Each year, the reviewers here at the New Podler Review of Books pick the book (or books) which we feel are the very best independently published (or small press) works. The only other requirement we have is that the book was reviewed here on the blog during the calendar year.
First off, I'd like to give an honorable mention to Rob Steiner for Citizen Magus and Muses of the Republic and M. Terry Green for her Chronicles of White World series. I thoroughly enjoyed their books, but as I was proofreader for them, I was disqualified from reviewing them here. Definite bias there.
There were five books I reviewed here on the blog that were in the running for best of 2015. I could take the easy way out and nominate all five, but that would be a cop out. Unfortunately none of them stood far enough apart from the pack to make this an easy decision. So I had to decide if what I considered a flaw would be just a petty gripe to other readers. In the end, I decided that the book I chose would be one that I could unequivocally stand behind.
Without further ado, this year's winner is:
In my review of the first book in this series, Unwelcome Star, I complained about the length of the book, not relating to the protagonist, and a battle scene that went on for far too long. I decided that story length was my problem and not one with the books. I think that most readers consider 500+ page books to be a plus rather than a minus. And young adult characters are always in fashion, so ignore the middle aged grumpy guy.
My appreciation for the first novel grew after I read the second book in the series. The myriad new names and terms that Faccone dumped on us in the first book paved the way to enjoying Blue Star Setting. By then, I had a better appreciation of the effort that went into what I'd thought were tangential or out of place story fragments. Faccone had a long range plan for this series, and he needed to lay the groundwork from the outset. It's in this book that you can start to see it coming together.
One thing that I praised from the start was Faccone's world building. Each world and faction is fully rendered with a rich history. Technology has blossomed into a myriad of forms. There are several factions struggling against one another to achieve their objectives. And while there are many characters, both human and AI, each of them is a unique individual with quirks and personality. It can be a bit overwhelming at first getting up to speed with all of this, but it's worth it. For space opera fans, I'd say you owe it to yourself to check out both books and join in the adventure.
For more information on Unwelcome Star and other books in the Tethered Worlds universe, please visit the author's website.