Recommended Series Reading List
Of the more than ten thousand books we've reviewed over the years, we've looked at more series than scarcely bears thinking about, which is why we decided to pick these series for your reading pleasure!
Camille Alexa has our first choice -- 'The unapologetic full-tilt action of Tobias Buckell's Xenowealth series was tons of fun. Things built rather slowly in Crystal Rain, but like the down slope of a roller coaster, the second half of the book was go, go, go. I could barely catch a breath through all of Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose took dirigible zombie space invasion about as far as it could go. What's next?'
Donna Bird picked the Joe Sandiland series -- 'Barbara Cleverly's series about Joe Sandilands, a London-based police officer and World War I veteran who spends time doing investigative work in India, was one of Donna’s first forays into the world of historical mystery series. Of the sixth and to date final novel in this series, Tug of War, Donna wrote, 'he novel is fast-paced and entertaining, but never breezy’ with an 'eminently satisfying but not at all predictable’ ending.'
J.S.S. Boyce says of Neal Asher's Polity series, 'What's not to love? Asher has revitalized space opera -- all the high-octane interstellar battles and alien lords we fondly recall are still present, but extrapolated very believably from now. This is fully modern, decidedly hard sci-fi on the cutting edge; there's no trace of misplaced 1950s nostalgia. In a universe half a millenium removed from us, we see the triumph of machine intelligence, aliens both hostile and ambivalent, and most all of the social problems we're dealing with now, joined by a slew of new ones. Never repetitive and always leaves you wanting more -- I'd say that's how to write a series.'
For a great English mystery series with a winning combination of ghosts and folk music, Cat Eldridge recommends Deborah Grabien's Haunted Ballads series. He notes that 'The first in the series, The Weaver and the Factory Maid, sets up the premise of the series very nicely -- ghosts are very real and many, many folk can experience their presence with that awareness being anything from being very, very cold on a hot midsummer's day for no reason at all to seeing visions of the ghosts in their own time complete with smell, sound, and even touch being quite real.'
Oh, and do check out the first novel of Grabien’s new series, Rock and Roll Never Forgets -- A JP Kinkaid Mystery, as the second novel, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is out this fall!
Deborah Grabien's not much for most present-era scifi/fantasy, but she does have two that make her quite happy -- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, began as a radio love affair in 1980 or thereabouts, every Thursday night on the BBC. And Laura Anne Gilman's Retrievers series has a nicely intricate ongoing storyline and characters who have a habit of poking you when you're thinking about something else entirely.
April Gutierrez has multiple series to recommend...
Part old-fashioned gumshoe detective story, part urban fantasy (complete with wizards, fairy queens and magic) and entirely entertaining, Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files mixes together humor, action and engaging characters to paint an alternate world where magic is real, the good guys don't always wear white and Harry Dresden is your go-to man if you're in magical trouble. A look at the first novel, Storm Front, is here.
The Dark Tower series is not only the crowning achievement of Stephen King's long and illustrious career, it's the lynch-pin to many of his other works. King's sweeping tale of the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, relic of another place and time, touches upon many of his other books, often in subtle ways. Roland and his companions' journey to the Dark Tower is an enthralling, emotional read, a superb fantasy series from a master of horror.
April also thinks we would be remiss if we did not mention a few of our favourite Vertigo comic series. First up is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Entire books have been written about this amazing series, so she’ll only comment here that its blend of history, mythology and the DC universe, rendered in comic form, is unparalleled. And then there’s Bill Willingham’s marvelous modern fairy tale update Fables. Willingham's narrative of fairy tale characters hiding in New York and waging a war against an ancient foe is clever, bold and so very witty. Last, but certainly not least is the Hellblazer series, featuring stories penned by Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis, and even one by Gaiman. John Constantine is not necessarily an upstanding gentleman, but he means well, and the frequently dark stories he inhabits are full of sardonic wit and social commentary.
Michael Jones loves the fiction of Simon R. Green so his recommendation is not surprising -- 'How does one describe the Nightside series? It's an insane mashup combining every urban fantasy and hardboiled detective trope imaginable. Simon Green essentially tosses all of these wacky, weird, disturbing, exaggerated, exciting and disparate elements into a blender, and adds some secret British blend of herbs and spices, before topping it all off with whipped cream and a cherry. What's so keen about the Nightside? Anything goes. Anything. In the secret heart of London, where it's always 3 AM and usually raining, there are no limits and no boundaries. Angels, demons, time travellers, comic book heroes, pulp adventurers, saints, sinners, killers, androids, cavemen, thinly-veiled homages to a hundred other sources ... it's all there. And sooner or later there's going to be a messy fight, and it'll all end in tears. The Nightside is the perfect springboard for someone with as varied a resume and as wide a scope as Green. Though we usually see it through the eyes of John Taylor, a hardboiled P.I. tough enough to stare down God Himself (I hear that's in an upcoming book, right before he beats Chuck Norris in arm-wrestling), several other stories set in the Nightside and featuring other narrators prove its versatility as a storytelling device. The Nightside series is what happens when John Constantine and Harry Dresden get drunk and tell tall tales. The Nightside series is where genre cliches go to get mugged. The Nightside series will beat up your sparkly vampires, alpha male werewolf studmuffins, sex-crazed faerie princesses, and magical orphaned schoolboys. The Nightside series is not impressed by you. The Nightside series stole your lolcat's cheeseburger. It is a shamelessly guilty pleasure made of inexplicable awesoness, and I'll never be allowed to write one of these again.'
For an English mystery series of a decidedly bent sense of humour, Iain Nicholas Mackenzie highly recommends Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels in which the 'real' world of Detective Thursday Next intersects with hilarious results with the also very real world of the literary universe where such such beings as the Cheshire Cat and the cast of Jane Austen novels are all too real. The first novel, The Eyre Affair, is reviewed here.
He also recommends Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May series with its two ancient coppers, weird murders, and detailed look at a London which you likely will never encounter. Full Dark House, the first novel in the series, is reviewed thisaway.
Sharyn McCrumb's The Ballad Novels gets picked by Jack Merry who notes 'This series of novels is a fascinating but uneven look at the mountain culture as filtered through the perceptions of an author that perhaps has a belief in an Appalachian culture that never was as cohesive as she believes it was. Be that as it may, this series is well worth your time to check out, and my time to tell you about. It's of special interest to any descendent of Scotch Irish settlers in that region.'
When the question was posed to Robert M. Tilendis, he didn't hesitate for an instant -- "Elizabeth Bear's The Promethean Age. The first two novels, Blood and Iron and Whiskey and Water, bring us the story of the latest stage of an ongoing war between the Prometheans, sworn to stamp out influence of the Fae, and the Courts of Faerie, who are fighting for survival. The two novels of The Stratford Man take us back to the beginnings of the war during the time of Elizabeth and James of England. It's all a heady mix of myth, folklore, history, and pop culture wrapped in compelling story of war, love, and betrayal.
Elizabeth Vail says 'her favourite series so far has to be Liz Williams' Detective Inspector Chen series. Each novel has been consistently fascinating - remaining consistent to the characters while finding some new way to integrate science-fiction, horror, mythology, and comedy into a potent mix.' You can read our review of the first novel, Snake Agent, here.
Matthew Winslow recommends Kage Baker's The Company series. Matthew writes, 'I can still remember exactly where I was when I first encountered Joseph and Mendoza in 'Noble Mold', Kage's first published story. I was immediately hooked with the fascinating cyborg operatives and their relationship with the Company that gave them life. No matter what my financial situation, I always made sure I had enough on hand to purchase each book as it came out. My one big regret is that the series is now over, although I'm working at re-reading the series for a third time.'
We should remind you about our special editions which are our way of looking at specific writers and other subjects worthy of exploring in-depth. Of course, we've done several editions on master storyteller Peter S. Beagle which you can find thisaway and over 'ere. Needless to say, we're very proud of the great edition on Charles de Lint we did.
We did one on the ever fascinating trio of Brian, Toby, and Wendy Froud; naturally we did one on master storyteller J.R.R. Tolkien who is much loved by our staff; not to mention ones on Catherynne M. Valente, Patricia McKillip, and Elizabeth Bear
Oh, our Editor just reminded me that we did (as if I could 'ave forgotten!) an edition devoted to the now departed and much missed Year's Best Fantasy & Horror anthology.
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This version revised, 29 May at 19.00 GMT