2019 in Review

December 31st, 2019

This, I believe, and I say it with a heavy heart, is my TENTH annual review. Ten years this blog has been (somewhat fitfully) running. Which means, and I say this with an even heavier heart, that I should probably be doing a review of the decade, but I flatly refuse to do that, since I can barely remember anything from over a week ago, let alone 9 years.  It also means, and I say this with a still heavier heart, that I’m 45 years old today. I know, it seems impossible, I’m still an exciting young new recently-emerged voice who only just burst onto the fantasy scene. But I’ve checked the sums several times and it’s a fact. It’s been a great year in many ways – pretty stable at home and finally getting a new book out there after a long absence from the marketplace…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – It was three years since I published anything with Sharp Ends, four years since I published a novel with Half a War, and, if you can believe it, nearly 7 years  since I published a First Law novel with Red Country, but A Little Hatred was finally published in September! It takes some time for both the critical and commercial success of a novel to really become clear – there tends to be a rush of positivity initially that settles down to a more considered position over time.  But reviews were good pretty much across the board.  On Goodreads, for those who give a shit about such things, and it does remain one of the best sources going for aggregating reader opinion, the book’s got a 4.52 average, which is way the best out of anything I’ve written. Early sales were also the best I’ve ever done – the book made number 6 on the UK Times bestseller list at a very competitive time of year and, even more encouraging, crept into the New York Times list in the US at no. 13, which is way my best performance over there.  Audiobook sales were even better than hardcover sales both sides of the pond as well – testament to the growth in that sector and the mad reading skills of Steven Pacey.  So it’s a great foundation for the Age of Madness, and it seems that the long absence from the bookstores did no particular harm, but we will have to see how things develop when the paperback of A Little Hatred comes out – in March, I believe – and then when the sequel, The Trouble With Peace, appears in September.

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – After a couple of years of feverish full-tilt drafting this was much more of a completer/finisher year.  Copy edits and final changes to A Little Hatred at the start, then lots of publishing meetings, cover consultations, writing of blurbs and finishing off. Then there was the whole process of second draft, revision and editing on The Trouble With Peace, and the second draft of the final book, The Beautiful Machine, the last part of which needed some pretty heavy rewrites and new scenes. Then of course there were interviews, touring and events for the release of the book in September – it was actually great to be out there again, reminding myself that there actually are readers for this nonsense…

TV AND FILM – I chugged through more films than usual lately.  The Favourite wasn’t my favourite, though I did like it.  The Irishman was good but it proved to me that digital de-aging doesn’t really work and in the end felt very much in the shadow of more dynamic Scorsese offerings like Goodfellas and Mean Streets. My kids liked Rise of Skywalker but I did not. The central cast remain highly likeable but, wow, what a jumble of undigested exposition, maguffin chasing and remixed greatest hits. I think the real disappointment with these recent Star Wars films is that they had such an opportunity to tell one coherent story in three parts and they clearly ended up cobbling it together hand to mouth with each instalment.  Joker was good, I thought, way the best DC offering within recent memory and with a brilliant central performance but, I dunno, there wasn’t a huge amount to it after the hype.  Avengers: Endgame was very endgame and awfully avengery, about as good as you could hope for weaving together so many plot threads.  The latest Spiderman I quite liked.  Captain Marvel I thought was a bit weak, really.  Was that even this year?  I feel like I’m ready for the onslaught of Marvel to subside, frankly, or at least take some interesting new direction.  1917 was really strong, though perhaps in the stonking technical achievement of doing the whole film in one vast shot a little emotional involvement was lost?  I think my film of the year might be a very different take on war, Jojo Rabbit. A lot of reviewers seemed to hate it but I thought it was bloody great, so there you go.

On the small screen, I have sampled a weird and wonderful array of televisual treats, of which I am probably forgetting dozens, but warm memories abide of Billions, Bosch, Fleabag, The Good Fight, Warrior, The Virtues, Money Heist.  Gomorrah continues to be brilliant.  The Crown I felt had gone off the boil a bit. The Expanse is great though I did feel this forth season was spinning the wheels somewhat.  Vinland Saga was a good watch if you’ve any interest in anime.  Watchmen was an awesome surprise, I thought, ingeniously put together.  I’d love to see another, different take on that material in future.

Closer to my own area of fantasy, it is of course impossible to avoid Game of Thrones. As a whole, the series was an amazing achievement which has done wonders for the field, no doubt. One of its great strengths was its faithfulness to some brilliant source material, so it was inevitable they’d face problems when they ran out of books, but I felt they’d done a pretty good job in seasons 6 and 7, considering. Season 8 was … not so great, though. My problem wasn’t necessarily where things ended up, but how they got there. Put very simply, the big problem was the loss of rigour. It felt like they’d spent so much time and energy in all departments creating this meticulous feel of a real world populated by real people. In the final season they really threw that away in a breakneck bid to link together various beats and visual metaphors regardless of whether they made any sense.  I actually enjoyed the making of show a lot more than the show itself.  From disappointing ends to promising beginnings with The Witcher, though, which took a few episodes to get going, was occasionally a bit confusing and naff, but I ended up really liking.  Strong central cast and an interesting world.  Very much looking forward to further episodes.  While The Witcher had the heart but perhaps not quite the budget, Carnival Row had all the budget in the world and produced an amazing setting and spectacle (best fairy wings ever) but I found the dialogue and characters pretty uninspiring. They managed to make Jared Harris uninteresting, for pity’s sake.

I think my favourite TV of the year is split two ways.  Chernobyl was a searing 5 part semi docu-drama all about organisational failure and horrific radiation burns that you couldn’t take your eyes off.  Plus Jared Harris being superb where he belongs.  And then Succession was also brilliant, bitter-sweet, tragicomic, you can’t decide who of its wonderful horrible cast you love to hate most.

GAMES – I actually played a lot less than in previous years. Don’t know if I was just busy with other things or if there just wasn’t much that piqued my interest.  I enjoyed The Division 2 but those big multiplayer loot grabbers always end up feeling like slightly empty experiences for me.  The Outer Worlds was fine I guess, but felt a bit clunky and limited after the great reviews.  I actually really enjoyed Darkest Dungeon on the iPad – an original take on the dungeon crawler with bags of gloomy atmosphere.  Borderlands 3 offered what I expect from a series I generally really like, but it didn’t feel like it added much new and perhaps had a bit less personality than the previous instalment.  So probably my game of the year was Kojima’s bonkers Death Stranding. Occasionally wilfully weird and frustrating, and I don’t know that I’d ever pick it up again after finishing it, but you’d have to say that it was that rarest of things in gaming – a true original. Still, it says something that probably the most fun I’ve had gaming has been picking up the Witcher 3 again – four years after it first came out….

THE YEAR AHEAD – I’m gonna have a fair bit of travelling and events to do as A Little Hatred comes out in translation in various territories.  I think I’m in Spain in february then Portugal in march, and there probably will be other trips.  Looking back at last year’s review, I’d hoped to have The Trouble with Peace and The Beautiful Machine edited and complete so I could move onto whatever’s next. Well, that hasn’t quite happened. Book 2 is about to be line edited, with a final check over the prose before copy edit. But that’s probably a month’s work in all.  UK and US covers are also well underway and looking promising.  Book 3 has been edited but needs a few rounds of polishing. Maybe two or three months work altogether?  So there’s still stuff to do, but nothing that should interfere with the publication of The Trouble With Peace in September 2020 and The Beautiful Machine in September 2021.  Certainly by this time next year I expect to be well embarked on the planning stage of whatever comes next…

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards!

Posted in announcements, film and tv, games, news, progress by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2019.

36 comments so far

  • Malice Amarantine says:

    Happy birthday! And dead on with Chernobyl, that series blew me away and creeped me out in ways that nothing else has in a very long time.

  • ColinJ says:

    My favourite film of the year is a toss-up between ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD and its polar opposite, Robert Eggars’ THE LIGHTHOUSE. Both deal with male friendship in their own unique way, and both have exceptional production design and performances. Robert Pattinson has become a very fine actor indeed. His upcoming stint as Batman should be fascinating.

    RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2’s PC release is the game of the year for me.

  • Mark C says:

    Happy birthday! I’m only a few months behind you in years… it’s a thought, isn’t it? But let’s allow it to stop us thinking of the ever looming fif……. oops, too late!
    If I have a New Year’s Resolution, it’s to stop falling asleep after nine pm and to start reading some damn books again! I’ve got a signed copy of ALH on the to-read pile and I’m very much looking forward to it.
    All the very best to you and yours for the coming decade!

  • Jon Eckrich says:

    Happy birthday, Joe! Thanks for the update!

  • Jana says:

    Happy New year. Looking forward to new books.

  • Marcel says:

    Best wishes for 2020. Only 4 years ago I got to read the blade itself as a dutch translation. I loved how it started of with Logan being chased. Jazal being trained and Sand doing what he does right from the start. Best i have ever read. And first in the fantasy genre. The shattered sea i listened in my car to work as a audiobook. Parcy does it great. This last one i got as an english version. Translations in dutch not being available yet. Only 40 pages done, this trilogie start with a talk and actionscene with Rikke. And i read about the negosiations done by Sands offspring Savine. At this point the start of the book have not sucked me in to the story as much as the firstlaw karakters did, but cant judge a book by its cover or first 40 pages can I? Must say I though reading in English would be a pease of cake, but I have learned now that there are several words I encountered for the first time and i need to be more humble about how good i am at it. Love your work as it is deep cunning as you would put it in the shatteredseabooks. I admire how you are able to make all those pages in to a cohirant story. Keep up the good work. Sorry about the spelling errors i problibly made, but i am just a reader not a writer. As far as games this year. I am still doing Skyrim and have not seen anything this year that graps my attention for long. Guess there is not much out there at the moment.

  • Rad Bilan says:

    Aside from your books, these year-in-review blog posts are my favorite to read.

    I remember you tweeting about KINGDOM (Korean zombie series on Netflix) so maybe you just forgot about it since, well, it released January 2019. But that’s one of my favorite TV this year.

    On games, I’m not sure if Nintendo games are not your thing anymore, but I was always hoping for you to mention at least one game from the Switch.

    Anyways, happy birthday, Joe! And happy 2020 to you and your family!

  • Michael LR says:

    You know, Joe, when you started talking about TV AND FILM I honestly thought you were going to mention things you’d been involved in. Perhaps Scalzi’s just casually normalised that sort of thing for me.

    /* checks your Wiki */ huh, and you do have a film editing background….

    As always, I imagine that all the authors/creative-types I like all know each other, and a whisper away from collaborating with each other in a glorious orgy of convivial productivity. But damnit, I would really love to see what you would get up to in TV/film-land

  • Jorge Capote says:

    Happy Birthday, Mr. Abercrombie. Glad to hear you’re probably coming to Spain in February. I’ve got a copy of ‘A little hatred’ that needs to be signed.
    Thanks for your hard work. You’ve provided us with many hours of entertainment, and the next couple of years will be exciting as the new trilogy is being released.
    Please allow me to recommend you a TV show that just came out today: ‘The neighbour’, and you can find it on Netflix.
    It was directed by Nacho Vigalondo. I don’t know if you’re familiar with his work, but if you feel like seeing familiar plots from an original and intelligent point of view, give this show a shot. And also his films ‘Colossal’ and ‘Timecrimes’.

    Happy new year and good luck with your many trips.

  • James Stewart says:

    Happy Birthday and great to have you back.
    Gone backwards to The Phantom Pain myself but The Boys was the standout tv series of the year for me never thought they would make that on the small screen.
    Good luck with the next two books and have a great New Year

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Ah Jeez I always forget about so many things – yes, Kingdom and the Boyz were both great series.

  • Tom says:

    Happy birthday Joe!

    I really enjoyed A Little Hatred, to the point I took a few days off work just to read it uninterrupted, and I’m looking forward to The Trouble with Peace.

    I was curious as to what books you’ve read this year if you’ve had the time?

  • Nate says:

    I can’t help but feel there is – to me – a glaring omission from your year-end favourites: your favorite books! Any recommendations for an avid reader who’s exhausted (a relative term) his Abercrombie inventory and needs to fill the gap until September, 2020?

    Happy birthday! Thank you for all the grimdark entertainment you’ve provided us over the years.

  • David Sullivan says:

    Happy New Year Joe!

    I loved A Little Hatred. Anxiously awaiting The Trouble With Peace. Have you considered the Netflix model of releasing all the books at once and letting us stream-read them?

  • Neil Cooper says:

    Have a brilliant birthday. Great work so far & I’m looking forward to the next book.

  • Étienne Sharp says:

    Happy birthday and a Happy Hogmanay to you and the family, Joe!

  • Alex Pendergrass says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe! Thanks for another fascinating read and all the hard work put in for many more to come. One of my most prized gifts this Christmas was a new hardcover of Best Served Cold, the only one missing from my collection.

    Hope 2020 treats you well!

  • Michael LR says:

    (oh, and yes, happy Birthday too!)

  • Tobias says:

    Have a very happy birthday and an awesome start into the new year! Kudos to you for all the great work – not just the books, also the blog. imo you write it just in the right rhythm to keep it super interesting, keep it that way 🙂

  • John Carriger says:

    Hi Joe,

    Happy birthday!! Hope you didn’t get too many held back Christmas gifts for your birthday, (I do REALLY know what that’s like). I was worried that A Little Hatred might be stale or forced, good news, it was NEITHER. I thought the cross-over characters were handled just right. I must say I still have a huge place in my heart for my first love, Monza (my first intro to you, by the way), but I really like “Hatred”. I really appreciated the behind the scenes publishing info you provided. Very, very interesting.

    I hope 2020 is as good as 2019, for you. September is way, way, way too long for me to wait. Any ideas?? Best wishes.

  • Charles M Jones III says:

    Happy birthday, Joe!

    I found that reading A Little Hatred was an interesting journey. At first I felt that there was barely a character that I could empathize with, and was worried that the entire book would be bleak. But then your people matured through fire, and became more approachable. Surprising to find Bremer dan Gorst playing another key role; he has become one of my favorites in that world, never requited in love, redeemed in battle, but living without respect.

    I have two recommendations for you: The Ler Series, by M A Foster. A wonderful old school trilogy combining thoughtful forecasting of the future with interesting characters and action. The second is the Amazon series Bosch. Not as gritty as The Wire (another must see) but tight and gnarly.

    Which of your books will get the series treatment?

    Cheers
    Chuck

  • Igor says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe! You`ve made it! I mean the book (and it`s not just another book in a series, it`s a very different one). Well, you know what I mean. Sorry for phrasing, here in Russia we are actively waiting for coming of The New Year. So my double congratulations! By the way – The Witcher was a bitter disappointment for me. It`s definitely not bad -but… That is not the story I read and liked…

  • Travis says:

    Appreciate the year in review!
    Happy Birthday… and if it makes you feel better you have my full permission to use, “Well, at least I’m not as old as Travis,” anytime you want..

  • Matt A says:

    Happy birthday old chap! Any news on when Book 2s cover art will be released??

  • Gabriele Fontana says:

    Happy birthday and happy new year! It’s very Strange for me to see Gomorrah, an Italian series, in that list from One of my favourite writers.
    Well, good One!

  • Brian Turner says:

    No mention of books you read this year? You mention a few on Twitter…

  • Ingo Kvalø-Hamann says:

    Happy birthday and a Happy new year!
    A little hatred was my book favorite of the last year! The Boys the best show!
    Apropos: Have you been approached about a Circle of the World show? That would be fantastic to watch!

  • Irina Murzagildin says:

    Happy New Year! As an avid book reader with all your works, I’m thrilled that you’re only 45, about 15 years older than I, because that means you’re young and have decades left of providing me with material. My first love being Bronte and a bunch of dead authors, my next love being Orson Scott Card, the first author that was alive to keep writing. Since then I’ve been studiously checking an authors age, hoping they’ll still keep writing! Anyway, just to say that you’re still young, fabulously brilliant, and I am thrilled that you’re planning on writing forever bc I don’t want another Misery situation.

  • Adam J.E. Olds says:

    There are few authors I go out of my way to support by buying their books rather than borrowing from the local library, but you’re near the top of the list. I am looking forward to seeing how the new writing process improves the cohesiveness of the story arc between books!

  • Chris Meyer says:

    Can’t wait to get my hands on “A Little Hatred”. But wow how do write two books at once and then get them edited and revised all at once like that? As a burgeoning writer I’d like to learn that little trick.

    Keep plugging and can’t wait to read more of your work!

  • Nahiz says:

    How much do you get to sleep? No more than 4 hours a day is my guess…

  • Nahiz says:

    I wonder if you like K. J. Parker. I guess you do. He is my fav besides classics like Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe.

    By the way, I`m really enjoying Best Served Cold. I really envy the fluidity in your writing. I think (at least until BSC) you are lacking a “sad bastard” character. Logen was close, though not there.

  • Henrique says:

    Mr. Abercrombie, where/when will you be in Portugal? Would love to get your autograph in a freshly bought book written by you

  • Ash says:

    Belated Happy Birthday!

    Will there be any more UK tours/signings/events this year? gutted I missed your visit to Cardiff in September as I was travelling with work. Ordering A Little Hatred once I have burned through the Half trilogy again!

    Thanks

  • Dylan says:

    Hi Joe, loved A Little Hatred, can’t wait for the next installment! On the movie front, did you see Parasite and if so any thoughts? It’s my personal favorite of the year.

  • Griffin Cooper says:

    Hi Joe, just wanted to say “A Little Hatred” was absolutely fantastic, had me enthralled in a way that no book has since… well, like 5 of your other books. Can’t wait until September, “The Trouble With Peace” arriving will be an excellent consolation to the Summer being over. Keep up the amazing work and have a great 2020!

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