2015 In Summary

With 2015 rapidly receding into the forgetful distance, now seems as good a time as any to jump on the bandwagon and have a look back at the year that was. Given that 2015 was also the second year that I’ve been posting to the Track of Words blog, it also seems a good opportunity to celebrate another year of book reviews and other ramblings.
To start off with, here are some top-level stats…we all love a good stat, right?

  • 135 posts added to the site, made up of :
    • 62 quick reviews of short stories.
    • 58 reviews of books (including novellas).
    • 8 reviews of audio dramas.
    • 7 other articles.
  • That’s somewhere in the region of 50,000 words across all of the posts.
  • 21,168 page views, which is a massive 7,877 more than in 2014!
  • 248 articles read in total.
  • Most popular articles :
    • Black Library – How to Lose Fans and Alienate Readers? – 1,729 views.
    • Meduson – Black Library Anthology – 1.261 views.
    • Warhammer – The End Times Series – 974 views.

Most Popular Article Award
Without a doubt my most popular article of the year was Black Library – How to Lose Fans and Alienate Readers?, despite the bad pun in the title and the fact that it was essentially a 3,000 word rant. It even racked up a massive 800+ views in a single day, which had me surprised, confused and delighted in equal measure, and it continues to be viewed on a regular basis even now.

It’s so popular in fact that I feel like maybe I ought to do a follow-up, looking at the points I was trying to make and seeing if anything has changed since then. Watch this space…

High Points
For me as a reader there were some real high points in 2015, some books that were impressive in their scale and ambition, others that were a delight for the pure joy of storytelling. Here are a few highlights :

The end of an era…
A few things stand out within Black Library’s output for the year, the first of which has to be the Warhammer End Times series. The end of the Old World deserved a powerful, epic story, and despite a few bumps along the way that’s pretty much what it got. Josh Reynolds’ final novel in the series, Lord of the End Times, was a particular highlight, not least for the impressive selection of classic character cameos.

Resolution…sort of…
For me personally, John French’s Ahriman series is the best thing Black Library have released for years. After Ahriman : Exile started the story in style back at the end of 2013, this year saw the release of the third and final book, Ahriman : Unchanged. I won’t give any of the plot away, but suffice to say this was everything the series deserved and more. John French you’re a bad man, but please give us more stories of this quality!

The start of a new series…
Even though the Horus Heresy series is still going strong in its 30s, December saw the start of a brand new series – The Beast Arises. Dan Abnett took the reins for the first book in the series and laid the smack well and truly down in the brutal I Am Slaughter, giving readers the first glimpse into the post-Heresy, pre-40k universe. It wasn’t the longest of books, but it was damn good.

Fun times
Sometimes all I want from a book is a rip-roaring story and a bucketload of fun, and this year two books in particular offered exactly that. First off was Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell, which not only wins Best Title for the year but included a sweary, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey. Who flies a Spitfire. And fights ninjas. What’s not to love? Secondly there was Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, an instant classic adventure story and a perfect example of why adults should definitely still read children’s books.

Not so silent running…
Fans of Patrick Rothfuss have been waiting for the third Kingkiller Chronicles novel for some time now, and opinions seem to have been divided about The Slow Regard of Silent Things, a novella that some see as a stopgap. Not me. I genuinely believe that this is the most beautiful book I’ve ever read, and I took great pleasure in reading the whole thing aloud, taking my time to enjoy it and inhabit Auri’s amazing little world. Stunning.

Honourable mentions
I don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction, but one book which deserves mentioning is The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, an inspiring look at a unique woman that’s essential reading not just for fans of her music but for anyone interested in how to make a career out of being an artist. Back to fiction and Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore comes a close second in the Best Title award, as well as being an absolute delight from start to finish, the sort of book that begs to be read in a single sitting. Lastly, one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in a very long time was Alex Lamb’s Roboteer, full of grand ideas and epic scale, and an impressive start to Lamb’s writing career.

Ok, one last mention for Black Library’s Advent Calendar series. While it maybe wasn’t as enjoyable as 2014’s collection, it showcased some great 40k stories from a couple of new names and hinted at some of the fun new toys available to authors writing for Age of Sigmar. Let’s just have a bit more variety this year, ok?

Low Points
Largely it’s been a really good year, but there have been one or two lows worth mentioning.

Loss of a hero…
First of all I feel obliged to make mention of the passing of an absolute legend – Sir Terry Pratchett. My all time favourite author and an absolute hero, while it maybe wasn’t all that unexpected it was still a massive blow when he passed away. The knowledge that there won’t be any more Discworld novels still feels very strange, and that tweet on the great man’s account…still gets me.

A difficult read…
I’m a pretty easy-going reader, and I tend to think I’m fairly easy to please. When I started reading The World Engine by Ben Counter I had high hopes – after all, this was a book featuring an entire chapter of Space Marines crashing their ship into a robot planet. How could that fail to be awesome? Well I’m still not sure how, but it really wasn’t awesome. In fact, it was several hundred pages of boring, and pretty much the most disappointing Black Library book I’ve ever read. Definitely does not come recommended.

Eighty-three pages…
That’s as far as I got with The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Normally I’m very much the “I’ve started so I’ll finish’ kind of reader, and will usually try to push through and finish any book I’ve started (see The World Engine). Not so with The Slap. I lasted two chapters of awful, vile characters behaving like terrible human beings before I gave up in disgust after another appalling character started rubbing himself whilst ogling under-age girls in swimsuits. I just don’t understand why anyone would want to read such drivel – life is too short for garbage like that! And it’s a bestseller…the mind boggles.

And that’s pretty much it for the year’s low points. Happily they’re very much outweighed by the good points in what was a pretty damn good year of reading. Here’s hoping 2016 is just as good, if not better!

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