Like Doctor Who, but in book form?
June 14, 2011 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Pulpy, plot-driven pageturners for the picky person.

Summer reading suggestions: I want them. Bonus points if available on Kindle.

Lately everyone I exchange book recommendations with has been pretty squarely in the sci fi / fantasy end of fiction, so a rundown of what I've liked recently will fall in that vein.

Love the Dresden Files and the Locke Lamora books by Scott Lynch. Like Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels and Brandon Sanderson's stuff, but not as much - I appreciate a well thought out setting, but I'm really there for the plot and characters as opposed to the world-building. We have a lot of Pratchett sitting around the house too; while it's great, it's not what I'm looking for in the "plot-driven pageturner" sense. My usual sources have deemed me too picky, so I'm turning to you. Please don't feel constrained by genre; I guess I'm really looking for things that read fast, fun and clever, but make me fear for
the protagonists a bit because I like them too much. Hope me, MeFi?
posted by deludingmyself to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever read "Dream Park" by Niven and Barnes? I couldn't put it down. In fact, when I finished it I immediately read it again.

The characters are very engaging, and there's definitely tension and fear. (Among other things, it's a murder mystery.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:56 PM on June 14, 2011

Just looking over what I've read this past year, I'd suggest ...

Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
Joe Abercrombie, Best Served Cold
Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:58 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy Joe Abercrombie's "First Law Trilogy" which starts with The Blade Itself
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:58 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you like Soctt Lynch, you should read his progenitor: The Chronicles of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber. The first ones are great, only "Farewell to Lankhmar" is truly shit.

In terms of plot-driven page turners, I personally think it's hard to go past Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy - even more so than the Assasin's these books are built on a rollicking plot and characters that change a lot over the course of the books.

Dresden Files analogue might be the Garrett P.I books, by Glen Cook - private eye in fantasy world. These are a little more flip than the Dresden books I believe, but Cook doesn't shy away from the realities of so many different races (elves etc) living together in a city. He has a class awareness I really respond to. They are very light.

The Garth Nix Abhorsen trilogy, though young adult has a cracker of a plot and some truly endearing characters. I enjoyed these a lot.
posted by smoke at 11:00 PM on June 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

What about the Hunger Games? It's one of those unputdownable books that everyone finishes at 4am. I think every single chapter ends with a sentence that makes the reader scream "WTF???????!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Plus, sequels!
posted by acidic at 11:09 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You might like the Sjowall and Wahloo series of mysteries.
posted by ambient2 at 11:15 PM on June 14, 2011

Have you considered any pulp fiction? I would suggest Jim Thompson's "The Killer Inside Me."
posted by Gilbert at 11:24 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dresden Files analogue might be the Garrett P.I books, by Glen Cook - private eye in fantasy world. These are a little more flip than the Dresden books I believe, but Cook doesn't shy away from the realities of so many different races (elves etc) living together in a city. He has a class awareness I really respond to. They are very light.

The Garrett PI books, at least the ones I read, aren't really all that great at keeping you interested. It's much better in concept than in practice, since it's pretty much a predictable noir schtick but made a bit irrelevant by the various magical beasties and amazingly helpful people from Garrett's past who are always ready to step in to deus ex machina the plot.

His Black Company series, though, is irresistible. The whole evolving-traveling-mercenary-band dynamic gives it an inherent propulsiveness that makes it impossible to stop reading, at least for me.
posted by nasreddin at 11:28 PM on June 14, 2011

If you like Soctt Lynch, you should read his progenitor: The Chronicles of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber. The first ones are great, only "Farewell to Lankhmar" is truly shit.

I was going to suggest that too.

The Dragera Series by Stephen Brust.

Simon R Green's Nightside books are like The Dresden Files

and of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct books. just really good police procedurals. pulpy and fast. same goes for anything by Elmore Leonard.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:36 PM on June 14, 2011

Have you read any Elizabeth Moon? Both her fantasy and space opera series are character-driven and well-plotted.
posted by equivocator at 11:40 PM on June 14, 2011

Go for non-fiction!

Charlie Wilson's War is an uber favorite of mine, total page-turner. In the same vein, The King Of California blew my mind and enlightened me!

I think I share your taste in fiction. Both of these books can be picked up for pennies on

Think about expanding your criteria, you can't go wrong!
posted by jbenben at 11:55 PM on June 14, 2011

I found Kelley Armstrong's series of fantasy books trashily addictive and very plot-driven. They start with Bitten which is about werewolves, but later books include witches, demons, vampires and all sorts.
posted by *becca* at 12:24 AM on June 15, 2011

If you want to go for trashily addictive what-happens-next fantasy I don't think you can easily beat the first five Amber books by Zelazny.

Dune is also exactly in that vein.

I would not pin Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar stories as "plot-driven pageturners" really. They're more about character and humor and language – the plots are either fairly predictable or, in the case of the novel, some of the loopiest shit you'll ever run across (in a fairly good way). They're good though.

I always recommend Alexandre Dumas for people who want to read high-brow lowbrow novels that make you go "wheee" when you read them. So pulpy and melodramatic and fun.
posted by furiousthought at 12:41 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm reading and enjoying Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union - alt history noir rather than fantasy, but a damn good page-turner. The Anubis Gates is also great.
posted by Paragon at 12:59 AM on June 15, 2011

You say I shouldn't feel restrained by genre. I read a lot of weighty fiction.

But Lee Child's Jack Bauer Reacher series is my guilty pleasure.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 1:10 AM on June 15, 2011

The Kimg of California is so not a page-turner. Good, however!

I'm enjoying the new Ann Patchett, State of Wonder. It doesn't exactly do that super-suspense-can't-stop-reading-for-one-second thing, but it has enough suspense that you do want to keep moving along.
posted by salvia at 2:00 AM on June 15, 2011

Lately, I've been really enjoying Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novels.

I bought an omnibus edition with The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely and The Long Goodbye - they manage to be both literary and extremely compelling, with dense but pacey plots that suck you in and keep you reading. And the noirish atmosphere of 40s-50s LA is a fantastic setting.
posted by Ted Maul at 2:19 AM on June 15, 2011

Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, particularly anything from the Vorkosigan Saga.
posted by emilyw at 2:35 AM on June 15, 2011

You might try Mira Grant's zombie-politics-blogging Newsflesh trilogy (Feed, Deadline, Blackout to come) or her alter-ego Seanan McGuire's October Daye books (similar to Dresden Files).

In my opinion, the Grant books are more the keep-you-up-until-2AM pageturners and the McGuire books are the fun, fast reads but her elaborate plotting and worldbuilding are very good at capturing and holding the reader's attention in both series.
posted by miratime at 4:40 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

The first thing that comes to mind when you say "pulpy, plot-driven pageturners" is the Hawk and Fisher series by Simon R. Green. Wikipedia's synopsis is pretty good: "Hawk and Fisher are a husband and wife team on the City Guard, an order which functions rather like our modern police force in a fantasy world of mixed Medieval, Renaissance and Industrial Revolution stylings. They live in the port city of Haven, a city-state so corrupt that they can justly make the claim of being the only Guards who have never taken a bribe or looked the other direction. They deal with everything from pick-pockets to wide-scale destructive magic."

If you do go for those, I'd suggest reading the first six, then the apparently unrelated Blue Moon Rising, and only then move onto the seventh, "Beyond the Blue Moon".

Aside from that, free-association from Jim Butcher brings me to the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey, which is an urban fantasy series set in London; and that in turn brings me to the Bryant & May series by Christopher Fowler, an immensely readable series of detective novels with a hint of the supernatural, also set in London.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:38 AM on June 15, 2011

I've asked something like this previously. There is a glut of Magical Detectives on the market right now, so you can take your pick. The danger, of course, is that thanks to self-publishing on the Kindle, you can never be too sure that you're not downloading some really shaky work of fanfition.

So here's what I've found so far on Kindle:

- Mike Carey's Felix Castor (ghosts and the dead) is good.
- Simon R. Green's Nightside (magical alternate city in the heart of London) and Drood (James Bond meets druidic supermagic) series are okay in a beach reading sense.
- Thomas Sniegoski's Remy Chandler (angel PI)is shaping up pretty well.
- Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim (escapee from hell PI) books are also pretty noir.
- Charles Stross' Laundry (Lovecraftian James Bond with nerd tendencies) series is worthwhile, not just because he's a mefite.
- Mark Del Franco's Connor Grey (Druid PI down on his luck) has its moments.
- Tim Pratt's Marla Mason series is one of the rare series that features a female protagonist without a tribal back tattoo.
- Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt (Vampire PI) series has its supporters, but it never really clicked with me.
- Glen Cook's Garrett, PI (PI in a fantasy setting) is pretty hit or miss.

Outside of the Wizard Detective genre, totally seconding Chandler. Also consider Christoper Fowler's Bryant & May mystery series (two aging detectives solve for the Peculiar Crimes Unit in England, their cases usually involve delving into the city's forgotten history) is really fun. Fantasy-wise, I see Black Company mentioned, which I second. Also Joe Abercrombie's stuff, though I like his stand alone books better than the opening trilogy in his setting. Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles is good.

If you are searching fantasy Kindle books, then no doubt David Daglish has come up. Avoid at all costs unless you enjoy reading about some dude's D&D campaign, and even then be warned that it's the sort of D&D game chock full of super-awesome NPCs who never let the PCs do stuff.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:52 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Depending on how you feel about space opera scifi, you might enjoy Stephen Donaldson's Gap Cycle. It's based on Der Ring des Nibelungen and is really, really intensely character driven. It's also extremely violent, both physically and emotionally, and has no end of trauma triggers, but it is a seriously good read nonetheless.
posted by elizardbits at 6:13 AM on June 15, 2011

A selection of things that I've read that are fast, fun and clever...

Bad Monkeys (2007) by Matt Ruff
Beat the Reaper (2009) by Josh Bazell
The Breach (2009) by Patrick Lee
The Consciousness Plague (2002) by Paul Levinson
Darwin's Blade (2000) by Dan Simmons
Draculas (2010) by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson
The Eyre Affair (2001) by Jasper Fforde
Headcrash (1995) by Bruce Bethke
The Hellfire Club (1996) by Peter Straub
The Legacy of Heorot (1987) by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes
Signal to Noise (1998) by Eric Nylund
The Ultimate Rush (1998) by Joe Quirk

It looks all of the post-2001 titles are on Kindle. Also, it appears Joe Quirk has re-released The Ultimate Rush for $2.99 on Kindle which is a very good deal.
posted by dgeiser13 at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good Intentions by Elliott Kay is on Kindle. I'd call it character-driven moreso than plot-driven, as the characters drive the plot, but there's great character development. If you like Dresden Files, it's up much the same alley (urban fantasy set in Seattle). Warning: it's got a significant dose of strong sexual content. Not as much as a Laurel K. Hamilton, but sex is a meaningful chunk of the story.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:25 AM on June 15, 2011

fast, fun and clever, but make me fear for
the protagonists a bit because I like them too much

Try Dave Duncan. Especially his Man of the Word and The Seventh Sword books.
posted by jefftang at 10:58 AM on June 15, 2011

(Forgot to mention: Good Intentions is written by a MeFite. :) )
posted by scaryblackdeath at 11:20 AM on June 15, 2011

Thanks everyone for the many suggestions. Please look forward to my question next week, working title: "AskMeFi gave me a list of 127 books to read, where do I start?"

I'll leave the question open for additional comments and try to remember to report back in with some feedback.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:58 PM on June 15, 2011

Both my husband and I read the same copies of the Hunger Games trilogy in right around one week. By which I mean there was just one copy of each book, and I commute so the book was with one or the other of us for 12 hrs a day, and we still both finished all three books in approximately 7 days. I was surprised it wasn't faster. I think you will find them very enjoyable.

Other than that, I am mostly taking notes in this thread! I think the last time I did this with a book was Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie, but it was a while ago and I don't remember it well enough to be sure if this fits your other criteria.
posted by librarina at 7:04 PM on June 15, 2011

I kept this tab open to add to my own lists and I just thought of something:
The Avery Cates series by Jeffery Somers. I've read the first two and they're really good. The third is sitting on my shelf, mocking me, waiting until I get through my current pile of books.

Also, another vote for Mike Carey and Charles Stross.
posted by Hactar at 6:43 AM on June 16, 2011

Just wanted to second Mira Grant / Seanan McGuire. But be warned that the Newsflesh trilogy only has 2 books out so far, the second of which just came out a couple of weeks ago and leaves off on a pretty big cliffhanger. So if you're the type of person who can't stand to wait a year for the conclusion, then don't read this series until the last book comes out. (But do read it then, because it's fantastic.)
posted by ashirys at 1:23 PM on June 16, 2011

I found this on Kindle and it's pretty good. Straight up pulpy action. Looks like he might've been trying to capitalize on Marvel's Thor, but still it was fun.
posted by Max McCarty at 1:58 PM on June 17, 2011

Nthing The Hunger Games and The Eyre Affair (and their sequels).

I think you might like pretty much anything by Sheri S. Teller, too. Definite page turners with great dialogue and always, always a twisty surprise at the end. For my money the best Tepper experiences are...

The Gate to Women's Country (though this is not light beach reading)

Raising the Stones, Grass, and Sideshow, in that order

The Family Tree

posted by kostia at 11:37 PM on June 19, 2011

Ugh, that's Sheri Tepper, not Teller. Stupid autocorrect thinking it's smart.
posted by kostia at 11:38 PM on June 19, 2011

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