2015 Unbound: Our Favorite Books and Posts from Year One

This week, we close out our first year of the site with unbounded gratitude for the readers, commenters, and friends of the blog who make this project a true labor of love. We asked each other to reflect on this year's highlights, and here's what we came up with.

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Amanda Boldenow: My two favorite reads this year were Station Eleven and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. I loved Station Eleven for the beauty of the writing and Kavalier & Clay for the epic nature of the story (it spanned decades of the characters' lives, tracking their growth and changes as people). After reading them, I further enjoyed discussing comic books and golems with Christie and Catie, and how each author wove secondary stories that were just as engaging as the primary story arc through the main threads of the plot seamlessly. 

Sean CassitySarah Pinborough is my favorite author that no one else seems to be aware of. Her novel The Death House, published in America last September 1st, ranks in the top 10 of books I read this year. As fun as it is to have something great all to yourself, it's even better to see other people enjoying work you worried would go undiscovered. I hope more people give Sarah Pinborough's books a try and enjoy them as much as I do.

Christie LipsMy favorite post was the Rapunzel Complex post with Catie and Amanda. It was fascinating to realize that so many stories contain the trope of women/girls locked in towers and needing rescue. And that often in modern stories the women/girls rescue themselves by using their voices or finding other ways to achieve power than purely physical fighting. It was a groovy discussion!

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Lisa Mahoney: Forgive me for sounding like a broken record here, but my vote for year’s best goes to Radiance by Cathyrenne Valente. This genre-smashing tribute to the Golden Age of Cinema is a mystery, noir, and science-fiction speculative metafictional tour-de-force. Where else is Venus a swamp filled with time- and space-bending callowhales and Pluto a noir-horror show directed by a mad king who knows “the play is the thing” by which all will be revealed? And although our heroine, Severin, is a motherless girl struggling to find her own way, she doesn’t fit into the Disney evil stepmother trope. Her father laments his paternal imperfections, and the women he marries to stand in as Severin’s stepmothers add to her life rather than abuse her. While these starlets might leave Percival, they somehow bond with and influence Severin in a lasting way, as if Percival’s greatest success was casting a sequence of great substitute mothers for his daughter who, in the end, rebels against his aesthetic. 

Theodore McCombs: With a glut of wonderful reads this year, some fun, several good, and many weird, I've come to appreciate better just how hard it is to pull off any one of these -- and how rare it is to write a book that is all three. That's why my favorite this year is The Last Illusion, by Porochista Khakpour, a lyrically sophisticated coming-of-age novel about a feral child raised by a patio's worth of birds. It is bizarre without losing relevance; fun without being trite; and very good. 

CS Peterson: It was hard to pick a favorite post from this past year. I am ecstatically happy that we’ve been up and running for a solid year now and have so enjoyed every conversation within our smart and thoughtful community of speculative bloggers. But pressed for the post most personally meaningful I’ll go with the Contemporary Hero's Journey: the Post Campbell Post. As a teen, I was starved for female characters in the speculative literature that I loved who were not relegated to towers and/or constantly in need of rescue. Moria Young’s post-apocalyptic experiment, casting a complex female protagonist as the hero in the tropes of a classic American western, was a breath of fresh air in the YA world. It gives me hope and encouragement as we head into a new year. 

Mark Springer: Like most years, 2015 has seen its share of grimness. Cormac McCarthy's The Road reminds us, every year, how to look for hope in a world that seems always more violent and more in danger of falling apart--not naively and not through escapism, but by confronting the bleakness and going straight on through it.

Gemma Webster: Book Stack Poetry FTW. It was so much fun to scour my shelves in search of meaning, to stack and unstack, re-stack and find something I thought was interesting. The project gave me a voyeuristic satisfaction, seeing what books resided on the shelves of the other Unbound writers.

Thanks, and we'll see you in 2016!


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