Is it just me, or are these weeks flying by?? Well, even if they are, take a breather and check out some of David’s recommendations – especially if you like speculative fiction. Read on!
Picking my favorite reads is a little like picking my favorite wine. Sometimes I want something light and fun; sometimes I prefer a darker, richer experience. There are days when I want to rely on the old standbys that I’ve turned to before, and days when I long for an experience unlike any I’ve enjoyed before.
I don’t read nearly as much as I would like, mostly because I spend so much of my time writing, that the last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is curl up with a book. But I work out every morning and I always read when I’m exercising — so for at least 45 minutes a day, I have a book in hand. In the last year or so I have read old classics (Sense and Sensibility, Wuthering Heights), newer genre releases (The Wind-Up Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal) and a bunch of stuff in between. And I have enjoyed every one.
I thought that for this post what I might do instead of trying to pick out my very favorite among all that I’ve read, is give you a brief overview of a few of my favorites in some of the subgenres of the speculative fiction field, from science fiction to epic fantasy, from urban fantasy to paranormal YA. Ready?
Let’s start with science fiction, with the caveat that I read this subgenre least of all. My favorite SF books are not new, but they are among the best known titles in all of speculative fiction. Dune, by Frank Herbert, is a brilliant political thriller that has everything an aspiring SF geek could want — space battles, a fascinating alien world, romance, and terrific characters. The two immediate sequels, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, are also excellent. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game tells the story of a young boy named Ender Wiggin, who is trained to become the earth’s protector in an intergalactic war. I have read this book probably five times, and can’t wait to read it again. It’s that good. The long-awaited movie version is to be released in November, so read this one soon.
I began my career writing epic fantasy (under the name David B. Coe) and so I know the epic fantasy subgenre very well. My favorite fantasy author has to be Guy Gavriel Kay, whose worldbuilding, character development, and prose are simply brilliant. I recommend in particular his Fionavar Tapestry (a trilogy consisting of The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, and The Darkest Road) and a stand-alone novel, Tigana. The biggest name in fantasy right now is probably George R.R. Martin, whose series A Song of Ice and Fire is the basis for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Martin deserves all the accolades he receives; his work is terrific. So are the books of Patrick Rothfuss, starting with The Name of the Wind. Finally, I strongly recommend the work of two of my good friends. Lynn Flewelling’s Tamir trilogy (The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle’s Queen) is a lesser known gem that I cannot recommend enough. And any book by the marvelous Kate Elliott is worth reading, including her latest efforts, Cold Magic and Cold Fire.
Urban fantasy, which I am writing now as D.B. Jackson, is one of the fastest growing segments of the speculative fiction market, and with good reason. These tend to be blends of mystery and fantasy, with compelling point of view characters and gritty real-world settings. Again, I will take the liberty of telling you about two of my closest friends in writing. (This is a relatively small field; you can’t help but meet people whose work you read.) Faith Hunter writes the bestselling Jane Yellowrock series, about a Cherokee vampire hunter who shares her soul and body with a mountain lion. The writing is taut, gripping, sensual — really fun stuff. And C.E. Murphy writes a number of things, including the Inheritor Cycle trilogy, the Negotiator Trilogy, and the Walker Papers series. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Jim Butcher’s Dresden File books are terrific, as is the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine. And I don’t know if this is really considered urban fantasy, but it should be: Tim Powers’ Expiration Date, is one of the finest novels I’ve ever read.
Some of the best work in all of speculative fiction is being written right now in the YA field. We all know about Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, and some may also be familiar with The Maze Runner, by James Dashner. My daughters got me to read both, and I enjoyed them immensely. I have two more friends who write YA, and both warrant a mention. Carrie Ryan is the nicest, sweetest person you could ever want to meet, and she has an amazingly upbeat personality. Don’t let it fool you: The Forest of Hands and Teeth, the first volume in her zombie trilogy, is one of the darkest, scariest books I’ve read. It is also powerfully compelling. Jana Oliver writes The Demon Trapper’s Daughter series, which is popular in Europe and Australia and gaining an audience here in the States. It is wonderfully written and has a strong and likable point of view character.
Finally because, he is in a category by himself, I would recommend just about anything written by Neil Gaiman. I am particularly fond of American Gods, Anansi Boys, and my personal favorite, Neverwhere. He is a unique voice in modern literature, writing work that is at once whimsical and terrifying.
So there it is: an overview of some of my favorite speculative fiction. What are some of your favorite titles? Have I mentioned any here?
Holy moly David, there’re over 70 books in all that you’ve mentioned (between the singles and the series) – and I’ve read more than 2/3 of ’em! I love that you recommend some of my favorites – Dune is one of the few sic-fi books I absolutely love, George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Faith Hunter and C.E. Murphy are some of my favorite authors, and I’ve read two books by Paolo Bacigalupi (The Wind-Up Girl and The Drowned Cities) that make me want to inhale everything he’s ever written. I’ll have to check out the third of your list I haven’t read yet – when I manage to find some time!
And if you‘d like to check these titles out, here’s a handy-dandy widget with all 70+ titles mentioned. Do I love you or what? 🙂 (Excuse the spacing, there’s something wonky with this theme when using Amazon widgets in posts…)