Jamey Stegmaier‘s 7 Novels with Memorable Moments
As a game designer, I play a lot of board games. So many, in fact, that my experiences with those games all tend to run together in my memory. It takes something special for me to look back after months or years and remember a specific moment in a game.
I read a lot of speculative fiction (fantasy and sci-fi), and those novels often influence my designs. So it’s always notable to me when a scene in a book sticks with me after months or years–it’s a sign to me that something special happened there that I need to emulate in my games. Here are some of those novels.
Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Sanderson is one of the true masters of memorable scenes, as he combines fascinating magic systems with realistic worldbuilding and compelling characters. The second book in his fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive, is no exception. There’s one particular scene in an arena that I’ve dwelled on for years since reading the book…it’s just that good. It helps that Brandon writes action sequences in such a way that you know exactly what’s happening at all times.
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
This is the third book in a stunning dystopian trilogy (Red Rising) set in a distant future where mankind has colonized the solar system. In this world, people are divided into classes by color–red, pink, blue, green, etc, all the way up to the esteemed golds. The author is great at answering all questions at the right times by showing, not telling, and he answers a huge question about the obsidian class during an incredible scene in book three.
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
The basic concept (minor spoilers from the first twenty pages) of the book is that in the near future, Earth’s surface is going to be completely destroyed due to a natural event that will last five thousand years. Humanity takes to the heavens to survive. The stakes could not possibly be higher, and the result are a series of close calls. I really can’t say more about my most memorable moment without spoiling anything, but it includes a photograph that changed the entire way I looked at the story.
Attrition by S.G. Night
This is the most recent book I read, so of course it’s still fresh in my mind. It includes one of the best twists ever in a novel–it’s so good that there’s no way I’m going to forget it. Attrition is the first book in a fantasy series, and it’s primarily about a character named Racath. This tale is narrated by someone close to Racath; close enough to know every detail of his journey, but readers won’t know who this narrator is until about two-thirds of the way through the book. When you find out who it is, you’ll need to stare at a wall for fifteen minutes or so. In a good way.
The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons
One of my favorite things that Simmons does in his four-book Hyperion series (sci-fi, far future) is that he continually presents characters and readers with near-invincible opponents. They’re so powerful that you can’t imagine how they’re going to be defeated. For some reason, their actual defeats aren’t etched into my memory, but the build-up–that is, the scenes in which Simmons shows just how powerful these opponents are–that’s what sticks with me.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I recently re-read this book; something I rarely do. But I was in the mood for something compulsively entertaining. I found that while there were entire chapters I had completely forgotten, there were quite a few major moments that were nearly crystal clear in my memory. It’s a story about a high-stakes quest in a virtual-reality world; a treasure hunt at its best.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky
What’s this? A Harry Potter book not written by JK Rowling? That’s right–this is fan fiction, and it’s superb. It’s basically an alternate-reality version of Harry Potter in which Harry acts rationally, often using the scientific method to solve problems and explain things to his fellow wizards. It’s a single book that replaces all seven Harry Potter books, and even though it’s massive, it includes a number of memorable moments, including a stunning climactic showdown.
What are a few of your favorite books that feature memorable moments?