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Monkeylancer
2012-07-31, 02:42 PM
Hello Playgrounders,

Not quite what I envisioned what it would be my post here, but a fast approaching reading material shortage is encroaching upon me for a visit to a cottage in a few weeks. So I was hoping you guys may suggest something interesting.

In case the weather is crappy I'd like have a good fantasy book with me, and I've been visiting the fantasy sections of a few book stores to inspire me, but I'm not good at impulse buying.

I recently finished Elric of Melnibone, but I'm having a hard time finding Sailor of the Seas of Fate without resorting to ordering it online, so thats pretty much a right off. And just prior to that I've read a few Steve Erikson Malazan books of the Fallen which I enjoyed.. hrrmm really I\m pretty open to any suggestions as what may be obvious books to some I may not have read necessarily.

So if you've read anything recently that you'd like to suggest I'd love to hear it as I'm grasping at straws.

Thanks in advance

Eldan
2012-07-31, 02:44 PM
The Dresden Files are always good for a few rainy days. The first few are a bit weak compared to the later ones, but they are all short and fast paced, so that won't keep you long. They are funny and action-packed in most places, and then suddenly, sometimes, quite shockingly tragic when you least expect it.

Weezer
2012-07-31, 02:49 PM
If you like Erikson's Malazan series, give Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series a go. It's epic, low magic fantasy with a focus on intrigue, war and plotting. Very, very good.

Also Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss has the most beautiful prose I've ever come across in a fantasy novel. Well written, engaging, fascinating characters, well done magic system, it's great. There is also a sequel which is good, but not as good as the first.

Emmerask
2012-07-31, 02:58 PM
Yes Dresden Files is a very good suggestion especially if you like urban fantasy.

Similarly the Marla Mason series which has some similarities, though is not half as good as dresden files, still okay though.

The serpantwar saga (and the sagas that continue the story) is not exactly new but the series continues and the last book is I think something like 1 year old, the series gets a bit random and frankly boring in the middle but I think is pretty strong again with the chaoswar saga.

Painted Man and Desert Spear are also worth a read.

Hopeless
2012-07-31, 03:00 PM
Go online to amazon key in your favourite author and then look down the page and you should find a list of suggestions regarding similar type books.

Do you have a kindle or prefer physical books?

Lets see there's the Deacon, Magic Lost Trouble Found, the riyria revelations, tale of the five hundred kingdoms (think alternative fairy tales), of course have you read the Belgariad, the Elenium, the tamuli, etc?

Dienekes
2012-07-31, 03:05 PM
Well I cannot recommend A Song of Ice and Fire enough, it is currently my favorite book series. It's dark, brutal, and focuses on political machinations and personal drama. Fantastic characters, a great world developed, and a lot of moral ambiguity.

For a more "fun" and easier to read series I'll recommend Joe Abercrombie's series. Starting with The First Law trilogy, all his books are linked and written in chronological order even if they aren't officially a part of the series. Just some fun stories with a few nice twists. And by fun, I'll say that it's also incredibly dark and filled with black comedy.

If you've never read the more quest based fantasy, Eddings' Belgariad is a light-hearted, if cliched story that is filled with memorable characters and up to the brim with snark, lots of snark.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is great fun. It's sort of like mixing Ocean's Eleven and a fantasy setting. The crux is about really, really good thieves and con artists trying to pull off their best scam ever and of course it all goes to hell and they get entangled in a much more complex plot.

I've sort of put it aside, but if you haven't read Tolkien you really should. Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion is the core books there. While Sil is my personal favorite it kind of reads like a history book, though a fun history book with cool stories and giant demons that kill douchebag elves.

pita
2012-07-31, 03:06 PM
The Massive List of Pita's Favorites:
George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones first) OR Wild Cards (Wild Cards is first, Inside Straight an acceptable place to start as well)
Joe Abercrombie, The First Law Trilogy (The Blades Itself is first) AND Best Served Cold AND The Heroes
Patrick Rothfuss, The Kingkiller Trilogy (only two books released, The Name of the Wind is first)
Robin Hobb, The Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice) AND The Liveship Trilogy (Ship of Magic) AND The Tawny Man Trilogy (Fool's Errand) AND The Soldier's Son Trilogy (Shaman's Crossing) AND The Rain Wild Trilogy (Dragon Keeper, I think)
R. Scott Bakker, The Second Apocalypse series (The Darkness That Comes Before) AND Neuropath
Scott Lynch, The Gentlemen Bastards Series (The Lies of Locke Lamora)
Dan Simmons, The Hyperion Omnibus
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game
Neil Gaiman, American Gods AND Good Omens (With Terry Pratchett) AND Neverwhere AND Smoke and Mirrors
Terry Pratchett, Discworld (Giant series, no real place to start. Guards! Guards!, or Mort, are both viable options, but they're two out of many)
Roger Zelazny, The Great Book of Amber
Brandon Sanderson, The Mistborn Trilogy (The Last Empire first book) AND Warbreaker AND The Way of Kings
Daniel Abraham, The Long Price Quartet (A Shadow in Summer first book)

And probably much more I'm forgetting. These are all good choices, though R. Scott Bakker and Robin Hobb are polarizing in their appeal (Bakker is too nihilistic (though if you like Erikson this may not be an issue), Hobb focuses on very flawed protagonists who are often teens). Sanderson is on the light, fluffy side of reads here, Bakker, Martin, and Abercrombie on the darker and edgier side. Card and Hobb are generally in the middle, with Lynch, Gaiman and Pratchett espousing somewhat dark worldviews but in a lighthearted way that feels much easier to read. Hobb's series (With the exception of Soldier's Son) are set in the same world in chronological order, so it's recommended to read them in the listed order. Wild Cards isn't actually written by George R. R. Martin, it's a collaborative novel written by many authors and managed by Martin. Rothfuss has received criticism of writing a Mary Sue, but that's neither here nor there for this thread. If you're quick with the Mary Sue allegations, you may want to avoid him. I can't really tell you much about The Long Price Quartet, since I only started book 3 today, but I've really enjoyed it and I'm wondering where it'll lead me. Amber is a book you can use as a weapon if you get bored. I purposefully didn't list comic books/graphic novels/manga here. If you want me to, I'll add.
I hope I helped, even if this post is confused.

Dhavaer
2012-07-31, 03:44 PM
I'll send Brandon Sanderson's works, and add A Trial of Blood and Steel (first book is Sasha), by Joel Shepherd and The Black Company (starts with The Books of the North), by Glen Cook.

Selrahc
2012-07-31, 04:03 PM
Dan Simmons, The Hyperion Omnibus
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

Both sci-fi, right?
If we're recommending Sci-Fi, there are a million of them.

Deepbluediver
2012-07-31, 04:11 PM
I've read a LOT of fantasy novels over the years, and I like to promote some of the lesser well-known series I've seen, particularly those with unique flavors of magic.

One of the most unexpectedly enjoyable ones was the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix; it's got 2 major female protagonists, and the most interesting exploration of Necromancy as a deeply involved type of magic of any fantasy series I have ever read.
The three books are, in order: Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen

Another good series was the Runelords books by David Farland. This series' quirk of magic is a ceremony that lets you transfer the attributes of one person to another (Strength, Wit, Voice, etc) so you end up with kings and warlords having the power of an entire army, but there are enough limitations and weaknesses to keep the characters interesting.
The four books are: The Sum of All Men, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Wizardborn, and The Lair of Bones

One last series, in case you get stuck in the middle of a hurricane or something, is the Crown of Stars, by Kate Elliot. This series is more low-magic, set in an alternate-European type world with a lot of emphasis on politics, loyalty, and betrayal (similar in many aspects to The Song of Fire and Ice, though somewhat less explicit). In addition to the humans, there are elves and orcs, although they are quite different from their usual fantasy stereotypes. It's also the only series that used time-travel in a method that I liked (i.e. more than a one-way ticket to a fish-out-of-water scenario but NOT as a deus ex machina that promplty gets forgotten about afterwords)
The series is composed of seven big doorstopper novels: King's Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, Child of Flame, The Gathering Storm, In the Ruins, and Crown of Stars

Monkeylancer
2012-07-31, 05:22 PM
I'm thrilled by the responses, thank you all!

Only a couple I've read/enjoyed before; I've read all of Tolkien including the Silmarrillion and Children of Hurin. I really liked Glen Cook's Black Company and Martin's Fire and Ice series, however I did find my enjoyment has declined after the third book. I have tried to read Belgariad before, but I couldn't get into it, maybe that's a reflection of my taste.

There are quite alot of books to choose from that I haven't heard of and that also definitely pique my interest. So when I go to a few book stores this week I"ll have a bit of a shopping list with me. And what I don't pick up right away I'll definitely delegate to my reading 'to do' list.

So once again thank you, I appreciate it, I was a little stressed about it.
And if anyone wishes to add more, that's awesome too.


Both sci-fi, right?
If we're recommending Sci-Fi, there are a million of them.

I do love sci fi, but I tend to segregate my reading, depending on my mood for a particular genre.

Eldan
2012-07-31, 05:28 PM
I think I should give a bit more detail here.

The Dresden Files start with storm Front. The main character is Harry Dresden, a wizard, smart-ass, geek and private detective (the order is debatable). He solves supernatural cases using magic, a gun, his wits and a lecherous spirit of intellect named Bob who's trapped in a skull.

At least, that's what the books are about in the beginning. As the series goes on, Harry proves to have an amazing talent for pissing off every supernatural power around him enormously by being both very, very annoying and a very righteous person at the same time. Vampires, Faerie Queens, powerful necromancers and ancient gods are all gunning for him pretty soon, and he finds himself in the middle of a magical war.

I think that's about how much I can say without spoiling much. The series has many strengths. The writing is very fast-paced and genuinely gripping. The humour is good, but not layered on too thickly. The action is often awesome and slightly over-the-top. The story twists are unexpected, which I find a rarity in much fiction. And on to p of that, the emotional connections between the characters manage to stay surprisingly deep.

Just... well, this is Jim Butcher's first writing, and he takes a bit to get into his style. Two or three books, probably. But they are all fairly short, I usually read them in three or four days. Not that hte first one are bad, mind you. It just takes a bit to go from "fairly good" to "absolutely awesome".

Monkeylancer
2012-07-31, 05:44 PM
If someone is as big an advocate for a series as you seem to be, then it is probably worth exploring.

Plus, it sounds pretty cool, don`t worry I won`t dismiss or overlook it. It`s on my shopping list.

Melayl
2012-07-31, 09:48 PM
I'll put in my plugs:
Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg is awesome.

Anything by Mercedes Lackey, particularly her Valdemar novels (the 500 Kingdom books are hers, too.)

Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson books, starting with Moon Called, is one of my new favorites.

Chronicles of the Cheysuli by Jennifer Roberson. A little dark, but good.

I liked the Wizard in Rhyme series by Christopher Stasheff as well, but it has been years over a decade since I've read them.

Deepbluediver
2012-07-31, 10:04 PM
I can't believe this, I almost forgot about my favorite fantasy novel of all time!

The Deed of Paskenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon. It was originally published as 3 seperate books, but these days you can most often find it in one volume. Although I didn't know it at the time, it was apparently inspired by the author running into a bunch of the stereotypical self-reighteous stick-up-the-arse stop-having-fun paladins at conventions, and she decided to write a novel about how the class should be played.
There are quite a few D&D analogues, but you don't need to know anything about the game to understand the novel perfectly well.
On another totally unrelated note, this is the only fantasy novel I've read that portrays mercenaries in a positive light; every other author writes them as somewhere along the spectrum between neutral-greedy and stab-you-just-for-laughs-evil.

Logic
2012-07-31, 10:50 PM
I'm going to recommend only books I have recently read and enjoyed.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is space fantasy set on Mars in the late 1800s. This book inspired science fiction and fantasy for decades, including Star Wars. If you have an e-reader of some kind, the titles of this series are usually free.

I am going to second third fourth fifth the Song of Fire and Ice series, starting with A Game of Thrones. Political fantasy at its best.

Ender's Game is a great science fiction story. Not fantasy, but those that like fantasy usually like sci-fi as well.

The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is pretty darn good too, although a bit long winded.

Das Platyvark
2012-07-31, 11:42 PM
*Dances madly with China Miéville sign he keeps for occasions such as this.

Ninjadeadbeard
2012-08-01, 12:06 AM
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson. Possibly the best long-running Fantasy series ever, IMO. I must caution you that it is absolutely, bitterly, abysmally DARK. Things like Optimism, health and sanity go here to die sad wretched deaths.

But the Lore is astonishing, the language is beautiful and the plot is essentially a grittier Lord of the Rings-style quest that takes a psychologist's eye to the main characters. Not for the faint of heart, but worth it, oh so worth it. I give it the Ninja Seal of Approval.

Traab
2012-08-01, 07:13 AM
The Spellsong Cycle is a trilogy by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. The first book is The Soprano Sorceress. A woman from earth, an opera singer, gets dragged into another world where music is magic, and, as an opera singer, im sure you can imagine how strong she is. Its an awesome series, with a coherent magic system, a lot of politics, tons of battles, and our main hero trying to make a difference. There is even a followup set of books after the trilogy that basically makes it generational. Most of the characters in the original series are dead or dying, and the next generation is stepping up.

I also highly recommend any of the A. Lee Martinez books. Especially, In The Company of Ogres. HILARIOUS books. They are pretty much all funny, but they also have great stories involved as well. Gils All fright Diner is another of his that is worth reading. The first one has all the standard fantasy races in them, ogres, orcs, goblins, elves, giant rocs, etc etc, but with his own unique twist on them. And you gotta love any story where the main character is called Never Dead Ned. Second one is more scary movie style characters. You have vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, etc, and yet its a funny book.

Final one. David Weber writes mainly sci fi, but he has a single trilogy of fantasy novels, Oath of Swords, The War Gods Own, and Windriders Oath. The main characters are a unique race, called hradani. I havent come across them in any other fantasy novel, so thats a big plus. You have a pantheon of good and evil gods, demons, assassins, armies, rescuing maidens, and a lot of humor.

Eldan
2012-08-01, 08:02 AM
The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R Donaldson. Possibly the best long-running Fantasy series ever, IMO. I must caution you that it is absolutely, bitterly, abysmally DARK. Things like Optimism, health and sanity go here to die sad wretched deaths.

But the Lore is astonishing, the language is beautiful and the plot is essentially a grittier Lord of the Rings-style quest that takes a psychologist's eye to the main characters. Not for the faint of heart, but worth it, oh so worth it. I give it the Ninja Seal of Approval.

I absolutely could not like this book. Thomas Covenant is a good character, no doubt.But the world, plot and everyone else? Flat, flat, flat, boring and flat.
The quest is uninteresting. The bad guy is laughable and has a silly name. No character other than Covenant has any characterization, not even enough to turn them into broad archetypes that might still work. They are all "that woman" "that guy" "the old sage" and so on. And the world is barely ever described. There are no details given. Nothing original to make it interesting. It's just plains and forests and mountains. And not even described with particularly interesting or beautiful language.
Overall, I think I found it one of the toughest books to get to the end to of all I've ever tried. It's just so incredibly generic and boring. If the author had written "The Story of Thomas Convenant in the Real World" instead, it would probably have been really good.

Deepbluediver
2012-08-01, 08:33 AM
I absolutely could not like this book. Thomas Covenant is a good character, no doubt.But the world, plot and everyone else? Flat, flat, flat, boring and flat.

I have a challenge for you.

Try reading the Gormenghast (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormenghast_(series)) series of novels; it's considered something of a classic. The series is this odd kind of magic-less fantasy, and the writing style of the author is the slowwwest, DENSEST, most detailed thing I have ever seen. I've made at least 5 seperate attempts to read them, and I've never managed to get more than 4 chapters into the first book. It's like having all the food you will eat for an entire year compressed down into a 1-foot cube, and then being handed a fork.

I think everyone should take a crack at reading it, just so they have something to compare every other fantasy series to.

Eldan
2012-08-01, 08:36 AM
I like dense and detailed writing. And purple prose, if I can find any. So, I might try that.

Deepbluediver
2012-08-01, 08:41 AM
If/When you do, I'd love to hear your evaluation of it. I've read LotR, The Wheel of Time, and even the Left Behind series, but I just couldn't get through this.

So good luck; let me know how it turns out.

Feytalist
2012-08-01, 08:53 AM
I always mention Priestess of the White in these kinds of threads. Trilogy by Trudi Canavan. Starts with Last of the Wilds. The writing is pleasantly pulpy, the characters are mostly original and the storyline is very intriguing.

I'd suggest The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant as well, but it's already been mentioned. Suffice to say that I think it's brilliantly written, but way on the other side of the "pulpy happy" spectrum. Thomas Covenant is depressing.



*Dances madly with China Miéville sign he keeps for occasions such as this.

I've mentioned this before, but I really, really dislike China Miéville's work. Every thing he writes just sounds as if he's trying too hard to be as weird as possible. I can't stand his writing. But that's just my opinion.


Edit:


I have a challenge for you.

Try reading the Gormenghast (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormenghast_(series)) series of novels; it's considered something of a classic.

Gormenghast is fantastic. That is all.

Selrahc
2012-08-01, 09:16 AM
I have a challenge for you.

Try reading the Gormenghast (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormenghast_(series)) series of novels; it's considered something of a classic.

Try reading Gormenghast(Book 2) first. It's by far the strongest entry in the trilogy, and it can easily stand on its own. Basically a tale of a little boy growing up in an odd environment.

18th Avenger
2012-08-01, 11:06 AM
Huh. Most of the series I would've suggested are right up there.

But for an Eddings work, I suggest The Elenium trilogy. You crack The Diamond Throne open, you won't know where the time will go. Yeah, you can accuse Eddings, saints rest him and his wife, of his copypasta style, but he loved what he wrote. And it shows.

Belovedly flawed characters, villains you love to hate and endings everyone deserves, it is heartily recommended.

Tanith Lee's Piratica is very enjoyable and light, with enough humor and vividness to keep your attention. On that vein but on the opposite end, give Dan Abnett's Fell Cargo a try for gritty pirate action.

zorenathres
2012-08-01, 12:51 PM
Have to second Pita on Roger Zelazny's Amber Chronicles, IMO, one of the greatest tales of the conflict between chaos & order. Also, Jack of Shadows & Lord of Light are two other books by Zelazny, & Jack of shadows is actually my second favorite book, ever.

Monkeylancer
2012-08-01, 04:56 PM
*writes down the many additional books suggested*



Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg is awesome.

I've read The Sleeping Dragon, and I definitely concur, however I never got around to read beyond the first book. Similarly enough, I never got beyond Against the Hordes by David Gemmel in that series either :smallredface:.

I've seen the movie of Gormenghast, I imagine there is quite a bit left out of the books.

Avilan the Grey
2012-08-01, 04:58 PM
(Somebody might have mentioned this)
The OTHER series by Butcher (The Dresden Files): Codex Alera is a fantasy series that I find very entertaining indeed.

Melayl
2012-08-01, 10:09 PM
*writes down the many additional books suggested*




I've read The Sleeping Dragon, and I definitely concur, however I never got around to read beyond the first book. Similarly enough, I never got beyond Against the Hordes by David Gemmel in that series either :smallredface:.

I've seen the movie of Gormenghast, I imagine there is quite a bit left out of the books.

You should definitely read the rest of them. I actually started with the second book, The Sword and the Chain. That got me hooked. IMO, they keep getting better.

Togath
2012-08-02, 12:29 AM
While they're probably different in style from the other books, I personally enjoyed the "Septimus Heap" series by Angie Sage and the series "the Immortal Secrets of Nicholas Flamel" by Michael Scott.

Phoenixguard09
2012-08-02, 12:47 AM
The His Majesty's Dragon books by Naomi Novik are amazing.

And I don't recall if they're already put on the list but the Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks is also very good.

Fiery Diamond
2012-08-06, 11:22 PM
Ooo, I actually get to contribute!

The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. Strong female protagonist, engaging lore that's presented as story unfolds rather than dumped on you, good action, good intrigue, good characters, and people die (and it's taken seriously) without the stories becoming really dark or depressing - the issue of plot armor is not one you need to worry about.

I think there's a fourth one, but I can't find it anywhere. The first three are Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

Logic
2012-08-06, 11:58 PM
Ooo, I actually get to contribute!

The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. Strong female protagonist, engaging lore that's presented as story unfolds rather than dumped on you, good action, good intrigue, good characters, and people die (and it's taken seriously) without the stories becoming really dark or depressing - the issue of plot armor is not one you need to worry about.

I think there's a fourth one, but I can't find it anywhere. The first three are Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

I totally forgot about this series. I liked the first book (the only one I read, about 10 years ago, I think.)

Add the Logic Seal of ApprovalTM to the Green Rider.

Tergon
2012-08-07, 12:25 AM
Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Saga is a truly great read. Get hold of Magician as the first one, Silverthorn as the second, and A Darkness At Sethanon as the third. That's the original trilogy and in and of themselves, a magnificent read.

If you like it, the expanded series covers many more books. They're worth reading, and the multiple series can be read in different orders once you've read the original trilogy to understand the universe. But at the very least those three are, in my opinion, mandatory reads for anyone who says they like Fantasy.

endoperez
2012-08-07, 02:25 AM
David Gemmel writes fantasy that reads like a good, pulpy action movies should look like. I read The Legend, and fell in love.

There's a war coming on, and the Chosen Hero is called. They find him from a farm. His chosen weapon is an axe, and the magic is long gone. His wife is gone too. And his friends. He's over fifty, and in fact, HIS best days are gone, too. But, hey, there's all those young lads who're looking up at him... oh, bugger, better for one old soldier to die instead of one of these young un's. Buttkicking ensues.

Not a deep read, and might not be to your taste, but enjoyable.

Monkeylancer
2012-08-07, 02:29 PM
Add the Logic Seal of ApprovalTM to the Green Rider.

Heh, I shouldn't dismiss a book with such a high accolade, *writes down for reading to do list*


Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar Saga is a truly great read... at the very least those three are, in my opinion, mandatory reads for anyone who says they like Fantasy.

I haven't read any of the Riftwar Saga, but I've played Betrayal at Krondor if that counts? :smallbiggrin:


David Gemmel writes fantasy that reads like a good, pulpy action movies should look like. I read The Legend, and fell in love.


I've read the..I suppose the American version being Against the Hordes but that's as far as I got in that series. I liked that an older guy can be as much of a badass as some young dude.

Palanan
2012-08-10, 11:03 PM
Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy has already been mentioned, in a great galloping company of other books and series, but I want to mention it again here on its own.

I bought the first novel on a friend's suggestion, a couple days before a working trip; I figured it would be a good airport read.

Instead, I was more than halfway through the book before I'd left home, and when I finished--still settling into my hotel room--I immediately went to the nearest bookstore and bought the second in the series. I was supposed to be working hard that week, so I had to discipline myself not to sneak chapters during the day.

After spending years in a dull, resigned malaise at the state of current fantasy, Mistborn singlehandedly rekindled my interest in the genre. The characters are intriguing, the world is fascinating, and the native system of magic is innovative, well-thought-out and so smoothly presented that you hardly even consider it magic; it's innate to the characters and the world. They're heroic, compelling novels, wonderfully cinematic in spots, and the careful reader will be rewarded.

I'd also like to recommend another series that hasn't been mentioned so far, which is Orson Scott Card's Earthborn novels, starting with Memory of Earth.

These are as much science fiction as fantasy--or maybe it's the other way around. They came out in the mid-90s and I don't think they've received nearly as much attention as the Ender series, but I actually enjoyed them more.

Scott Card is not always the most descriptive writer, but in Memory of Earth he creates a desert city that's the equal of anything in fantasy, and a culture that feels both familiar and foreign at once. There are fine touches of human nuance, characters as annoyingly real as your own family, and subtle glimmers of wondrous prose.

Finally, because she hasn't been mentioned either, I'd like to suggest C.J. Cherryh, one of my absolute favorite writers.

Unfortunately she receives very little shelf space these days, but she's a marvellously versatile writer whose language and style change fluidly between genres and worlds. The tenor of her science fiction is clipped, pragmatic, words like staccato shellfire; her fantasy prose is a mellow cadence, wonderfully evocative and rich with a fine Celtic feel.

You can find this to best effect in The Dreaming Tree, which is an omnibus of two connected novels, Dreamstone and Tree of Swords and Jewels. There are Sidhe and subtle magics here, stories that reward patience and a love of language.

You might also consider Rusalka, the first of a trilogy based on medieval Russian legends, with a unique system of magic in which a wizard's book holds not spells, but rather a detailed record of every effect he's ever had on the world, all of which he needs to account for before he can risk exerting another pulse of power. (Rusalka is also great fun for C.J.'s description of the domovoi, the "house-thing," which is a ferocious little guardian spirit that lives beneath the floorboards.)

From her interstellar writing, Pride of Chanur is a fun romp, beginning with a wild human loose on the docks of an alien station. ("You could tell it was male; it had that over-the-edge look in the eye.") This is the first in a short series of Chanur novels; these are strong on action, character, and the intersection of wildly different starfaring alien cultures. The mahendo'sat are a hoot.

For a deeper read, focusing as she usually does on human spacefaring, I'd suggest Downbelow Station, which sketches out a plausible scenario of expansion into our immediate interstellar neighborhood. Unlike a lot of science fiction writers, who just pick a star because it sounds cool and then send the characters there (Allen Steele, I'm lookin' at you), C.J. actually mapped out the positions of Barnard's Star, UV Ceti, LET 118, and several dozen others, and then thought long and hard about what pathways human exploration and development might take. It's an outstanding novel and a superlative read.