2016 MSOTY: BOOKS

2016 MOST SURPRISING BOOKS I READ THIS YEAR

George Orwell - The Road to Wigan Pier (1937)

Who would've thought that a first-person inquest into coal mine unemployment in the North of England through the Great Depression could turn out to be a page-turner? Here, we see the ignition of the 1984 author's anti-ideological flame. Orwell goes undercover to Wigan, among other miserable industrial towns, in order to identify the basic social and infrastructural problems that socialism could solve. Starchy by genuine throughout, Orwell calls for a basic "decency" which he finds sorely lacking among class society. Perhaps most striking is, much like with 1984, the pure prescience of it all. Eighty years on, and the problems Orwell describes are specifically unchanged: class division, the sickness of cheap luxuries, and the puffed-up virtue-signalling of mainstream leftists all still surround us. Throughout the book's social philosophizing runs a bone of brilliant anger -- Orwell's hotblooded lampoon of the unkempt beards, pistachio-coloured shirts, and I daresay fruit-juice drinking (Sneer!) of the 1937 social-justice warrior is downright hilarious.

" Here you come to the real secret of class distinctions in the West - the real reason why a European of bourgeois upbringing, even when he calls himself a Communist, cannot without a hard effort think of a working man as his equal. It is summed up in four frightful words which people nowadays are chary of uttering, but which were bandied about quite freely in my childhood. The words were: The lower classes smell. "

Tom Parkinson-Morgan - Kill 6 Billion Demons (2016)

Have you ever found yourself leafing through a comic book and wishing it was just a little more like the Hindu bibleKill 6 Billion Demons is for you. K6BD first went to print this year with Image comics, having been (and still being) free to read with regular updates on Parkinson-Morgan's website for years. Where's Waldo-psychedelia, scripture-like asides, endless arcane backgrounds, demonic taxonomies, invented dialects, epic confrontations, and flame-and-glitter stoked angelic transformations regale these pages, reaching deeper and deeper into the spiritual imagination with a verve that nearly no modern comic can match. And hey -- where else but a webcomic can the fans all participate in character throughout the comments section? K6BD harkens back to the Steve Ditko days, when the fate of the Marvel dimension was on the line in a battle between jealous old gods, and ambitious new ones and marks a refreshing change of pace from the Blockbuster grind that graphic novel culture's been reduced to. What are you waiting for!? Go read this already! 

' “Do you understand the true power of a sovereign? A raw man must kill with his bare hands. The battered warrior, a weapon. The commander, his bellowing voice, the conspirator, a whispered word. But all these pale compared to kingship. A true sovereign need not flex a single muscle in his body, and a hundred men die. A true sovereign may murder without a single impulse, or even intent, sight, breath, or even though of his murder. He is an idiot indifferent to his own violence. He has sublimed the act of obliteration.

That is the meaning of kingship.”

AU VAM, Pankrator of the Yellow City '

Pierce Brown - Red Rising (2014)

 The stratified hierarchy of Red Rising is based in colour.

The stratified hierarchy of Red Rising is based in colour.

When it comes to fiction, I can often be harsh or dismissive. Every comment leads, inevitably, to a "but" somewhere; the action was good, but the tone was sexist. Good structure, but terrible metaphors. My epiphany with Red Rising was that I had nothing bad to say about it. I literally cannot say a bad thing about it. Borrowing heavily from all the heavy-hitters of our time - Star WarsHarry Potter, Hunger Games, and even the inscrutable Dune at times - Red Rising delivers memorable characters, a world which oscillates ambiguously between old-empire and hi-tech, a sturdy structure, and a deftly-paced series of twists and turns. It is pulp, certainly; but it's hearty pulp, laying out tactical hijinks against a backdrop of lost love, imperial decay, and fomenting revolution. Whatever your tastes, I can very nearly guarantee you will not come away from this book disappointed. Read it before it becomes cool!

“Promises are just chains," she rasps. "Both are meant for breaking.” '