If you are new to fantasy and science fiction or have been reading SFF for years, it is easy to forget the books that have fallen out of the popular zeitgeist. Books constantly flash on various internet sites, “Buy me. Read me.” Stories move in and out of brick-and-mortar stores in weeks. Your favorite authors are dropping books every month; keeping up with the changing landscape of fiction is challenging.
It isn’t fair, and it can feel overwhelming to readers like myself, and I would assume many of you are reading this. I want to read everything because so many incredible books are coming out, and I don’t want to miss them. But I lack the time; life intrudes.
I was discussing this issue with the great author Janny Wurts. As a side note, if you have time, please check out her extensive writing and artwork catalog. It is the stuff in which dreams are made. She has had the fortune of being on the forefront, the cutting edge of science fiction and fantasy since the 80s, and is a fount of information on great novels that have dissapeared. With her help, we will do a series on books that have come before.
Maybe a book from a decade ago will become your new favorite. Either way, I am about to smash your TBR.
1. (released 2020)
By Ricardo Pinto
“THE MASTERS hooks you right from the first page as the mystery of the visiting black ship begins to take center stage. As the story progresses, we see Carnelian go from his protected life of exile in his island homeland to a very uncertain future that awaits as he travels back to turbulent Osrakum, a place that he has no real connection to anymore. ” – Nick Borelli
About The Masters
The Masters is volume one of seven of The Stone Dance of the Chameleon—a coming of age story—a saga of love and war—an apocalyptic epic fantasy about power and redemption.
A black ship defies winter gales, bringing to young Carnelian’s remote island of exile three masked Lords of the Chosen—a cruel ruling caste. These Masters beg his father to return with them to oversee the election of a new God Emperor. To repair their ship, they pillage and destroy Carnelian’s home—the only world he’s ever known—condemning his people to starve. He and his father embark with the visitors on a long and perilous journey—against deadly opposition—to Osrakum, the heart and wonder of the world and seat of absolute power.
2. (released 2009)
By Ken Scholes
An ancient weapon has destroyed the Androfrancine city of Windwir. From many miles away, Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses, sees the horrifying column of smoke rising. Nearer to the Desolation, a young apprentice is the only survivor of the city — Nebios sat waiting for his father outside the walls and was transformed as he watched everyone he knew die in an instant.
And within sight of Windwir sits Sethbert, the Overseer the Entrolusian City States, gloating in triumph. At his side Lady Jin Li Tam — her father’s pawn in the game of statecraft, but destined to become her own Queen on the board.
Soon all the Kingdoms of the Named Lands will be at another’s throats, as alliances are challenged and hidden plots are uncovered.
Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2010)
Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for Roman étranger (2011)
David Gemmell Morningstar Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Newcomer (2010)
3. (released 1981)
by John Crowley
“Love is a myth.’
‘Love is a myth,’ Grandfather Trout said. ‘Like summer.’
‘In winter,’Grandfather Trout said, ‘summer is a myth. A report, a rumor. Not to be believed in. Get it? Love is a myth. So is summer.”
About Little, Big
John Crowley’s masterful Little, Big is the epic story of Smoky Barnable, an anonymous young man who travels by foot from the City to a place called Edgewood—not found on any map—to marry Daily Alice Drinkwater, as was prophesied. It is the story of four generations of a singular family, living in a house that is many houses on the magical border of an otherworld. It is a story of fantastic love and heartrending loss; of impossible things and unshakable destinies; and of the great Tale that envelops us all. It is a wonder.
Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (1982)
Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1981)
Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (1982)
World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (1982)
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award (1982)
British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Novel (1982)
Seiun Award 星雲賞 Nominee for Best Foreign Novel (1998)
4. (released 2003)
A Sorcerer's Treason
by Sarah Zettel
About A Sorcerer's Treason
A World of Magic and Peril
1899, Sand Island, Wisconsin: Bridget Lederle is a lighthouse keeper on this stormy, windswept shore of Lake Superior. One cold night she sees a boat foundering near the island’s shoals, and rescues its lone occupant. The strangely dressed sailor tells her a fantastic tale, of Isavalta, a world where magic reigns, and where she is-incredibly-destined to play a key role in a power struggle between the Dowager Empress and her foes.
Isavalta, where magic can be found in the pattern of knots on a string, the colors of a dress, or even smoke in the air, beckons to her. Bridget has the second sight of her family, but the magical land where she will go with the sailor holds far greater marvels, and terrible perils that even she cannot see. For she carries secrets within her that even she doesn’t know, secrets that could change the fate of the fabulous magical world that calls her home . . .
5. (released 1985)
by R.M. Meluch
A Wizard’s Forge is a fantastically subversive fantasy that starts with the plucky bookish heroine on an island that knows the truth of a planet’s lost origins being kidnapped then sold into slavery where absolutely none of those qualities matter. She struggles with brainwashing from a charismatic ruler and even escape provides little recourse from her PTSD. It is a book that deals with difficult subjects but has a lot of charm regardless.
About Jerusalem Fire
To most of the galaxy he was a legend without a face, and to the rest a face without a name. He was Alihahd: the word meant simply ‘He left’. And so he always had. Until his luck ran out. And with it the stability, the very existence of the Na’id Empire which had ruled the known worlds since the onset of the human Dark Age. For it was on the semi-mythical planet of Iry that Alihahd at last found his destiny.
Iry, the world of the Irin warrior-priests, of witches and warlocks attended by familiars in wondrous shapes. Iry, where ‘men’ flew on wings with the eagles, and journeyed through the stars on enigmatic quests, armed only with their magical double-curved swords, and the strange powers they nurtured with such dedication. Iry, a culture awaiting a catalyst: Alihahd. It needed only his presence to cause a jihad to boil out across the universe.
6. (re-released 2005, original 1970)
Cities in Flight
by James Blish
Hands down one of my favorite series ever written. Cities becoming spaceships, living forever, this story has it all.
“There is wanting the unobtainable, and there is the obtaining of desire, and the greatest of these is the wanting, especially since the object of desire usually exists only in some alternate reality, to be mocked by actuality.”
About Cities in Flight
Originally published in four volumes nearly fifty years ago, Cities in Flight brings together the famed “Okie novels” of science fiction master James Blish. Named after the migrant workers of America’s Dust Bowl, these novels convey Blish’s “history of the future,” a brilliant and bleak look at a world where cities roam the Galaxy looking for work and a sustainable way of life.
In the first novel, They Shall Have Stars, man has thoroughly explored the Solar System, yet the dream of going even further seems to have died in all but one man. His battle to realize his dream results in two momentous discoveries anti-gravity and the secret of immortality. In A Life for the Stars, it is centuries later and anti-gravity generations have enabled whole cities to lift off the surface of the earth to become galactic wanderers. In Earthman, Come Home, the nomadic cities revert to barbarism and marauding rogue cities begin to pose a threat to all civilized worlds. In the final novel, The Triumph of Time, history repeats itself as the cities once again journey back in to space making a terrifying discovery which could destroy the entire Universe. A serious and haunting vision of our world and its limits, Cities in Flight marks the return to print of one of science fiction’s most inimitable writers.
A Selection of the Science Fiction Book Club
7. (released 1980)
The Snow Queen
by Joan D. Vinge
“Indifference.” Jerusha surprised herself with the answer. “Indifference, Gundhalinu, is the strongest force in the universe. It makes everything it touches meaningless. Love and hate don’t stand a chance against it. It lets neglect and decay and monstrous injustice go unchecked. It doesn’t act, it allows. And that’s what gives it so much power.”
About The Snow Queen
This reissue of a modern classic of science fiction, the Hugo and Locus Award-winning and Nebula-nominated The Snow Queen, marks the first time the book has been reprinted in fifteen years.
The imperious Winter colonists have ruled the planet Tiamat for 150 years, deriving wealth from the slaughter of the sea mers. But soon the galactic stargate will close, isolating Tiamat, and the 150-year reign of the Summer primitives will begin. Their only chance at surviving the change is if Arienrhod, the ageless, corrupt Snow Queen, can destroy destiny with an act of genocide. Arienrhod is not without competition as Moon, a young Summer-tribe sibyl, and the nemesis of the Snow Queen, battles to break a conspiracy that spans space. Interstellar politics, a millennia-long secret conspiracy, and a civilization whose hidden machineries might still control the fate of worlds all form the background to this spectacular hard science fiction novel from Joan D. Vinge.
Hugo Award for Best Novel (1981)
Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1980)
Locus Award for Best SF Novel (1981)
Ditmar Award Nominee for Best International Long Fiction (1981)
Balrog Award Nominee for Best Novel (1981)