2016 in Review

December 31st, 2016

New Year’s Eve, people, and you know what that means.  Yes, indeed, I am 42 years old today.  Can it really be a year since I reviewed last year? Apparently it can.

2016, then.  Bloody hell.  It’s been quite the year for deaths and political upheavals.  The blog continues to be in a fairly moribund state – indeed this is my first post in, what, four months or more?  Sad!  Still, I’ve been doing this a while now, and I think it’s better that I use it when I’ve got something substantial to announce or discuss than just trying to dream up content to fill the space. So posting will continue to be light around here, I shouldn’t wonder. Probably you’d all rather have more fiction anyway, if given the choice…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – With the publication of my collection of Short Stories, Sharp Ends, I now have ten books in print, would you believe. The Blade Itself came out in May 2006, so it’s rather neatly ten books in ten years, although the distribution’s been pretty lumpy and, since I actually started writing The Blade Itself in 2001, if I remember correctly, I haven’t actually written anywhere near as fast as a book a year. Sharp Ends made I think number 8 on the Times Hardcover list, which is a pretty strong showing for short stories, and everything else continues to tick over nicely. Georgia was the first new translation deal in a while, making somewhere between 25 and 30 total.  After an awful lot of travelling last year I’ve toured a fair bit less, though I was out and about in the UK for Sharp Ends and visited Spain and the US a couple of times.

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Another slightly piecemeal year interrupted by some side projects and bits and pieces, but I got going in earnest on the new book in the second half and I’m now not far off a reasonable first draft.  In case anyone’s unaware what the current project is, I’m working on another trilogy in the First Law world, taking place about fifteen years after Red Country, but my ideal plan is to draft the whole trilogy before publishing the first book, so I can see exactly what I’ve got and where I’m going before going back to revise and fine-tune that first book.  There are good reasons why they say the start of a book should be the last thing you write, and I think ideally that applies to series too, where the realities of publishing make it a possibility.  The advantage is hopefully a more coherent and polished series plus a rapid and well-planned publication schedule, the disadvantage is a long wait for the first book.  I can’t really see a scenario in which you get a new book from me before the end of 2018, and maybe later.  But we’ll see…

TV and FILM – We live in a golden age of TV, no doubt. There’s just a steady splurge of quality, boundary-pushing stuff coming out of Netflix, which for me this year has included Narcos, Stranger Things, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Better Call Saul, Bloodline, Daredevil, Luke Cage, among others. Game of Thrones had in some respects its best series yet – certainly the most exciting and pay-off heavy, though for me I thought you could tell in the details that they’d run out of book to draw on.  Enjoyed the first season of The Expanse a lot – just the right mix of the familiar and the original.  Amazon’s Man in the High Castle was a triumph of setting and design but the jury’s still somewhat out on whether they can knit a convincing narrative out of it.  Black Sails continued to deliver in its third season. Gotham season two was a little patchy, but strong at its best and for me still the pick of the recent crop of superhero stuff – it’s dark enough but still has a cartoony, comic-book sensibility. Second season of Italian crime drama Gomorrah was as brilliant as the first – hugely recommended.  I even watched a couple of things on olde-style terrestrial TV.  I must admit The Night Manager underwhelmed me a bit – it was good, but it failed to ever really catch fire.  Planet Earth II was just astonishing, though.  I was blown away by David Attenborough’s natural history as a kid and I’m still watching it now with my kids. Superb film-making on every level.

Cinema continues to be a much more minor interest, really.  I probably go to the cinema more to watch kids films than adult ones.  I always love a western, but The Revenant I found a little disappointing – beautiful but uninvoving.  The Hateful Eight I quite liked but maybe because I was expecting less.  For me Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction but then that’s not a high bar.  Indeed Hateful Eight and the Revenant had about the right amount of dialogue for two films but just very badly distributed between them…  You had to love Deadpool, so boldly and cleverly put together around a great central performance, and the time was just right for an irreverent adult take on the superhero movie, not that the Marvel steamroller looks like stopping anytime soon.  Rogue One was good, not without issues and patchiness, but good, though digital Peter Cushing seemed to prove that live actors have a bright future for some time to come.  Arrival touched the numinous at times but in the end offered up one of those mysteries that’s a lot less exciting once it’s solved.  Which leaves La La Land as my film of the year by some margin – an original and brilliantly made musical which managed to be joyful and intimate without being soft-centred.

GAMES – I’ve dialled back the gaming this year somewhat.  Final Fantasy XV was a decent if not a vintage entry in the Japanese crazy hairstyles roleplaying series, a lot more fun and a lot less pompous than the last one I played, but also even more incomprehensible than usual from a plot standpoint and strangely dudebro-tastic.  Uncharted 4 rather inexplicably failed to float my boat – I loved the first one and liked the other two, but this most recent one, despite the usual great looks, barnstorming set pieces and sparky personality, just really bored me. I put it down half way through, which almost never happens for me.  Perhaps just a format that’s had its day.  I played a big batch of Telltale games and largely enjoyed them all.  The Wolf Among Us and Walking Dead Season 2 were both great, but the touch on the Game of Thrones adaptation was a little less sure.  The more ‘painterly’ graphical style made things look more wooden not less, the story was a lot more distributed, and you just got the sense that nothing you did would actually make all that much difference.  Some great shocks along the way, though.  Just started Tales from the Borderlands, and that’s been great so far.  Bursting with the wit and cartoonish visual flair that Game of Thrones lacked somewhat.  That maybe leaves Dark Souls III as my game of a rather weak year, an entry that continued to fine-tune the system and perhaps make it a little more accessible, while retaining most of the sense of wonder and gruelling gameplay.

WHISKY – Decided to try and finish a few bottles off and cut down my burgeoning collection of dusty glassware, so I didn’t get much new this year. Mackmyra, Swedish distillery, was an interesting light tipple. Then I got a great cask strength Glenfarclas – an independent distillery I really like that specialises in the classic rich, sherried style. Oh, and an Old Pulteney 1989 – I’m not always a fan of that salty maritime business but this is great, complicated, rounded stuff.

THE YEAR AHEAD – There’s a lot up in the air as we go into 2017 both from a professional and personal standpoint.  We’ll probably be moving in the new year and starting off another big building and renovation project which will no doubt suck up a lot of energy, and I’m waiting to hear whether a long-standing side project is finally going to bear fruit.  I’ll be hitting my usual haunt in Aviles in spain in the summer, and probably Worldcon in Finland too, though that’s yet to be confirmed.  Other than that, it’s going to be full steam ahead with the new trilogy, hopefully finishing a first draft of the first book in early feb, so I can then spend a couple of months going over it, refining the characters’ voices and arcs so I’ve got a good foundation for a more detailed plan of the other two books.  The dream would be to get well into a draft of the second book by this time next year, but you know what they say about dreams…

Happy new year, readers!

Posted in film and tv, games, news, opinion, progress, whisky deathmatch by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2016.

33 comments so far

  • Lisa says:

    Hey Joe,
    Happy Birthday and a huge thank you for the reading entertainment you provide us all with. I got into your books a little late so I’m currently just about to start The Heroes. Can’t wait to finish them all so I can look forward to the new trilogy.

    Keep up the great work.


  • Igor says:

    Happy Birthday,Joe!
    Thanks for the post. 2016 was definitely shocking in many ways. Let`s hope for the better 2017. People deserve better life and better books! We believe in you,Joe. And wait, wait, wait…

  • Morrigan says:

    Excellent choice on your GotY! (nods approvingly)

    Happy 2017 and best of luck with your new trilogy. Can’t wait.

  • Darren says:

    Thanks for the blog update, always good to read.

    Looking forward to the new trilogy. Any chance you are releasing a 10 year anniversary of Before They Are Hanged?

    Al the best.


  • Steve Hick says:

    Agree pretty much with your assessments on tv and movies although I found Gotham sloppy. I’ve taken to glendronach 18 as a new sherry bomb. Late 2018, I guess that gives me time to re-read all 6 preceding novels. Hope 2017 is better for us all.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Thanks all for the well wishes…

    The last I heard the plan was to release 10th anniversary editions to match the Blade Itself on the 10th Anniversary of those books. So Before They are Hanged should be out this year and Last Argument of Kings the following. No firm details on that yet…

  • Hamish says:

    Hi Joe, happy birthday for t’other day.

    I’ve just finished reading Sharp ends, which concludes the First Law books for me… (I’ve read them all this year, which for me is groundbreaking as I think I do about 1 a year normally).

    Just wanted to say that you have awoken my passion for reading and I am gutted that I’ve finally finished the First Law books… I’m now without a purpose while my fiancé watches The Real Housewives of Orange County!

    Keep the books coming and best for 2017!


  • Fredrik says:

    I need more Logan and Glokta action.
    There are some questions i would like to ask u about the books . Can you mail me?

  • Happy Birthday and Happy New Year, Joe. Glad to hear about a new First Law trilogy. The first one restored my faith in fantasy fiction after a long hiatus. Best wishes for 2017.

  • John says:

    Happy birthday and Happy New Year. Glad to hear about work on next trilogy. Sad to hear it will be a while. Oh, well!! Guess that means I get to reread “First Law ” again. Yea!! Just started second reading of the Heroes. Probably read Best Served Cold sometime this year, third time!! Still love it.
    Best wishes to you and your family in 2017!!
    Fair Oaks, California, USA

  • Garet says:

    Hullo Joe,

    The time you’re taking to build a strong foundation for this new trilogy assures me that it will certainly be worth the wait.

    If you haven’t looked into it yet, I imagine you would appreciate HBO’s new show Westworld. I was thinking of your books as I watched it (there was a character that reminds me of Bayaz, which immediately brought me back to some of my favorite First Law scenes), and well, it’s HBO. The soundtrack and setpieces alone could keep me watching, but the story is fascinating and layered. I can’t recommend it enough.

    The only show I’m more obsessed with is Steven Universe, though even with the looming darkness that seeps in from fraying edges with surprising regularity, SU may well be too saccharine for your tastes. The show has been so helpful for me as I struggle with understanding the fluid nature of gender and identity that I can’t be objective about whether other people would find the characters and plot as compelling as they have been for me; therefore, I’m going to recommend the show wholeheartedly, but mainly because I would recommend it to anyone who would listen, and a great many who won’t besides.

  • Graham Stuart says:

    Glad to hear that there will be more First Law books, even with the long wait.
    I recommend the Legend of Grimrock (1 and 2). The games are great old school Dungeon crawlers and the name is also very similar to Grimdark!

  • Happy birthday Joe!

    In gaming I did enjoy the new DEUS EX title and the previous year’s MAD MAX game was surprisingly good (if a little too big and sprawling). I’m also looking forwards to DISHONORED 2, once they patch it so it works better. However, I did find the best games this year were the lower-key, mostly PC-only stuff: DESERTS OF KHARAK was an excellent prequel to the HOMEWORLD games and my tap for game of the year is SHADOW TACTICS: BLADES OF THE SHOGUN, which came out of nowhere and just ended up being a brilliant stealth game with some great character and story twists.

  • Shamul says:

    No recommendations for best books?

  • Darren says:

    Great news about the 10th anniversary books. Ive been trying to get hold of a first edition signed copy of the first law trilogy for a while now without any luck. The anniversary copies are a good alternative.

  • major_bastard says:

    Hey Joe, you legend.

    I read a rumour, is the next trilogy going to be called “The Second Law”?

  • Hammer says:

    Thanks for posting Joe.

    Always enjoy reading your take on things.

    Penny Dreadful finished up this last year as well I believe, one I personally enjoyed.

    Wondering if you read anything great this last year?

    Best of Luck and Be Well!

  • Jeff says:

    Was going to go back and read The First Law series again but decided to do the audio books instead. I found out that as a speed reader, I must have been skipping a lot of content as I raced through the books. Actually listening to every word and getting involved in the performance of the narrator, I found myself enjoying it just as much if not more than the 1st time. Please continue to publish your books in the audiobook format.

    Thanks and can’t wait for the new series!

  • Hugues says:


    Thanks for the news and happy birthday even if I’m a little late 🙂

    I’m both happy to learn that a new trilogy of my favorite author is on the way and sad that we’ll have to wait that long but I like the first book last idea !

    As games go, if you missed it, darkest dungeons was a nice gem and well, dark enough for you to enjoy I think.

  • Vince says:

    La La Land? Really? LordGrimf*ckingdark? My world has been shattered, I say. Shattered. And not in the Rolling stones “Shattered” way. Although I will say “pride and joy an dirty dreams and still surviving on the streets..”

    Happy birthday, Mang!

  • Darth Bane says:

    Great to hear about the progress. I’ve been reading your books from the start and you are unparalleled in your writing. Really looking forward to the next trilogy. Keep up the great work Joe. Looking forward to your next post on this here blog on 12/31/17…lol. Take care you twistep bastard.

    Phoenix, Az

  • Josh Petersen says:

    I am in the middle of the First Law Trilogy for my second go around, it is soooo good!! I recommend it to everybody, and anyone who gives it a chance loves them. Can’t wait for the new trilogy.

    Still dreaming of the First Law getting the HBO/Netflix/Amazon series treatment. Happy New Year Joe!

  • Zack says:

    Any small juicy morsels you can toss our way about the possibility of seeing First Law as a TV series?
    Fantasy is a hot commodity right now for TV and I think First Law is a hit waiting to be made.

  • Phil Coady says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, La La Land is superb. It’s takes a true man who says he likes such films. Logan would be proud!

  • Phil Coady says:

    Can you gives us a teenie weenie hint about your side project?

  • Jon S. says:

    Hello there.

    Well, I loved Sharp Ends though I do think that Shevedieh and Javre deserve their own novel all to themselves frankly.

  • Giles says:

    Joe, I’ve enjoyed what tidbits you’ve dropped here and there about writing. For me Best Served Cold was your masterpiece. I remember reading it, thinking, I would have paid $200 dollars for this. Yet among my friends The Heroes seemed more popular. What sort of style should we expect for the new trilogy?

  • Zach Holtman says:

    Hey Joe,

    Really loved Sharp Ends, a great collection! Lots of fun following some new characters, and some old but unexplored ones too.

    For games this year, did you not pick up Total War Warhammer? I was surprised to not see it mentioned, since I recall you mentioning the series in the past. Great setting, polished gameplay and a fresh take on Total War, I thought it was a blast! If you haven’t tried it, you should! If you have tried it, shame on you for not mentioning it. 😉

    Thanks for all your great work, you’re still my favorite author of late. All the best in the new year!

  • Frank says:

    Hey Joe,

    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned Hell or High Water! It reminded me very much of Red Country. The ending especially, but I don’t want to give away the plot.

  • Jared says:

    Hey Joe,

    Just wanted to express my thanks for “The First Law” trilogy. I’ve been absorbing the audio books for the last couple months, and I spent the majority of today laying in a dark bedroom, listening the last portion of the third book. I just started “Best Served Cold” and am already enthralled.

    I hope that you continue where you left off with the third book of “The First Law” trilogy. It was a very upsetting trip to Little Caesars when I finished the book and heard where it left off at.

  • Will says:

    Hello joe, we need an HBO quality game of thrones esq series for the first law and the standalones. I need this more than need oxygen.

  • Nick says:

    Hello!! I’m 16 years old and only just finished all the first law and related books for the 2nd time around. Love them all, definitely my favorite books. I haven’t read much on your blog and I probably should have before asking because im sure the topic has been covered already. But i dont know if my life would be complete without knowing your version of Logen’s past and or the mysteries surrounding him. (I already have my own ideas and theories but…) And also where Logen ends up if Red Country is not the end. And now that i think about it i honestly would love absolutely anything new in the world of First Law!

  • Bob Gosling says:

    When are you going to get off your lazy arse 🙂 and get started on a film of The First Law ? Seriously though, I’m sure you have considered it so what’s the hold up ?

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