SciFi/Fantasy Filter: Taking theory into practice
February 6, 2017 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I've always liked the idea of SciFi and Fantasy books more than actually reading them. Is there a series for me?

I read a lot when I was younger, some of which was SciFi/Fantasy that I really enjoyed. I read and enjoyed the Redwall series, specifically the details and inventive world building, and the Animorphs series, specifically the inventiveness and spacecraft (in the chronicles books). I enjoyed the first two books of the Ender series and played through The Elder Scrolls Oblivion, enjoying the guild structure, the variety of climates and lands, and the lore. I've tried reading a few different series, but haven't had any luck getting immersed in them. These have included The Dragonbone Chair and The Book of the New Sun.

Can you recommend something for me? (My Goodreads profile is on my user page, if that helps at all)
posted by holmesian to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The Expanse series (first one: Leviathan Wakes) is a good place to start. They're big space opera books but actually have well drawn characters and are easy and fun to read.
posted by something something at 11:29 AM on February 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sounds like you'd dig some fast-paced stuff.

I picked up The Belgariad in my late 20's (many folks read it younger than that) and flew thru the five books in the series and the 5 in the sequel. Great stuff!
posted by hardlikealgebra at 11:35 AM on February 6, 2017

maybe the hyperion cantos by dan simmons.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:38 AM on February 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have heard from several people that Mouse Guard reminds them of Redwall, though it's a fantasy comic rather than novel.

Series with amazing world building and inventiveness:

Max Gladstone's The Craft Sequence
N. K. Jemisin The Inheritance Trilogy (I've heard amazing things about The Broken Earth, but haven't read it yet)
Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastard series
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:10 PM on February 6, 2017

The sci-fi/fantasy you already have on your to-reads is on the whole pretty good, I think you should start there, here's some selected picks that I think are extremely readable, crossing some different styles and eras: Based on your goodreads profile, for the love of anything, definite no on xanth. Also, in general I wouldn't really suggest that epic fantasy is a good place to start, I think many would bounce off of the dragonbone chair for example.

On preview, broken earth is on your to-reads also -- I didn't put it in my list simply because it took me a few tries to get into it, but imo it was really great in the end (as are the other books so far in the series), so it could be worth trying too.
posted by advil at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I really like all of the series you like, and for similar reasons - the super-detailed and believable worldbuilding. The following three books are some of my all-time favorites and I will probably read each of them half a dozen more times before I die:

A Fire Upon the Deep - combines fantasy and sci-fi in a galaxy-spanning epic with some of the most inventive SF concepts I've seen, including sentient beings which are each made up of a pack of dogs. Seriously it's stunning.

Watership Down, which is fundamentally a fantasy novel - the culture, language, literature, and mindset of the rabbits is just different enough from that of humans to feel positively alien.

The Golden Compass - primarily fantasy with increasingly SF elements as the series goes on. It starts in a fantasy world where everyone's soul is in the form of an animal companion, and eventually spins out into a multiverse-wide battle for the fate of the universe. It's absolutely gorgeous and has one of my favorite protagonists ever.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:06 PM on February 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't like fantasy, generally, but I am really enjoying the Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman.

I'd second Watership Down as well.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:08 PM on February 6, 2017

It's trendy, but have you tried A Song of Ice and Fire? They are sort of natural successors to Redwall in terms of the way the world (especially food!) are approached.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 no on Piers Anthony for various reasons.

Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time books are very fun

Brandon Sanderson writes decent books with very inventive mechanics

Spider Robinson is a fantastic writer, and often explores uncommon themes.

Some of the Star Wars books are actually pretty good, in an actiony-sci fi way. The usual recommendations are the Xwing series, and Timothy Zahn's Thrawn novels/trilogies.

Earthsea is also usually recommended for everybody, but I haven't yet read it
posted by Jacen at 2:29 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ancillary Justice trilogy by Ann Leckie (inventiveness, character-building, space)

Embassytown by China Mieville (inventiveness, character-building, space)

Midnight Riot and sequels by Ben Aaronovitch (so much lore twisted up in the modern world)

And yes, Snow Crash!
posted by esoterrica at 4:08 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Detailed worldbuilding = Game of Thrones. (to the point of extensive extraneous details!)

Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars is sort of like a feminist GoT, with many of the same strengths (awesome worldbuilding) and weaknesses (toooooo many plots that wander off and forget to come back).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2017

Octavia Butler's books (Fledging, Parable of the Sower) are brilliant: unconventional characters and narrative structures, unflinching social commentary, and excellent writing. A few of her books are set in the same world, but aren't necessarily series, strictly speaking. (sci-fi, dystopian, with elements of fantasy)

Seconding Sanderson (Mistborn Trilogy), Lynch (Gentleman Bastard), Le Guin (Earthsea) as entertaining and readable (Le Guin is similar to Butler in some ways - thoughtful attention to gender/ethnicity/culture/class, especially in her essays and short stories).

Grossman (The Magicians) is great, but extremely dark and unforgiving to both his characters and readers, and much of what I like about his writing is how it subverts tropes common in other fantasy writing.

Robert Jordan's 14-book epic is ... good ... but also pretty tedious at points. If Tad Williams' The Dragonbone Chair wasn't compelling reading for you, I wouldn't recommend starting this one (or treat the first book, The Eye of the World, as a stand-alone adventure). Similarly, Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule was once my favorite fantasy novel, but the series spirals deeper and deeper into libertarian diatribes and weirdness as it goes on.

David Eddings (Belgariad) is a favorite author of some of my friends, but I never really got into his books like they did. (That said, I did read two five-book series, so ... maybe I'm not to be trusted on the subject of my own opinions.)

For a straight-up fantasy series, I'd recommend Robin Hobb - her Farseer Trilogy is the entry point to several other series written in the same world, crossing many regions, cultures, and climates.

If you're looking for an entry point to fantasy in general, I'd recommend picking up some short story anthologies. My favorite is The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, by St. Martin's Press, an annual collection edited (usually) by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. They ended around 2008, but were exceedingly well curated collections of short stories (and sometimes poetry). It's a great way to survey many authors and styles.
posted by verschollen at 5:22 PM on February 6, 2017

There are only, currently, 2.5 standalone books set in the same universe rather than a strict series but you might enjoy Saturn's Children/Bit Rot/Neptune's Brood.
posted by Mitheral at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2017

Your Goodreads profile and the two examples you give here make me think the r/Fantasy best young adult fantasy novels poll going on right now might be useful to you. There are several votes for Redwall and Animorphs--one ballot actually includes both of them, along with the Tiffany Aching and Earthsea series.

I'd also suggest looking at a few colorful old series like Sector General, Telzey & Trigger, The True Game, etc., or perennial character-driven favorites like the Vorkosigan Saga or Vlad Taltos books. Those are all a lot faster/punchier reads than the books you didn't like.
posted by Wobbuffet at 5:36 PM on February 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Philip Pullman's trilogy 'His Dark Materials': The Golden Compass (aka The Northern Lights); The Subtle Knife; and The Amber Spyglass? The movie was awful but the books, despite being promoted as young adult, are really great. There was a major push to diss the series as being anti-religion, which may be why they've faded from view, but the entire series is one of my faves and is very good reading.
posted by anadem at 8:54 PM on February 6, 2017

Take a look at Iain M Banks and his Culture series (and all of his SF novels, to be honest). Their worldbuilding is wonderful, but the strength of the writing is in the characterisation and the action. I love them and I'm still sad that he's gone.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:45 AM on February 7, 2017

I think Steven Brust's Dragaera books have an interesting world. You might get an idea of Brust's style from the non-related one-off To Reign in Hell which is an amusing account of how Heaven and then The World came to be.
posted by zengargoyle at 8:16 AM on February 7, 2017

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