February 17, 2019

My favourite & recommended books

I read a lot of sci-​fi and fantasy books. Exploring fictional universes – with differ­ent rules and real­it­ies – not only helps me to relax, but also helps me to think about how our world could be different.

Stretching my imagin­a­tion in unex­pec­ted direc­tions helps me when I’m devel­op­ing ideas, content and strategies. It’s creativ­ity fuel.

My favour­ite books are those which explore unique ideas or perspect­ives, and which changed my perspect­ive or think­ing as a result. Here are some of the high­lights (in no partic­u­lar order).

Children Of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Follows the evol­u­tion of a species of spider-​like creatures to accel­er­ated sentience, as a result of acci­dental inter­fer­ence from a botched terra­form­ing attempt. Incredible and unique perspect­ive over multiple gener­a­tions as the species and indi­vidu­als mature to domin­ate their planet and become a space-​faring race.

The Malazan Book Of The Fallen series by Steven Erikson

An enorm­ous fantasy epic, which brutally and unfor­giv­ingly omits any kind of expos­i­tion what­so­ever – but in exchange provides some of the most in-​depth high-​fantasy I’ve ever read. Develops from small scale swords-​and-​sorcery into a race for ascen­sion to godhood, and culmin­ates in an inter­plan­et­ary magical war between inter­di­men­sional beings.

The Ember War by Richard Fox

A sci-​fi war to protect the last of human­ity and an alli­ance of dwind­ling races from an over­whelm­ing incur­sion into our galaxy from tril­lions of seem­ingly invul­ner­able alien drones. Balances hack-​and-​slash, hand-​to-​hand marine combat with darker under­tones of what it means to be human, and how far we should comprom­ise those values, as a species, in order to survive.

The Game Is Life series by Terry Schott

What if everything we exper­i­ence is just part of a simu­la­tion? Starts off lightly, and gets very deep; with some of the most chal­len­ging ideas (and the biggest spoiler/​surprise) I’ve ever read in fiction. Discovering universes-​within-​universes and explor­ing ques­tions around multiple iden­tit­ies and the nature of ‘self’ is just the beginning.

The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

Described as “Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games”, the series is a sci-​fi extra­vag­anza which follows one man’s jour­ney to tear down a soci­ety built on a rigid class system from deep within it, whilst avoid­ing becom­ing everything he hates.

The Shadows Of The Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A world popu­lated by city-​states where the inhab­it­ants have skills, powers and capab­il­it­ies modelled after insect species; as an unfold­ing indus­trial revolu­tion chal­lenges the decline of magic. A story woven through­out a global conflict as the imper­i­al­istic wasps and their subjug­ated allies march across the world, thwarted only by the indus­tri­ous beetles and their frag­men­ted resist­ance – all under­pinned by a darker war between tech­no­logy and magic.

The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson

A fantasy epic with a unique magic system, where powers and abil­it­ies are gran­ted based on the inges­tion of differ­ent types of metals. Some excel­lent twists, and gets deeper and darker as side-​stories and the subsequent trilo­gies explore more of the universe(s).

The Painted Man series by Peter V. Brett

The only defence against the demons which rise from the earth each night to terror­ise human­ity are the magical wards which we inscribe and main­tain around our towns and villages. One man’s discov­ery and newfound abil­ity to fight back changes everything, leads to the gradual revel­a­tion of the inner work­ings of the demon soci­ety, and reveals a much deeper truth.

The Syncronicity War series by Dietmar Wehr

Humanity is losing an inter­stel­lar war, until we start receiv­ing visions from the future, which shift the course of events in our favour. It becomes appar­ent that, at some point in the future, both sides in the war develop the abil­ity to send messages back in time – requir­ing them to develop strategies to fight in both time and space, and across multiple realities.

The Nightside series by Simon R Green

A private eye oper­ates out of the Nightside; an altern­ate real­ity London created by Lilith as an immut­able space outside of the control and influ­ence of heaven and hell. Often cheesy and gimmicky, but jam-​packed with fascin­at­ing ideas, concepts, and plot twists.

The Godslayer series by James Clemens

Set in a world where 100 immor­tal gods carved out and rule territ­or­ies in relat­ive stabil­ity until one of them is killed, in a plot to disrupt the status quo. Magic and science are powered by the bodily fluids of gods; blood, sweat and tears (and beyond) are harves­ted, distilled, and used in everything from medi­cine to industry.

The Black Prism series by Brent Weeks

Set in a world where magic and tech­no­logy is based on the abil­ity of indi­vidu­als to manip­u­late differ­ent colours of light, in the midst of an unfold­ing civil/​religious war. Has some slow moments, but the scope is an enorm­ous, and the twist in one of the later books completely resets your whole perspect­ive and lends a dark lens to the whole series.

The Crystal Singer books by Anne McCAffrey

Crystal powers tech­no­logy, commu­nic­a­tion, travel, and soci­ety. It’s mined, uniquely, by ‘crys­tal sing­ers’ on the world of Ballybran. Crystal singing is danger­ous, addict­ive, and erodes memory and person­al­ity. The heart-​breaking trilogy follows the life and exper­i­ence of Killashandra Ree as a crys­tal singer and addict.

The Farseer Trilogy (and following trilogies) by Robin Hobb

One of the richest, most immers­ive fantasy series I’ve ever read. Unashamed to admit that these books filled my heart with joy and moved me to tears more than once.

The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson

An enorm­ous fantasy epic set between warring nations, in a richly construc­ted world. Loads of depth to the magic system, reli­gion, and soci­et­ies. Fantastic, compel­ling reading!

Thanks to @Mr_TP for remind­ing me about this one!

The Dark Intelligence Trilogy by Neal Asher

Evil aliens, rogue AIs, space marines and body horror combine in an incred­ibly dark, addict­ive, and Lovecraftian universe. Compelling read­ing, rich char­ac­ters, and writ­ing which deliv­ers addict­ive, can’t-​put-​down thrills.

The Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch

A surpris­ingly deep, rich and compel­ling yarn of thieves, con-​men and continual one-​upmanship. Itinerant and delight­ful, with spat­ter­ings of whodun­nit, swords, sorcery, polit­ics and more, all in perfect balance.

Honourable mentions

  • The Skyward series, where a strug­gling colony of human surviv­ors looks to the stars.
  • The Bear and The Nightingale. Dark Russian folk­lore at its finest.
  • The 'Silo' series, where a dysto­pian soci­ety subsists in an under­ground bunker, follow­ing an armaged­don event.
  • The 'Bobiverse' series, where the simu­lated person­al­ity of a tech entre­pren­eur becomes a von Neumann probe.
  • The Moth Saga, where a world-​stopped-​spinning creates two distinct cultures; of night, and of day.
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go, where the whole of human­ity finds itself resur­rec­ted in small groups on an alien planet, along­side an infin­itely long wind­ing river.
  • The Vampyricon – A dark, Lovecraftian vampire trilogy (some­what off-​piste from my usual pref­er­ences, but unex­pec­tedly good), explor­ing a war through­out the Dark Ages between forces from beyond the vale of real­ity. A great balance of high concept fantasy, and sword-​and-​sorcery romp.
  • Dogs Of War – A fun explor­a­tion of what happens when bio-​engineered, cyborg dog soldiers wonder if there might be more to life than killing.