Sunday, November 16

Okay, people. I'm far enough out from under various deadline pressures that I feel the need to catch up with what's current in Our Beloved Genre. As most of you know, I tend more toward reading classics than reading What's Hot Right Now . . . so much so that I don't have a friggin' clue what WHRN might actually be.

I'm about to order 5-10 books from One will be Scott Lynch's second Gentlemen Bastards book, because I need to catch up there with the third looming on the near horizon. At least one (possibly more) will be John Scalzi's, because I've become a Whatever addict and I'm interested in seeing how he does with fiction. Another will be Steve Donaldson's latest Covenant entry.

Who should I be looking at for the rest?

(Don't bother recommending Big Gunners like Neal Stephenson and George R.R. Martin -- they are on my back-list, and I will no doubt catch up with them later on.) I'm looking for, as John Cleese would say, something completely different.

Who gets you people all hot'n'bothered these days?


Nathan said...

Some recent good stuff:

She probably qualifies as a Big Gunner, but Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series is rather wonderful: The Napoleonic Wars with dragons, very well executed.

Jeffrey Ford's story collections are essential. He has a new one just out called THE DROWNED LIFE.


Gregory Frost's SHADOWBRIDGE duo is excellent.

Kage Baker has a couple new books out: OR ELSE MY LADY KEEPS THE KEY, a pirate novel, and THE HOUSE OF THE STAG, another novel set in the world of THE ANVIL OF THE WORLD.

M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation is a fantastic duology, historical fiction set in the years leading up to and of the American Revolution, but written in the style of our genre.

Charlie Huston's pulp noir books are rather delightful. Start with either CAUGHT STEALING or ALREADY DEAD, depending on whether your taste is for straightforward crime or hardboiled non-emo vampire badassery.

I like Mike Carey's FELIX CASTOR supernatural detective novels quite a bit: the first is THE DEVIL YOU KNOW.

I haven't read it yet, but Elizabeth Bear's ALL THE WINDWRACKED STARS is supposed to be quite good.

Scott Bakker's NEUROPATH is out and supposedly quite nasty.

Toby Barlow's SHARP TEETH is a weredog novel written in psuedo-free-verse that's quite excellent.

Roberto Bolaño's 2666 has finally been translated to English.

Jo Graham's BLACK SHIPS is a very good ancient Greece historical.

VanderMeer's year's best SFF on Amazon:

PW's Year's best:

Nathan said...

I need to stop saying "quite".

Chopper said...

Charles Stross--anything he's ever done.

Richard K. Morgan--start with Altered Carbon.

Jim Butcher has two series going on--both are good.

Patrick Rothfuss' Name of the Wind is excellent.

S.M. Stirling is quietly writing what may turn into the fantasy series of the decade, starting with Dies the Fire.

The two Scalzi book's to start with are Old Man's War and The Android's Dream.

I could go on, but that would be where I'd start.

Nathan said...

I don't care much for Stross. I haven't read any of his stuff lately, but his early books seemed to have so much fun with ideas that the characters had a lot of trouble ringing true.

I loved ALTERED CARBON -- unfortunately, nothing Morgan's done since has been as good, though he's been getting better.

Butcher's DRESDEN FILES are great over-the-top fun, but don't really hit their stride until book 4 or so.

Nathan said...

As it happens, Matt, I have duplicates of both Kage Baker's THE HOUSE OF THE STAG and Walter Jon Williams' IMPLIED SPACES. If you're interested, they're yours. Otherwise I'll offer them up on my blog or elsewhere.

GreedyAlgorithm said...

You should want to check out Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. He's the guy that's finishing up The Wheel of Time, but don't let that stop you if you take issue with WoT. Don't start with Elantris, though, his first published book... definitely get Mistborn: The Final Empire. In which the great evil already came and conquered the world, and yet the world and the people in it still go on living.

Joe said...

If you're looking for heartbreaking works of staggering genius, I hear that the Sword of Truth is a television series now ; )

If only we could get a screen adaptation of "Matt Stover and Terry Goodkind's Apartment."

GREENE said...

Joe Abercrombie's THE BLADE ITSELF--just about the only writer who can construct fight scenes as viscerally as you.

Someone else recommended THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss; I second that, but with the caveat that it is not the best or cleanest written book out there. The author does draw on Roger Zelazny, which is refreshing given the influx of mega-description luxuriously-prosed super ultra description porn-fests in fantasy these days.

Pathfinder said...

I'd like to add JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke. Plot-wise it's difficult to summarize, but in terms of its overall feel I'd say it's as if Jane Austin and Mary Shelley collaborated on a fantasy novel. The magic is treated as if it were a science–much like your or China Meíville's work, Mr. Stover–and is internally consistent the vast majority of the time.

I'd also suggest any and all of Alistair Reynolds's work, starting with REVELATION SPACE.

Nick said...

Seconding Joe Abercrombie The Blade itself, thirding Rothfuss' Name of the Wind

Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi isn't fantasy strictly, but its one hell of a read.

Anonymous said...

patrick rothfuss

Nathan said...

Oh, and Junot Díaz's THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. Excellent debut novel about a geeky Dominican emigre that opens with the epigraph, "Of what import are brief, nameless lives . . . to Galactus??"

GameCreator said...

While Lynch did endorse Abercrombie and I would suggest his books to anyone else, I don't think they fit in your "something completely different" genre.

Scott said...

I'm going to toss out a recommendation for China Miéville's Bas-Lag novels Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council

They're very completely different.

Michael said...

I recommend Abercrombie's book too!! Its pretty frickin amazing, and the series is complete so if you like it you don't gotta wait! My stepfather just recommended to me Jim Butcher's Storm Front, which is nice cause it takes place close to home in Chicago. I guess the protagonist is a wizard and he hunts people that use black magic. My stepdad was raving about it and he normally has good taste in books. so yea. there it is.

Anonymous said...

If only we could get a screen adaptation of "Matt Stover and Terry Goodkind's Apartment."

An excerpt:

"It's customary, at times like this, to say a few words. A man shouldn't die without knowing why he's being murdered. We have a lot of ground to cover, so I'll try to keep this brief."

I lean back slightly and lift the first steno pad from the night table.

"Richard Cypher? Really? Did your editor think that Orphan McFakename was too obvious even for your readers?"

This is going to take a while...

Doug said...

definitely the Rothfuss.

Morgan's best is his latest: Thirteen/Black Man

you know the frothy stuff on Whatever? the kitten and bacon bits? that's closest to his fiction, so don't expect a lot

and for a classic how about Little Big by John Crowley (1981)

AzrofD said...

Mistborn is good - then again, so is Elantris (High fantasy stuff). (Sanderson)

Name of the Wind is good - a first person narrative that works well. (Rothfuss - fantasy)

...I really can't think of anything else released lately worth the time. I'm certainly going to try The Blade Itself.

John W said...

Jim Butcher's Codex Alera series is great. It starts with "Furies of Calderon."

I think I saw somewhere on here that you read Greg Keyes's "The Briar King." Keyes has got some other good novels, like "The Waterborn." It's definitely not the most widely read fantasy out there, but it's good.

MJ Dusseault said...

Have you read Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing yet, Matt? I found this trilogy quite spectacular, and the next book in that world was my 2nd most anticipated book behind CBK.

Some really great stuff, IMO.


Mike Dusseault (formerly known as SPears and Buckler from deadcities).

Vikas D. Reddy said...

Yo Stover, if you want to read some good classics, check out Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War and its sequel - Beyond the Chocolate War. I can guarantee you'll like the series.

Salt-Man Z said...

I just finished the 8th book of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen (which I picked up after Donaldson plugged it on his site.) Fantastic stuff.

I'm also reading through Glen Cook's Black Company chronicles. They're not particularly new (Erikson's stuff is heavily inspired by Cook, in fact) but they're quite enjoyable. The first 6 books have just been reprinted in 2 omnibus editions, but unfortunately the last 4 books are relatively hard to come by.

Chris said...

I'd second Abercrombie's work (hell, I tried to first it yesterday, but this fuckin' thing seems to have swallowed that up like a cock-thirsty porn star) but, if you're intersted in something a bit odd and funky and, knowing that you have a bit of an interest in crime novels too (right?), you might want to look at Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books. I liked the first one a lot... I'm going to check out the others soon. Other friends (of good taste) have recommended the whole series.

Anonymous said...

For Scalzi, I would start with his first (and in my opinion his best) novel, OLD MAN'S WAR.

I agree with the several posters that you should also read Richard K. Morgan. I would go with ALTERED CARBON, but right before I read CBK, I finished THIRTEEN, which is also a good read.


Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying A Darkness Forged in Fire, by Chris Evans. Every time I think I'm seeing where the story is going, it changes on me. In a good way. Either way, it's really entertaining.

I'm not him, but I should be his publicist. :)


rebecca said...

I'd also put a vote in for Abercrombie's 'Blade Itself.' It was recommended to me by the guys at the bookstore with, "if you liked Scott Lynch..." I haven't finished that series but really enjoyed that first book.

Like others here, I really dug Rothfuss' 'Name of the Wind.'

Not new, but if you haven't read any Vandermeer yet, you should check out 'City of Saints and Madmen' and 'Veniss Underground.' Very different stuff.

Anonymous said...

Like most of these people, I reccommend the Rothfuss. It reminds me of some of your work both in theme and style, which I consider high praise.

Scott Lynch's second book was enjoyable as well. Well worth a read.

I'm sure you read it years ago, but Philip K. Dick's THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE just cracked the top ten, up there with some mid-period Heinlein and the Acts of Caine. Incidentally, HEROES DIE first introduced me to both Heinlein and Zelazny (the interview in the paperback) and for that I thank you.


Anonymous said...

J.M. McDermott's LAST DRAGON is a very promising debut that blends a familiar (but interesting) brand of epic fantasy with a fragmented narrative style that drew comparisons to Wolfe.

I'm on David Anthony Durham's ACACIA right now, and the tag line I've been using to comment on it is that it's the rare book that actually deserves to be compared to Martin's ICE and FIRE. In some cases - tidy prose, cultural creations, theme based pontifications - I'd say that Durham trumps Martin. On the strength of of this one, I'll definitely get to Durham's historical novels at some point.

I hope you add some some comments as you go along through some new stuff, Matt. Your recommendation of THE RUNES OF THE EARTH and Covenant in general back in 2005 is the main reason I tried Donaldson, who's now one of my favorites. I thought FATAL REVENANT was even better than the first of the Last Chronicles, with a little less exposition, and much more of the constant brand of metaphysical turmoil combined with the physical adventuring that defines the series to me.

- Zach H.

Jim said...

Mr. Stover,

I read a good historical fiction novel recently, if you're in to that. There was a General, near the end of the Roman empire, who held the Rhine for 18 months with ~6,000 men, against hundreds of thousands of Vandals, Alemania, Macomanni, etc. Literally whole nations.

He knew it was only a matter of time until he lost, yet he bluffed, lied, cheated, and finally fought, until his legion died to the last man.

Eagle in the Snow, by Wallace Breem is a great story, and a character study seeking the answer to the question:
"Who the fuck does that!?"


Scott said...

David Drake's Lord of the Isle series. I particularly enjoy the red-handed killers, e.g. Nonnus.

AzrofD said...

David Drake's lord of the isle series is good for the first 2 books, then it becomes a waste of time. Endless repetition bogs it down :(


Tim said...

I picked up the Necroscope trilogy by Brian Lumley a while back. Only got through the first recently, and it's pretty decent. Ends a little limply, but it's just suffering from Planned Trilogy Syndrome.

Drew said...

Believe the other comments: Richard K. Morgan is unbelievably good.
Patrick Rothfuss will move you with Name of the Wind.
And anyone steering you towards Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden series is not steering you wrong. In fact, if you weren't Matthew Woodring Stover, the only other author I'd be recommending is you. Those are the authors doing great stuff right now in their genres, great stuff. Let us all know what you think of the stuff when you've read it. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

William Tevelein's The Visitants is always good for a laugh. A writer of great wit, he is.

E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics I is pretty cool, if you enjoy history books.

Finished Debatable Space by Phillip Palmer. An odd, strange space-opera, written primarily in the first person via journal entries. Strange, but ultimately rewarding.


WarlordGrego said...

Matt, I highly recommend Austin Grossman's "Soon I will Be Invincible". Chris Billet recommended it to me, and I'm not sorry I picked it up.

As for Scalzi, you're in for a treat. Old Man's War definatley has some Heinlein-ish flair to it. You should like it.

-Greg (SC)

Guy said...

The Mistborn trilogy I would recommend to any of my teenage cousins, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. Take action from some anime cartoon, mix it in with teen angst and brooding, and there you go.

I'm about to pick up Michael Flynn's JANUARY DANCER today. I've picked through it at Barnes & Noble, and it seemed damned good to me, in prose and story. It's a rare enough combination in contemporary books I've read that off the top of my head I can only count yourself and Scott Lynch. That's less praise than exasperation.

NSB said...

The Mistborn trilogy I would recommend to any of my teenage cousins, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. Take action from some anime cartoon, mix it in with teen angst and brooding, and there you go.

I didn't make it through the first book. There was this, plus the writing I found far from engaging.

You probably made a good choice with the Flynn. He's good.

Rob said...

I have to second Charlie Huston's "Caught Stealing," which is the first in a trilogy. It's one hell of a hard-hitting crime-noir story.

WarlordGrego said...

Matt, I'm changing the subject real quick.

If you recall, I have delusions of being an artist someday. I've been trying to draw a rendition of Caine. I just have one questions.

Why black leather? Seriously, black leather is the hardest shit to draw EVER!

Thanks Matt, ya know I love you...but damn.

-Greg (Squall Chitose)

Dan said...

Hm. Just while that IS the subject, has anyone seen any tasty fan art around for the Acts of Caine? I'd love to take a look at some visual interpretations.

WarlordGrego said...

Dan, I've done one piece.
I showed Matt, and he promptly informed me that my picture didn't look anything like Caine :P

However, the portrait I did of my father DOES look like Caine.

Max said...

And now, for something completely different: pick up THE LIONS OF AL-RASSAN or TIGANA by Guy Gavriel Kay.

He writes absolutely beautiful, bittersweet things, and manages to bring me to tears every time. With all due respect--you write some awesome stuff--he's my favorite author.

And his credentials are pretty good; he helped edit the Silmarillion.

Lee said...

Hello, I had a great time reading The Iron Elves Book one by Chris Evans and finishing the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.


rebecca said...

Max: I second that! Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana are two of my all-time favourites :)

Geemoney said...

I am new to this blog (I came here from Whatever after a Big Idea recommendation), but if you're looking for different, I would suggest The Shadow of the Wind. Somewhat older, but which I enjoyed immensely, was A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

I don't know if he counts as a Big Gun, but I have enjoyed Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet books quite a bit. Other authors I have been reading and enjoying are Neal Asher and Iain Banks.

All that said, the real reason I am here is that what I would love to see on the market is Blade of Tyshalle. The prices for used copies are crazy, and I can't find anywhere online that has copies at reasonable prices. Any news on the e version?

carpevino said...

Robin Hobb is brilliant. Anything she does is gold.

Jaqueline Carey's Kushiel stuff is good if you don't mind watching her heroine, (a hooker/noblewoman/damsel-in-a-dress), fuck her way cross country with her probably gay swordsman in tow.

If you haven't already read it, the hell with what's hot and read Tom Robbins' Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. My personal bible. It's about an ex-CIA operative who's under a South American taboo to never again have his feet touch the earth who travels to the Syrian desert and sodomizes a nun (on request). Oh and he finds the lost prophecy of Fatima. Light reading.

Tony Huynh said...

I would recommend Blankets by Craig Thompson.

Here is an excerpt from a review I wrote:

"Blankets is an intimate autobiographical story about a young troubled artist growing up in a devoutly Christian family. It follows him through the abuse he suffers at the hand of others, his feeling of powerlessness, his loss, his fears, his hope and his first love."

Guy said...

JANUARY DANCER turned out to be a fantastic book, both in the words and in the story. It's different. The only bad thing is the pacing is so slow for almost half the book. I was reading it to try to keep awake on the night shift, and it kept putting me to sleep. Best read when aware enough to enjoy the details.

THE DARK TOWER saga from Stephen King is different. What? Believe it or not, some people actually haven't heard of it. I can only give high praise for the first four books. I don't know what the hell muse replaced the one he'd been consulting with before his accident, but damn it and what it did to the series.

THE BLADE ITSELF manages to take a character (class) who is usually portrayed as mindless, dumb, and perpetually cast as Arnold Schwarzenegger, and turns him into something much more human. That's the best part of the book to me. I didn't find anything new, not even in the description of the fighting. It's great for wanting to be entertained.

Heath said...

I'm going to have to recommend Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself. His characters are truly alive and the combat sequences rival your own. His three books actually conclude and are better than GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire - in my opinion. I have all three sitting right next to me. My son finished book two and doesn't want to start three because he knows once he starts he won't be able to put it down and then it will be over and he won't be able to top it. I told him he hasn't read anything yet - just wait until he reads Heroes Die... :)

Anonymous said...

Just got to the second part of caine black knife,(had it since launch, but been very busy with school). The story is looking great...and it humors me to think caine is pushing 50 years old and is still kicking ass. Can't wait for the second book to this to come out. Any clues as to when you plan on making it public?

beth said...

Wow! So many great recommendations.

The TEMERAIRE series by Naomi Novik is fantastic.

Have you read THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE by Gibson and Sterling? Probably old news. It's just *so good* and for some reason it came to me.

I would also highly recommend K.J. Parker's THE ENGINEER TRILOGY. The main character does what he *must* to accomplish his goals, and yikes is he clever! It is a dark, deliciously devious, and richly detailed series. All those in favor of the anti-hero should check these out.

I second (8th, 12th?) the Rothfuss book. I was very cranky when I realized I would have to wait *forever* to read the next one.

I can NOT recommend Brandon Sanderson's MISTBORN series because it was such a let down. The first book was enjoyable, but after that the story sort-of unraveled.

I also am cranky about how ACACIA by David Durham ended. I'd say 85% was quite good, but he jumped the shark at the end. We'll see how he resolves what he's done in the next book.

Yes! If you haven't read the ALERA series by Jim Butcher then you are missing a real treat. A really, yummy treat.

Also, this may also be old news, but how about Lois McMaster Bujold's VORKOSIGAN saga? (the earliest books are the best) They are quite wonderful, and I will always be fascinated by Mile's cloned brother Mark and his "Black Gang" of Grunt, Gorge, Howl and Killer.

Ah... now I get to check out The Old Man's War and the Abercrombie books. Yip!

beth said...

To everyone who recommended THE OLD MAN'S WAR by Scalzi... Thank you! What a great read. I compulsively read the first book from cover to cover in one sitting (so, uh, maybe thanks aren't in order for that... but I guess I can't hold others responsible for when I go OCD.)

I'm now over halfway through the second. Again... excellent!

My question is... are there more?

Ewan Bannatyne said...

Hello, my name is Ewan Bannatyne and I am the webmaster of a small but popular Star Wars fan website that specialises in the books and novels of Star Wars - (SWBooks) and I was wondering if you would be willing to participate in a short interview (by email) to promote your next Star Wars novel, Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.
If you agree I would be looking to publish the interview in mid-December, about two weeks before the book's US release on the 30th December.
Thank you for your time.

Ewan Bannatyne

Jim said...

Mr. Stover,

The Conquerors trilogy by Timothy Zahn is outstanding. He might count as a 'big gunner' especially since he writes Star Wars novels. But anyway, Conquerors is excellent, with a compelling story, great characters, and some really interesting concepts.


NSB said...

Hey -- Catopolis is out!

David Atkins said...

'Way of Shadows' by Brent Weeks is a current favorite of mine.

Jacqie said...

Daryl Gregory's "Pandemonium" is what I'm reading now, and it's quite good. It's his first novel, although he's published many short stories. Just came out this summer. Demon possession and Philip K. Dick- pretty cool.

Anonymous said...

It's not contemporary, but if you have not yet read it I strongly recommend the Illuminatus! trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. It's a wonderful book (it's published in one volume these days). I found your scenes between Vergere and Jacen in "Traitor" to be quite evocative of some of the stuff in "Illuminatus!" It seems like it could be your style of book.

F4ll3n said...

Have to second David Atkins on his choice.

The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks is indeed different and a great read.

I picked up a book called "The Speed of Dark" by Elizabeth Moon today and it strikes me as very different because it is written from an autistic point of view. Very moving.

Also "Death's Head" By David Gunn. a Sci-Fi Military Novel. Protagonist reminds me slightly of Caine at times. Good read.

Also I think it was mentioned but the Black Company novels are all great books.

"Armor" by John Steakley is an interesting read.

Capella said...

Have you ever read any of Elizabeth Moon? Specifically her work in the Serrano/Suiza series? Hunting Party is the first book of the Serrano focused series. My favorite work in that universe, however, is Once a Hero, which takes a bit character from the 3rd Serrano book and really fleshes her out. Esmay Suiza is a jg lieutenant from a small colony that has never sent anyone to the Fleet before, and now she's Fleet's biggest hero. But can she do it again? It's a great tale of character development and how heroes aren't always what you expect them to be. Plus it has people on the outside of a ship during FTL...can't be beat for a novel idea, anyways!

Anonymous said...

So I read Abercrombie's THE BLADE ITSELF and its sequels.


The third book was horribly disappointing.

Scott K said...

The Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko are pretty wicked. I just got book four this Christmas, I'll let ya all know how it is.

James said...

This thread has a lot of excellent recommendations. Just to be perverse let me suggest someone whose work reminds me of MWS only in it's bad-assitude.
Jack Vance. Perhaps the Demon Prince novels or Tschai.
Now that I've written this, it occurs to me that Vance, like MWS has never stooped to 'generic evil' to advance a plot.

Leo said...

Author:Peter David

Book 1: Sir Apropos of Nothing
Book 2: The Woad to Wuin
Book 3: Tong Lashing

GenTechJ said...

Well, I'm a bit late with my two cents. I highly recommend Armor by John Steakley. I've read the book damn near twenty times already, and I'm halfway through my twenty first read through if those numbers are true. Felix has had as much of an impact on my life as Caine has.

Don't know if she's a big gunner or not, but I also loved The Coldfire Trilogy by CS Friedman.

angst said...

Have you read Vellum, by Hal Duncan? A real brain-masher that pulls few punches, devoid os any level of sentimentality - or even a reality in which sentimentality could find root. As a debut novel, especially, this is impressive stuff.

the genius said...

So, I realize this post is about book's you want to buy, but since its been eight months since you posted it, I assume you've already bought them, so I feel moderately guiltless about leaving this here.
How the fuck aren't you selling more books? I just read Heroe's Die, annd was just floored. Just as good as scot Linch, Joe abicromby, George Martin... I'm going to try and find the rest of the Caine books asap, just wanted you to know I thought they were very good.