After college, I resolved to read one book a month. It can be fiction, non-fiction, technical, business-oriented, or whatever as the goal was to always be absorbing and digesting new ideas and information, even just for fun. For 2023, I had a more specific goal of 30 books with 6 being non-fiction. Unfortunately due to job changes and numerous major home renovations, I only finished 33 and 2 respectively.
This time around, instead of calling out individual books, I’ll call out two excellent series. They were my hands down favorites of the year and I devoured them as quickly as I could get them:
- Brian Sanderson’s Mistborn
- Daniel Suarez’s Delta-v
Details on both series at the end of this post.
Author Fundamentals Series
I picked up this series – published by the same company behind the Four Horsemen Universe – to understand better what it takes to be a writer. I’m not interested in becoming a writer but fundamentally I love the act of creation and then promoting what I (or others) have created. It’s a common thread among authors, open source projects, and startups. Even being a different space, there are some lessons to take from this one.
- Have Keyboard, Will Type: Hard Lessons Learned Hard (Book 1) by William Alan Webb
Superheroes manifest.. and then come the zombies. Luckily, the capes band together to build a safe zone and things go sideways from there. If you’re into either or both genres, this series is a great combination of the two. I read it originally in 2016 and it’s held up nicely.
I really enjoy Correia’s writing and I read stuff from him almost every year. The universes he builds are complex, thoughtful, and have some amusing inside jokes here and there. The main character is always a version of himself but it still fits well.
- Tower of Silence (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior Book 4) – The Tower of Silence brings our fallen hero Ashok back into the world in preparation for the final battles. This book was mostly setup but includes one epic battle and a major allegiance shift.
- Monster Hunter Memoirs: Fever with Jason Cordova – This Monster Hunter novel was okay but not the best of the bunch. It might get interesting but the “hero with a dark, questionable history that no one quite trusts” is an overused trope by itself.
In this one, half-orc brothers are trying to make it in the world and tap into a massive source of dark power. One is happy to use it, the other is more reluctant but both indulge. Think of Raistlin and a dark Caramon. Anyway, I picked up this book 10 years ago and never read it. I didn’t miss much.
Philip K Dick
In this alternative history, the Axis Powers won World War II and divided the US right down the middle. This book picks up 10 years later and tracks a few individuals living in that world. It’s a fascinating set of situations which put everyone in danger in unexpected ways. Beyond the name and opening premise, the Amazon series has little to do with this one.
William R. Forstchen
In this series, an EMP wipes out the systems and technology that holds the world together. The first three covered the first minutes up to the first two years dealing with practical survival. This picks up three years later and introduces a multilayered conspiracy that doesn’t hold together. Stop after the first three.
- Five Years After: A John Matherson Novel
The Four Horseman Universe
After finding this series in 2018, I’ve devoured it book by book. The premise is that when aliens show up on Earth, humans are completely outclassed in all things and the only thing we’re good at is
dying being mercenaries. Do not start with the ones listed below as I’m over 50 books into the series. Instead, follow Chris Kennedy’s (publisher of these series) 4HU Suggested Reading Order.
In this collection, the Omega War for Earth is over and now the universe is rebuilding. The major forces who set it all into motion are still active but now they’re uncovered and the mask is gone. If you’re reading this series, continue with these.
- Redacted Weapon (Rise of the Peacemakers Book 11) by Kevin Ikenberry & Kevin Steverson
- On a Cloudy Day (The Phoenix Initiative Book 3) by Kevin Ikenberry & Jason Cordova
- The Misfits (The Phoenix Initiative Book 4) by Kevin Ikenberry & Jason Cordova
- Defenders Rise (Four Horsemen Sagas Book 10) by Mike Jack Stoumbos
William S. Frisbee Jr.
The human race has collapsed into global and interplanetary war, luckily there are marines ready to take up arms and fight. Unfortunately, en route to Jupiter for an operation, their ship is destroyed and four are caught in stasis for hundreds of years. When they wake up, their side had lost, the battle had moved to the stars, and another enemy lurked in the darkness. This has been a fun series – I was a reviewer on Book 7 – and it’s good light reading with amusing characters.
- Gods of War (The Last Marines Book 1)
- Darkness Rising (The Last Marines Book 2)
- Gates of Hell (The Last Marines Book 3)
- Revolution Calling (The Last Marines Book 4)
- Genocide of Mankind (The Last Marines Book 5)
- Valhalla Awaits (The Last Marines Book 6)
This one is a generic secret agent needs to rescue people story. If you’re looking for some solo combat, espionage, and intrigue, this is a reasonable choice.
This is one of those seminal books that goes along with The Prince and other analyses of people, politics, and power. Some of it was great and well expressed while others portions felt like a stretch. Regardless, the examples of each of the powers applied – or misapplied – through history led me to a ton of other historical reading and research so this was a good read overall.
I read the first three of this series back in 2016. The first was excellent and it’s just gone downhill from there. Skip this one.
- The Turing Exception (Singularity Series Book 4)
I’ve mostly enjoyed Molles’ Lee Harden series over the years so kept reading his stuff this year.
- Johnny – This is not part of the Harden universe and goes in a completely different direction. It starts with Johnny visiting and everything going sideways from there. I can’t tell too much of this without giving it away.
- The Valley: A Lee Harden Novel – When I read the previous one of this series last year, Lee was deep in depression and struggling with hopelessness. This book changes things quite a bit. Lee still leads the way but the growth and action of some key characters change the team and the situation quite a bit. I suspect there are some more hopeful moments and conclusions coming.
Jerry Pournelle (editor)
This anthology came together in the early 80s in a different world where the Cold War was top of mind, the internet wasn’t a thing, and information didn’t flow as freely. That said, considering we’re now dealing with a Russian invasion, chaos in the Middle East, and increasing tensions, most of these stories still landed well.
I had originally read Sanderson years ago when he wrapped up Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series but hadn’t followed him since. Then this year listening to Friday Night Tights, a superchatter asked Shad of Shadiversity where someone should start with Sanderson and he recommended Mistborn. I checked it out and couldn’t have been happier.
One really cool aspect of this series is that it’s actually two series meshed together. In the first three, Sanderson tells a story of magic in a high fantasy setting. Once that resolves – pretty epically with some unexpected twists and heroes – he then jumps a few hundred years into the future to a pseudo-1930s detective noir story. In both settings, the characters are fantastic and a few are unexpectedly endearing. You see their strengths, weaknesses, and growth over time as they learn about themselves and how their powers play a part. There’s a third series that takes this series to a sci-fi setting and I plan to read that in 2024.
- Mistborn: The Final Empire
- The Well of Ascension (Book Two of Mistborn)
- The Hero of Ages (Book Three of Mistborn)
- The Allow of Law (The Mistborn Saga Book 4)
- Shadows of Self (The Mistborn Saga Book 5)
- The Bands of Mourning (The Mistborn Saga Book 6)
- The Lost Metal (The Mistborn Saga Book 7)
I first discovered Suarez with Daemon around 2012 and loved his approach for taking the current state of science and tech, applying near-term scientific and technological advancements, and seeing what happens. In this series, a slightly bizarre billionaire with a penchant for antagonizing the press embarks on a series of projects and operations to boot up the space economy by mining an asteroid.
When you finish these books and say “no, that’s not how that works!” make sure to go to the appendix and read all the citations detailing the research, white papers, and analysis backing it all up. For the right person with the right vision and means, we might be closer than we think.
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If you think I missed something great, drop me a note and let me know!