My top 3 of 2014

Lock In by John Scalzi (audio book)
This was stunningly brilliant on all levels:
A really smart, tight, intricate plot, well researched.
A thoughtful discourse of how we deal with the other, and what ‘disabled’ defines (or doesn’t).
A protag whose gender is left up in the air. With a first person narrator,  a threep (i.e. android) body, and a name like Chris Shane (addressed as ‘Agent’ Shane), the question of Shane’s gender just never comes up. I’ve read a book with a similar conceit, and found it intrusive and distancing there, but here it simply works, because Shane’s gender is supremely and confidently irrelevant for either plot or reader identification. Ingeniously the audio version comes in both a male and female voice recording (Yes, I listened to both.), the capable and delightfully geeky choices being Amber Benson and Will Wheaton.
And almost as an aside, the hint at a possibly lesbian or bi partner, and the late revelation (don’t blink or you’ll miss it) that the protag is a poc. This. This is what I dream of when I pick up a novel to read. We need more diverse books.
(The free novella that came with it is more of a cute gimmick, a bit of background and maybe fan service. I wouldn’t have needed it. The book itself blew me away hard enough.)

Static by L.A. Witt
This one hit me in a tender and very personal spot. Just to explain why it’s here, even though it didn’t come out this year; and that it’s here for reasons beyond the writing itself.
It pulled me right in from page one and didn’t let me go until the end. And it got under my skin. Its protag fluctuates between two genders in a world that doesn’t accept their ability to do so. It asks a lot of relevant question, and while it doesn’t have all the answers (who would?), it makes one thing abundantly clear – that people fare infinitely better if you just let them decide who they want to be. Even if that turns out not to be static.
Amen to that. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a protagonist I could identify with on quite that level. Did I mention, we need more diverse books?

Hostile Ground by L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov
Hot damn. This was right up my alley. Lots of action and even more steam with a healthy dose of social relevance that never preaches and never takes away any of the suspense or fun.
You might have guessed it: We need more diverse books. Sense a theme here?
I’m really looking forward to the sequel.

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