Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post Jonathan Maas.

Jonathan Maas is a writer living in Los Angeles. He has written four books: City of gods - Hellenica, Spanners: The Fountain of Youth, Flare, The Dog That Laid Eggs, and Dion, each one of which has cover illustration by the extraordinarily talented Manthos Lappas. Jonathan Maas has also directed an independent movie, Spanners, which is the prequel to the book.

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GUEST POST: Jonathan Maas's Best Books of 2016 by Jonathan Maas

Hello! Another year of reading done – and I feel compelled to release my own personal awards for the best books I’ve read.

Note that not all these books were released in 2016. In fact I’d bet few were! But as any RisingShadow reader knows – books are timeless. Whenever you read it, that’s when it was released!

Note also that I’ve read a few really, really good ones that are not on this list. I have to mention this. Regardless, let’s get to it!

Jonathan Maas’s Awards – Best Books of 2016

Overall Winner – Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch – A great storyline. Likeable characters. Mind-blowing premise that makes the reader reevaluate what it means to exist. And last but not least – multiple drops, i.e. reveals that let the reader know that this world is a lot bigger than they had initially thought.

No spoilers, but Dark Matter put the SciFi/Fantasy world on notice, and raised the bar all around. It reminded me a bit of Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke and the movie The Signal – a straightforward premise that just got bigger and bigger as the book progressed, until it reached a universal level.

Overall Winner – 2nd Place – S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst –This book is unlike anything you’ve ever read. I’ll leave it at that!

I can’t give this one another award, because it defies categorization. It’s in its own class, regardless, incredible book!

Best new author discovered – Ruth Ware, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10 – In both her books, she redefines what it means to make a book impossible to put down. Her books are quick, or at least they feel that way. Her characters have a unique feel – self-centered, unstable – and yet somehow likeable. Most importantly the character’s uniquely British sense of mania allows the mysteries to be solved. While normal people would just nod and allow the police to investigate the crime, her characters just won’t let anything go until the real culprit is revealed.

Ware’s books aren’t quite in RisingShadow.net’s usual genres, but her talent transcends themes, and warrants an award here.

Best new author discovered, 2nd place – David Silva, various – I read him on a whim in Night Visons 10, which is a collection of short, creepy stories – and Silva’s tales found a way to shine through, time and time again.

Best Horror – Bird Box, by Josh Malerman – Perhaps the most frightening book I’ve read, the only way to describe it is by saying This book is SO. F***ING. SCARY.

I apologize for the cussing, but that is the only way to describe Bird Box. It deals with a great premise, and taps into our deepest fears. There’s not a lot of violence, not a lot of monsters – it’s just SO. F***ING. SCARY.

One of the great things I liked about it was that it gave a modern angle on the End of the World trope by making most of the survivors at least somewhat compassionate and trustworthy. The trend before this is to make ‘the survivors the real danger.’ This concept began with 28 Days Later and perhaps reached its peak in The Walking Dead.

Bird Box doesn’t have packs of humans terrorizing the neighborhood, or a charismatic psychopath taking power in the wake of the chaos. The ultimate enemy is so powerful that humans become almost nullified, and therein lies the book’s power.

Best Science Fiction – Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch – see the overall winner award.

Best Historical Fantasy – Murder in Absentia, by Assaph Mehr – This one is so unique that I had to make a category to give it an award. Is it Fantasy? Yes. Is it historical? Somewhat, verging on a yes. It’s tagline – Togas, Daggers and Magic. – is perhaps the best way to describe it, and regardless it’s a lot of fun. Just go in expecting all of the above, and that is what you’ll get.

Best Novelization - Alien Resurrection, by A.C. Crispin – I haven’t seen the movie (at least not yet), so this one effectively served as a really good Aliens novel, a really, really, really good one. Crispin brought one thing to the novelization that the movies could not – what it’s like to be inside the mind of a xenomorph. The book really shines in these sections, when you step inside the mind of an immensely powerful creature that doesn’t act like us, and doesn’t think like us. This book is just incredible.

Best Graphic Novelization – Batman: No Man’s Land, by Greg Rucka – Rucka takes the ~year long No Man’s Land story arc and puts it into a single book. Great tale, though be warned – hard to put down!

Best Original Novelization(s) – Homeland – Carrie’s Run, and Saul’s Game, by Andrew Kaplan – These aren’t quite RisingShadow.net’s usual fare, but both books are so good that I had to give them a mention. I haven’t seen the Homeland TV series, but jumped into these original prequel novels with open eyes, and was floored by both of them. The books are tense, and at times as scary as horror novels (almost like Bird Box even). But I fell in love with the characters, and though the situations are beyond complicated, Kaplan pushes the plot through and brings the reader along with it.

The fact that he adds a section including historical background makes it educational as well!

Best Original Novelization(s) – 2nd Place – The Mr. Monk series by Lee Goldberg – There are quite a few of these books, and they serve as episodes of the series. They’re hilarious but with a real core of a mystery, and a skilled detective on the case. These books are great, and again, though they’re not quite the RisingShadow.net’s fare – they’re so good that they require a mention. Start anywhere, but Mr. Monk is a Mess is one of my favorites.

Be warned – the humor often comes when you least expect it, so you might find yourself laughing unexpectedly.

Best Non-Fiction – Cosmos, by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan – This one was admittedly published waaaaay before 2016, but its themes are beyond important today. Druyan and Sagan talk about the history of discovery, the future of exploration, and they even find a way to talk about global warming, decades before it became common knowledge. It should be required reading for the human race.

Best Non-Fiction – 2nd Place – The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman – It’s Neil Gaiman, and though I occasionally get Gaiman’ed out, ie binge-read his tales until I need a break, this one is different from his usual fare. It’s akin to having him regale you at a dinner party, and it’s beyond worth the read.

Best Graphic Novel Series – Tie – Hellblazer and Preacher – by Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis – Though Preacher has hit the main stage as of late, both these series seem to hit higher and higher marks with every book. I consider Ennis and Ellis one writer, perhaps because their last names are so similar, perhaps because they just find a way to take it to the next level, time and time again.

Perhaps my favorite part of all of these is the art of Timothy Bradstreet. He does quite a few covers, and even does a short tale in Hellblazer.

Best Graphic Novel Series – 2nd Place – The Game of Thrones graphic novels, by Daniel Abraham – Absolutely incredible. This is the third iteration of the Game of Thrones saga that I’ve read, first the books, then the TV series, both of which were A++. These are another A++, and they are worth a look because they really show what Westeros is supposed to look like. The TV Series has a big budget of course, but there are certain things an artist can capture that even the biggest TV series can not.  For example, the throne. Great art, great series.

Best Graphic Novel – Standalone – Local, by Brian Wood – I believe this began as a series, but most people see it in its book format, and I couldn’t stand giving this anything less than first place, so here is its own award. Its plot runs like the best independent film you’ve ever seen, and grips you with a force that doesn’t let go until the end. Regardless of your preference, read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Best Graphic Novel – Standalone – 2nd Place – The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert, by Marc-Antoine Mathieu – I’ll just say that this might be the most creative book I’ve read all year. It’s a bit hard to read at times due to the uniqueness of its plot, but stick with it. It will open your eyes.

Best Thriller – Trust Your Eyes, by Linwood Barclay – I love thrillers, but some just stand above the rest. This is such a book, because it’s one of those thrillers that you speed through, but still hang on every word. Like Gillian Flynn’s books, but with more likable protagonists, Trust Your Eyes is like Rear Window for the modern day, and will grab you from the first page to the last.

Best Movie – The Witch – Great horror film, and I place it in a rare class of horror films that don’t employ jump scares. Like the brilliant Lake Mungo, The Witch finds a way to unsettle you without anything jumping out at you. Brilliant cast, brilliant script, and great cinematography. A+ all around.

Special thanks to RisingShadow.net, Goodreads, the Glendale Library, the LAPL and THE Book Club #TBConFB for helping me bring this list together!

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