Seeking fun, non-grim genre fiction
June 8, 2018 3:01 PM   Subscribe

I've been reading a lot of literary fiction recently and need a break. Could you recommend some entertaining, relatively recently published genre fiction for me to read this summer? Any "genre" genre is welcome - science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, thriller, etc. and respective sub-genres are all great. Of course, I have snowflakes:

- The book or series should have a happy ending. It doesn't have to be sunshine and rainbows (although that's fine, too!) but the main conflict should at least be resolved in a way that is favorable to the main character(s). Individual books in a series with a happy ending don't necessarily have to end happily.
- No graphic or gratuitous violence. Some violence and/or death is okay, and I'm definitely open to murder mysteries, but I can't handle long, detailed, graphic descriptions of violence, wounds, torture, or death right now. No violence against children.
- No protagonists under the age of 18, with a strong preference for adult characters who act like adults.
- No YA. I've read and liked plenty of YA, but it's just not what I'm looking for right now.

- Published in the past 5-10 years
- Written by and/or starring people who are not white men
- Unusual or original setting
- Stand alone book or finished series

If it helps, I think The Rook, or Three Parts Dead are good examples of what I'm looking for and represent the maximum level of graphic violence/grimness I can stomach. Game of Thrones, Malazan Book of the Fallen, and The Expanse series are examples of books with elements I liked but that have way more violence than I can handle at the moment.

I'm definitely open to books that are less serious than The Rook or The Craft Sequence, and would love recommendations across a wide array of genres. (I've never really read any romance or thrillers and would love to try!) Thanks so much in advance, and feel free to me-mail me guilty pleasures if you're embarrassed to share.
posted by cimton to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It's space sci-fi obviously influenced by Star Trek's vision of mostly friendly coexistence between alien cultures. The plot structure is space adventure but the core of the book is exploring the personalities and relationships between the crew members.
posted by demiurge at 3:19 PM on June 8, 2018 [19 favorites]

The first book I thought of was Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen; it's a sci-fi spy thriller set on an interplanetary cruise to Mars. Two books so far.

You might also enjoy Jade City by Fonda Lee; think the Godfather crossed with a Hong Kong wire fu movie; it's violent, but not too graphic. A sequel is coming.

Sorceror to the Crown by Zen Cho is part Regency romance, part magical mystery, and all delightful.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, is the first in a series about traveling to different worlds and acquiring books that may differ from the versions we are familiar with. Librarian Irene takes on a mysterious apprentice.

Last but not least, The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez starts with a mystery on a mining colony on Mars, then switches to an alternate universe that's Hornblower in Spaaaace; then things get weird. First of a trilogy.
posted by mogget at 3:31 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Came here to recommend The Long Way to a.... and the sequel, they're both feel-good in the end but not silly.
posted by Knicke at 3:32 PM on June 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

Maybe an obvious suggestion, but I love the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Fun and lighthearted with no serious violence, and lots of well-drawn relationships. Also, y'know, manners and werewolves and things.
posted by LadyNibbler at 3:35 PM on June 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Are you familiar with The Goblin Emperor? It is vaguely steam punk flavored fantasy, with a delightful protagonist and very little violence. It might verge on YA but the protagonist is of age, and spends a lot of his time building relationships with the rest of the cast. It’s kind of episodic and slow moving, and most definitely has a happy ending.
posted by Alensin at 4:23 PM on June 8, 2018 [17 favorites]

One of the loveliest books I've read in a long time, a book that gave me a great, great deal of pleasure, is "The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson.

The graphic novel A Redtail's Dream, by Minna Sundberg, available free online but also available for electronic or paper purchase, is another chronic favorite.

It is O-L-D but odd and never fails to cheer me up: The Face In The Frost, by John Bellairs. (He was, as far as I know, a sekrit gay guy, and I think it's a very queer book in its way).

One assumes that you've read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

The Devourers, by Indra Das, has some elements of horror and scariness, but it's a fantastic book (and I will remove a big source of worry for you with this following S*P*O*I*L*E*R:

The kitten is fine.

Also what about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making?
posted by Frowner at 4:35 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Whoops, never mind the last one - it's YA.
posted by Frowner at 4:37 PM on June 8, 2018

The Bobiverse series by Dennis E. Taylor might suit you. Downside, it has white-guy author and protagonist, but it's light and fun and not very violent. Most of what violence occurs is stuff blowing up in space rather than interpersonal.
posted by octothorp at 4:38 PM on June 8, 2018

All Systems Red by Martha Wells just won the Nebula for best novella. Yes, it has violence but nothing gruesome. I know you asked for current, but an older book of hers, Wheel of the Infinite, is still one of my favorites.
Also nominated in the novella category is And Then There Were (N-One) by Sarah Pinsker is fun and available online. It’s a sci-fi and a detective story in one.
posted by AMyNameIs at 4:39 PM on June 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

A couple more details because I loved this book: All Systems Red has a hilariously snarky narrator, a security robot who labels itself "murderbot". It's a novella, a nice action-y adventure that ends well for all involved. But the main draw for this story is the narrator is so. damn. funny.

The Rook and 3 Parts Dead are among books that I've really enjoyed. I think you'll like this.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:56 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is so obvious as to probably be unnecessary but Terry Pratchett is my go-to guy for this stuff.

Seconding Murderbot and The Goblin Emperor.

Nine Goblins, by T. Kingfisher, is also delightful.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:24 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Thursday Next series is like, the epitome of fun genre fiction. About a 30-something woman who travels in books and in time and has a dodo and twenty million other odd things. There's very little violence and though the series is not finished it has a trend of everything turning out okay that I expect to continue. The first book was published in 2003 but the most recent was 2012.
posted by brook horse at 5:37 PM on June 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

I’m currently devouring The Rogues of the Republic trilogy by Patrick Weekes. The audiobook is narrated superbly.

Fantasy, female protagonist, but it’s def a caper crew kind of thing. Every main character is fun, including the character that is a talking hammer. I’m mid-second book, so I can’t guarantee that all three end happy, but based on the first book ending, I think they will. It would be a dramatic shift if they “Empired” the second book or somethIng. There’s sword fighting and magic and all that, but short of some stabby wounds that mare magicky healed, I wouldn’t call it violent. I don’t think I’ve seen a kid in the series so far.

My choice descriptor would be “fun” and it was described to me as “Leverage” meets “Firefly” meets “The Wizard of Oz.”
posted by greermahoney at 6:30 PM on June 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you read The N. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency?
posted by Grandysaur at 7:54 PM on June 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

Another vote for The Long Way to a Small. Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, and its sequel (which I just finished reading last week), A Closed and Common Orbit.

I see on Amazon that a third book in the series (the Wayfarers) is due out next month: Record of a Spaceborn Few. So pretty soon, you'll have three books to read that fit your criteria nicely!
posted by merejane at 9:29 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona series is a group of novellas set in the same universe as Curse of Chalion, etc. They are wonderful - fast-paced adventures with great characters and wonderful writing. I think Penric is older than 18 in the first one, but even if not, it is definitely not YA in tone.

I love pretty much anything by Drew Hayes, though the most fun and romp-y are probably the Fred the Vampire Accountant books.

Nthing Becky Chambers, Murderbot, and Rogues of the Republic.

Have you read Stiletto, the sequel to The Rook? I’m not sure I liked it quite as well, but it was still really fun.

The most recent Connie Willis novel, Crosstalk, was pretty fun too.
posted by bananacabana at 9:37 PM on June 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

My favorite that I read last year was Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. Sort of a meta-take on classic horror and sci-fi tropes, with the catch that it takes place during the Jim Crow era and the main characters are a sprawling African American family. The juxtaposition of supernatural, cosmic terror vs. the mundane reality of what they face day to day is genius, and not only does it have a happy ending, it's so side splittingly funny that it almost seemed like the whole novel was built up just to deliver that punchline.

bonus - Jordan Peele is making it into an HBO series.
posted by mannequito at 12:54 AM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

False Lights by K. J. Whittaker might be interesting. It's a bit like a Regency Romance, but set in an alternate history where Napoleon has conquered Britain. Has a fairly plausible black heroine. Some violence though.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:03 AM on June 9, 2018

Cat Valente's Space Opera might hit the spot.
posted by xenization at 7:32 AM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Invisible Library series is indeed a lot of fun. I also really enjoy Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series -- precocious girl obsessed with chemistry, especially poison, who solves mysteries in the English countryside. They're fantastic.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:47 AM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Leckie's Imperial Radch series (Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy). Fun, incredibly detailed sci-fi space diplomacy. The violence is mostly space violence. There are a few person to person shootings, but I didn't think they were over-described. I found the ending of the series immensely satisfying and hopeful. Oh, and no gender pronouns, which has made the internet furious.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:53 AM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

I just finished a charming trilogy that's somewhere between Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Goblin Emperor; Virginia Goddard's trilogy starting with Stargazy Pie. Main character is a well-connected mostly straight guy, author and real secondary characters not all so. My main annoyance with it is that everything turns out too well in the end, but that's an intellectual annoyance, it was sure pleasant to read. Like an oatmeal bath for the brain.

Romances; Courtney Milan has a strong social justice drive but her books turn out happily because they're romances. Maybe start with Trade Me, which is contemporary, but if you like the silly (a whooooole lot of goodlooking dukes, who aren't all permanent assholes, yeah right) try Unveiled. If I could remember which of hers has the suffragette publisher who makes strategic use of exclamation points, I'd recommend that. I also like some of Carla Kelly's books, e.g. Regency romances with middle-class protagonists, try The Wedding Journey or The Lady's Companion.
posted by clew at 12:30 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Came in here to recommend The Long Way to a Small... and the Ancillary Justice trilogy.

I also really enjoyed Lock In by Metafilter's Own John Scalzi. It is a mix of near-future sci-fi and crime/mystery novel. The main protagonist is a biracial (I think) male, but he interacts with the world through a robot body so the privilege/discrimination equation is a little different. It's a brisk, fun read.
posted by jeoc at 1:56 PM on June 9, 2018

Have you read any of Jennifer Crusie's caper romances? They're fun. I'm not sure which are the most recent ones though.
In more "pure" romance, I like Trisha Ashley, who has a sense of humour and tends to have older heroines and nice family relationships around them.

How about a Regency "autobiography"? The Comfortable Courtesan is an episodic novel narrated by Madame C- C-, who's very practical and also a total sweetie.

Donna Andrews's mystery series about a (modern-day) blacksmith in Virginia is good- maybe try The Hen of the Baskervilles.
posted by Shark Hat at 3:56 PM on June 9, 2018

Croaked! and Another Number for the Road by C.J. Verburg. Both are light mysteries. The first is quirky Cape Cod, the latter in rock and roll in France. Info here.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:30 PM on June 9, 2018

I also really enjoyed Lock In by Metafilter's Own John Scalzi. It is a mix of near-future sci-fi and crime/mystery novel. The main protagonist is a biracial (I think) male,

Chris Shane is the protagonist of Lock In (and its superior sequel, Head On). Chris’s gender is deliberately unstated, and the audiobooks are released in two versions, one read by Wil Wheaton, on by Amber Benson.

Scalzi’s a white dude, but his books are full of interesting female (or unspecified) characters of all races and alien species—and they definitely lean toward light and fun.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:48 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Last Chinese Chef - Nicole Mones
posted by BeHereNow at 6:29 PM on June 9, 2018

The Courtney Milan book with suffragettes is this one. The Suffragette Scandal. Her historicals pay a lot of attention to class issues, but in an entertaining way with a happy ending.

And the follow-on book to Trade Me, titled Hold Me has very diverse leading characters.
posted by puddledork at 6:33 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

This ticks all your boxes, and it's easily the best mystery I've read this year so far. Even better then its award-winning predecessor i'd say.
posted by Wrick at 2:58 AM on June 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh man, I am so excited to read these books - they sound perfect and you are all amazing! I’ll report back with some initial favorites in a few weeks. Thank you so much! (Feel free to keep the recommendations coming if you think of more - I’m looking forward to spending a lot of time reading this summer.)
posted by cimton at 6:15 PM on June 11, 2018

Rachel Aaron wrote the Eli Monpress books that I really like: heroic thief, with good worldbuilding and magic systems: Amazon has the first 3 books in a set for the kindle.
posted by krieghund at 9:11 AM on June 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the recommendation for Stargazy Pie and its sequels, clew. I just bought and read them as a result of it, and they are very satisfactory.
posted by chromium at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I haven't read a whole lot of recent genre fiction, but if you can lay hands on a copy of Left Hand Gods by Jamie Lackey, that is maybe the most fun I've had reading high fantasy in a long time. The book is relatively short and self-contained, the characters all have motivations that actually make SENSE, and it is overall a very hopeful and positive book even during the sad parts.

Full disclosure: I read the book because a friend of mine wrote it, but even if I had come by this book from another path, I would have recommended it. It was so much fun. Dragons! Magic horses! Whee!
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:15 AM on June 15, 2018

« Older Help this displaced homemaker figure out what to...   |   Different City's Regional Hot Dogs in New York... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.