2021 in Review

December 31st, 2021

What’s that you say? It’s New Year’s Eve, I must be 47 goddamn years old today, and ANOTHER year passes under the bridge? Those bastards keep coming, don’t they? And this one has, I think it’s fair to say, been particularly hard work on the whole. I don’t think any of us really imagined a couple of years back when this pandemic started that we’d still be in its grip two years on, but here we are, hoping for better times soon…

A YEAR IN BOOKSELLING – As I was saying last time around (with a considerable feel of groundhog day), publishing is faring an awful lot better than many industries, and I’m hugely lucky to be able to work from home, without too much practical disruption to my routines, such as they are. I was also lucky that my latest book, The Wisdom of Crowds, dropped in September when restrictions were at least a little bit relaxed, and (unlike with the previous book) I could get out on the road and look some readers in the eye (if not the lower half of the face). Still a lot of online events going on, which is a trend I’m sure will continue even when (if) things open all the way up again. The Wisdom of Crowds did very nicely in a very competitive week, making 5 on the UK bestseller list and just clipping the US one at 15. But I’m actually now selling as many e-books in that first week as hardcovers, and actually somewhat more audiobooks than that – which is testament to the ongoing big growth in that area of the market as well as the magisterial reading skills of Mr. Steven Pacey, of course…

A YEAR IN BOOK WRITING – Well, the Age of Madness is written, published, and out the door. A 5 year or so project already dwindling into the past. Counting a collection of short stories, I now have 13 books in print, if you believe that. There was some finishing off to do on The Wisdom of Crowds but most of this year’s book efforts have been spent on my next project, a new thing, new world, new characters, new tone, with the working title of The Devils. I’m now about half way through a highly tentative first draft but I want to sit with it, let it marinate and stew in its own juices for a while. It was meant to be shortish (of course) but it’s not turned out that way (of course). Currently a shade over 100,000 words so it would be a profound shock if the finished article was any shorter than 200,000, which is much the same length as my last couple of books. However I try, I always seem to end up there or thereabouts…

TV AND FILM – Again film has very much played second fiddle with the cinemas being largely closed up. The two that stand out in the SF&F realm were Spiderman, No Way Home, which I found thoroughly fresh and enjoyable and even a little bit moving after a few rather uninspiring Marvel efforts, and Dune which – though I thought it could’ve focussed a bit less on Paul and a bit more on the setting and secondary characters – was overall a highly watchable adaptation with some stunning design and visuals.

On the TV side I always forget about 50 things I’ve watched, so this is by no means exhaustive, but some things that stand out: Dark was a magnificent piece of gloomy German sci-fi that slides effortlessly from small town soap opera into apocalyptic tangled time-travel epic across the dimensions. Bosch I’ve watched and thoroughly enjoyed all 7 seasons of and could probably have watched another 7. Raised by Wolves was weird but interesting. Ted Lasso was highly entertaining and a rare life-affirming property in a grim landscape, though I wondered if there were signs of it losing its way in the 2nd season. Money Heist was a nice, fresh, twisty robbery caper with lots of strong ideas and good characters. The Terror and The North Water were two gripping complimentary takes on the fundamental inhumanity of man set against ships trapped in ice. The Witcher I think got better in its second season, with some stronger background cast and more focus on overarching plots, but it still has some slightly cardboard-y moments. The second season of Warrior remained fast-moving and highly watchable. Gomorrah has been a stand-out favourite of mine for the past few years but I felt this last season was rather a let down. Seemed that they’d run out of ideas, became increasingly stiff and unconvincing, with old characters feeling ill-served and the new intake of brooding thugs failing to make much of a mark. I still think the first three seasons are brilliant, mind you. The last season of Narcos was still good but felt like it didn’t have much new to offer, with sad stubbly men once again failing to shift the needle on systemic corruption. Succession I felt had gone off the boil slightly at the start of its third season but the last few episodes were savagely, almost unwatchably good. The biggest surprise for me was Arcane – I don’t always connect to animation but this was just great, involving fantasy, bursting with energy and invention. Cracking world building without being laborious, strong writing, and brilliant characters, character designs and attention to detail.

GAMES – Unusually for me I’ve played very little on console over the last year. The only notable thing was a brief, nostalgic, and quite enjoyable flirtation with Elite Dangerous. Lack of availability and lack of anything I’ve felt I really needed to play has meant I haven’t got a next generation console yet. But I discovered, to my cost, that my laptop will run Total War: Warhammer and Three Kingdoms pretty adequately, so I’ve mostly been playing those, if I’m honest. Oldies but very, very goodies, and I really can flush a lot of hours down the Total War toilet still…

THE YEAR AHEAD –  There’ll be no new novel from me in 2022, sadly, though writing will continue on The Devils and I hope we’ll have a pub date in due course. There are, as ever, other pots on the boil so it’s possible one or other of them will finally bubble over in the meantime. We will see. There should, however, be some exciting news for fans of limited illustrated editions in the new year, and I believe Subterranean Press are aiming to package the three stories I wrote for special editions of the Age of Madness (called The Thread, The Stone and The Point) along with a fourth, already written but as yet unpublished, to make a little novella with illustrations by John Anthony Giovanni, titled The Great Change (and Other Lies). More news on the possible publication of that when I have it, but hopefully around September. Then I’d like to take some of the trips I’ve long planned but not been able to follow through on because of pandemic issues – to France, Portugal, and in particular another visit to Aviles in Spain for Celsius festival in the summer. Fingers crossed things will open up enough for those to be possible as the year wears on…

Happy New Year, you beautiful bastards, and (once again) let’s just hope this one is better than the last…

Posted in announcements, appearances, film and tv, games, news, progress by Joe Abercrombie on December 31st, 2021.

29 comments so far

  • Kerby says:

    You are the best. Happy trip around the sun you beautiful bastard!

  • Tweker says:

    Overall, 2021 has been slightly better than 2020 so why can’t 2022 be better than 2021. Happy new year, Joe.

  • Kshitij Rawat says:

    “There’ll be no new novel from me in 2022, sadly” – saddest thing I’ve read today. But I guess you really need a break after Age of Madness. Happy new year, dear Joe!

  • Stephen Balchin says:

    Half way through Wisdom of Crowds. Are there any history books you drew from? Or was it all made up from imagination and half remembered schoolboy history?

  • Sidro says:

    No new novel for 2022… You deserve a rest …and it will be an other round with the the first law from the beginning to the end happy birthday dear Joe

  • Pratik Majumder says:

    Wisdom of Crowds is the best book I’d read this year. Thank you, Mr. Abercrombie for ripping my heart out!

  • Rigo Hook says:

    Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say even his year reviews are a fun read. Happy new Year, you beautyful bastard!

  • Sion says:

    I’m curious have you ever played the crusader Kings games, the mix of political subterfuge, backstabbing and general role-playing makes it such a unique grand strategy game, I also think that you would live some of the things you find yourself doing such as plotting to have your wife’s kid from a previous marriage assassinated so your son inherits her land will really appeal to you

  • Keith says:

    Happy birthday to you, you beautiful bastard. Thank you for all the dark places you let us travel with you (which is still better than our everyday life). Happy New Years and good luck with all your endeavors. Cheers!

  • Christopher Buehlman says:

    The Wisdom of Crowds may have been my favorite book this year – a truly satisfying conclusion to a well-crafted series. Thanks for that and, as you say, here’s to better days. Very curious as to what you’re up to with The Devils!

  • Anna and Igor says:

    Happy Birthday, Joe!
    And Happy New Year too. Well my wife & me finished a bloody journey into the Age of Madness. An author should be realistic after all and you did your best. Some ugly moments of European history keep on lurking from the pages… By the way – was there a real protagonist of the Judge? We suppose one person in Paris could be. Wish you a productive & quiet year!
    Anna & Igor

  • Daniel says:

    Happy birthday! Thanks for the fun post! Loved the Age of Madness. I hope there will be more First Law words stories in the future. Looking forward to your new world too!

    Ps. Bosch is awesome. There will be a sequel in 2022, Bosch: Legacy

  • Timur says:

    Take as much time as you need, maestro.

    As to hoping that the next year will be better – let’s just be realistic for now.

  • Jo says:

    Happy Birthday Joe thank you for the bloody marvellous reading. Keep em coming chuck x

  • Ralf says:

    Joe, heartfelt thanks for letting me escape into the worlds of your creation, I fell in love with the first law series many years ago and ever since you’ve been my favourite author, consistently giving me my fix book after book, year after year. You have a real gift telling those stories the way you do, something that goes beyond words. Enough blabbering, Happy birthday ya beautiful bastard, can’t wait to read whatever you’ve got stewing in those many pots.

  • Marcel says:

    A new world sounds exciting, although I‘ve grown quite attached to the current ones (but I still have most of the wisdom of the crowds to content me).
    All the best!

  • Colin says:

    Happy Birthday Joe! Thanks for your continued commitment to story telling. You’ve made me laugh out loud so many times with your books that I’ve read and re-read them, which is extremely rare for me. Keep up the good fight from a fellow Lancastrian!!

  • Wombat of Hoskopp says:

    Happy New Year!
    Already looking forward to ‘The Devils’, or whatever you scrape off the hob, find under the fridge, down the back of the sofa…

  • AC says:

    Just finished The Wisdom of Crowds – it was my holiday vacation read and I really enjoyed it! I’m very much looking forward to your next world.

  • Klemen K says:

    Was listening to Victorian-themed adventure game soundtrack while reading Wisdom and this track stuck so much to me while reading the last few chapters that it is now intrinsically linked to my experience with the book and it truly made for an unforgettable feeling.


  • Rob Armstrong says:

    Thanks for the year in review. Loved the Age of Madness, especially the Reign of Terror theme. Excited for ‘The Devils.’ Best Wishes for the New Year….

  • Mario Gradtke says:

    Have a great year, Joe. I enjoyed the Age of Madness. And take your time to relax.
    I look forward to “The Devils” and I do hope for a lot of grim, dark, adult fantasy.

  • Tim Burman says:


    At a shitty time we all have to endure, keep it coming. You have created some of my favourite characters along side some of the Greats. Tolkien, Gemmell, Salvatore, Hobb and Martin, to name a few, have all brought their magic to the fore. I hope you many years of inspiration and unique imagination. This is completely selfish of me, as I can not get enough of your characters. More please…but don’t flog yourself… have the occasional brew once in a while … then get back to it, sharpish! Good luck and best wishes.

  • Jack Knibb says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thank you for all the great work you’ve given us over the years. Ive loved the Age of Madness books and they’ve really been a highlight for me during these rough times in the pandemic. Hope you have a great year and enjoy some well deserved traveling.

  • Ken says:

    The Age of Madness books brightened my last year considerably. Thanks for those wonderful (and terrible for their characters) books. Very curious about the direction for The Devils.

    Do you have a particular favored army in Total War: Warhammer?

  • Dumond says:

    Another year and another ton of fun either reading your new books, or re-reading the old ones.

    Hope you’re able to have an even better 2022, spend some good time with the family and get some travel in as well.

    Thanks for the fun books and good times as always, Joe!

  • Chris Isgrove says:

    I know it’s a bit late since publication but had to re-read everything before I could read this. Glad I did as forgotten how you weave minor characters into positions where they affect others, eg Pike, Vick etc

    Also glad that Hilde looks like she will become a player

    I did guess the real “weaver” but great plotting, plus guessed what Zuri was but not who she was

    Brilliant twists and revelations in the final chapters

    Well done

  • Milko Camelllini says:

    Thank you for the beautiful trips in your masterful books (and audiobooks).
    Read and listen to them all twice (damn I love Steve voice!) and the second pass is always been even more enjoyable then the first.
    Only one thing I do not understand, why did you kill Orso?
    Well I know why, but.. really!?! 🙁
    I hate hangings.

  • Kieron kanedias says:

    I have to keep reminding myself there are characters left to love in the age of madness… the loss of orso, forest and gorst broke me mentally… although mostly for forest as he seemed to be really growing into an amazing character and got no last laugh like orso and gorst did…

    Love your writing and you’ve inspired me to write. Cant get enough of your books! Enjoy your year you beautiful bastard

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