What sci-fi or fantasy books should I read next?
September 10, 2015 7:28 PM   Subscribe

I recently started reading a bit of sci-fi and fantasy books - these genres are new to me and I'd like to read more. I've especially enjoyed time travel books. The challenging part for me is that I'm an impatient and/or lazy reader. If a book doesn't grab me from the beginning, I just can't bring myself to keep reading. So - what fantasy or sci-fi book (or series) do you think I would enjoy?

I'm LOVING the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss but am about to finish book 2 and am ready for my next book soon. I'd love to try another fantasy or sci-fi book (or series) but not sure what to try next. The list of books I've tried and lost interest in is about as long as the list of books I've read - I probably give up on 2-3 books every time I look for something new.

What do you recommend? Thanks for any recommendations.

Some sci-fi / fantasy books I've enjoyed recently:

- Harry Potter
- Kingkiller Chronicles 1-2 (Rothfuss)
- Ender's Game (Card)
- Time and Again (Finney)
- The Night Circus (Morgenstern)
- His Dark Materials 1-3 (Pullman)
- The Time Traveler's Wife (Niffenegger)
- First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (North)
- The Martian (Weir) just OK
- Ready Player One (Cline) - just OK

A pretty complete list of books I've read is here on Goodreads.

Note: I'm not interested in humor (Hitchhiker's Guide, Discworld, etc.).
posted by kdern to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (59 answers total) 89 users marked this as a favorite
Red Rising.

It's going to be huge and the sequel is out. Third and final will be out soon. Starts a little slow, I guess. Then it is anything but. The sequel is actually better IMO. They have 4.5/4.7 out of 5 stars with over a thousand reviews each so... this is the book you'll see everyone reading in airports in 5 years just like GOT.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:36 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Robin Hobb's Assassin Books! In the vein of Kingkiller but I think they are better written-I love them so much.
posted by purenitrous at 7:37 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester is essentially a space version of The Count of Monte Cristo. Marooned in outer space after an attack on his ship, Nomad, Gulliver Foyle lives to obsessively pursue the crew of a rescue vessel that had intended to leave him to die. But there's more to it than that, and there's a reason many people insist it's a an all-time classic of the genre. It's a rip-roaring story chockablock with insane ideas: an asteroid populated with a tattooed cult, an entirely dark underground prison whose guards navigate by infrared, etc. It's pretty much wall-to-wall big, exciting ideas, all driven by a fiery revenge story.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:38 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you don't mind some blood and grimness with your fantasy, check out Joe Abercrombie.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Based on the Harry Potter listing:

The Magicians series.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. One of my all time favorite books.
posted by NoMich at 7:40 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Iain M. Banks' Culture series (it's more a set of relatively disconnected stories set in the same universe, so IMHO you don't have to read them all in order or anything).
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 7:48 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Some of Niven's short stories (particularly the "Known Space" ones might appeal to you. The problem is you're going to have to hunt for some of it:


With the exception of the Ringworld stuff, it's like the Culture series readable in most any order.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:50 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: You've already hit one of the best with Rothfuss. Look into Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series, beginning with the Lies of Locke Lamora. Haven't read them all, but enjoyed the first 3.
posted by Sweet Dee Kat at 7:51 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Lock In by John Scalzi got me right away. Sci fi / mystery, not fantasy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:53 PM on September 10, 2015

I am also a pretty easily distracted reader and I was so gripped by The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison that I was sneaking glances at it while out to dinner with friends. There actually is very little action, but the story and characters are extremely compelling and the pace moves along at a good clip.

It's a political thriller disguised as a fantasy novel, set in an Industrial Revolution-esque setting (but with elves and goblins), which tells the story of a young man who unexpectedly inherits the throne after living a very isolated life as the unwanted half-goblin fourth son of the emperor. The plot deals with his adjustment to life at court and understanding the political machinations of the empire, as well as the investigation of the murder of the emperor and his heirs.
posted by capricorn at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far. Space books are seeming unappealing to me - I think Ender's Game and The Martian may have been a fluke.

How is Game of Thrones? Anything like any of the books I've read?
posted by kdern at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2015

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic, by Emily Croy Barker
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:55 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: So far these recommendations are looking interesting:

Assassin's Apprentice (book 1) - Robin Hobb
The Magicians (book 1) - Grossman
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Clarke
The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) - Scott Lynch

Kindle samples are on their way... keep the suggestions coming. Thank you!
posted by kdern at 7:57 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you like time travel books, you should probably try something from Connie Willis's Oxford Time Travel series..
posted by Redstart at 8:04 PM on September 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

For time travel, definitely Connie Willis -
To Say Nothing of the Dog
Doomsday Book

For fantasy (and a favorite of Rothfuss's)
Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn
posted by Mchelly at 8:06 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Are you okay with horror in your fantasy? I push Clive Barker's Weaveworld on people a lot.
posted by ELind at 8:07 PM on September 10, 2015

Snow Crash's opening lines:

The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory. He's got esprit up to here. Right now, he is preparing to carry out his third mission of the night. His uniform is black as activated charcoal, filtering the very light out of the air. A bullet will bounce off its arachnofiber weave like a wren hitting a patio door, but excess perspiration wafts through it like a breeze through a freshly napalmed forest, Where his body has bony extremities, the suit has sintered armorgel: feels like gritty jello, protects like a stack of telephone books.

Spoiler alert: He's delivering pizza.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:10 PM on September 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Game of Thrones (the book series is better known as A Song of Ice and Fire or ASOIAF) is the same subgenre, epic fantasy, as Rothfuss. I think you'd probably like it; at least give the first book a try.

If you like/don't mind politics and little overt magic, I wholeheartedly recommend Guy Gavriel Kay's historical fantasy novels. My favorites are The Lion of Al-Rassan (standalone), Tigana (standalone, more magic than usual), and Sailing to Sarantium / Lord of Emperors (duology). Kay's writing style is closer to Morgenstern than Rothfuss (caveat being I have not read Pat Rothfuss, only glimpsed).

You said you don't like space, but please consider reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I like fantasy more than SF (prefer character-driven over science-driven SF) and it was the best SF book I've read in years.
posted by serelliya at 8:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Too late, but there it is.
posted by Mblue at 8:24 PM on September 10, 2015

You might really like The Chronicles of Amber, a 1970s fantasy series about the royal ruling family of the multiverse and their struggles against each other and the forces of chaos. It's a lot of fun, and also great context for many of the fantasy books that came after.

And definitely, definitely check out Connie Willis. To Say Nothing of the Dog is well-written time travel and it's also HILARIOUS.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:24 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

CJ Cherryh - the Morgaine books (first one is Gate of Ivrel) are wonderful, as is the Chanur series
posted by Sebmojo at 8:47 PM on September 10, 2015

Steven Brust's Jhereg series starts with an assassination. It gets more engrossing from there. Fun relatively light fantasy, well worth a read.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:50 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

The best time travel story I've ever read is "Downtiming the Nightside" by Jack Chalker.

The logic is totally tight, which is rare for time travel stories.

(However, I should warn you that a lot of people think that Chalker's stories are mysogynist. That's because most of his main characters are women and fate tends to shit on them.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:08 PM on September 10, 2015

Ancillary Justice is spacey, but it's about colonialism, and relationships, and love, and perspectives. Not space battles.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series is also a touch spacey, but is, at turns, about love, identities, politics, fathers, and war, and veers from love story to bildungsroman to space opera to detective story to romantic drama and then romantic comedy. Highly recommended.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:11 PM on September 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For time travel you MUST read The Man In The Empty Suit:

"Wearying of endless visits to the myriad points of human history, a time traveler attends his own one-hundredth birthday celebration every year with other versions of himself and encounters in his thirty-ninth year his murdered forty-year-old body, a situation that compels him to prevent his own death."

it was amazing. I love time travel novels. I think it was better than the Time Traveller's Wife (also, don't see the movie. the book was so much better)
posted by GuyZero at 9:13 PM on September 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're a time travel fan, you must read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. Slightly surreal, but classic and unique.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:19 PM on September 10, 2015

Another time travel suggestion, with fantasy elements and much more (romantic poets! sinister sorcerous clowns underneath London! body-stealing werewolves!) thrown in: The Anubis Gates

By the same author -- Last Call -- poker, magic, and a struggle to become the archetypal Fisher King of the American west.

Also, strongly seconding the recommendation near the start of this thread for "The Stars My Destination."
posted by Nerd of the North at 9:31 PM on September 10, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't mind some blood and grimness with your fantasy, check out Joe Abercrombie.

Seconded! I really enjoyed The First Law books though afterwards I was a bit worn out on grim stuff and had to switch to lighter books for a while. Definitely some gristle in his stuff.

I wholeheartedly recommend Guy Gavriel Kay's historical fantasy novels.

Also Seconded! I'd consider avoiding The Fionavar Tapestry to start and try something like A Song for Arbonne (which is my favourite) or The Lions of Al-Rassan (a close second). If those grab you, then you'll eventually make your way to the trilogy which I don't think is quite as good, but is still definitely worth reading if you're a fan.

Also, I've just read the Mistborn trilogy from Brandon Sanderson and I really enjoyed his different take on magic in fantasy.
posted by ODiV at 9:37 PM on September 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am not a huge sci-if/fantasy person but have read and liked most of the books on your list. You might also like the interesting and engaging Last Policeman series by Ben Winters.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:56 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: Seconding Mistborn Trilogy. The first 3 are out, followed by a stand-alone novel set a century or more after the first books, and another trilogy (featuring the characters and setting of the stand-alone) is in the works. I'm not usually a fantasy reader-- I usually avoid it like the plague, but this one came strongly recommended (from a guy who is also crazy for the Kingkiller Chronicles). Its take on magic is incredibly creative, and you'll find your alliances changing as new facts are revealed from book to book.

Strongly seconding Iain Banks's novels, both Culture and non-. There is a tiny bit of continuity: you must read "Use of Weapons" before reading either the novelette "The State of the Art" or "Surface Detail." "The State of the Art" is the account of a supporting character from "Use," and the connection between the other novels I dare not reveal. But you can hardly do better than to read them in publication order, which AFAIK is also rough chronological order.

Some required reading, IMO, for Time Travel afficionados, would be Heinlein's "All You Zombies" and (Mefite cstross) Charles Stross's "Palimpsest."

I'm a big fan of "The Armageddon Blues" by Daniel Keys Moran; evidently he's got a cult following, but I can't say I've met anyone else who read him, and I only bumbled into this book, but it has stuck with me. It's set across a few timelines, pre- and post-nuclear-apocalypse.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:03 PM on September 10, 2015

Best answer: Recommending The Accidental Time Machine and The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. The former is more entertaining and clearly fits the description of what you're looking for, but the later is a far better story.
posted by kbar1 at 10:12 PM on September 10, 2015

I recently read Just One Damned Thing After Another, by Jodi Taylor, and quite enjoyed it. It's the first in a series (Chronicles of St. Mary's) about a group of historians who travel back in time to do first-hand research on various time periods.

The publisher's blurb is a little misleading ("Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary's Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History")--it looks like it might be a lighthearted romp, but it's actually fairly dark with the occasional moment of humour. I thought it was pretty clever and well-written.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:21 PM on September 10, 2015

Nthing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's quite good.
posted by builderofscience at 12:28 AM on September 11, 2015

If you enjoy Rothfuss then you might also enjoy Brandon Sanderson and Brent Weeks, they have similar pacing - immediate, movie-like, grabbers.

Rothfuss gets a bit of side eye from me for not dealing with female characters terribly well but earns points for good pacing. I read Kingkiller so far as being Harry Potter with more sex, if you didnt read Potter yet, give it a go!

To counteract the boys mentioned I would recommend Lois McMaster Bujold and Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire as writers who grab you. I also enjoyed the Robin Hobb I've read.
posted by Ness at 1:00 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Robert Jackson Bennett - City of Stairs
China Miéville - Railsea
posted by neushoorn at 1:37 AM on September 11, 2015 [4 favorites]

Elric of Melniboné (1972) by Michael Moorcock
posted by ServSci at 3:40 AM on September 11, 2015

Kim Stanley Robinson - Red/Blue/Green Mars
posted by PenDevil at 3:55 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

Diana Gabaldon's series. Massive epic books, well drawn characters, and covers several genres; time travel, adventure, historical fiction..highly recommended!
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:16 AM on September 11, 2015

2 very different series:

- the last policeman trilogy is a light read, but the premise is interesting and it does the detective tropes pretty well

- the vorkosigan saga by Lois mc master bujold is must read sci fi - start with Cordelia's Honour and keep going.
posted by motdiem2 at 4:52 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think Jonathan Strange & Norell is hard to get into at the beginning if you're not a fan of the Jane Austen style. I loved it but OP wants an instant attentiin grabber.

OP, if you are interested in urban fantasy I recommend A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin. Modern day magic, graffiti and evildoers. In the same vein, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (but I think Griffin is better - heresy!)
posted by Omnomnom at 5:30 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes to:
Guy Gavriel Kay - I love The Lions of al'Rassan best, but Tigana and The Song of Arbonne are also fantastic. Bonus points for (mostly) decently realized female characters.

Robin Hobb - Oh Robin Hobb. I love her Farseer trilogy a ton. The world-building is interesting and the protagonist manages to be interesting despite being a colossal fuck-up. I mean, colossal. If you like flawed characters, this is the series for you.

Robin McKinley - Some of her books will come across as young adult, but don't let that deter you. The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword are set in the same universe and both have fantastic female protagonists. The Blue Sword is chronologically first, I think. My favorite, however, is Sunshine, which is about vampires and supernatural creatures that are actually creepy and horrifying...and baking. By which I mean that the protagonist is a baker. The only downside to the book is that you'll probably get hungry for the stuff that she makes.
posted by ashirys at 6:30 AM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

nthing Brandon Sanderson
Guy Gavriel Kay's work is of a fantasy/historical fiction sort. Tigana is probably a good place to start.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy and The Stand by Stephen King are kinda sci-fiish I suppose?
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
posted by backwards guitar at 6:45 AM on September 11, 2015

Best answer: I just read A Canticle for Leibowitz (Miller) and thought it was great. It's about a future dark age where the culture that has survived is working from artifacts from the 1960's instead of from Greek and Roman civilizations.

I also loved Who Fears Death (Okorafor). It's set in a post-apocalyptic Africa with a fantastic teenage girl protagonist.

I agree with Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Connie Willis, and Mistborn. For Game of Thrones, I do think you might like it. I kind of forget that it is fantasy as it seems much more like historical fiction with lots of characters political schemes and intrigues than magic.
posted by carolr at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and Brent Weeks Night Angle trilogy.

Also take a look at Richard Morgan. I'm thinking specifically of The Steel Remains and sequels, which are on the fantasy end of the spec fic spectrum. But I also really enjoyed what I've read of his sci fi flavored stuff (Altered Carbon, Thirteen).
posted by that's candlepin at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2015

The Hyperion series by Dan Simmons. Great sci-fi series w/ interesting take on time.
posted by Constant Reader at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Curse of Chalion by Louis McMaster Bujold. She also does scifi, which is excellent, but if you're looking to avoid spaceships, Chalion and Paladin of Souls, the sequel, are amazing.

Also, how do you feel about urban fantasy? Both Seannan MacGuire's Toby Day books and Robin McKinnley's Sunshine are worth a read.
posted by Hactar at 10:47 AM on September 11, 2015

It's an older time travel theme book, but I would recommend Roger Zelazny's Roadmarks.

I also recommend the Queen's Thief series of Megan Whalen Turner.
posted by gudrun at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2015

Best answer: You should check out Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I could not put it down. One of my favorite books I've read this year.


Vurt by Jeff Noon.

Sewer, Gas and Electric by Matt Ruff (he's one of my favorites and his book Set This House In Order is wonderful, but is kind of a hard read).

Also Nthing The Magicians (another book I yell about a lot) and Jonathan Strange (but also read Clarke's book The Ladies Of Grace Adieu because it is also really wonderful).

I'm also a HUGE fan of Max Gladstone (start with Three Parts Dead) and am going to start Updraft by Fran Wilde this weekend.

Books! They are awesome! I can't wait to see what everyone else suggests!
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:00 PM on September 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you're at all interested in dystopian sci-fi, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood completely grabbed me. It's told non-linearly, which made it much more compelling for me. (I wasn't a huge fan of the two sequels, though.)

I see you've already gotten some Robin Hobb recommendations, but I also wanted to mention the Dragon Keeper trilogy, I personally liked them better than the Assassins series.

I read them a really long time ago, but the Magician trilogy by Raymond Feist is another beloved fantasy series.
posted by Safiya at 1:16 PM on September 11, 2015

You can never go wrong with some Philip K. Dick. Try The Man in the High Castle for alternate history fun (well, the book actually isn't that fun, but it's damn good.)

Another recommendation for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell--one of the best novels I've ever read. Just thinking about it is making me want to read it again.

A Canticle for Liebowitz and The Handmaid's Tale are also good.

Basically, I'm giving you the sci-fi titles in my collection that don't have anything to do with space. It's a short list, because I love space. You could always give the Foundation series a try.
posted by Automocar at 1:20 PM on September 11, 2015

Many good recommendations above, I would echo re. Scott Lynch and Guy Gavriel Kay especially.

One author not yet mentioned is Julian May, who has a time travel framing at the core of her best know series (of series).

Start with the Saga of Pliocene Exile (The Many Coloured Land is the first) and if you like that move onto Intervention and then the Galactic Milieu trilogy.

These form an 8 part cycle of fantasy-tinged sci-fi set between 6 million years ago and the 22nd century. They have a wonderful Unity of plot and character straddling this timespan, and some folkoric and philosophical ideas in both their fantasy and their sci-fi that set them apart from anything else I've ever read.
posted by protorp at 1:50 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix.
posted by fings at 2:49 PM on September 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Blindsight by Peter Watts. It's good and it's free!
posted by Pendragon at 3:22 PM on September 11, 2015

Best answer: First, addressing prior suggestions:

Yes, you should definitely read A Game of Thrones and its sequels. Books 4 and 5 get kind of loose, but by then you'll be willing to forgive it. Prior to Rothfuss, I think ASOIAF was the best fantasy series going.

I still tend to think Tigana is Guy Kay's best book -- despite some unevenness (certain plotlines and characters are significantly better-written than others), it evokes way more Epic Feelz than his later stuff, without being as obviously derivative as Fionavar.

The Last Unicorn might be the most beautiful piece of prose you will ever read. Seriously.

As much as Scott Card, as a person, evokes my angry cat hiss, Speaker for the Dead is worth reading. Somewhat subtler and more adult than Ender's Game, and set on a planet surface (not in space). All the other sequels are pretty much beating a dead horse, though.

Absolutely The Sparrow, and the sequel Children of God.

Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy did some really impressive things with character. I haven't liked any of his other books nearly as much, but I do recommend those three (starting with The Blade Itself).

I'm betting you will *not* enjoy Stan Robinson's Mars trilogy. You have to be a pretty serious hard-science geek to get through them, and I find his characterization lacking.

It's been a loooong time since I read The Anubis Gates, so details are fuzzy, but I remember liking it, and Tim Powers is generally quite adept. So I'd second that recommendation if you're seeking time-travelish stuff. Also of note: The Stress of Her Regard, a fantasy novel starring Byron, Keats, and both Shelleys ...

Now, some new suggestions:

If you've never read Watership Down, (possibly because 'little fluffy bunnies') you are missing out on an amazing story.

Ken Liu has a new doorstop fantasy novel, The Grace of Kings, that's based on Chinese legend and aesthetics (he calls it 'silkpunk'). It's pretty darned good -- didn't supplant Rothfuss for me, but came close.

I notice that none of your listed books have strong female protagonists. If this is an oversight rather than a deliberate preference, I have these additions to offer:

Rae Carson is a relative newcomer; I was very much impressed with her Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Likewise, Rachel Hartman's Serafina and its sequel are quite excellent.

The Hunger Games trilogy is also worth reading.

Unlike the preceding three fantasy series, which all feature teenaged protagonists, the lush Our Lady of the Islands by Shannon Page has not one but two(!) forty-something women as main characters.
posted by orchidfox at 4:35 PM on September 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

woah, massive amounts of titles above! Go crazy!

I dunno, from what other people have said, I feel like G. R. R. Martin is not for you if you feel impatient or lazy... But by all means, give it a try - you might discover that you find thrill in reading pages upon pages of fantasy food descriptions. Anyways, everyone watches Game of Thrones, so.

Vonnegut is so much the oft-cited epitome of what you're looking for it has become a stereotype.

Oh damn I was gonna say Douglas Adams...

Also, you might find something to your liking in another recent question on fantasy recommendations.
posted by pos at 6:22 PM on September 11, 2015

Response by poster: Wow - thanks so much for all the recommendations. This should keep me going for quite a while.

Some of these books I don't feel properly ready for (vampires, goblins, necromancers, etc.) but there are many books here that I want to try.

For future MeFi readers, here are the books with the most recommendations:

- Mistborn Trilogy - Sanderson (6 people)
- Guy Gavriel Kay (6 people)
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Clarke (5 people)
- Oxford Time Travel Series - Connie Willis (4 people)
- Robin Hobb (4 people)
posted by kdern at 7:33 PM on September 11, 2015

OP, if you are interested in urban fantasy I recommend A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin.

... and Kate Griffin is also Claire North, so if you enjoyed Harry August, that's another reason to give A Madness of Angels a go.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:18 AM on September 12, 2015

Just wanted to add to the recommendations for Joe Abercrombie and Robin Hobb! Fantastic character development and world building in both, and they both grab the attention quickly.
posted by routergirl at 3:16 PM on September 16, 2015

Since no one has mentioned, I have to come recommend Lee and Miller's Liaden universe. The first published book was Agent of Change, which drops you right into the action. (also, free ebook!)

Their writing style assumes intelligence on the part of the reader - they don't explain, they just expect you to pick things up from context. A nice change.

There is some space stuff, but then there are entire books which take place on one planet. And some that take place on multiple planets, but don't actually describe any stuff in space.

I just think they're marvelous books and everyone who reads any science fiction at all should read them. The characters are wonderful, the universe is unique and interesting, and the plots are very engaging.
posted by timepiece at 9:58 AM on September 24, 2015

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