10. (10) – Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie

This is the last Joe Abercrombie book on my list and it’s an incredible triumph in storytelling. At its most basic it is a tale of revenge in the spirit of The Count of Monte Cristo and Kill Bill, but there is so much going on and so many layers to the tale that I never expected when I began reading. After the horrible incident early in the novel, we want to see Monza get her revenge, and yet, throughout it is gradually revealed that much may have been brought on by herself and her brother.

Monza was a hero to those whose side she fought on, but there was a reason she was known as The Snake of Talins and The Butcher of Caprile. Her confrontations with those she seeks revenge against are often memorable and not just in the sense that she is trying to get her vengeance. Were this novel written from some of their perspectives, you may have seen what was happening in a completely different light.

Best Served Cold particularly takes off when Nicomo Cosca comes onto the scene. Cosca was the leader of a group of mercenaries until he was betrayed by Monza, but he still comes to fight with her as she seeks her revenge. Cosca is hilarious and unpredictable throughout. His interactions with pretty much every character in the book are excellent though I enjoyed his interactions with Friendly the most. Cosca quickly has become one of the great characters in fantasy.

Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel but is set in the same universe and shortly after the events of the First Law Trilogy. Because it is in the same universe there are some crossover characters, and plot points that people who have not read First Law will miss. I do not think this will lessen the enjoyment of the novel, but I am glad I read First Law first. That said, I think this is a better novel than any of the three in the First Law trilogy.  For me, it is Abercrombie’s best work, amongst so much incredibly stellar work.  He’s my favorite fantasy author for a reason.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

11. (11) – Perdido Street Station, by China Miéville

This book is masterfully written, with its grotesque, yet gorgeously written prologue taking you into the city.  Miéville draws you in immediately with just an incredible description of the approach to New Crobuzon. The city itself really becomes a character in the story as you are taken to all kinds of different areas throughout the city from the underworld, to slums, to nicer areas, to the science community, etc. You learn about the rails and the major center of the city at Perdido Street Station.

In this world, Miéville creates several interesting species, each completely unique, with a strong focus on genetically engineered species.  Those that have been reworked are considered to be “remade”. Every part narrated by Yag the Garuda is done exceptionally well.

Miéville’s slake-moths are among the freakiest creations in literature. The story takes a bit of time to really get going, but once it picks up it never lets up. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has a love of literature. Miéville writes at a level few authors can and creates a world like none I have read before. For excellent fantasy/science fiction/horror/literature it is hard to do better than this. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

12. (12) – The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch

When it comes to building a memorable, visionary city the gold standard (for me) is China Mieville’s New Crobuzon.  However, I must say, Scott Lynch’s Camorr though quite different delivered on many of the same levels.  Lynch showed us a city with an odd peace with crime so long as the nobility was not touched. In that city, thieves were trained as children to make money for other thieves, with a taste all going to the boss of crime, Bavarsi.

Locke Lamora was the best of these thieves.  He and the Gentleman Bastards flaunted the secret peace and willingly stole from nobility…not with knives or guns but with their intelligence and training. Throughout the story, complications arise and the Gentleman Bastards get involved in something far outside their own making.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tale of deception, revenge, and frightfully dark magic set in a hostile, dark, and violent world.  Lynch’s tale moves quickly for the 700-plus pages, and in the end, the payoff is certainly worth the journey.  The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first in a seven-part series (only two others written so far), however, it is also reasonably self-contained so that you can be content just reading this one (though I’d imagine you’ll want to move forward after).

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

13. (13) – The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie

I hope you’re not sick of Joe Abercrombie yet, because my top 15 Science Fiction and Fantasy novels are filled with his brilliant work.  The Heroes is Abercrombie’s fifth book and he continues to offer one page-turner after another. While I thought the First Law Trilogy had some faults, its world-building and character development were exceptional, and that world-building pays huge dividends in his two subsequent stand-alone novels (both of which take place in the same Universe after the events of First Law).

The Heroes is the story of a three-day Battle. The entire novel covers a span of a mere 5 days, and yet the character development, plot twists, and turns, and battle scenes all stand out to make an exceptional, page-turning read. One particular chapter in the middle of the book called “Casualties” may be the best battle sequence I have ever read. In that chapter, Abercrombie paints vivid pictures of the violent war raging all around and does so in a completely fresh, unique style. What is amazing about the chapter is that it really did not even involve the main characters.

I absolutely loved Best Served Cold and did not know if this could possibly meet that level.  But I think it did in a completely different way. The stories are so different yet connected. Though the novel is a stand-alone in the sense that the plot is completely self-contained, you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not read Abercrombie’s work in order. It’s all good and events/world-building from prior novels only add to the gravity of many scenes in this novel. Read Joe Abercrombie, read The Heroes…excellent novel.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

14. (14) – The Age of Madness Trilogy, by Joe Abercrombie

A rare trilogy where I find each book to be equally great and unique in its own way.  Abercrombie has been great from the beginning, but he’s also come a long way since The First Law trilogy.  For me, this is better.  Not only that, this is my all time favorite trilogy.  It’s that damn good. 

A Little Hatred

The return to the Circle of the World did not disappoint at all. The characters were compelling as always. I grew particularly fond of the Crown Prince Orso, Rikke and Savine dan Glotka. There is plenty of action, much of which Abercrombie brings in new and unique ways. The segment in the middle of the novel in Valbeck is one of the best Abercrombie has written and like nothing I’ve read before in fantasy. Many of the characters come together brilliantly at the end and leave us wanting to know what happens next. A great novel in its own right, A Little Hatred does an amazing job setting up the stakes of what is to come.

The Trouble with Peace

The Trouble With Peace is another Abercrombie fantasy masterpiece. Nobody in fantasy combines compelling characters with a completely unique take on the traditional genre better than Joe. This was a great continuation of the Age of Madness trilogy that also managed to stand on its own. It’s a story of conspiracy and rebellion involving the great characters at the center of A Little Hatred. This series can hold up on its own, separate from his other work in the universe, but there are plenty of little treats for those of us that have read everything that came before. I think my favorite scene in the novel involved a trip to Sipani for a conversation with the son of a main character from a prior novel. Of course, it’s hard to pick a favorite scene. They are all good. I laughed throughout and was on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put the book away. Read this book…and if you haven’t read Abercrombie before, get to it

The Wisdom of Crowds

The Age of Madness trilogy is better than First Law. Hell, it’s better than any trilogy I have ever read and there’s a good argument it’s the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. The Wisdom of Crowds is the perfect conclusion to the Age of Madness, with Abercrombie hitting on all cylinders.

Abercrombie packed so much character development in these three novels. We feel the weight of the events of all three and their effect on each character. I believe Abercrombie’s Circle of the World novels should be read in order because of all the little connections to history the reader gets to appreciate when he or she does, but this trilogy absolutely stands on its own and for me stands apart from the First Law trilogy that came before it.

First Law was a unique twist on the hero’s journey and the quest to save the world, with Bayaz playing a role I really hadn’t seen before in Fantasy. However, in the Age of Madness, Abercrombie has managed to find completely new, unique avenues from which to explore a fantasy world. The fragility of the monarchy as the world modernizes is an incredible thread to explore and Abercrombie does so deftly, with fascinating characters and beautiful, brutal, action sequences. The result is a stunning and fully engaging concluding novel to the best fantasy trilogy I have ever read

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

15. (15) – Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game was the book that made me fall in love with Science Fiction.  I read it in 8th grade and wasted no time plowing into its sequel, Speaker for the Dead.  It was so different from Ender’s Game.  Though the universe was bigger, the story was smaller.  We were focused on a little colony, a biological threat, and one messed up family.  If you were looking for the excellent military science fiction we saw in Ender’s Game, you may have been disappointed.  I wasn’t.  Speaker for the Dead was close to perfect. 

There is so much going on in Speaker for the Dead.  Ender is looking for a home for the Hive Queen.  Novinha is trying to save her family from a danger she doesn’t understand and from biological threat she understands quite well.  A catholic colony is in charge of relations with a primitive alien species called Pequeninos, who populates most of the planet.  However, the restrictions on how they can study the Pequeninos make understanding them nearly impossible.  And Ender is brought to the planet to also speak the death of a family’s alcoholic, abusive father. 

Ender’s arrival on Lusitania is a constant disruption.  He is respective of conventions, but he also ignores many of them.  His purposeful disruption stirs the colony, the family, and relations with the primitive aliens.  Ender’s compassion and brilliance come through on the page in nearly every scene.  He has come such a long way since Ender’s Game, still living with the pain of who he is, but using his understanding of humanity for the better.  He is an open mind, seeking to open the minds of others. 

Ender’s line to the Pequenino, Human, regarding how humans think, quite literally became a cornerstone in how I see the world.  “Human’s question all our beliefs, except the ones we truly believe, and those we never think to question.”  I often challenge myself now, asking why I think the way I do.  At the time I was a Christian because I was raised Christian in a mostly Christian community.  I was a conservative/libertarian child for the same reason.  Were those beliefs really driven by evidence?  I constantly question why I believe certain things even today. 

Ender and this kind of profound, empathetic, point of view coming from an author who has gone on the traffic in too much hate, with little empathy for many, has complicated my feelings on the author and his work.  But in the end, I can’t shake the joy I had reading Speaker for the Dead and the life lessons I took away from the novel.  It’s funny, it’s touching, it has interesting ideas, a great premise, and delivers on so many levels.  It remains one of my all-time favorite books.  

Felan’s Rescue
 is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

16. (16) – Midnight Tides, by Steven Erikson

How many authors take the 5th book in the series and go to a completely new part of the world, with an entirely new slate of characters, almost ignoring what had been going on in books 1 through 4? You would think that could be frustrating, but it works brilliantly in Midnight Tides, my second favorite Malazan novel.  Remarkably, Erikson manages to keep every book in this series fairly self-contained despite everything clearly building to something extraordinary. That is especially true of this book.

I loved this book from beginning to end. As with Memories of Ice, the prologue was particularly epic. Then we move forward to the story of Trull Senger and the Tiste Edur. Trull is about the only returning character and one I cared little about in House of Chains, but his story and that of the Tiste Edur was great. Their conflict with the Lethari Empire make up the bulk of the book and within the Lethari Empire we get some of the best characters Erikson has brought us. Tehol and Bugg made me laugh nearly every time they were on the page and the humor of their scenes was only part of the joy they brought.

I hate giving away too many plot points, but the influence of the Crippled God looms large in this story in completely interesting and appropriate ways.  This series just gets better and better. It is so different than everything else I have read, so much going on and still so much to see.  I cannot recommend this series enough.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

17. (17) – Nemesis Games, by James S.A. Corey. 

This is the midpoint of The Expanse and while it’s unfair to say this was the peak because the rest of the series is so great, I absolutely believe it’s the best book in the series. It’s very different from the other books as we see the crew scatter, get point of view chapters from each of the crew members and we focus far more on the politics and varying interests in the system.

The Naomi chapters are the heart of the story and are consistently excellent. I also really enjoyed getting some focus on Alex and the return of Bobbie Draper. Amos’s chapters at times felt separate and a completely different book, but they were still well done. Part of that is I enjoy Amos as a character so much. The last half of the novel is constant tension. By the end of the novel so much has changed within the system and plenty of future tension looms for the rest of the series. I can’t recommend this series enough to people.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

18. (18) – Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin

Before Game of Thrones, I was always hesitant to delve into the world of epic fantasy. So often these series go on with no end in sight and I liked my novels to be largely self-contained. Iain M. Banks for example is great about writing Culture novels that wrap up in each book so that one does not feel the need to press on right away. However, George R. R. Martin opened up a whole new world of novels that I would later read because Game of Thrones was an invigorating read from beginning to end.

There are a ton of characters to keep up with as Martin shifts from chapter to chapter to the perspective of 11 different characters (and there are other main ones whose stories we do not follow as directly), but the shifts are easy and I found myself getting a feel for all of these characters shockingly quickly. I like how Martin kept the magic to the fringe in this book, you can sense it is there, that it will play a part down the road, but he is dealing with the internal conflict of civilized world. Martin is natural with his dialogue and gives us plenty of tension throughout the story. One is often guessing where different characters loyalties truly lie. 

There’s not much more to say about Game of Thrones.  It’s one of the biggest properties in fantasy, with the most impactful show of the last decade.  This started it all, and if you haven’t read it yet…do yourself a favor and pick it up. 

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!

19. (19) – Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

“The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He’s got esprit up to here….The Deliverator’s car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt. Unlike a bimbo box or a Burb beater, the Deliverator’s car unloads that power through gaping, gleaming, polished sphincters. When the Deliverator puts the hammer down, shit happens.”

Come on…that opening segment is damn near perfect.  Talk about a freaking cool book. From page one this story grabs you and never let’s go. Though slightly dated in that these events are supposed to take place in the early 21st century, Stephenson’s thoughts on the development of computer technology seem at least mildly prophetic. Stephenson describes a United States where privatization has gone to its fullest extent. The government owns and runs nothing. Law is kept by whatever private agency you can find protection under. It’s a rough world.

In that world Hiro Protagonist is the deliverator. He delivers pizzas for the mafia. He carries with him a gun and two swords. He’s also a hacker and intelligence gatherer (gathering intelligence for money). This story is of his intelligence gathering with regards to a plot which would drastically change how the world operates, both the metaverse (in the computer) and outside world. His partner is a 15-year-old blond girl who also happens to be a dynamite skateboard courier named Y.T, To me Y.T. is the highlight of the book. The middle of this book has some large information dumps which take up some time, but the coolness of the rest makes up for it. You are sure to enjoy this book.

Felan’s Rescue is now available on Audiobook!

Felan’s Rescue is now available in Ebook form (and Kindle Unlimited), Hardback, and Paperback!