Best Short Fiction of 2014

Best Short Fiction of 2014

I only seriously started reading short fiction in the fall of this year and even made a new weekly feature "Short Fiction Friday" on the blog dedicated to review short fiction stories. A lot of readers aren't a fan of short fiction or anthologies but I really like it, well when they are good stories of course. In my opinion, short stories can excellently feature as in between stories for books or as a prequel to a series or just loose adventures in an on going series. The stories that feature in this list are all part of something bigger. Unlocked by John Scalzi gives the perfect introduction to his book Lock In which you will see later on. It is written in an interesting way dairy kind of style following the footsteps of the outbreak of the Haden syndrome I do warn you, be sure to have Lock In ready before reading this story as you want nothing more than to read the book. The Messenger by Mark Charan Newton was released a few weeks before Retribution the second book in the Lucan Drakenfeld series and gives a nice view of the main protagonist of the series but also plays with your mind and shows some very nice deceiving. I have been a big fan of David B. Coe's work and his Thieftaker Chronciles is just super to read. I read A Spell of Vengeance after A Plunder of Souls which was released earlier this year, and found that a lot of things feel into place. Though it is a solid introduction to the series, when you read the other books it comes even more to justice. Sleeping Beauty by Mark Lawrence is a story set in The Broken Empire universe (Prince, King and Emperor of Thorns) and focuses on Jorg. I was expecting something completely different. In Sleeping Beauty Mark Lawrence brings a definite fairy tail setting to the front, AND as a big bonus shows more of the intriguing world of The Broken Empire. Brian McClellan's The Powder Mage trilogy was one of the biggest releases last year and gave a new and above all very cool sub sub genre to fantasy Flintlock. Forsworn takes place before the events of the published books and focuses on how powdermages are despised upon by the normal people they are hunted down and killed. Forsworn gives a nice expansion of the Powder Mage universe. 

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- Unlocked by John Scalzi, Tor.com

But back to the story. When the Haden's Syndrome first becomes noted in several patients, no doctor knows what to do in order to cure the disease, there are distinct symptoms and phases through which the disease shows itself and most of the population dies when they go trough it. Haden's Syndrome is highly contagious and shows up even in the most remote place, instead of a epidemic located in a single city it becomes a global pandemic. It is when the First Lady of the United States of America becomes infected that the president issues a new act to cure Haden's Syndrome. Now all the top scientists are set with one goal, curing it no matter the cost. At this point in the story the final symptom becomes known: the Locked In state, where people have lost functions of the bodies but they can still perceive everything only not act upon it. Can you imagine just what the feeling must be, seeing and hearing everything but not able to respond? I do have to say that, along the way a cure is found, now you can say a spoiler but it has to be mentioned as this marks an important point in the story where the Haden's Syndrome patients get to be among the "normal" human population again. Which in turn causes a lot of friction between the Haden's and the normal humans. I will stop at this point with elaborating on the story of Unlocked but this latter aspect of the story readily changes your vision. Where other authors might require a full bok to achieve such a powerful story, John Scalzi manages to get the tight gripping tension from the first few pages already and keeps it right until the ending making you wanting, no NEEDING Lock In itself!

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome is a powerfully provocative story, that readily produces a great premise for Lock In. I urge everyone who plans to read Lock In to read this prequel as it will give you a lot of background information (I presume) for the real deal.This is great stuff right here. If you don't plan to read either this short story or the book you will be definitely missing out on one of the biggest Science Fiction releases coming to you this year. Be smart and click the link below.


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- The Messenger by Mark Charan Newton, Tor

I was mightily impressed with the story that Mark Charan Newton wrote in The Messenger, though it wasn't as detailed as in Drakenfeld its only 30ish pages, but this story is precisely what is needed make a great short story. It's engaging, detailed enough, and gives you a very satisfied feeling in the end. Building further on several characters of the story as well as expanding the world more. I do have to say that since the story focus on Lucan and Leana, that it is advisable to read Drakenfeld first as you will several elements much better than if you would just delve with this story as a first. However if you have already read Drakenfeld, Mark Charan Newton does give some very nice insights into the earlier years of Lucan himself and a bit more of the dynamics of the world itself.

One thing that really hit me in the face and which I hadn't seen coming at all was the plot twist in the end of the book, you get to see the bigger picture and intricate plot that Mark Charan Newton wove in The Messenger. Really cool stuff. I hope this is to be an hallmark of what will be in store for Retribution. The whole setting of the world of Lucan Drakenfeld inspire a very grande and exotic feeling and the character only further bolster the feeling of a great story and series to be. Definitely recommended! period


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- A Spell of Vengeance by D.B. Jackson, Tor.com


 If you are new to the Thieftaker series A Spell of Vengeance is a great way to start as you get already a few glimpses of the universe that D.B. Jackson has created in the full length books, you learn the protagonist of the series Ethan Kaille and several of the other character that will pop up later on in the series. Furthermore you also get introduced to the conjuring bit of the series which is SO cool! And if you have already read the other stories, A Spell of Vengeance, will give you a few more details to the magnificent world and story that D.B. Jackson has created with the Thieftaker series. When I read about Keller, Fross and Ramsey, I couldn't get that smile away. High enjoyable and definitely a recommendation. The SFF couldn't have kicked of with a better story! 

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- Sleeping Beauty by Mark Lawrence, HarperVoyager

One great thing about this short story is that Mark Lawrence kept true to Jorg's character. In each book he grew up, he was introduced as a downright bastard in the first book but gradually did come to understand that when you work everyone against the grain it just doesn't work, so in the second book he was more reserved and acted more mature but still had his "habits". In the third book it all took an emotional dive in the end which was to say very beautiful to see in the backdrop of all the violence that came before this and to see the actually motivation of Jorg, it even watered my eyes a bit. If you look at Jorg in Sleeping Beauty it is just as you would have wanted him to see in the transition from book two to three. I many parts he already grows in the emotional side of it all with Katherine and his caring for his brothers, but he still keeps this attitude of arrogance that you would wish to strangle him! just how Jorg should be, perfect.

Sleeping Beauty is a terrific addition to the Broken Empire series, I was expecting a different story, but being handed the Builders on a silver platter! YES! I couldn't have wished for more. Mark Lawrence really gave me what I wanted exploring more and more of the Builder technology and even showing a bit of what they can do, which keeps in check with the grimdark setting. Compulsory reading.


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- Forsworn by Brian McClellan, Orbit


In this short story there are quite a few characters that you meet but the focus is really on Erika and Norrina. I can only give full praise to how Brian McClellan made their characters come out, there aren't that many female leads that feature in the series so far. From these two I really like Norrina and her reflection to what her father and mother used to say to her in order to stay safe. These reflections also offered quite an emotional current to the story. 

I did have a big smile on my face nearing the ending of the book as one specific person does make an entry and I am going to say it. Tamas... Good stuff.

Forsworn is definitely a must read for every Powder Mage fan. It greatly expands the world of the series by showing several events before Promise of Blood, not necessarily giving a lot of information about historical events that led up to the revolution or so but showing just how powder mages were looked upon in those years and how tough it was just to be able to survive. The whole element of the cat and mouse game between the kings mage hunters, the Longdogs, and Erika and Norrina really only resonates stronger given the fact that these are just young girls you see. A powerful, action-packed and emotional story that you don't want to miss out on. Ill have to get the other short stories soon!
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