Speculative fiction novels/series that deserve more attention

Ever since I created the Hotlist a decade ago, there is one thing that never changed. Every week, I receive random messages from SFF readers looking for recommendations. As you know, I have a reading list that I usually post once a year. But today, instead of posting that same old list, I've decided to post a number of SFF novels/series that I feel remain criminally unread. With the Holidays just around the corner, take this opportunity to fill up on these quality reads! =)

When available, click on the title of each book to read my review.

The Entire and the Rose by Kay Kenyon

- Bright of the Sky (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A World Too Near (Canada, USA, Europe)
- City Without End (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Prince of Storms (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Kay Kenyon, noted for her science fiction world-building, has in this new series created her most vivid and compelling society, the Universe Entire. In a land-locked galaxy that tunnels through our own, the Entire is a bizarre and seductive mix of long-lived quasi-human and alien beings gathered under a sky of fire, called the bright. A land of wonders, the Entire is sustained by monumental storm walls and an exotic, never-ending river. Over all, the elegant and cruel Tarig rule supreme.

Into this rich milieu is thrust Titus Quinn, former star pilot, bereft of his beloved wife and daughter who are assumed dead by everyone on earth except Quinn. Believing them trapped in a parallel universe—one where he himself may have been imprisoned—he returns to the Entire without resources, language, or his memories of that former life. He is assisted by Anzi, a woman of the Chalin people, a Chinese culture copied from our own universe and transformed by the kingdom of the bright. Learning of his daughter’s dreadful slavery, Quinn swears to free her. To do so, he must cross the unimaginable distances of the Entire in disguise, for the Tarig are lying in wait for him. As Quinn’s memories return, he discovers why. Quinn’s goal is to penetrate the exotic culture of the Entire—to the heart of Tarig power, the fabulous city of the Ascendancy, to steal the key to his family’s redemption.

But will his daughter and wife welcome rescue? Ten years of brutality have forced compromises on everyone. What Quinn will learn to his dismay is what his own choices were, long ago, in the Universe Entire. He will also discover why a fearful multiverse destiny is converging on him and what he must sacrifice to oppose the coming storm.

This is high-concept SF written on the scale of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld, Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, and Dan Dimmons’s Hyperion.

A rich, vivid environment; complex and multilayered storytelling; genuine and interesting characters; brilliant execution; that's The Entire and the Rose in a nutshell.

The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan

- Vellum (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Ink (Canada, USA, Europe)

The Book of All Hours is a mind-blowing feat of ambition and imagination, written by a master storyteller with a "take no prisoners" attitude who's not afraid to experiment. You will either love it or despise it. I doubt Vellum and Ink can leave any reader indifferent.

The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay

- Sailing to Sarantium (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Lord of Emperors (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Sarantium is the golden city: holy to the faithful, exalted by the poets, jewel of the world and heart of an empire. Artisan Caius Crispus receives a summons from the emperor and sets off on a journey toward the Imperial city. But before Crispin can reach Sarantium, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, he must pass through a land of pagan ritual and mysterious danger.

In Sailing to Sarantium, the first volume of the brilliant Sarantine Mosaic, Guy Gavriel Kay weaves an utterly compelling story of the allure and intrigue of a magnificent city and the people drawn into its spell.

Of course, I could have recommended that you read Kay's incredible Under Heaven (Canada, USA, Europe), or the terrific The Lions of al-Rassan (Canada, USA, Europe), or the beautiful Tigana (Canada, USA, Europe). To be honest, anything by this author should be read and cherished. At the top of his game, Guy Gavriel Kay is as good or better than any other speculative fiction writer out there, alive or dead. But fantasy fans usually prefer series, so this two-book cycle is just what the doctor ordered and the perfect way to sample the length and breadth of Kay's talent and imagination.

The Magisters trilogy by C. S. Friedman

- Feast of Souls (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Wings of Wrath (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Legacy of Kings (Canada, USA, Europe)

Friedman made a name for herself with the amazing Coldfire trilogy. Indeed, these books established the author as a master of dark fantasy during the 90s. If you haven't read Black Sun Rising (Canada, USA, Europe), When True Night Falls (Canada, USA, Europe), and Crown of Shadows (Canada, USA, Europe), stop what you are doing right now and get your hands on these novels! Sadly, the Magisters trilogy, although awesome, flew so low under the radar that very few people seem to have read it. If more and more people actually gave these books a shot, we might soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as the Friedman's other fantasy series. Yes, it's that damn good!

Dreamsongs by George R. R. Martin

- Dreamsongs, Volume 1 (Canada, USA, Europe)

Even before A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin had already established himself as a giant in the field of fantasy literature. The first of two stunning collections, Dreamsongs: Volume I is a rare treat for readers, offering fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Gathered here in Dreamsongs: Volume I are the very best of George R. R. Martin’s early works, including his Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award–winning stories, cool fan pieces, and the original novella The Ice Dragon, from which Martin’s New York Times bestselling children’s book of the same title originated. A dazzling array of subjects and styles that features extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume I is the perfect collection for both Martin devotees and a new generation of fans.

- Dreamsongs, Volume II (Canada, USA, Europe)

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, #1 New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin is a giant in the field of fantasy literature and one of the most exciting storytellers of our time. Now he delivers a rare treat for readers: a compendium of his shorter works, all collected into two stunning volumes, that offer fascinating insight into his journey from young writer to award-winning master.

Whether writing about werewolves, wizards, or outer space, George R.R. Martin is renowned for his versatility and expansive talent, highlighted in this dazzling collection. Included here, in Volume II, are acclaimed stories such as the World Fantasy Award-winner “The Skin Trade,” as well as the first novella in the Ice and Fire universe, “The Hedge Knight,” plus two never-before-published screenplays. Featuring extensive author commentary, Dreamsongs, Volume II; is an invaluable chronicle of a writer at the height of his creativity—and an unforgettable reading experience for fans old and new.

I am well aware that some angry fans refuse to read anything that Martin is involved in unless it's The Winds of Winter. Now, I'm looking forward to the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment as much as the next guy. But the truth is, GRRM's body of work is impressive and spans several different genres. And nothing gives you a better taste of that body of work than this collection of short fiction. As a matter of fact, Dreamsongs is an unbelievable read, one that is surpassed in quality only by the unforgettable A Storm of Swords. So do yourself a favor and get these two "slender" volumes for Christmas. You'll thank me. . . =)

The Godless World by Brian Ruckley

- Winterbirth (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Bloodheir (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Fall of Thanes (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

An uneasy truce exists between the thanes of the True Bloods. Now, as another winter approaches, the armies of the Black Road march south, from their exile beyond the Vale of Stones.

For some, war will bring a swift and violent death. Others will not hear the clash of swords or see the corpses strewn over the fields. Instead, they will see an opportunity to advance their own ambitions.

But soon, all will fall under the shadow that is descending. For while the storm of battle rages, one man is following a path that will awaken a terrible power in him -- and his legacy will be written in blood.

Dark, bloody, depressing, uncompromising, ruthless, with a poignant ending that should satisfy most fans and characters that stay true to themselves till the very end, The Godless World is definitely one of the best fantasy series of the new millennium. For fans of GRRM, Abercrombie, and Morgan, this is grimdark the way it was meant to be!

The Gap Saga by Stephen R. Donaldson

- The Real Story (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Forbidden Knowledge (Canada, USA, Europe)
- A Dark and Hungry God Arises (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Chaos and Order (Canada, USA, Europe)
- This Day All Gods Die (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Author of The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of all time, master storyteller Stephen R. Donaldson retums with this exciting and long-awaited new series that takes us into a stunningly imagined future to tell a timeless story of adventure and the implacable conflict of good and evil within each of us.

Angus Thermopyle was an ore pirate and a murderer; even the most disreputable asteroid pilots of Delta Sector stayed locked out of his way. Those who didn’t ended up in the lockup–or dead. But when Thermopyle arrived at Mallory’s Bar & Sleep with a gorgeous woman by his side the regulars had to take notice. Her name was Morn Hyland, and she had been a police officer–until she met up with Thermopyle.

But one person in Mallorys Bar wasn’t intimidated. Nick Succorso had his own reputation as a bold pirate and he had a sleek frigate fitted for deep space. Everyone knew that Thermopyle and Succorso were on a collision course. What nobody expected was how quickly it would be over–or how devastating victory would be. It was common enough example of rivalry and revenge–or so everyone thought. The REAL story was something entirely different.

Another great space opera series from the 90s that for some reason no one talks about these days. If there was such a thing as science fiction grimdark, this would be it. There is violence, intrigue, politicking, backstabbing, the whole nine yards. Some scenes can be psychologically repulsive and will disturb you. But keep reading and you'll be rewarded with one of the very best science fiction series of all time. Don't stop after the first one, as The Real Story was meant to be a stand-alone novella. By the time you get to the halfway point of the second volume, you start to understand just how vast in scope and vision The Gap series truly is and then you can't let go.

The Jump 225 Trilogy by David Louis Edelman

- Infoquake (Canada, USA, Europe)
- MultiReal (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Geosynchron (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb from the first volume:

How far should you go to make a profit?

Infoquake, the debut novel by David Louis Edelman, takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future. It’s a stunning trip through the trenches of a technological war fought with product demos, press releases, and sales pitches.

Natch is a master of bio/logics, the programming of the human body. He’s clawed and scraped his way to the top of the bio/logics market using little more than his wits. Now his sudden notoriety has brought him to the attention of Margaret Surina, the owner of a mysterious new technology called MultiReal. Only by enlisting Natch’s devious mind can Margaret keep MultiReal out of the hands of High Executive Len Borda and his ruthless armies.

To fend off the intricate net of enemies closing in around him, Natch and his apprentices must accomplish the impossible. They must understand this strange new technology, run through the product development cycle, and prepare MultiReal for release to the public—all in three days.

Meanwhile, hanging over everything is the specter of the infoquake, a lethal burst of energy that’s disrupting the bio/logic networks and threatening to send the world crashing back into the Dark Ages.

With Infoquake, David Louis Edelman has created a fully detailed world that’s both as imaginative as Dune and as real as today’s Wall Street Journal.

Ambitious, vast in scope, with flawed protagonists and a deftly executed plot, and impeccable prose from start to finish, David Louis Edelman's The Jump 225 trilogy is a fascinating read. And yes, I'm aware that you may never have heard of it. It's up to you to remedy that situation. . . =)

The Avery Cates books by Jeff Somers

- The Electric Church (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Digital Plague (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Eternal Prison (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Terminal State (Canada, USA, Europe)
- The Final Evolution (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first installment:

Avery Cates is a very bad man. Some might call him a criminal. He might even be a killer - for the Right Price. But right now, Avery Cates is scared. He's up against the Monks: cyborgs with human brains, enhanced robotic bodies, and a small arsenal of advanced weaponry. Their mission is to convert anyone and everyone to the Electric Church. But there is just one snag. Conversion means death.

Jeff Somers' first series features Avery Cates, a far from likeable gunner you can't help but root for. Often down on his luck and not always the sharpest tool in the shed, Cates' first person narrative is a highlight from this series since the opening chapter of the very first volume. If you like balls-to-the-wall noir techno-thrillers set in a futuristic dystopian Earth, chances are you'll love these books!

The Macht trilogy by Paul Kearney

- The Ten Thousand (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Corvus (Canada, USA, Europe)
- Kings of the Morning (Canada, USA, Europe)

Here's the blurb for the first volume:

Isca is fallen; Antimone draws Her veil over the dead. Rictus, a young soldier of the city, is now ostrakr – homeless, devoid of purpose. He dons the red cloak of the mercenary and sets out to find a road for himself.

On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a fierce, barbaric people whose discipline and prowess on the battlefi eld is the stuff of legend. If they did not war endlessly on themselves, they would conquer the world. Beyond their home in the remote Harukush Mountains, the teeming races and peoples of Kuf are united under the Great King of Asuria, who can call up whole nations to battle, and whose word is law.

But now the Great King’s brother means to take the throne by force, and has sought out the Macht. Rictus – and ten thousand more mercenary warriors – will march into the heart of the Empire. They will become legends.

The Macht trilogy is military fantasy at its best. And yet, although it's often all about the stark realism of military campaigns, Paul Kearney delivers more than a few poignant and touching moments that demonstrate just how gifted an author he can be. If you love great characterization, action, and superior storytelling, give Kearney's signature work a shot!

This should keep some of you busy for a little while. . . ;-) Happy Holidays to everyone!

5 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

The Psalms of Isaac by Ken Scholes is missing from this list.

Anonymous said...

So this Hal Duncan is really that good? I've never heard of him. Gonna check him out.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this list!:D Just in time for Christmas!

Anonymous said...

The Friedman and Kearney series are awesome and deserve to be more widely read!


jonandmaki said...

I feel like Dark Eden by Chris Beckett is super under the radar for having won the Arthur C. Clarke award a few years ago. I understand the prose is probably hit or miss, but I loved it.