- The Honor Harrington series -- excellent modern-day space warfare, with characters you truly care about. First book is On Basilisk Station. If you like these, consider joining The Royal Manticoran Navy, the official Honor Harrington fan club. I "command" one of the two Atlanta chapters (they're organized as ships), so if you DO join, consider joining my crew on HMS Excalibur, a Nike-class battlecruiser. Gotta love a ship that's designed to kick the crap out of anything it can't outrun. :)
- The Safehold series -- somewhat long in the telling, these books detail the struggle to bring a low-tech civilization "up" technologically while faced with anti-science Church opposition. Great characters and it's also nice to see a balanced portrayal of the clerics where not every Churchman is closed-minded or greedy. First book is Off Armageddon Reef.
- Roger Zelazny, Lord of Light -- I always wondered why this was often listed as one of the best SF novels of the century...until I read it.
- Dr. Robert L. Forward, Dragon's Egg -- he's written some real gems and a few clunkers; this one's his best and an excellent book.
- James P. Hogan (just a few of his "really-good" books). He's great at hard SF.
- Voyage to Yesteryear -- the only truly "workable" Utopia I've ever encountered in fiction. There are reports this book has been used in college sociology classes for this reason.
- The "Giants" trilogy -- These begin with Inherit the Stars, the only book ever to be featured in an episode of Robotech :).
- Code of the Lifemaker -- this is a possibly-workable look at an evolution of machine intelligence.
- Robert A. Heinlein:
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress -- not just a great SF novel; a look at revolutionary theory in practice. :)
- Starship Troopers -- not to be confused with the movie, which was okay.
- (and so many others....) Heinlein is one who passed away before I could meet him. I've read some pretty "harsh" reviews of his career where, e.g., the reviewer hadn't read Harsh Mistress -- a terrible oversight.
- Frank Herbert, Dune -- the sequels tailed off after a few volumes, but the first few hold their weight to this day.
- 1632 by Eric Flint and all of its myriad sequels and spinoffs. This is great alternate-history stuff. What if...a contemporary coal mining town in WV was suddenly exchanged through time and space into the Germanic regions during the Thirty Years' War?
- Michael Moorcock, Mother London; also his End of Time series --
sure I'm biased; he's a friend of mine! He lost the prestigious Booker Prize
for Mother London to some chap who was in the news. Who was it? Oh, yea,
Salman Rushdie, that Satanic Verses guy....
- C.J. Cherryh, the Chanur series -- terrific alien interaction and good, solid hard-SF from a woman, which is relatively rare (but becoming less so). C.J. knows her stuff.
- Storm Constantine, Hermetech -- her best foray into the realm of
SF; scarce in the States but worth the trouble to find. Sprinkled, as usual,
with Storm's trademark "neet people." :)
- Isaac Asimov, the Foundation/Robots series -- influential SF from the
Good Doctor, and good stuff. I met him only once before he died. :(
- Dan Simmons, Hyperion and its three sequels. These were excellent although as a warning, the first book doesn't really have a conclusion, so have the second one handy before you finish it.
- Anne McCaffrey, the Dragonriders of Pern series -- I'm placing these here instead of under Fantasy because Anne makes a deliberate effort to infuse the series with science fiction elements and explanations. These are great books, and she was a really nice person, too. When I opined to her on Compuserve (she was 72007,45) that I thought the original three Harper Hall books were a bit better than the original three "main" Dragonriders books, she said that I was "a man of good taste and perception" as she agreed. Ask me sometime about when I took her and her sister back to the airport after DraGonCon 1989...
- Robert Silverberg, the Majipoor Chronicles -- I'm placing these here in SF and not Fantasy also. Truly love these. The first book, Lord Valentine's Castle is awesomely grand in scope and one of my favorite novels ever. All the sequels or companion books are excellent EXCEPT for The Mountains of Majipoor, which was...surprisingly poor.
- E. E. "Doc" Smith, the Lensman series -- sure it's pulp, but it holds
up pretty well to this day.
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy -- one of
the single most influential SF series of modern times. I am a hoopy frood
and always know where my towel is. Do you?
- Tad Williams, the Otherland books (first is City of Golden Light). These were excellent, and much better than the first book's back-cover blurb implied!
- John Ringo, the Black Tide Rising series (starts with Under a Graveyard Sky -- these are a great, science-based presentation of a human-created pandemic and zombie apocalypse. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, reading this series was both informative...and chilling.
- Harry Turtledove, the WorldWar series -- great alternate-history series. World War II is raging...and a new, REALLY foreign enemy enters the fray....
- Horror stuff:
- Clive Barker, Imajica -- outstanding crossover novel, part SF,
part dark horror....or something. This would make a really neet movie/miniseries.
- Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the tales of the vampire St.-Germain -- these were among the original influences on Anne Rice. It's a shame CQY doesn't get the credit and attention these books truly deserve. Excellent historical details make these a delight to read.
- Anne Rice, the Vampire Chronicles -- These are great, although I don't think she ever quite topped book two, The Vampire Lestat.
- Robert McCammon, Boy's Life -- terrific contemporary
horror novel. Thanks to Metallica's Kirk Hammett, a "bookworm,"
for recommending McCammon to me. :)
- Karen E. Taylor's vampire books. Somewhat lighter than Anne Rice's or Yarbro's vampire novels, but worth exploring if you like vampire fiction. Full disclosure: I'm friends with the author and her son.
- Wallace West (probably a pseudonym or house-name), Lords of Atlantis -- my
"guilty-pleasure" listing. This was offered through the Scholastic Book
Service and I remember getting it at a book fair in middle school.
Cheesy, but any book that includes damming
the Atlantic at the Pillars of Hercules and creating a valley out of the
Mediterranean is pretty neet. Also features broadcast power beamed from
a central antenna, a concept that's being revisited a bit today.
Of course the big dam gets attacked and collapses at the end of the
- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged -- a highly influential work of the 20th
century, and a dangerous book indeed. This book
isn't normally classified as SF, but the "shielded" valley at the
end certainly implies some advanced technology.... In any event, it
deserves a listing, and has directly improved the lives of at least two
of my friends.
- Patrick O'Brian, The Golden Ocean, and the
Aubrey/Maturin series -- "The greatest historical novels of all time."
--The Chicago Tribune.
Before his passing the New York Times considered him the
world's greatest living novelist; I'm curious as to where they'd slot him
now. After reading these books, and Forester's, you truly feel as if
you could, at a pinch, command a 32-gun frigate or a
"seventy-four" two-decker from her quarterdeck. O'Brian's use of period
vernacular and phrasing helps transport you right into the salt breeze
and the cracking of the royals and studding-sails. He really
was as good as they say.
- C.S. Forester, the Horatio Hornblower series -- also historical,
these are another big influence on many contemporary SF writers
including David Feintuch and Gene Roddenberry, who based his Captain
Kirk character on Horatio Hornblower. Still great, if overshadowed a bit
now by O'Brian's works.
- Dudley Pope, the Ramage series. Not quite as impressive as O'Brian or Forester, but well-worth reading if you like "age of fighting sail" stuff.
- Clifford Stoll, The Cuckoo's Egg -- Cliff's true story of how he
helped catch some East German computer spies is compelling enough; what makes
this book one of my favorites is his endearing account of how the entire
process changed his outlook on the world. From Berkeley hippie to a
somewhat older, worldly-wiser and more experienced soul, his emotional journey
is as fun to follow as Cliff's well-written electronic real-world chase
to find the hackers.
- Andrew Collins, From the Ashes of Angels -- The Forbidden Legacy of a Fallen Race -- this archaelogical look for evidence of a "Watcher" culture is surprisingly compelling, and I'm normally pretty cynical. I saw his live presentation over in the UK and was quite impressed. This is the inspiration for Storm Constantine's excellent Grigori trilogy, as well as the song "The Reign of Shemsu-Hor" from the band Behemoth.
- "Pee Wee" Gaskins, Final Truth: the Autobiography of Serial Killer
Pee Wee Gaskins -- this real-life story from Gaskins himself, as told
to a writer just prior to his execution, is a shockingly candid account of
life in prison, his career of mostly petty crime, his "Coastal Killings"
and his "regular murders." He knew he was going to die, so he pulls no
punches when he describes everything -- complete with his upcountry twang
and slang -- about his career of death. His description of drowning two
male victims alive and offhandedly comparing the way they drown as compared
to his other female victims is certainly the most chilling passage I've
ever read, fiction or nonfiction.
Favorite Fantasy Books and Series:
- Storm Constantine, the Wraeththu trilogy -- the single most influential fantasy series for me. Her Grigori and Magravandian trilogies are good, too. A fine writer and a truly nice person. Heck, she let us stay at her house in the UK. :)
- Jacqueline Carey, the Kushiel trilogy (starts with Kushiel's Dart) -- excellent series with strong (!) female lead character. Highly recommended.
- Robert Jordan, The Wheel of Time series -- often compared to Tolkien; in plotting and the depth of his characters' complex relationships Jordan easily surpasses J)ohn R)onald R)euel.
- Rick Riordan, several young-adult series including Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Heroes of Olympus, the Trials of Apollo, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, The Kane Chronicles, etc. Greek, Roman, Norse and Egyptian mythology-based series, well-researched, informative and fun. I prefer these to the Harry Potter books because they're not quite as "Brit-silly."
- J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter novels -- intended for kids but they make a great read for adults, too (and they're quick to get through). Rowling deserves special praise for singlehandedly turning an entire generation of youngsters back to reading. Let's hope it isn't just a passing phase.
- George R.R. Martin, The Song of Ice and Fire (The Game of Thrones and its sequels). Great stuff here! I loved the TV series, too...until the last part of the last season, when it became a bit "meh."
- Michael Moorcock, the Eternal Champion cycle (Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon, Erekose, etc.) -- I ran Mike Moorcock's international fan club from 1987 thru 1992 or so. Although we don't always see eye to eye on politics, his works will always have a special place in my heart.
- Terry Pratchett, the Discworld series -- At least as funny as Douglas Adams, maybe more so. Each book is great.
- Fritz Leiber, the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series -- Mike Moorcock lists Leiber as one of his primary influences, and Fritz certainly develops his fantasy anti-heroes endearingly well. More: his dry humor makes these books fun.
- JRR Tolkien, the books of Middle-Earth -- perhaps you've heard of them? :)
- C.S. Lewis, the Chronicles of Narnia -- nearly as influential as Tolkien's Middle Earth, and with good reason. While these are considered Christian parables, I don't find that aspect to be overbearing, or any impediment to his good storytelling.
- Phillip Pullman, His Dark Materials -- quite a contrast to the aforementioned Narnia series, this trilogy set largely in an alternate, more-steampunk universe is darker and anti-religious. First book is The Golden Compass; I quite liked the film version also.
- Tad Williams, the Memory, Sorrow, Thorn trilogy -- great interrelationships, great traditional high fantasy. Recommended for those who are scared to tackle all sixteen gigawords that Robert Jordan has released.
- Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts, the Empire trilogy -- I liked these three books (first one is Daughter of the Empire) even more than Feist's framing stories (see below). Not your usual fantasy: this mix of Aztec, Asian and other influences from the other side of the Rift is terrific.
- Raymond Feist, the Riftwar and Serpentwar series -- excellent epic-length high fantasy.
- Katherine Kurtz, the Chronicles of the Deryni -- no-one does religious ceremony and detail like KK. Great stuff!
- Mercedes Lackey, The Last Herald-Mage trilogy -- these were the single biggest influence on me during the earlier 90s, for several reasons....
- John Myers Myers, Silverlock -- With most other authors, you might call what JMM does "plagiarism." This book is so well-written and JMM sneaks in so many nods and references to great literary works throughout history that it transcends that P word and indeed, the ordinary realm of fantasy.
- Barry Hughart, The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox -- brilliant high fantasy set in ancient China. Great fun to read and flawlessly executed.
- Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint and Thomas the Rhymer -- excellent standalone fantasy books, which are becoming increasingly rare nowadays. The first one includes a subtle gay relationship. (Its sequel, A Fall of Kings, is good but lacks a satisfying ending.)
- Stephen R. Donaldson, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever -- have a dictionary handy, and maybe a crying towel. :) The first trilogy is somewhat better than the second one, IMO.
- David Gemmell, Legend and The King Beyond the Gate -- two well-crafted quasi-related fantasies by a relatively new -- and good -- British talent. The sequels and prequels hold up well, too.
- Elizabeth Moon, The Deed of Paksennarion (omnibus) -- one of the best looks at how a mercenary company might function I've ever read. The prequel collection, The Legacy of Gird, is also excellent.
- Guy Gavriel Kay, The Fionavar Tapestry -- excellent high-fantasy trilogy by a British master of the craft.
- Roger Zelazny, the Chronicles of Amber -- I'd love to have a deck of Trumps. Failing that, I'd love to make and sell them at conventions. :)
- Ursula K. LeGuin, the Earthsea series -- considered childrens' books, but so what? Great stuff for any age.
- John Christopher, the Tripods series -- more childrens' books, but these are good. Adapted for TV by the BBC, but alas, never completed.
- Judith Tarr, Lord of Two Lands, Isle of Glass, etc. -- She really shines with her historically-accurate details. I didn't know Alexander the Great was (probably) gay until I read the first one.
- Mervyn Peake, the Gormenghast trilogy -- not the easiest books to enjoy, but Peake's highly lyrical style is unforgettable.
Again, these lists will be added-to. Sometimes when, joy of joys,
I read something really good, and sometimes when I remember
something I read and enjoyed. :)
Books I'm reading now
My current fave musical vibes
List of all my CDs
My own list of 500+ links
Ways to contact me/chat online