Solve the pattern: Patrick O'Brian, Alan Furst, Neal Stephenson... who comes next?
February 13, 2008 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Solve the pattern: Patrick O'Brian, Alan Furst, Neal Stephenson... who comes next?

Fiction rec please! I'm looking for smart, fun fiction that is also smart, while still being fun. The writers mentioned, I think, all fit in this category. What's more, while not exactly genre fiction, they all bring the reader into an interesting and well-researched world. What other writers belong in this category? Many thanks indeed for any suggestions!
posted by It ain't over yet to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Matt Ruff's first two novels -- Fool on the Hill and Sewer Gas and Electric come to mind

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is supposed to be great, it's a brick. I haven't read it though.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:55 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is an interesting world with well-drawn characters. Although the main protagonist is only twelve or so, all three books are a great read for an adult too. I'm just starting the Golden Compass for the third time.
posted by anadem at 6:58 PM on February 13, 2008

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is indeed excellent, and a lot of fun. Well worth the size.
posted by paleography at 7:00 PM on February 13, 2008

Scarlett Thomas -- The End of Mr. Y and PopCo.
posted by runtina at 7:03 PM on February 13, 2008

Shadow of the Wind
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:04 PM on February 13, 2008

The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas is a fabulous read.
posted by Blacksun at 7:06 PM on February 13, 2008

John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee novels.

The Flashman Series by George MacDonald Fraser
posted by Phred182 at 7:08 PM on February 13, 2008

John Le Carre is often misunderstood, he (often) writes literature, using cold war espionage as a setting. Don't confuse him with Ludlum, Clancy, and his fellow airport bookstore authors. Start with the Smiley novels.
posted by Phred182 at 7:10 PM on February 13, 2008

If smart and fun are the criteria, the Pulitzer-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon fits.
posted by mediareport at 7:12 PM on February 13, 2008

Thirding Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke.

Mine may be overly obvious suggestions but here they are anyway:

Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco (smart, fun)
The Amber Chronicles, by Roger Zelazny (fun, well-researched world)
Dune and sequels, by Frank Herbert (fun, very well-researched world)
Timescape, by Gregory Benford (fun, smart, interesting)
Counterclock World, by Philip K. Dick (fun, strange/interesting)
The Coulour of Magic and sequels, by Terry Pratchett

Also, you might like this and this, which have been mentioned here before.
posted by nzero at 7:17 PM on February 13, 2008

I loved Matt Ruff's third novel, too, Set this House in Order.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:21 PM on February 13, 2008

Perhaps a bit "lighter" than some of the things mentioned, but Christopher Moore definitely fits into the "smart and fun" category.
posted by jferg at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Loved Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. I'm reading it for the second time.
posted by Beckminster at 7:41 PM on February 13, 2008

Also probably on the 'light' side, check out Scott Westerfeld - Peeps and So Yesterday would fit perfectly with what you're looking for. The Uglies/Pretties/Specials trilogy is slightly less 'fun', but in a pretty well developed world. Yes, they're all technically 'Young Adult' books, but look past that and try Peeps - fun little gory science lessons scattered throughout.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was great, it took me a couple days to really get into it.

It's not far of a jump to William Gibson, although his books might be less 'fun' and more draining, they tend to draw me into the world - Pattern Recognition and Spook Country are great 'today's world' reads, the earlier books still hold up fairly well as futuristic novels.

Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett, for sure. Lamb and Fluke are great places to start with Moore.
posted by pupdog at 7:48 PM on February 13, 2008

William Gibson
posted by Camel of Space at 7:57 PM on February 13, 2008

Jasper Fforde's books are fun & smart (but possibly annoying).

Martin Cruz Smith is a fairly good writer for the fun & smart, especially the first few of the Renko books..
posted by Rumple at 8:11 PM on February 13, 2008

MeFi's own Charles Stross.
posted by jbrjake at 8:16 PM on February 13, 2008

In a word: Pynchon.

N'thing everything that Christopher Moore and Matt Ruff have done, ditto on the Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell.

You might like Cloud Atlas and House of Leaves too.
posted by togdon at 8:17 PM on February 13, 2008

See Also:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... etc.
posted by togdon at 8:26 PM on February 13, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'll second Chabon and Pynchon and add Rushdie, who is probably the funniest of the bunch.
posted by MsMolly at 8:42 PM on February 13, 2008

Carl Hiasen.
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 PM on February 13, 2008

China Mieville, perhaps?
posted by kindall at 9:49 PM on February 13, 2008

Oh! Kim Stanley Robinson, espcially The Years of Rice and Salt-reminds of Stephenson in that it's a meticulously researched, elaborate story (in this case, an alternate history: how would history have developed if 99% of Europeans were killed in the Black Plague and so other cultures became ascendant?) with a sense of humor and well drawn characters.

I love Cloud Atlas and Set This House in Order. However, although I am a huge fantasy fan, did not love Jonathon Strange...thought it was just OK.
posted by purenitrous at 10:09 PM on February 13, 2008

Only read the first two of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. After that he just starts reheating leftovers.

Here I'll violate the no genre fiction rule.

I'd suggest Ken Macleod's two series starting with The Stone Canal and Cosmonaut Keep. Seconding Charlie Stross, starting with Singularity Sky

Prattchet is very good, but The Colour of Magic is a bit weak.

Lastly, read Stanislaw Lem's Cyberiad. Very fun.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:16 PM on February 13, 2008

Seconding Pynchon, and you might like Ian Banks. Also, of course ("interesting and well-researched world") Robert Heinlein.
posted by orthogonality at 12:09 AM on February 14, 2008

The late George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books might appeal to you.
posted by misteraitch at 1:27 AM on February 14, 2008

Go to Literature-Map and enter the names of authors you like. See what comes back.
posted by RussHy at 5:05 AM on February 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

On the basis that you seem to like intelligent historcial fiction, which is both complex and doesn't spell out every single thing for the reader, then I'll also say Strange and Norrell, and add Eco's Name of the Rose.
posted by biffa at 6:03 AM on February 14, 2008

You'll almost certainly not regret reading House of Leaves.
posted by Nelsormensch at 6:30 AM on February 14, 2008

I have had pretty good luck following the reading recommendations Alan Furst includes at the back of his novels and in the interviews with him that I've read. Some of these were not fun, per se, but definitely good reads. They also provided me a lot of insight into the novels of his that I enjoyed so much.

- The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood
- Flight Without End & The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
- Babi Yar by A. Anatoli
- A Coffin for Demitrious by Eric Ambler (this was the best - insanely fun and entertaining)
- Journey to the End of the Night by Celine

I would also support the nomination of John LeCarre, but I don't find him near as fun as anything by Furst.

Totally unrelated to Alan Furst, I've enjoyed a few of the 'fun and smart' novels by Jim Harrison. For me the most notable would be Sundog and True North, but there are others worth reading, too. If you've got any snow and ice running in your veins, you'll love Harrison.

The three or four most notable Raymond Chandler stories are probably the most fun things I've ever read and smart enough to make your list. (The Big Sleep, Farewell My Lovely, The High Window, The Lady in the Lake)

Someone mentioned Heinlein, and he's great, but tends to appeal to younger people (15 to 25). And mostly men, to generalize wildly.
posted by OilPull at 6:36 AM on February 14, 2008

Seconding Raymond Chandler. Along with O'Brian and Stephenson, he's one I come back to regularly. Charles Stross' new Halting State was fantastic fun as well (plus he's a Mefite).
posted by yerfatma at 7:06 AM on February 14, 2008

On the same basis as my previous comment, 'Q' by Luther Blissett.
posted by biffa at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2008

I just finished reading Pynchon's latest, Against The Day. Before that I read the entire Baroque Cycle. I can say that all four of these bricks were quite smart and fun so here is me Nthing Thomas Pynchon.
posted by gravity at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2008

How have we all left out Douglas Adams? Yes, it should be obvious, but still I'm ashamed of myself.
posted by pupdog at 10:14 AM on February 14, 2008

Bangkok 8 and Bangkok Tattoo by John Burdett. Super-fun can't-put-it-down murder mysteries that will make you hungry for Thai food.
The Light Ages (and to a slightly lesser degree it's sequel, House Of Storms) by Ian R. McLeod is great. I have no idea why he's not more well known.
Also, I second Years of Rice and Salt, which is one of my favorite books in years. I thought it was far better written than anything else I've read by him.
posted by smartyboots at 1:11 PM on February 14, 2008

The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson is the smartest, most well researched work of science fiction I've yet encountered.
posted by overhauser at 7:11 PM on February 15, 2008

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