Traditionally, this is the time of year when people look back. We're inundated with lists: Best of This, The Top Ten of That, My Favorite Whatevers. Personally, I enjoy these lists, because they always give me new authors to seek out, new movies to catch, and new music to try.
What I enjoy even more, though, is looking ahead to what the New Year has to offer, especially when it comes to new reads. No such list is comprehensive, of course, but it's always a good blueprint for the upcoming reading year. Here, then, is a quick peek at a few of the books that have already reserved a space in my to-be-read pile for 2012:
The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
After book seven in the Dark Tower series brought King's epic story to a close, it seemed that he'd put those characters firmly behind him, and not without some measure of relief. So it was quite a shock last year when King announced that a new book in the series was finished and set for a 2012 release. Set in between the fourth book, Wizard and Glass, and the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, the new entry finds Roland telling his ka-tet another tale from his formative years. He's been sent by his father to investigate a recent slaughter, and finds himself comforting a young boy with a story his mother – the woman Roland was tricked into murdering – told him as a lad.
From the information out there, it seems this will be more of a character study than the other Dark Tower books, each of which had some heavy lifting to do plot-wise. It will be interesting to see how easily King slips back into the world of Roland, especially at an earlier point in the overall story. Free from the burden of reaching for a finish line, I'm betting King will pull off something special here. It's due out in several limited editions from Donald M. Grant Publisher, Inc. in February, and a trade hardcover from Simon and Schuster in April.
The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon
This is McCammon's fourth historical fiction thriller starring Matthew Corbett, the character he debuted in Speaks the Nightbird. It follows close on the heels of the third Corbett book, Mister Slaughter, in which the "professional problem solver" tangled with mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter. These books are always meticulously researched and intricately plotted, yet McCammon is careful not to get weighed down in the details – they easily keep pace with the best cliffhanger novels on the stands. McCammon usually keeps the supernatural elements at arm's length in these books, but doesn't shy away from the real-life horrors people endured in the early days of America. It's due out in May from Subterranean Press.
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
The Passage was an instant sensation when it hit in 2010; a big, sprawling book that proved vampire literature could be both intelligent and exciting once again. As the first part of a planned trilogy it did all the things it was expected to do: it built a world (and tore it down again), gathered together a group of interesting, well-rounded characters, and set them up on a quest. That quest, an epic battle pitting a small group of survivors against a dozen "hives" of virals (Cronin's term for vampires), promises to be huge in scope, and is the subject of book two, The Twelve. Few details have emerged so far, but with the book due out in August from Random House, you can bet the hype machine will be cranking up soon.
There are a lot more books I'm looking forward to in the coming year, and no doubt there will be many announcements to come of books we've yet to hear a hint of, but these three top the list for now. Now it's your turn – what are your most anticipated reads for 2012?
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country (http://theoctobercountry.wordpress.com), and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.