Good sci-fi/fantasy series?
December 2, 2004 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Book recommendation (more inside unless you are moz in which case, you cannot look.)

My husband likes to read sci-fi/fantasy series books. For example, he loves the Lord of the Rings trilogy (of course) and he just got finished with the Chronicles of Narnia. So for Christmas, I want to get him started on another similar series. I've tried Harry Potter, and he didn't really like them. Also, he doesn't like the Neil Gaiman stuff I have. It doesn't have to be YA stuff, either. Just something (hopefully available in hardback) that has several entries in a series, so I can get him one after another, which I like to do.

Sorry for the convoluted way I've done this question -- do you know how hard it is to ask.mefi when your spouse reads it as voraciously as you do? :D
posted by sugarfish to Media & Arts (57 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My wife's been dying to get me to read Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, and it's follow-ups. That's one of my new years resolutions.
posted by icontemplate at 9:40 AM on December 2, 2004

Can't go wrong with Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.
posted by GeekAnimator at 9:42 AM on December 2, 2004

The series thing is tough, because I would have recommended Eragon by Christopher Paolini but I don't think the second book is out yet.

The Amulet of Samarkand and its sequel might be good.

The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher is great.

Also the Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper.
posted by gnat at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2004

The obvious choices here, staying with YA fantasy, are the "His Dark Materials" series by Phillip Pullamn (series of three, with more to come) or the Earthsea books by Ursula LeGuin (three in the main series, three more that finish it off in a decidedly more adult style).
Both are terrific, both may act as an antidote to the faintly repellant Narnia books (just my biased opinion, having hated those books from an early age).
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2004

Based on your description of his taste, I think he might like George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series. It starts with A Game of Thrones.

he doesn't like the Neil Gaiman stuff I have.

There is no hope for him, then.
posted by gd779 at 9:45 AM on December 2, 2004

I would recommend:

Piers Anthony's Xanth series.

Robert Asprin's Myth series.

Terry Brooks Sword of Shannara trilogy.

and Robert Silverberg's Majipoor Cycle
posted by Otis at 9:50 AM on December 2, 2004

Theodore Sturgeon. It's not series stuff, but Sturgeon is arguably one of the best short story SF writers, ever. He's so good Kurt Vonnegut created a character about him. That character is indeed "Kilgore Trout".

(Count the characters, the fish reference, and Vonnegut's own admission somewhere. Most people think Kilgore Trout = Vonnegut's alter ego, which I believe he allowed to foster just for fun and mysteriousness.)

I recommend the anthologies "A Touch of Strange", "Theodore Sturgeon is Alive and Well", and the book "More than Human."

If he liked the morals of the story in Narnia and LoTR, he'll love Sturgeon - Sturgeon had humanism defined so well it's transcendent.
posted by loquacious at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2004

He's probably far advanced of the reading level but I always really enjoyed Piers Anthony's Xanth series, very clever and well written and lots and lots of books to read.

And its unrelated but an interesting book that more people should read, "Geek Love" about a family of circus side show freaks. I think its by Katherine Dunne.

On Preview: Right on, Otis! I'd forgotten about the Sword of Shannara, those were great books!
posted by fenriq at 9:52 AM on December 2, 2004

Robert Asprin is cool, too. Check out the Sanctuary series, which he edits and partakes in, as it's a group effort. It's super cheesy, but in the best of ways.

Not cheesy like we-take-ourselves-too-seriously like in the DragonLance books, but super cheesy like we-make-fun-of-ourselves, and everyone else.

And it's awesome to read, because as each short story/chapter progresses and interlaces, it feels and reads more like it's actually different character viewpoints, because it's from different authors.
posted by loquacious at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2004

Ach, and Ursula LeGuin is always awesome. Damn fine writer.
posted by loquacious at 9:57 AM on December 2, 2004

he doesn't like the Neil Gaiman stuff I have.

There is no hope for him, then.

My thought exactly... sugarfish, did you try Gaiman's graphic novels or his books? I consider myself a huge Neil Gaiman fan, but I haven't liked a single one of his novels. I LOVE his graphic novels, though, as well as his plays for voices. So if you didn't give him the Sandman series, I'd absolutely recommend it. Also Stardust, the two Death books and Dreamhunters.

I absolutely agree with the Ursula LeGuin recommendation - her Earthsea series sounds like it might be up his alley.

This might be a little too YA, but I thought the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Fowler was good. Not very substantive, though.

I'm sure I'll think of more...
posted by widdershins at 10:02 AM on December 2, 2004

Have you considered the Dune series?

A little off the path we're on, but consider Patrick O' Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels (the source material for Master & Commander). A lot of sci-fi/fantasy heads enjoy them.
posted by mkultra at 10:02 AM on December 2, 2004


Philip K. Dick's VALIS trilogy.

or any pkd book. he's a pretty badass author, and instead of a triology, he can just read through his entire oeuvre.

(er, well, i think it's a trilogy).

awesome, and people won't think you're a dork for reading it.

(rephrase: I won't think you're a dork for reading it, and i know YOU ALL CARE WHAT I THINK OF YOU.)

yeah, i'm sensitive to other people's perceptions. i blame my peers in junior high.
posted by fishfucker at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2004

Could try him on David Brin's Uplift Saga books:
Startide Rising
The Uplift War

And if he likes those he could go on to the Uplift Trilogy:
Brightness Reef
Infinity's Shore
Heaven's Reach

Disregard the fact that he also wrote The Postman. These are much better.

I would also recommend Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. They're not really series oriented but funny nonetheless.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2004

Uh-oh. Mefi just pooped out for me, so this list will be longer than I expected and may contain some repeats.

Tim Powers, "Last Call" "Expiration Date" and "Earthquake Weather" - I'm rereading the series again for the fourth time currently. Really, really good modern magical realism fantasy.

F. Paul Wilson, The Repairman Jack Novels (starts with "The Tomb" and goes to to "Crisscross" at last check over a half dozen books all told). Again, really good modern action adventure/horror fantasy. Plus, Jack is real cool.

Lian Hearn, The Tales of the Otori ("Across the Nightingale Floor" "Grass For His Pillow" and "Brilliance of the Moon"). Fantasy set in a feudal neo-Japan.

Barry Hughart, The Master Li and Number Ten Ox series ("Bridge of Birds," "The Story of the Stone" and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen"). Fantastic adventure in a China that never was. Better than Hearn, IMHO.

Harry Turtledove. He has a host of series including the World War series (aliens invade during WWII. There's at least 10 books so far and he's worked his way up to the late 60s at least least), the Darkness/Derlevai series (WWII in a high fantasy world), the Great War series (What if the South won the Civil War? Now up to WWII era), and the War Between the Provinces series (the Civil War in a high fantasy world). More info can be found here.

Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle.

And for non-fantasy, there's always Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series (Napoleonic fight'n on land as opposed to O'Brian's quality sea tales).

I'd put a big thumbs down on any of the Xanth books past the first half dozen or so. Too many puns and skeeviness. Thumbs up for Pullman, Cooper, Artemis Fowl, Prachett, and Card.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2004

I liked Michael Moorcock's trilogy The Dancers at the End of Time (consisting of An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands and The End of All Songs). Set so far into the future that everything is technology possible, and nothing is forbidden, a world so baroque it seems more like fantasy than science fiction.

Getting into Moorcock, however, may be opening a can of worms. The Dancers trilogy is apparently part of a larger series, in which characters show up in different incarnations with slightly different names. I tried reading the Jerry Cornelius books, but didn't get them at all. The Elric series is supposed to be good sword'n'sorcery
posted by barjo at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2004

Neal Stephenson & Neil Gaiman are GODS.

That said, you might try Robin Hobb - she has a 9 book series that I got totally sucked into last year, and I usually resent series books. Another friend of mine who ordinarily turns his nose up at series fiction also couldn't put those down. And I do mean we really couldn't put them down; it's amazing that I even made it to work for two weeks. Tad Williams is another one, although some people really don't like him, I liked the Otherland books a lot, and there are a lot of them.

And, although these are a little darker and grittier, I personally love China Mieville. The Scar and Perdido Street Station are a series of, so far as I know, two.

Oooh and I almost forgot, Patricia McKillip!! She is fantastic! The Riddlemaster trilogy, from the 70s, if you can find it, is still one of my favorites of all time.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:49 AM on December 2, 2004

It's all about Guy Gavriel Kay.
posted by jbrjake at 11:26 AM on December 2, 2004

Although it's not part of a series, Susanna Clarke has indicated that she may write more books or stories that take place in the same world as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, so you could consider that.
posted by kenko at 11:26 AM on December 2, 2004

I greatly enjoyed Piers Anthony's 'Blue Adept' trilogy - I still reread it from time to time; it holds up.

Another strong vote for LeGuin's Earthsea and the Philip Pullman here - you can't go wrong with either.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy hasn't been mentioned and it's almost required reading. The books that come after the trilogy are readable but get progressively less fun.

Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd/Grey Mouser series have given me countless hours of pleasure, and there are maybe ten? of them, each fabulous, never a bad one in the lot. Start with 'Swords and Deviltry'. In fact thinking on it this would probably be my #1 recommendation.

Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series is also good.

Glen Cook's 'The Black Company' series is excellent all the way through book 4, then promptly heads south in a very bad way for another 6 volumes.

Gene Wolfe's 'The Book of the New Sun' - four novels in two volumes (Shadow and Claw; Sword and Citadel) are priceless.

And finally, Tanith Lee writes all kinds of deeply indulgent fantasy romances, some just one or two books long, others long series. I always feel like I should be reading her in a bubble bath.

BTW, please forgive those ardent F/SF fans like us who somehow can't seem to mesh with the graphic novel/comic/manga format. I like the idea of graphic novels, but I can't seem to grok the full experience when I try - I end up reading the text and not looking at the pictures.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:38 AM on December 2, 2004

Another vote for Xanth, especially if he's got a wicked sense of humor.
posted by wallaby at 11:41 AM on December 2, 2004

What gd779 said.
posted by fatllama at 11:47 AM on December 2, 2004

What other series has he liked and disliked? The ones you've mentioned are pretty far apart from each other.

Responding to earlier recs: Mieville is rather the anti-Tolkien and Pullman the anti-Lewis.

YA fantasy: anything by Diana Wynne Jones, but for series you want the Chrestomanci books and the Chronicles of Dalemark. The former, start off with The Lives of Christopher Chant; the latter series starts with Cart and Cwidder. However, if he bounced off of Gaiman, these may not appeal.
posted by Electric Elf at 11:48 AM on December 2, 2004

Catherine Asaro's "Skolian Empire" books. Hard sci-fi, plus space opera, plus romance, written by a physicist who used to be a ballerina. How could you go wrong with that combo? Quality varies a bit, and the fact that someone's always falling in love with someone else gets a little monotonous, but some of the stories are inventive and the best of them are very good reads indeed. The order they were published in isn't strictly chronological, so reading order is somewhat flexible. (That is, you won't get confused if you swap a couple from the order they came out, although there are some "key" novels that deal with ongoing plot threads, and those should be kept in order.) I'm pretty sure I've seen hardcovers of most of them, though the series has been going long enough that some of them may only be available in paper now.
posted by kindall at 12:01 PM on December 2, 2004

I, too, dig on Guy Gavriel Kay and would also recommend Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time (enough now, RJ - bring it to an end) .
Best of all Sci/Fi these days: Cory Doctorow.
posted by whybesubtle at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2004

along the lines of the PKD I totally forgot The Illuminati Trilogy which i read and enjoyed during my formative years.

The PKD/Robert Anton Wilson stuff is more hippie/stoner sci-fi than hobbits and elves, but it's good.
posted by fishfucker at 12:09 PM on December 2, 2004

I really liked David Eddings's Belgariad and Mallorean sets (5 books in each, they are actually one continuous story for all 10 books though). The only thing is, I'm now completely sick of his style. I tried to read a recent book, Redemption of Althalus I think, and I couldn't deal with it. The characters felt too rehashed. Maybe I just outgrew him, I'm not sure. But I still feel like the original stuff is worth checking out.

One of my favorite standalone trilogies I read in high school was the Darksword Trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.
posted by knave at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2004

Wow, thanks everyone! This has been VERY helpful, and I'm definitely bookmarking, so that I can keep him in books for years to come.
posted by sugarfish at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2004

Great thread!!

totally agree with the Philip Pullman Dark Materials suggestion - The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. What a treat they are!
posted by jasper411 at 12:25 PM on December 2, 2004

Enthusiastic jumping up and down with waving of arms for Philip Pullman (going in March to see the plays in London!) and Gene Wolfe (all the Urth books, although some more than others) and also highly recommend Ghormenghast (the first two in the series -- the third is unfinished).

Slightly off topic (more along the lines of fantastical literature) are Helprin's Winter's Tale and Crowley's Little, Big (which I've heard inspired, in part, Helprin's book).
posted by papercake at 12:30 PM on December 2, 2004

A couple more suggestions for you:
YA Fantasy: Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander is a great series. The last book won the Newberry Award.

No one has yet recommended the great books by Steven Brust.

I also really like the works of Dave Duncan. Especially the Seventh Sword series.

David Farland just completed a great series of books called the Runelords series.

I also strongly second the nominations for Robin Hobb and Tad Williams.

By the way, this is my first MF post. I hope it is helpful.
posted by bove at 12:43 PM on December 2, 2004

As others have mentioned, Piers Anthony is a bit lower on the scale for reading level, but he's a fun read anyway. I particularly liked the Incarnations of Immortality series.

Also, though not sci-fi/fantasy, anything by John LeCarré (spy writer) is immensely entertaining and fairly intellectual as well.
posted by spaghetti at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2004

Melanie Rawn's fantasy series is one of the best out there, and Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (recommended above) is a book that everyone should read.
posted by rushmc at 12:51 PM on December 2, 2004

papercake, you have good taste! Little, Big & Winter's Tale make up the other two of my three desert island books: I reread them almost every year.
posted by mygothlaundry at 12:53 PM on December 2, 2004

*tips his hat to mygothlaundry*

I haven't re-read Winter's Tale in a while. I plan to this winter. Reading it during the cold months here in NYC adds so much to the experience.

What's your third Desert Island Book? LOTR?
posted by papercake at 12:57 PM on December 2, 2004

Beyond seconding the Pullman and LeGuin recommendations, you should also look at Stephen Donaldson's "Covenant" books and "Gap" series. (The first is fantasy, and the second is sci-fi.) The Thomas Covenant books, especially, tend to really polarize people, and they love the books or hate them, so expect a cavalcade of (somewhat legitimate) criticisms to follow, but a lot of people still like them a lot. (I did.)

On the sci-fi front, there's also Peter F. Hamilton's "Reality Dysfunction/Neutronium Alchemist" series, Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red/Green/Blue Mars" trilogy, and the Iain M. Banks "Culture" series.
posted by LairBob at 1:00 PM on December 2, 2004

Oh, and this previous AskMe thread might be of some use, as well.
posted by papercake at 1:01 PM on December 2, 2004

And one last thing: I'm a huge fan of the Thomas Covenant Books (the new one in the "Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" is just out, btw LairBob), and your hubby may like that quite a bit -- it's a very Tolkien-esque world.

And now, I will shut up.

For a while.
posted by papercake at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2004

Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.
posted by jazon at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2004

Pratchett's Discworld novels.

Banks' Culture novels, but they'll be harder to find in the US.

MacLeod's "Fall Revolution" novels, and then his "second sphere" novels.

Varley's "Eight Worlds" novels and collections; Steel Beach is probably the place to start.


RGB Mars + The Martians.

Niven's "Known Space" series of books and collections.

I gotta be Mr. Cranky Pants and anti-recommend a couple of things here:

First, Ender's Game is good, but the serious drops *far* downhill after the sequel. I mean seriously loopy awful.

Second, Xanth. Um. Sure, the first couple are light fun. But the next couple start getting tedious, and by 4 or 5 into this endless stream of books, you're well into Anthony's creepy obsession with little girls revealing their panties. I'd just read the Discworld novels instead; similarly light but *much much* smarter and a distinct absence of barely-latent pedophilia.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2004

Yeah, regarding the Ender books, I really, really liked Ender's Game, but I thought that Speaker for the Dead (the second in the series) was one of the best sci-fi books I've ever read. Xenocide (the third) was also pretty good, but the last one, Children of the Mind totally punted on just about every front. Really disappointing.

Another really solid series that doesn't seem to have been mentioned yet--Dan Simmon's "Hyperion" series. Really talented writer.
posted by LairBob at 1:37 PM on December 2, 2004

jazon beat me to Thursday Next. Excellent series.

Also, I still believe Stephen King's Dark Tower epic is extremely good, especially now that the final book has been released. [both sites flash]
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2004

I'll contradict the contrarians: while the initial sequels to Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mindare increasingly super-boring, the recent Ender's Shadow and Shadow of the Hegemon are pretty involving.

But I'll throw in a contrarian perspective on the Pullman series: the first book The Golden Compass is terrific, the second book The Subtle Knife is entertaining, and the third book The Amber Spyglass just falls apart completely with his worlds and characters suddenly evincing arbitrary new rules and behaviors.

I think the Iain M. Banks "Culture" books are great - they're not quite a series maybe, in that there's no clear timeline or story arc. They're science fiction but set so far in the future that the new technologies are essentially magical, and the characters include god-like artificial intelligences and alien races as diverse as fantasy creatures.

Ooh, he'd like Roger Zelazny's Princes in Amber series. They share the "ordinary human from our world is really an important hero in another magical world" Narnia/Pullman/Covenant/&c. trope, but they are well-imagined and beautifully written.
posted by nicwolff at 2:04 PM on December 2, 2004

I'll second or third or whatever Pratchett's Discworld novels. They are hilarious but most of them have a decent plot too. No need to read them in order (there are several subseries within the complete series), yet you get more out of them if you do. "The Truth" or his latest "Going Postal" are both good starters.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2004

Pratchett's discworld novels are pretty much the only books that my wife and I will both re-read repeatedly, without even that long of a break in-between readings.

Fforde's Thursday Next novels are fun as well.
posted by tdismukes at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2004

The Complete Book of Swords and The Lost Books of Swords the First, Second and Third Triads - Fred Saberhagen

And I second most of the above, especially Dan Simmons and Tad Williams.
posted by kamylyon at 2:44 PM on December 2, 2004

[The good thing about having 100 or so suggestions is that even if your husband does read the postings he, he'll still have no idea what you intend to do.]

You might consider going to the library and checking out the first book in (say) six or seven different series. Your husband can read the first 30 pages of so each, and tell you what he thinks - and then you can get the rest of whatever series he likes.

And, since no one has mentioned them yet, I'll put in a plug for two science fiction (not fantasy, though) series that I really, really like:

C.J. Cherryh's Chanur series

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan set of stories.
posted by WestCoaster at 3:18 PM on December 2, 2004

I personally love China Mieville. The Scar and Perdido Street Station are a series of, so far as I know, two.

The Iron Council is the third book in that series, and just came out this summer. I haven't had the chance to read it yet, unfortunately, but the other two are great. Mieville is the best world-builder I've read since Frank Herbert.
posted by malaprohibita at 3:26 PM on December 2, 2004

Has he read Ringworld? What about Foreigner?
posted by willnot at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2004

extra votes for:
- frank herbert's dune series (except god-emperor which is dull, but kind of necessary to understand what's going on later; also avoid the later stuff by his son)
- iain banks culture series
- gene wolfe's book of the new sun
posted by juv3nal at 5:17 PM on December 2, 2004

Eh, it's not a series (yet) but I found Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Joanna Clarke to be a great story. She apparently is going to write a sequel, but the first took her ten years, so who knows.

I am currently midway through the first book (Hominids) in the Neanderthal Parallax series by Robert J. Sawyer. It's pretty good so far. It won a Hugo award in 2003, and I guess that's supposed to mean something.
posted by bDiddy at 7:33 PM on December 2, 2004

Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy plus the Second Foundation. And James Blish's Cities In Flight.
posted by Lynsey at 8:33 PM on December 2, 2004

Susan Cooper - The Dark is Rising Series is one of the best youth fantasy series ever - a modern Narnia.

I would also third, fourth, etc Terry Pratchett - not only are his Discworld novels brilliant and lately often touching satire, but there are now over 25 of them, which should keep your husband busy for at least a short time.
posted by jb at 8:45 PM on December 2, 2004

Philip Pullman said (in last week's TimeOut:London #1788 p155) that the "fifth and final book about Lyra" will be called The Book of Dust. (The fourth book is Lyra's Oxford which has a short-story and a few things related to Lyra's world.)

Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony should appeal to fantasy readers. It approaches Greek myths by throwing light onto certain themes and collecting variant endings.
posted by kbibb at 12:55 AM on December 3, 2004

Would definitely go for Pullman's Dark Materials. Also Pratchett's Discworld series is a fun read.

Don''t think anyone has mentioned Raymond E. Fiest books. Magician is a great book and kicks of the Riftwar series

bDiddy - about a third of the way through Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel. After getting over the slightly strange writing style am really enjoying now.
posted by lloyder at 3:00 AM on December 3, 2004

Also, The Sparrow is a good book (not a series), by Mary Doria Russell (or something similar).

And CS Lewis has some other good series (serieses?) and standalone books. Depending on what you're looking for, there's the Space Trilogy.
posted by Alt F4 at 11:37 AM on December 3, 2004

sparrow has a sequel! children of god? something like that. man those were interesting books.

lloyder - i really enoyed the writing style. Took a bit to get my head into it, but once i did i loved it. footnotes are an odd way to give me background info.
posted by bDiddy at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2004

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