What to read next???

Every week, I receive emails from people asking me what they should consider reading next. They've read Martin, Lynch, Abercrombie, etc, and they would like me to provide suggestions as to what they should tackle next. Invariably, I'm always shocked to discover that the newer generation of SFF readers (the one that was introduced to the genre by the likes of Jordan and Martin), for the most part, has not read many of the works that were the bestsellers of 80s and early 90s. God, it's not easy to come to terms with the fact that I'm so "old school" compared to many. . .;-)

Hence, here is a small list of speculative fiction works -- old and not so old -- that seem to be widely unread. I'm not saying that everyone has to "like" these books, but I feel that one cannot call themselves SFF fans if they haven't given these novels/series a shot. Moreover, via the links you can purchase most of these books for pennies if you are strapped for cash. Even cheaper, many of them should be available at your local library. . .

There are enough titles here to keep most of you looking for stuff to read out of trouble until GRRM's A Dance with Dragons (Canada, USA, Europe) is released!:p As always, more books could have been included, yet I think that this is a good start!

- Raymond E. Feist's Magician: Apprentice (Canada, USA, Europe):

Sadly, it looks as though Feist's best years are behind him. His latest series, The Darkwar, Conclave of Shadows and The Riftwar Legacy were all particularly subpar trilogies. But The Riftwar Saga remains one of the best and funniest fantasy series out there. No wonder those are the books which made Feist a powerhouse in the 80s. Give Magician: Apprentice a shot, and then work your way down to The King's Buccaneer. After that, The Serpentwar Saga awaits. . .

- L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s The Magic of Recluce (Canada, USA, Europe):

Modesitt's Recluce saga never quite garnered the respect it deserves, at least in my opinion. Of course, this is not your high-octane, adolescent, action-packed fantasy series. But if you're looking for intelligent books, with genuine protagonists who must pay the price for their actions, then the Recluce books might be for you. I like the way the chaos and order theory links every volume. I also enjoy the way technology is used and portrayed. Many will tell you that most novels follow the same formula, and that if you've read one you've read all of them. I beg to differ. Though the approach can be a bit formulaic, there are many permutations that keep this saga fresh and interesting. Begin with The Magic of Recluce and then read The Towers of the Sunset. Although the immediate sequel to The Magic of Recluce is The Death of Chaos, I feel that it's better to read at least one of the prequels before finishing the "real time" story arc. All other Recluce volumes occur in the past. Personally, I really enjoyed the two books dealing with the "mythology" of Recluce, Fall of Angels and The Chaos Balance.

- R. Scott Bakker's The Darkness that Comes Before (Canada, USA, Europe):

The Prince of Nothing is not for everyone. Even die-hard Bakker fans will tell you that. Too philosophical and "cerebral" for many readers, but others will discover one of the best recent epic fantasy works to be published. If you can't get into The Darkness that Comes Before, forget about reading the rest of the trilogy. But if it does capture your imagination, then brace yourself for The Warrior-Prophet and The Thousandfold Thought. Roll on The Judging Eye!

- Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana (Canada, USA, Europe) and The Lions of Al-Rassan (Canada, USA, Europe):

That Kay is not more popular is an inexplicable crime. If there was any justice in life, Kay would be at the top of the bestseller lists, not Terry Goodkind. I feel that the author never got the "push" his books required to make it in the USA and the rest of the world. Though I encourage you to read Kay's entire backlist, most fans seem to agree that Tigana and The Lions of Al-Rassan are his best works. If you like these, let me tell you that you have hours of reading pleasure in front of you, as Kay's novels will enthrall you like few books can.

- Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver (Canada, USA, Europe):

The Baroque Cycle made some noise when it was originally published a couple of years ago, but unfortunately it appears that it has been forgotten quite rapidly. The size of each volume means that you get more bangs for your buck, and all three are filled with the wit and intelligence that have made Stephenson famous. A great read!

- Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Rising (Canada, USA, Europe):

I've said it many times, and I'll say it again: Kurtz's Deryni Saga is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. Wonderful worldbuilding, great characterization, fabulous politicking -- it's got everything one can hope for! Though the story begins with The Chronicles of the Deryni, it really takes off with the second trilogy, The Legends of Camber of Culdi. Kurtz is kind of a mix between Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin. Not to be missed!

- C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe):

The Coldfire trilogy is another series which, for some reason, is not as widely read as it should. An interesting blend of horror, fantasy and science fiction, it features Damien Vryce, warrior-priest of the One God, and Gerald Tarrant, an undead sorcerer. A more unlikely and fascinating duo you won't find anywhere else in the genre. If you're into the first volume, follow them in When True Night Falls and Crown of Shadows.

- Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair (Canada, USA, Europe):

Tad Williams made a name for himself with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. The final volume, To Green Angel Tower, became a New York Times Bestseller. And it all began in The Dragonbone Chair. This was the first contemporary high fantasy series that didn't feel like a Tolkien ripoff. And it was one of the inspirations that led GRRM to write ASOIAF. So what are you waiting for!?! Sure, it can be slow-going at times. But show me a Tad Williams book which isn't. . .;-)

- Stephen R. Donalson's Lord Foul's Bane (Canada, USA, Europe):

Okay, so Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever just might be the most antipathetic protagonist in the history of the genre. Nevertheless, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant remains one of the landmark fantasy series out there. Not always accessible, and certainly not for everyone, I believe that it should nonetheless be read. Just as all fantasy fans "have" to read The Lord of the Rings, so should they read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. It's head and shoulder above most of what you'll find on the shelves of any bookstore. . .

- Stephen R. Donaldson's The Real Story: The Gap into Conflict (Canada, USA, Europe):

For my money, The Gap series, a five-book masterpiece, is the very best work of Donaldson's illustrious career. One of the best science fiction cycle out there, no question. Like anything written by Stephen R. Donaldson, it's not for everyone. But I encourage you to check out the slim first volume, and see if you find it intriguing enough to continue on with the rest of the series.

- Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragon Wing (Canada, USA, Europe):

The Deathgate Cycle is Weis and Hickman at their peak. Nothing they have written since even comes close to this in terms of quality and originality. The seven-book series was their most ambitious project, and the authors delivered. Dragon Wing should have you craving for the rest!

- Margaret Weis' The Lost King (Canada, USA, Europe):

The Star of the Guardians was Weis' first solo project, if I remember correctly. It was published around the time when everything Weis and Hickman touched turned to gold, and it was the same for this new series. Though it was immensely popular back in the early 90s, you don't hear much about this space opera nowadays. Funny thing, I recently discovered that the series had been reissued in trade paperback format. It's a shame that so few people appear to remember these books. . .

28 commentaires:

Pedro said...

Donaldson is a literary genius. His "heroes" (and I would include here his short doulogy "Mordant's need") are never perfect, and add extra dimensions to the story. Personally, the "Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever" are the best fantasy series I've ever read.

ben1xy said...

Thanks for the nice recommendation list pat :)

i've covered all the books mentioned except the Lost King and the Baroque cycle. I reckon i'll be picking them up soon

Anonymous said...

Is the list in order of recommendation or just random? Now I don't know where to start !

Is The Baroque Cycle really fantasy or more like historical fiction? I passed on this at the local used bookstore just recently because someone told me it was historical fiction about medieval Europe and wouldn't have much appeal for fantasy fans...

Anonymous said...

FWIW, in relation to the last comment above I actually picked up the Gap Series and the first 6 books of The Black Company at that time instead of Baroque. Gap is done and was awesome, now I just finished vol. 6 of Black Company. I'm surprised Black Company is not on this list too !!! It seems to be less well known and some of the books are even hard to come by today. It was unique and groundbreaking for the genre when it came out and is definitely a must read for fantasy fans in my book !

Anthony Drake Mocony said...

Thank you very much for the recommendations. I've read some of these, and agree with everything you said about them, so I'm feeling good as I rapidly increase my 'to-read' pile.

Baptiste said...

I'm happy to realize that I've already read most of these works. Yet some of the others I didn't even know about, so that leaves me with quite a couple of books to check, thanks for them all.

Shane said...

I, too, think its a crime that Guy Gavriel Kay isn't more popular. Every one of his books (maybe not The Last Light of the Sun. Maybe.)is a masterpiece.

Patrick said...

The list is in no particular order, so feel free to read them one and all in the order of your choice!:-)

Yes, The Baroque Cycle is historical fiction, but I feel that most SFF fans should get into it!

To my shame, I must admit that I have yet to read a single Black Company book. But with Tor releasing a second omnibus...

Anonymous said...

As such a great Malazan fan, you really need to give the Black Company a chance. You can see a lot of Cook's influence on the Bridgeburners and maybe even some of Erikson's soldiery humor.

Rob Diana said...

OK, I am a Covenant convert. I just finished book 4 and need to go buy more. If you have not read Tigana, you should be flogged. Kay is fantastic, but his books are hard to find sometimes because he is just not popular enough. And one of my long-time favorites is the DeathGate cycle.

Andrew C said...

this was a fun trip down memory lane, thanks Pat. Like others have mentioned the black company is a must read, goblin and one-eye are two of my all-time favourites. Also I completely agree with you about GGK I feel a lot of people start with Fionavar and get turned off when Arthur appears. It's a real shame too because tigana, sarantium mosiac, lions and even last light of the sun are really enjoyable reads.

Jebus said...

There are a couple there that I haven't read (Friedman, Stephenson, Modessit) but the rest I've read throughout the years and I highly agree (although only just now starting Bakker on your recommendation).

Some I think many people should try if they wanna kick it "old school":
Michael Moorcock - pretty much anything, but the Elric, Corum and Swords of Corum series' are the best.
Jack Vance - Lyonesse & The Dying Earth sequences - an absolute MUST for any fan of SFF
Lloyd Alexander - Chronicles of Prydain
Ursula LeGuin - Wizard of Earthsea & The Dispossessed
Glen Cook - The Black Company
Hugh Cook - Chronicles of an Age of Darkness - can be hard to find, but _oh so_ worth it.
Stephen Donaldson - Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through

Also have a soft spot for McCaffrey's Pern, Douglass' Crucible and Axis/Wayfarer Redemption, Brin's The Postman (ignore the film, it's a great book).

Argh, I think I've forgotten more great fantasy than I can remember! Ah there were so many brilliant series' that I read in the 80s and 90s...

Rodric said...

I've read most of these except for weis and kurtz. Weis is too s&s for me. I find her work inferior.

From kay i'd also recommend his first books, the fionavar tapestry. He is a master, and this trilogy is excellent, the best crossover fantasy i've ever read.

I've got a first edition of tigana, mint, on my bookshelf and as soon as i get it signed i'll vacuum wrap it for the day when it's worth a lot of cash or maybe a tank of gas.

Rodric said...

Oh, and i also recommend A kingdom of thorn and bone, an excellent series that was just concluded this month, and excellent all around. Starts with The Briar King.

robbiodetroit said...

being one of those young readers, i just want to thank you for helping me out. i'll be checking some of theese out while i wait for Dance. i,ve got black company now

Aahzmandius Karrde said...

but I feel that one cannot call themselves SFF fans if they haven't given these novels/series a shot.

I feel that you cannot consider yourself a SFF fan if you can ever say this to another person.

Sorry, just a personal pet peve of mine, and I don't take recommendations based on this statement anymore, matter of fact it's just as likely to steer me away from the recommend books anymore.

As for your particular list, most of the authors are represented in my library even if I haven't read them (benefit of 4 SFF readers in one house). But a couple of my personal brick walls would be Donaldson, Williams and Kay.

The problem I've noticed as I've gone back and read some of my favorites from the 80s (Anthony and McCafferty) is that they are too light for my tastes anymore. When I can tear through a book like Name of the Wind in a week something like Apprentice Adept or Dragonriders of Pern doesn't satisfy me on a story level or a $$ value any more.

Dave Bessom said...

Melanie Rawn's two trilogies (Dragon Prince and Dragon Star) are also good, not-exactly-current, sff stuff. Very enjoyable; one of only several series I've re-read more than once (most of the others are already on your list).

Ron said...

I would also recommend Jennifer Fallon's Second Son Trilogy starting with The Lion of Senet.

Anonymous said...

excellent list. I concur with previous speakers regarding the black company, with a small addendum - stop reading after book 6. Cook discovers a love for acid by then and the series takes a nose dive. Also, suprised that you omitted Gemmel. Tanaka Khan is one of the most complex and vivid characters in the world of sf. Gemmel, and Cook, could fit more pace and suspense into a short novel than most writers today can cram into a door stopper trilogy. Kudos.

cecrow said...

Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun" hasn't been mentioned yet, from the early 80's. Oft cited as the most cerebral of them all, a classic series that rises above genre. I read it last year and didn't understand a word of it, but it deserves a chance to challenge you.

Anonymous said...

Pat, you have selected some very good books. I have a few more suggestions, Sean Russell (Canadian) Initiate Brother and then his latest Swan's War trilogy are excellent reads. Also, Glen Cook's Black Company and Dread Empire series should be looked at. I totally agree with you in regards to Guy Gavriel Kay, he is an excellent author. Enjoy your trip.

Maurice said...

I recently ordered Quicksilver from Stephenson and am really looking foreward to it.

I second trying The Briar King. I read the first book not so long after reading my first Song of Ice and Fire book and it. Very well thought out.

Also, Moorcock definitley should be listed as one of the must read classic fantasy authors.

loki said...

as far as Kay goes A Song for Arbonne is as good as Tigana and Lions. Last Light of the Sun is intentionally written as a saga, to the reader who thought slightly less of it. I could live with Sarantium and have yet to get to Ysabel, though I hear great things.

Everyone should read The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. It is an adventure story but we all owe a lot to it.

Terry Goodkind blows.
Blows. Blows. Blows.

Anrake said...

I totally second Gene Wolfe. It's dense but not so bad and once you're done, if you put it away for a couple years and then read it again it's even better.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

Good list, Pat. I remember a big list you made a couple of years ago -- with some of these names on -- which I absolutely devoured. Didn't like everything, but I liked most. CS Friedman is the only one I haven't gotten to yet!

Amanda said...

Oh how to choose from such an amazing assortment!

I have to go with Tigana, for being a beautiful novel and one of my all-time favorite.

Chris said...

I love that you recommeded so many books I read when I was younger!

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of the world's best authors, and I can't believe more people haven't read him. Tigana made my heart stop, it was so good; The Lions of Al-Rassan is an epic story; and the Sarantine Mosaic is an awesome read.

C.S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising series is a great mix of fantasy and horror. I remember reading it when I was young. :)

The same for Donaldson's Thomas Covenant books, as well as Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through. Long reading, but well worth it!

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is another favorite series of mine, it is the one made me into a Tad Williams fan. And I'm still reading Kurtz's Deryni books; I just finished her latest one just a few weeks ago.

Some other authors that I always liked are Sherri Tepper, Orson Scott Card, Melanie Rawn and Joan D.Vinge.

SimonRG said...

As was said before, Glen Cook's Black Company and Dread Empire series should definitely be on that list (I prefer the Dread Empire series, myself), as well as Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun. Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar is old school but still very good, too.