William Owen is the Digital Production Manager at Penguin. Western New Yorker, softball player and Spartan racer, he can often be found on the stairs in Prospect Park, writing in Brooklyn cafes, or working from a hammock in his boss’s office. He will graciously accept any pie you have left over. Twitter: @William_A_Owen
The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor
I’d been meaning to read Nnedi Okorafor’s works for some time, so when I saw she had a new book forthcoming I could not wait to read it and darkened the editor’s door until he gave me one. Everything I’d heard about The Book of Phoenix was spot on. The story is astounding and insightful, and weaves together the futuristic ideas of Phoenix’s world with the sights and sounds of our world beautifully. Reading this was like seeing Jurassic Park for the first time in the theatre, the way something surreal and uncanny can seem to fit so fluidly into a vision of our world. I cannot wait to read Okorafor’s other books now.
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones
One of, no, THE most original book I have ever read. Sirius, the Dogstar, is accused of murdering another celestial and sentenced to live out existence in the body of a dog unless it can find the weapon used in the crime. What? Are you even allowed to use that as the premise for a story? Diana Wynne Jones took what seems is just a sloppy mess of ideas – celestial entities, a murder, terrestrial gods, an orphaned child and a bunch of dogs – and did what less than a handful of other writers in the world could have done: made an incredible, compelling, brilliantly told story. If you’ve never read her work, this is a terrific place to start.
The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
The third novel in Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is another book I couldn’t wait to read (in the middle of it right now), and continues the masterful storytelling of the first two novels. Set in a Napoleonic colonial world, Wexler constantly builds, expanding the history and the fantastic elements without ever sacrificing his characters. Three books in and I’m still as invested in Janus, Winter and Marcus as I have been from the beginning, and the mysteries surrounding the Thousand Names and the Priests of the Black are only getting deeper.
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman
I heard a lot about this book from a friend of mine. She is a grad school buddy and we were talking about werewolves and she said, “I just read this great book about werewolves. It’s super creepy, southern gothic horror.” I said I didn’t really get into horror that much. Turns out I’m really a fan of horror if its written by Christopher Buehlman. Unsettling, eerie, sometimes back of neck prickling.
Idoru by William Gibson
I had to put William Gibson on the list. I chose Idoru, the second book in his second trilogy, for a couple of different reasons. To me this is a book that has always felt tuned up a step on quality while it was tuned down a step on the sometimes whipsaw pace of the Sprawl Trilogy or the other Bridge trilogy books. It is a better chance to see what is happening. The story seeps off the page a little more, a little deeper, and being able to get that much closer to the complexities of Gibson’s stories, and his writing method (which is a fascinating and intimidating approach) takes his lauded and praised work and turns up to 11.
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