Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five Types of Books I Want for Christmas

I'm suffering from some genre fatigue, folks, and I'm soliciting your help in getting out of the muck. It sometimes feels like I'm reading the same five books over and over, and only the names change. Surely there's more out there than the stuff I'm finding?

Here are the five types of books I want for Christmas. (Language a bit NSFW!)

5.  Military science fiction that is not a rehash of The Forever War.  Soldier gets sent/signs up for an interstellar war. It's nothing like he expects. He's forced to do terrible things that do equally terrible things to him.  Soldier finds love. Loses love. Finds love again. THE END.  Argh, no. Somebody show me some military science fiction that doesn't go this route. I'm deeply tired of reading the same book over and over again - there has to be another story in there.  Doesn't there?

4.  Science fiction, fantasy, or urban fantasy with unhappy endings. Can Spacey O'Spacerson/Jesu el'Chosen One/Hottie McHookerpants fight crime, deal with odd happenings, and still solve the mystery?  Just once, I'd love the answer to be no. Or "yes, but..." where the 'but' is bigger than a warehouse. Lilith Saintcrow is the only person I know who is writing this stuff. Who else can give me my fix?

3.  Strange or innovative urban fantasy. Werewolves, vampires, and demons - oh my!  I want something else. I rather liked The Space Between for a different take on angels/demons. The Bloodhound Files is a nice riff on the vampires/werewolves trope because it's the humans who are rare in their world. What other series can I check out that aren't just rehashing the same old thing?

2. Urban fantasy written by men. Jim Butcher - check. Mark del Franco - check. Uh, well, that's kind of where it breaks down for me.  My bookshelf needs an injection of some hot man-writing, people. Hook a girl up.

1. Science fiction romance that isn't just a fancy setting for fucking. Spaceships! Virtual reality! BAM - FUCKING. No. The thing is, the story matters. If it's just a backdrop for fucking, I'm not interested. I want an entire world and people who are shaped by this world and relationships that reflects that. We've got it for paranormal stuff, why am I not finding this for science fiction? Nalini Singh does this right with her Psy-Changeling setup - it's great science fiction and plenty of cross-species romancing that is heavily influenced by the rules of the complex and different world they inhabit. Now, who else is getting the job done?

Please chime in with any recommendation that hits these spots. I've gone from reading 12-18 books a month to 2 or 3, because I'm just so done with all the same old stuff.  I feel like my brain is stagnating.

(Update: Two books that go under both #3 and #4 that I should have mentioned: A Gift of Ghosts by Sarah Wynde and Grave Witch by Kalayna Price. Both of these books have unconventional heroines whose abilities have serious side effects. Akira Malone has a multitude of broken bones from ghosts possessing her.  Alex Craft will almost certainly end up blind forever, and sooner rather than later.)
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  1. Per 2, try out Kevin Hearne. He does a very funny, well written, vaguely-Dresden-esque series called the Iron Druid series. The first three books are out now. Hounded, Hexed and Hammered. It follows Atticus O'Sullivan, an ancient druid, fighting against old Celtic gods who want him dead. He has a charming Irish wolfhound and his two best friends are a vampire lawyer and a werewolf lawyer.

  2. Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is fun - with still some bloodthirsty thrown in. First book is Hounded. Big mix of mythologies.

    I'm late to the game, but Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series is sci fi with romance, but I'm not counting on any ending happily. First book is Grimspace (it's the only one I've read).

    Also, I just started Rob Thurman's Cal Leandros series. Book 1 is Nightlife. I thought it had a Supernatural vibe with the two brothers teaming up, with Cal having one hell of a father. Got book 2 on my shelf.

    The next 2 are kids books, but I really liked them. The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell - deals with a giant magical game involving different worlds and players. Also notable as a YA where romance is not a big part (basically non-existent), nor is there a triangle. I need to read the next one, the story is not over yet. The Boneshaker by Kate Milford - it's more middle school but reminded me a lot of Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. Again, a writer I need to read more of.

    Dead Iron by Devon Monk - steampunk fantasy. It's still ongoing. Don't know how happily everything will end.

    I love Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series (first book Magic Bites). Unique world (the vampires in this one are different to say the least). I'm pretty sure that the good guys will win in the end, but I'm never sure what the total cost will be.

    Have you read NK Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy? My favorite is still book 2, but I loved all 3. I will say I was satisfied with the endings, not that every book ended happily. Very different fantasy trilogy with gods, godlings, humans and lots of imbalance. First book is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

    How about After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn? It's a standalone and the heroine is the completely normal daughter of the city's resident superheroes. I also like Vaughn's Discord's Apple, with a family that has the legacy of storing all of the mythological/fairytale artifacts.

  3. I second Kevin Hearne. You'll love it! Laugh-out-loud humor.
    Jean S.

  4. I hope it wouldn't be tacky to bring my work to your attention, but I think my novel "Meets Girl" fulfills 2 & 3, while "The Prodigal Hour" fulfills the first. Also, neither has happy endings, really. Satisfying, I hope, but not sure they're really happy...

  5. Wow - that was a brick of a post. Sorry. I get carried away talking about books. :)

  6. I recently discovered and am enamored of Harry Connolly's Twenty Palaces series. The hero isn't a douche, his boss, Annalise, is a brutally hard, magically powerful badass (I lurv her) and the writing is tight and sharply paced.

    Trent Jamieson has an interesting take on the business of death in his Death Works Trilogy. The hero is a psychopomp working for the Australian division of Mortmax Industries, the company responsible for ushering the newly dead into the afterlife. The series has its flaws but it also has a unique mythology that make it worth reading.

  7. k reads, you beat me to the Harry Connolly suggestion! I'm still uncomfortable even thinking about the saphire dog ...

    I wish I'd had these suggestions a week and a half ago, when I could've gotten free Amazon shipping on Christmas gifts for my urban fantasy-loving friends and family. :)

  8. Oh, yeah. His monsters are truly monstrous and different than anything I have ever read before.

    My favorite thing about the sapphire dog book is that he is teamed up with a middle-aged African American woman... AND it is not a sexual relationship. Just two partners trying to get the job done.

  9. Try Lauren Beukes for something completely different. I don't even know which category that would fit into here, but she's pure chocolate cupcake IMO.

    <3 Jeff Somers. LOVE. Not UF, but if you want some hot man action on your shelf, you need to check him out. I like that he can wrote an amazing plot twist without sex. Probably can fit #1 too if you squint your eyes.

    On #3, I'm not sure what to say. I'd love to read 18 individually awesome books a month myself. I haven't been finding that many either. :( Trying to write a few though.

  10. You know, it occurs to me that Robert Jordan was doing a bang-up job of #4. "Rand, you're going to save the world! Maybe. Or you'll fail horribly and condemn us to darkness forever. But you know, probably not that second part. Did I mention you'll go insane along the way and also die either way? Bummer. Well, good luck!"

  11. Have you ever read Tanya Huff's Valor series? I think it may satisfy #5 (there is a war, but the first book isn't even about that war, its about courting new allies to help fight the war), but the later books include a romance that satisfies #1. Kick ass heroine, just doing her job, trying to get her crew home with the fewest casualties. No romance in the first book - that arc starts in book two.
    As for #3 and #4, perhaps Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. First book is "Rosemary and Rue" (only one I've read to date) and while Toby wins the day, she doesn't get off easy.

  12. I have read the October Daye series, just picked up the latest, One Salt Sea. They are fantastic! No mushy crap, serious butt kicking, and the heroine gets the crap beat out of her because she's just not always the baddest person in the room. Great writing all around. I'd put it under #3.

    For #1 give Maria V. Snyder a try. She has a new series that just dropped, Touch of Power, but I HIGHLY recommend her first trilogy, The Poison Study. Strong female, a little sexual tension, no horizontal tango until the end. By then, you're engrossed.

    Also #3, props to a new author, Rebecca Gahagan with Josephine Lost. Sort of Angels & Fallen Angels/Demons, but not quite. It's in YA, but an interesting read, which sets up well for book two. You can tell it's her first book, but I think she'll find her writing style in #2.

  13. I'm on the Ilona Andrews band wagon. And she's got a free novella available for the next two weeks, so you can try it to see if it is your cup of tea. http://www.soireadthisbook.com/2011/12/free-kate-daniels-novella.html

  14. A few ideas from our household's sci fi reader: "Old Man's War" by Scalzi and "The Gap" by Stephen R. Donaldson (for Military Sci Fi), and for your last category read some Ursula Lagin.