I spent the last days of 2022 with my family in the lovely southern California town of Oceanside. As 2023 begins, I’m taking a look back at the best of 2022, from my favorite books, movies, and music, to my best travel and culinary experiences.
Slow Horses by Mick Herron Apple TV+ is on a roll. Its content strategy seems to be the opposite of Netflix’s; whereas Netflix produces a ton of shows and movies and gives directors and writers essentially free rein, hoping something popular will happen, Apple TV+ is going for a much smaller, much more carefully curated selection. It seems to have paid off, with the first Best Picture Academy Award for a streaming service going to CODA and the universally beloved Ted Lasso.
Countdown to Zero Day Countdown to Zero Day is an account of the Stuxnet worm, widely regarded as the world’s first cyberweapon. It was a computer worm that most cybersecurity analysts believe was designed to target Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. Stuxnet sparked an intense debate of the use of cyberweapons and our vulnerabilities to cyber attacks.
Most of the book follows a group of cybersecurity researchers trying to figure out what Stuxnet does.
Nicole Perlroth is The New York Times’s cybersecurity and digital espionage reporter, and This is How They Tell Me the World Ends is her definitive account of the shady market for zero-day exploits. A zero-day exploit is a software vulnerability unknown to those responsible for fixing it, and zero-days are crucial tools for hackers, intelligence agencies, and law enforcement.
It seems like cybersecurity problems were poorly foreseen at almost every phase of the development of computing.
The Looming Tower Lawrence Wright’s authoritative history of Al-Qaeda and the lead-up to the September 11 terrorist attacks is one of those books I should have read a long time ago. I finally got around to it, and it was fantastic. It’s non-fiction, but its subjects are presented so compellingly, and the action is described so vividly, that it reads like a novel. Wright’s style calls to mind Peter Hopkirk (The Great Game, Trespassers on the Roof of the World) and Stephen Ambrose (Undaunted Courage).
The City We Became was a huge disappointment. N. K. Jemisin is a fantastic writer—I loved her Broken Earth Trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading her Inheritance Trilogy. But The City We Became, the first installment in her new Great Cities urban fantasy series, was just bad. It’s boring, not much happens, and the characters are bland and monotonous.
The novel’s basic premise has some promise. The fundamental idea is that to become truly alive, cities must manifest in the form of human beings.
Too Like the Lightning This book was interesting. “Interesting” can be used to mean a lot of things, and frequently to dissemble. But in this case I mean it simply—it was an interesting book because Palmer creates a fascinating world that the novel spends most of its time exploring. The book is also unflinchingly pretentious, very well-written, and quite slow. It’s often described as political science fiction, because the futuristic setting is mostly a vessel to explore how society and politics have changed.
Middlegame I hadn’t read anything by Seanan McGuire before discovering Middlegame, but she’s an accomplished author who’s published a number of very well-received novels. Middlegame is McGuire’s latest novel, and it’s best described as urban science fantasy. It follows the lives of protagonists Roger and Dodger, two brilliant children who live on opposite sides of the country. Roger is a gifted linguist, and Dodger a brilliant mathematician. At around five years old, they discover that they can communicate telepathically.
Book Cover Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel is a magical journey through fantastical worlds. January is the ward of the wealthy collector Cornelius Locke. She’s raised in Locke’s mansion, which is stuffed with rare treasures from every corner of this world (and others). January’s father is mostly absent; he’s usually off seeking new artifacts to add to Locke’s hoard. She never knew her mother.
As the book unfolds, we learn the stories of January’s parents.
Children of Earth and Sky I should have known Guy Gavriel Kay wouldn’t let me down. Kay’s books are often classified as fantasy, but I think they’re firmly historical fiction. I don’t have anything against fantasy—I grew up on J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, and I still love it—I just don’t think Kay’s books fit the description. Kay’s characters believe in mysticism, but I think that’s more a reflection of how people used to see the world than an effort to inject magic into the proceedings.