to be as scientifically accurate as possible, I was totally blown away. A fascinating retooling of a deserted island tale, complete with creative cursing and a delightful amount of sarcastic humor.
(Note: the bonus of going last is that I can see what the other editors put on their list, and then say “I loved The Martian and Fury Road this year, too—not to mention being a huge fan of The Goblin Emperor” and not having them count on my list.)
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
I’m always going to be a little biased about this series, having had a chance to read Red Rising back in its infancy, and as much as I loved that first book, I was blown away by Golden Son–so much so that I remember reading the last page and throwing it across the room. Not, mind you, in frustration over the ending, but over the fact that I would have to wait so long for book 3!
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Like The Goblin Emperor from last year, this was a fantasy novel that seemed to do something I hadn’t seen in a while: create an unlikely hero, and have her actually be—unambiguously—someone on the side of good. Don’t get me wrong: I love the dark fantasy that has come to be a standard in the genre (think Abercrombie, Lawrence, Lynch, and Brett), but there was something so refreshing about Uprooted that made me share it with pretty much anyone who asked me to recommend a book.
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
My friend (see: Kelly O’Connor, above) brought me in the first issue, and I have to say I was immediately hooked. Sure, there’s something fun about reading a “risqué” comic, but I also found the writing excellent, the story fun and engaging, and the art great. As you go on and read the letters at the end of each issue, the experience is even better. I know this is my late-to-the-party entry, but definitely one of the lasting experiences of 2015 for me.
Of all the Marvel movie and television properties this year, the only one I haven’t seen enough to make a full report on is Jessica Jones (but I am enjoying it a great deal so far). So that left a few movies that were decent, but didn’t come close to what Daredevil has achieved. Netflix has done a masterful job getting the periphery of New York City down, and between Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, it will make you forget Ben Affleck ever got close to that character.
Lightless by C.A. Higgins
Part of being an editor is remembering “the one that got away.” When I first read Lightless, it was on submission, and it was called something else. But it was simply one of the best sci-fi novels I had read in a long time. It reminded me of the best parts of Event Horizon–really smart and just a little bit scary. I think Higgins is a talent we’re all going to be watching out for, and I highly recommend her debut.
Now obviously this is just a taste of the things that captured our hearts and minds in 2015 (and we’re hoping The Force Awakens and The Expanse will be late additions), but the thing that strikes us the most is how much sci-fi and fantasy and horror there is coming out year after year. The fact is, there’s something out there for everyone—even people who say they “don’t read that stuff”—and we’re happy to give recommendations (both from the Voyager list and beyond) to connect a potential fan with something we know they’ll love.
Have a great rest of your 2015, and get ready for a whole new year of amazing sci-fi, fantasy, and horror from Voyager and more!