Speed of Dark by Elisabeth Moon
This author is probably better known for her Paksenarrion novels about a girl who joins a mercenary company. While a great tale, the novel that really caught my eye is the Speed of Dark. Set in the near-future, it tells the first-person tale of a high functioning, autistic, process analyst who works for a governmental think-tank. It’s a story asking “how far will you go to fit in” and at the same time it shows (at least in my view) how different the thought processes autistic people have and what they struggle with. It won a Nebula award in 2003.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
I love Neil Gaiman. He is one of my favourite artists and in fact I devour anything he creates, whether it’s graphic literature (Sandman, Lucifer, and Books of Magic), screenplays (Neverwhere) or novels (Anansi Boys, Stardust, and Coraline.) In this fantastic yarn, Gods do exist, at least as long as somebody believes in them. Will the main protagonist, Shadow, help or hinder their continuing existence in the modern world? The book won both a Hugo and a Nebula award in 2002.
The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
A hard science fiction series, set centuries in the future, this is a rather dense trilogy, but oh-so-rewarding a read! The weaving plot lines and the way the story unfolds make it hard to give a short review of the series. It combines elements of science fiction, horror and fantasy in a tale likened by many to Chaucer‘s Canterbury Tales. I also find traces of Arthurian myths, poems by Keats, and Vance’s Dying Earth in the tale told. The first book in the series won both a Hugo and a Locus award in 1990.
Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
I love both of these authors by themselves, and this collaboration combines the humorous Pratchett with the darker Gaiman to create an incredible tale. I’ve read it five times and I laugh out loud every time. Based loosely on THE OMEN, it tells the story of an Antichrist being born and, by some mix-up, growing up in the wrong family. The book contains devil dogs, angels, demons, and the four modern Horsemen of the Apocalypse; War, Death, Famine and Pollution (Pestilence retired after the creation of penicillin.) What can go wrong with a book containing all of these elements?
Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
Sometimes, out of the blue, a book appears that feels like a breath of fresh air! This instant classic is the tale of con artists calling themselves the “Gentlemen Bastards“. Set in a low-magic, fantasy world reminiscent of medieval Venice, it is a compelling tale with gripping characters and many a convincing con.
The First Law by Joe Abercrombie
This trilogy, set in a low-magic fantasy world, contains the coolest stereotypical, barbarian since Conan. Logan Ninefingers and the other (flawed but believable) characters form an unlikely band of “heroes” who Bayaz (First of the Magi) uses as pawns in his bid for power. It’s a gritty, realistic fantasy series with a mad barbarian, a power hungry wizard working in the shadows, an escaped/vengeful slave and numerous memorable characters.
Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Sometimes a series has such a great premise that I’d just love to have played an RPG in the setting. Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson is one such setting, Shadows of the Apt is another. Set in a world ruled by giant insects, the humans have taken on insect-like qualities to survive the harsh environment. When the series starts, it seems comparable to the industrial revolution; steam and clockwork technology starts to appear, led by the industrious Beetle-kinden. Humans have recently thrown off the yoke the primitive (and magic-wielding) Moth-kinden. Things are looking better, but on the horizon looms the aggressive Wasp Empire. The name of the series plays on the fact that the Kinden themselves are either able to wield magic or use technology, being either Inapt or Apt.