2012 in Review

December 31st, 2012

Worst.  Christmas.  Ever.  I was hit with a stomach bug late Christmas Eve and only got out of bed all day to haunt the bathroom saying, ‘oh god, oh god, oh god.’  In total, I ate four shreddies.  Only member of the household to escape was my wife, and in a sense hers was the worst fate since she had to clean up after the three children, who all got it too.

But Christmas is past now, thank heavens, and New Year is upon us.  38 today, and blow me if that isn’t another year down the pan.  Last year I was talking about how the building project was finally dragging to a close.  I can happily report that it still hasn’t quite finished another year on.  Crazy.  I actually have a six year old daughter now.  When the hell did that happen?   And I published one more book.  That makes six altogether, over 1.2 million words of fiction out there in the marketplace.  So what’s been happening this year, then?

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – Yeah, again, I really can’t complain.  Well, I could, and frequently do.  But I really shouldn’t complain.  Red Country came out in October in the UK, and though it only made no. 10 on the hardcover bestseller list, it was during one of the most competitive weeks of the year.  It sold slightly fewer hardcovers in its first week than The Heroes had done the previous January to make no. 3, but sold considerably better on export across Europe, and also a far greater number of e-books, demonstrating the shape of things to come, no doubt, with a dwindling hardcover market and a steadily increasing e-book one.  The US edition followed in November and, despite last-minute rescheduling, made the New York Times list for the first time.  No. 27 but, hey, still immensely pleasing, and I love room for improvement.  I’m an international Sunday and New York Times bestselling author, biatches, you can never take that away from me!  The other five books continue to tick over rather nicely too, and I’ve done more travelling and conventioning than ever this year, with visits to the US, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Australia as well as a goodly number of British appearances.  Need to scale that back a bit next year or I’ll get nothing done…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Better than last year, certainly.  Wrote the last third of Red Country and edited it, obviously.  Also turned in a pretty substantial short story, about 12,000 words, which should appear in due course.  There’s actually another short story of some 8,000 words which I wrote not last year but the year before (end of 2010) which is still waiting for publication, more news on these when I have it.  The hefty touring schedule took out most of October and November, though I’ve still managed to make a fair bit of progress on a couple of other projects the details of which shall for the time being remain secret but will in due course be revealed to shocked gasps of shock, amazement, shock, wonder and delight.  Probably.

BOOKS – A pitiful amount of reading has been done this year, truly pitiful.  A few more westerns early on, some viking-related stuff towards the end of the year, the pick of it probably Frans Bengtsson’s classic The Long Ships which is well worth a look.  Other notable reads have all been by friends/acquaintances, so the usual disclaimers that I know these authors at least a little bit, but I thoroughly enjoyed all three.  Adam Nevill’s British Fantasy Award Winning The Ritual is survival horror with the edges left on, as a set of wayward weekend walkers fall foul of something hideous and unknowable in the primordial forests of Sweden.  Robert Low’s The Wolf Sea is the sequel to his excellent The Whale Road – savage, dark, authentic-feeling viking fiction.  Garth Nix’s Confusion of Princes is space opera with wit, wonder, pace and focus.

TV and FILM – I finally saw the first season of Game of Thrones, and thought they’d made an excellent fist of it, I must say.  I’m really delighted to finally see a gritty fantasy (THE gritty fantasy, some would say) so convincingly brought to screen, especially the small screen, as that seems to be where a lot of the exciting work is happening these days.  That exciting work for me this year has included the bleak and brilliant Breaking Bad season 3, the bleak and beautiful Mad Men season 5, the bleak and insightful In Treatment season 2, as well as a vintage season of Strictly Come Dancing. But I’m not sure the best thing I saw all year wasn’t the excellent Danish/Swedish thriller The Bridge, even better than The Killing, second season of which didn’t quite reach the heights of the first.  On the larger screen there were a clutch of interesting SFnal releases.  Prometheus I found a baffling mess.  The remake of Total Recall was pants.  The Hobbit was far from awful but also far from the heights of Lord of the Rings and could have shed a good half hour of self-important bloat.  In the increasingly congested superhero arena the new rebooted Spiderman reboot started well for me then middled badly and ended worse and probably the franchise needs another new rebooted reboot now, I shouldn’t wonder.  Iron Man 2 was pretty good, partly because of Sam Rockwell’s ace performance.  Avengers Assemble gave me mixed feelings, though.  The Dark Knight Rises wilted a little under the weight of its own unrealism and fell well short of its predecessor.  Pick of the SF for me was probably the stripped-down, tough and hungry Dredd, which hit squarely what it aimed at, and the interesting Looper, which had big ambitions it perhaps fell slightly short of.  A lot of people liked Skyfall but I found it very disappointing – a hodge-podge of bond-ish moments without much plot or coherent thread through the middle.  Having seemed to offer so much this latest Bond incarnation feels like it’s falling back on all the cliches, now, with only deliciously nasty Javier Bardem offering much zip opposite an oddly uninvolved and uninvolving Daniel Craig.  Perhaps my favourite film of the year was the stylish yet brutal, silent yet explosive Drive.  Hmm.  Bryan Cranston has been in two of my favourite things this year.  And one of my least favourite…

GAMES – 2012 promised much but there have been perhaps a few minor disappointments.  Stuff like Darksiders II and Kingdoms of Amalur passed hours but left little long-lasting impression.  Dragon’s Dogma was charming but sorta … odd.  I personally doubt that extremely violent games make you violent, but Max Payne 3 proved that they can certainly make you bored.  Dishonored looked like a real humdinger, and in many ways it is, with superb styling, original setting, and looks to die for but, I dunno, after putting a few hours in I haven’t felt hugely compelled to go back to it.  Instead I started playing Assassin’s Creed 3 which, again, looks like a real humdinger, with a huge world, some nimble plotting and loads of diverse content but, I dunno, there’s a LOT of running around, the resource management system is stunningly clunky and over-complicated and, lovingly rendered though its American War of Independence setting is, it lacks the pop and variety of Renaissance Italy.  Plus there seems something, I dunno, rather hamfisted and wilfully stupid in its treatment of the historical subject matter that either was done better or just didn’t bother me in the more distant historical material of the previous games.  So what was good?  Well, X-Com ticked most of the boxes with a good deal more depth and content than you’ll usually get on a Playstation and that’s my number 3 for the year, with a two way tie for number 1 between two very different beasties.  The ending of Mass-Effect 3 went down a storm with the gaming public.  A shitstorm, that is, unparalleled in its ferocity.  I was a little bemused by the reaction.  The series just didn’t have a heavy central theme that could produce a barnstorming conclusion like Red Dead Redemption, so I got pretty much what I expected – half an hour of incoherent hand-wavy nonsense.  But that by no means spoiled my enjoyment of what, up until that moment, had been a brilliant game.  Lacking the depth, edge, and subtlety of Mass-Effect 2, maybe, but with the game system, cutscenes and arcade elements better than ever before.  I don’t think there’s a better fusion of action, roleplaying and sheer filmic storytelling to be had in a computer game.  Yeah, crappy end, real crappy, but even so.  And sharing the laurel wreath, a late entry in the form of Borderlands 2, building on everything that made the first one such an unexpected treat and upping the ante in terms of looks, settings, humour, ludicrous quantity of guns, and delivering one of video gaming’s classic villains in Handsome Jack.  It’s just an awful lot of fun.

BEST REVIEWS – Quite a few nice ones for Red Country, if I say so myself.  Allow me to pick out a couple of highlights.  Publishers weekly said, “Terrific fight scenes, compelling characters, and sardonic, vivid prose show Abercrombie at the top of his game.” Jared at Pornokitsch thought, “Abercrombie is fast supplanting George R.R. Martin as the standard by which all contemporary epic fantasy should be measured.”  Phew, I don’t know about that, Jared, but thanks all the same.  The Guardian said, “Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else: Red Country is a marvellous follow-up to his highly praised The Heroes.”  The Independent had it, “This is not the epic fantasy of your fathers … Red Country reads like neither a Western nor a fantasy novel, but something new, fresh and exciting.”  But I’ll give the last word to Niall Alexander writing for Tor.com, when he says: “Red Country is vile at times, and plain ugly most all others, but mark my words: from source to termination, you won’t be able to look away… because by the dead, this book is brilliant … the work of Joe Abercrombie is as blackly fantastic as it’s ever been, and markedly more approachable than before.”  Zing.

BEST WORST REVIEW – I’m a little surprised, actually.  There was, of course, the usual crop of amazon one-starrings, Goodreads-lashings, accusations of overratings and offhand chat-room pastings, but nothing really stands out as did Leo Grin’s existential broadside of last year.  Ah well.  Perhaps next year someone will really tear me a new one on the internet.  We can hope…

Happy new year, readers!

Posted in film and tv, games, Other Life, reading, reviews by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2012.

36 comments so far

  • Chris Upton says:

    Dredd was excellent. Really took me by surprise.
    Next year looking forward to season 3 GOT and I hear they’re doing a BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Should be fun.

  • Frank Fitz says:

    Had that bloody bug myself on Boxing Day, still haven’t recovered my appetite since.

    After reading all of that, I’d say the Abercrombie Household had a pretty good 2012.

    Congratulations, Joe, all of the best.

  • Dan says:

    Best game: mass effect 3

    Best movie: the raid: redemption

    Best book: red country!

  • Jim Cormier says:

    Dishonored picks up a bit later on in the game, though the ending (the “good” ending, anyway) is perhaps a little trite. What it lacks in depth it makes up for in gameplay and concision.

  • Daniel Ericson says:

    Happy Birthday Joe!

  • Chad says:

    I agreed with Jared (shameless ass kissing). I’m currently enjoying your books more than GRRM. They have the virtue of a beginning middle and end. Plus, I can look forward to seeing something from you a little more often.

  • Adam A. says:

    Only 38? You’re a youngin!

    In film, Dredd was my pick for the year because it met all my expectations as a reader of the various comics and graphic novels. My only regret is that a sequel will never happen because it didn’t make nearly the money it should have.

    TV, The Walking Dead finally became the thing I was hoping it would be. Also, I highly recommend the Ken Burns documentary, “The Dust Bowl.”

    Books, Anthony Everitt’s “The Rise of Rome” and “Red Country” were my favorite new releases this year. Though some of best books I’d read were James R. Green’s “Death In the Haymarket,” Earnest Freeberg’s “Democracy’s Prisoner” and in fiction, Cathrynne Valente’s “Deathless,” and M.J. Locke’s “Up Against It.”

  • Igor says:

    Congratulations from Russia! Your Red Country contains such a huge amount of pure action – as if I`ve seen a film. Hope for a new book next year. Sorry for people reading only in Russian /my wife/ – years of patient waiting ahead. Happy Birthday and New Year, Joe! And no more bugs!

  • Luke Scull says:

    Happy birthday! I hate how time seems to accelerate as one gets older. I guess being a writer doesn’t help, as you’re constantly forced to plan long-term and count down the days until the next looming deadline/milestone/convention.

    Mass Effect 3 annoyed me. It was too much of a rehash of Mass Effect 2 with plot holes you could drive a truck through. Mind you, 2012 was a poor game for gaming in general. Too many creaking franchises being beaten to death. Bring on the next generation!

  • Darren says:

    Congrats on one of the most interesting author blogs going around. Always enjoy reading your posts.

  • Roger says:

    I’m intrigued about the short stories, and I’m eager for new info about them.

    Regarding short stories, I’d like to be able to read “yesterday near a village called Barden”. My wish for 2013 is to have it available without having to buy a Hardcover editions of the Heroes again.

  • JDA says:

    Happy birthday and a year well done Joe!

    Im looking forward to 2013. Wish all the best for you and yours.

  • bobthebuilder says:

    Hi Joe!

    No Far Cry 3 ?

  • Gérard Depardieu says:

    how dare you to [spoiler].

  • Rick says:

    Seriously – try Far Cry 3. Even if you didn’t like the second one.

  • David says:

    It’s probably a good thing your kids caught the same bug as you else your wife would have put it down to all the whiskey you have been drinking;)

  • Kreso says:

    Honestly, game-wise, the year was a disappointment.
    My GOTY was Dishonored, and it’s not even close to about 4 or 5 titles from 2013 (Skyrim, Dark Souls, Witcher 2, etc.).

    TV shows: I thought Game of Thrones was very good, but not as good as season 1.
    Homeland went downhill after a fantastic season 1.

    I mostly read fantasy… And I got Red Country, so can’t complain.
    Now looking forward to Republic of Thieves and hopefully some info about Joe’s next book!

    Best wishes for 2013, Joe!

  • Cara(Eli) says:

    Happy belated, Joe 🙂 Only 38 and with a daughter at 6. In 10 years she’ll be 16 and driving you nuts – so much worry and angst to look forward to. (You’re welcome :p )

    Your Red Country was one of the best book reads for me in 2012. It’s sharing place with Cold Days by Jim Butcher, which is a different kind of book, so I should be allowed to let the two share 1st place, right?

    I definitely need to check out Garth Nix’s Confusion of Princes. Sounds like my kind of read

    All the best for 2013 *cheers*

  • JonathanL says:

    Drive really hit me out of nowhere. I rented MI:Ghost Protocol and Drive both, figured I’d watch Drive but really like Ghost. Ghost I thought was decent, but Drive was amazing. Love that soundtrack. I wish I could always make my car start up to “Nightcall.”

    ME3 encountered several fan problems. One was the bleak tone of the ending, which most games never even sniff, and the other was that many expected a very specific tailored ending. The ME games have been very good at remembering what you’ve done and slyly working it in throughout, with results that play on that DURING, not after. And I feel like lots of folks missed out on that because they wanted blue babies.

    Thrones Season 2 is a huge step forward for that show. When will HBO knock on your door to make a second AWESOME fantasy series? You’ve got six seasons down already, now you just need a movie.

  • Dking says:

    Gerard Depardieu, I really hope that wasn’t a massive spoiler.

  • Indeed, Monsieur Depardieu, less spoilerific if you please. You may by all means email me at joe[at]joeabercrombie[dot]com to complain about my daring, should you so desire…

  • Depard Gérardieu says:

    I didn’t spoiler anything since the posts are moderated. Then again why haven’t you finished it yet.

  • Nick C says:

    I agree with some others on here Joe, as far as games go Far Cry 3 is my game of the console generation. Red Country was my favorite book with Ready Player One (I think it was a ’12 release) nipping at its heels.

    Also, as an aside, still no First Law Trilogy on the American iBooks store continues to frustrate millions and millions (well, at least one) Yanks and cost you millions and millions (well, at least a few) GP.

    Happy New Year and much success in 2013 Joe!

  • Pinky says:

    Hit with a virus over xmas. That sucks. As for the rest. Havent seen the Hobbit. Dont play games but books. I cant wait to read the short stories and I’m currently wading my way through Red Country and I just have to say…. Thanks for Lamb.

    Your next mission is another book as it wont be much longer before I have finished this latest and nothing I have read comes close to your style. Its unique and I recommend it to everyone I know who reads fantasy books. Already I’ve lost several friends with the assurance they will return when they finish the First Law books. Yep, gone from my life because I showed them your website. Can only be a good thing.

    Thanks for the books Sir,


  • Don Brant says:

    I have just found your books this past year. I am devouring them in rapid order. Brilliant. I am a gulf war vet formerly of the 101st Airborne Division and currently fight in full contact medieval steel fighting (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLaYJKaDA_c). You are spot on. You give depth to the professional soldiers in your book. I would love to see a TV series of your work.

  • Dking says:

    It wasn’t moderated last night so I don’t know how many people you have just ruined it for, Gerard. Hopefully it was just me.

    Maybe some sort of anti spoiler warning could be added to the blog?

    Apologies if I come across rather annoyed but it’s because I am.

    On topic – Sorry to hear about your crappy Christmas, Jo.

  • Jens says:

    That’s what I call a great review of 2012, couldn’t agree more. And since you seem to have a very fine taste concerning books, movies, games and TV-Series(it has to be – because it’s very similar to my taste), I just ordered the Garth Nix novel you mentioned.
    That will be added to the pile of books I still HAVE to read (“Red Country” included – but I already bought it, so calm down).
    The fantasy-genre needs more Vikings!

  • Gary says:

    Sorry to hear about you firing from both cyclinders over Christmas Joe. That sucks.

    I pretty much agree with most of what you’ve said, Borderlands does it for me too and small screen is definitely where it’s happening at the moment in terms of originality and decent character and story development. I don’t know what’s wrong with films at the moment, a lot of them come across as a bit half arsed and treat the viewer like they are devoid of any intelligence.

    Good books I’ve read in 2012? I think Red Country has got to be up there 🙂

  • Gary says:

    When I mention films, I am of course referring to Hollywood not the smaller independent films that due to smaller budgets use storytelling to blow people away instead of special effects that can be likened to firework display reactions of ‘ooh’, ‘aah’ and ‘that’s pretty’ with decent story taking a backseat.

  • Tom G says:

    Joe for the love of god, play The Walking Dead already. Easily game of the year. A wonderful character driven, emotional rollercoaster.

  • Morgan says:

    I woke up with an alien fetus in my stomach on Christmas Day and it burst out of my stomach sometime on New Year’s Day as I was watching American football. My god, the chips and appetizers were delicious though.

  • Tomek says:

    Dredd was, indeed, awesome! too bad that it looks like it didn’t do well financially, especially in US (where it’s not such a well known character and on top of that there’s a stigma of Stallone’s picture) hence chances of a sequel, maybe even slightly better funded, are minimal…

  • vsh says:

    How come there’s no tabletop roleplaying moments in Games section? I’m sure there is something at least as good as Max Payne 3.

    BTW, have you tried Dungeon World? That is a very well done game in D&D flavour.

  • neoloki says:

    The best book of the year was The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. An existential apocalyptic poem. Oh, and that other book was pretty good Red Country, ha.

    Overall, 2012 lacked anything that was too exciting in pop culture. Tv was ok with Breaking Bad being the cream of the crop, but it has been the best thing on TV for a couple of years. The Walking Dead is 2nd. Game of Thrones was better in season 2.
    Nothing stood out in the video game market for me. Spent most of the time playing games from the previous year, Dead Souls and Skyrim. ME3 wasnt as good as ME2. I am looking forward to the Walking Dead game’s so Dishonored has to take it for me.
    Movies? Troll Hunter, or was that 2011? Drive, Looper, The Master, Moonrise Kingdom and Haywire.

    looking forward to a better ’13. ’12 sucked for me until the end.

  • FourthHorseman says:

    We’ve just started watching The Bridge since we thought The Killing was really great. A couple of episodes the plot and so forth is really good, but good god, I can’t stand the female lead. Sarah Lund might have been a frustrating character, but this Sara (just like Carrie in Homeland) are just annoying.

    I was one of those really bummed about the ME3 ending. I don’t think I took my frustration to the level some did, but the more time has passed I see that the third game is the best of the series and while the ending (that they kind of rewrote in the Leviathan DLC anyway) sucks, the storytelling is superb and the gameplay is really good.

    Game of Thrones s2 was kind of rubbish in a lot of places, sad to say…but Blackwater made up for a lot of it.

    Next up…Bioshock. Need to finish before Bioshock Infinite comes out.

  • Bruce says:

    What you reading all those viking books for? Hmmm? HMMMMMM?

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