Jason Parent’s Best Read in 2017
Closing up 2017, a lot of readers share their “Best of” lists. As a reader, my year was stacked! In a year that included a re-read of It, a first read of Ghost Story, and a half-dozen McCammon books, picking a best of list is going to be next to impossible.
But here goes anyway. These books represent the best I’ve read in 2017, regardless of their publication date, and why:
1. Best Novel by a Reigning Horror Master: Mister Slaughter, by Robert McCammon – Rich, well-crafted characters, a murderous psychopath creating more than enough horror to please even the most die-hard of the genre, and a plot that keeps on moving, rivaling the first book for best in a series without a dud among them.
Honorable Mentions: Straub’s Ghost Story; McCammon’s The Providence Rider; King’s It
2. Best Novel by a Rising Horror Master: Bird Box, by Josh Malerman – A mysterious evil; a desperate solution; an all-out perfect story. Why I waited as long as I did to read this, I’ll never know. Reminiscent thematically of The Road.
Honorable Mentions: Shea’s We Are Always Watching; Cutter’s The Troop; Schweigart’s Northwoods; Golden’s Ararat; Langan’s The Fisherman; Gifune’s Kingdom of Shadows
3. Most Enjoyable, Fun and Fast-Paced Read: Kutter, by Jeff Strand. Humorous yet somehow touching, no one does horror-comedy better than Strand.
Honorable Mentions: Curran’s Grimweave; Lawson’s Bad World
4. Best Novella: Odd Man Out, by James Newman. This was one powerful, disturbing, all-too-real and incredibly well-written story. If it doesn’t make you feel, you don’t have a heart.
Honorable Mentions: Burke’s Sour Candy; Prentiss’ Invisible Fences
5. Best Anthology or Collection: Black Pantheons, by Curtis Lawson – All of the stories in Lawson’s collection were good, but four of them were some of the best short stories I have ever read. The only other single author I can recall having that many tales that blew me away in one collection is the man called King.
Honorable Mention: Finn’s Dreaming at the Top of My Lungs
6. Most Beautifully Written Prose: Detritus in Love, by Mercedes Murdock Yardley and John Boden – This tale is beautiful melancholy, heart-wrenching loneliness, and smothering horror. Each word is perfectly chosen, every image laced with impending dread.
Honorable Mentions: Langan’s, The Fisherman; Vandermeer’s Annihilation
7. Best Short Story: Tie – Lawson’s “Demons of Manzanar,” Lawson’s “The Carousel Horse,” and Finn’s “Stranded.”
Honorable Mention: Smales’ “Carol of the Bells”
8. Best Non-Horror Novel: Theft of Swords, by Michael Sullivan – Good old-fashioned fantasy fun that follows two thieves and somewhat reluctant heroes (more so on Royce’s part). Sure to entertain.
Honorable Mentions: Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Fleming’s Casino Royale; Sullivan’s Heir of Novron
9. Biggest disappointments – I don’t usually focus on the negative, but as these three books have huge followings, I’ll just lay them out a give you my reason why:
a. Swan Song, by Robert McCammon – every horror reader just simultaneously spit on me. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKED THIS BOOK and would even recommend it. But the hype it gets – how many people cite to it as the best of the genre – I guess I went in with high expectations and came out tempered.
b. Final Girls, by Riley Sager – This was just one of those books that sounded like it was my thing, but when I started reading it, I soon realized it wasn’t my thing. It’s a standard horror-thriller, akin (to me) to something by James Patterson (but nowhere near as good as Kiss the Girls)
c. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie – It was free on Audible, so I figured I’d give it one more try in my middle life. But what I hated as a kid, I still can find no appreciation for today.
All in all, I’ve had a stellar year of reading. What were some of your favorites?