I liked Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. What else should I read?
January 28, 2013 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Help me fill my reading queue! I'm looking for engaging, character-driven fantasy/sci fi/speculative fiction books or series to read. The thing that grabbed me the most in the last year was Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. What else should I read?

Other authors I love include Rosemary Kirstein, Nicola Griffith, Guy Gavriel Kay.

I like both standalone books and series (though I prefer series that are complete, despite Kirstein's presence on this list). I lean toward female protagonists, or at least stories that pass the Bechdel test.

It's essential that I care about the characters and what happens to them, and preferable that I like them (or most of them) and want good things to happen. It's okay if a mix of good and bad things happen, as long as it's not all awful.

Authors people might recommend who I hate: China Mieville.
posted by spindrifter to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Walter Jon Williams's work might be of interest to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:59 AM on January 28, 2013

Jo Walton, whose work is always very different and very interesting.

Connie Willis is also terrific, if you haven't read her yet. Start at To Say Nothing of the Dog if you want fluffier, or Doomsday Book if you want more heartrending.
posted by pie ninja at 12:09 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, Kage Baker is terrific.
posted by pie ninja at 12:10 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Kingkiller Chronicles is excellent and finished although the final book has not been published yet.
posted by zug at 12:11 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood is post-apocalyptic, set in a dystopian future, and features two strong female protagonists (the book's chapters alternate between their points of view). Definitely passes the Bechdel test. I found these two protagonists very likable, and Atwood spends a lot of time making them well-rounded and providing us with a lot of background. I did not find the book a complete downer, though to be sure, bad things happen.

The book is billed as number two in a trilogy; you don't need to read the first one to enjoy this one, and in fact, given your criteria I'd recommend The Year of the Flood over the first one, Oryx and Crake. The third installment has not been published yet, but I will be reading it when it comes out.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:48 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lois McMaster Bujold describes her own work as primarily "character-driven", and I would definitely agree with this -- the plots really hinge on the characters and their reactions to their situation, their relationships.

If you prefer epic fantasy, I would start with The Curse of Chalion. She's most well known for her long running SF series, which has a couple of good start points: if you like a fair bit of action with your character-driven plots, then either Shards of Honor or The Warrior's Apprentice; if you want to delve right into a very interesting story character-story with some mystery, then Komarr is a very good book.

Her SF books are mostly from the point of view of her most popular male character, and may not always pass the Bechdel test (given that people tend to be talking to/interacting with him - Komarr is an exception in that there is also another POV character who is female), but they do have very good female characters. (I'm pretty sensitive to lack of female characters, but I've never noticed the lack in Bujold's work). Her fantasy novel, Paladin of Souls (the semi-sequel to Curse of Chalion), has a particularly strong female protagonist. Most of her books either stand on their own or are from a completed series.
posted by jb at 12:51 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would also really recommend Joan Vinge, especially her Snow Queen series, which reminds me a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay, for all that it is (nominally) SF rather than fantasy. You really get wrapped up in the characters' lives, even as there are world changing events around them, it's the characters that you care about and which ground the story.
posted by jb at 1:04 PM on January 28, 2013

If you like Rosemary Kirstein (and I LOVE!! her), you might enjoy the Elemental Logic series by Laurie J. Marks.
I think they were my favorite books I read last year.
posted by exceptinsects at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2013

Also Cavalcade by Alison Sinclair:"This interesting novel is set entirely on an alien spaceship. The book opens just as hundreds of thousands of humans have awakened from being transported from Earth to the ship. This was entirely voluntary: the aliens came and announced that they'd take anyone who wanted to go." (Rich Horton)

and The Dazzle of Day by Molly Gloss: "I sometimes read something and think “I’d have loved this when I was eleven.” I’d have hated The Dazzle of Day when I was eleven, it’s all about grown-ups, it has a lot of older women as significant characters, and while being on the generation starship is essential to everything, everything that’s important is internal. But I love it now for those very things. If there’s an opposite of a YA book, this is it." (Jo Walton)
posted by exceptinsects at 2:55 PM on January 28, 2013

The Kingkiller Chronicles is excellent and finished although the final book has not been published yet.

FYI, OP, The Kingkiller Chronicles (at least, the first book) absolutely does not pass the Bechdel test. Doesn't even get remotely close to it. Those books are very unlike The Long Price Quartet, imho, and enjoying the latter is definitely not a guarantee of enjoying the former.

I greatly enjoyed Paul Park's tragically overlooked Roumania Quartet, starting with A Princess of Roumania.

They are ostensibly young adult, though I doubt many YAs would be interested in them, far too allusive and mature. They are fabulous books with two amazing female lead characters, passes Bechdel with flying colours. I was so impressed with these books, they are very singular and highly recommended.
posted by smoke at 3:00 PM on January 28, 2013

smoke, I'm surprised to hear that you found gender treatment in The Kingkiller Chronicles problematic.

I found the series did a pretty good job of representing a wide variety of women in differing roles with fully developed characters and motivations. The second book certainly passes the formal Bechdel test, it features a city full of women who interact heavily, but even before that I never got the sense that women were cardboard cutouts waiting for a man to do something.

For example, the lead's main love interest is an independent woman who dates many men and refuses to get tied down (no doubt part of her mystique). Characters do touch at times upon stereotypes, but never in a way where they feel tied to those stereotypes.

Avoiding cardboard-cutout-woman is what (IMO) the Bechdel test is trying to get at. Here's a nice review outlining the treatment of gender in the series.
posted by zug at 4:32 PM on January 28, 2013

I'm not a fan of Rothkuss either, and loved the first book of Long Price.

My top suggestion is RA Macavoy, the Lense of the World series and the two books in Tea with a Black Dragon-beautifully written fantasy in which the protagonist is a middle aged woman.

posted by purenitrous at 8:02 PM on January 28, 2013

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