Page-TurnersDid you ever buy a book with wonderful, almost reverential, reviews, and then sit down full of expectation, anticipation and just sheer joy, but then when you actually began reading the book, nothing much seems to be happening? Pages go by. More pages go by. Oh hurrah they're throwing a big party. Everyone's having a great time. Uh-oh, somebody's messing with the fireworks. Ha-Ha-Ha stupid Pippin and Took! And more pages go by. AND NOTHING IS HAPPENING! This is supposed to be the best fantasy of all time? Seriously? Who has time to read one-hundred pages of nothing much happens? Two-hundred pages ... I've probably read more books than anybody you know. But I couldn't—I won't!—read this. Because after 3000 pages I expect something a little more earth-shaking than finally managing to throw the shiny MacGuffin into a volcano. I've read most of the books written by the authors listed below, and they wouldn't be listed below if I had ever once furiously hurled one of their most vaunted and acclaimed novels into my fireplace.
ProlificWhat I want most from my favorite authors are books. You're a writer; so write! My top 20 list includes both sci-fi and fantasy authors, although they frequently cross-over from fantasy to sci-fi and vice versa. Every member of my top 20 list has a fairly lengthy bibliography.
ConvenientAs Stephen King would say, the world has moved on. Libraries and book stores are next in line for the economic chopping block. It wasn't that long ago that people went to places called Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. It wasn't that long ago that people rode on wooden contraptions pulled by horses or mules. All the authors listed below have many titles available electronically. Lie in your bed, or sit on your couch and simply click a few links and presto! You'll be reading a great book.
- Brandon Sanderson — I first started reading Sanderson's books because he took over the Wheel of Time saga when Robert Jordan passed away before concluding his epic saga that I had been reading for more than twenty years. Sanderson did a masterful job in finishing it and tying up all the literally thousands of loose ends. The Wheel of Time is the greatest epic fantasy saga of all time. I can't praise it highly enough. Every page has something exciting happening. Sanderson's contribution to the Wheel of Time was so impressive that I started reading his other books...all of them. I haven't yet read a book by Brandon Sanderson that wasn't thrilling. Sanderson's best work in my opinion is the Stormlight Archive 01 - The Way of Kings and the Stormlight Archive 02 - Words of Radiance is equally wonderful. You can pick anything written by Brandon Sanderson and you won't be disappointed.
- Robert Jordan — He wrote the Wheel of Time series. From the very first page of the very first book The Eye of the World, you'll be hooked. You won't be able to put it down. I read and reread the entire series every time Jordan came out with the next sequel. Eleven books read and re-read over and over and they never got old! Robert Jordan would have been number one on my list if he'd lived long enough to complete his masterpiece.
- Orson Scott Card — His book Ender's Game is widely considered to be the best science fiction book ever written. I particularly enjoyed his Ender's Shadow series featuring a lesser known character named at first simply Bean—and later known as Julian Delphiki, Jr. Recently Orson Scott Card has begun collaborating with another author—Aaron Johnston—on a series called The Formic Wars, of which three thrilling books have been written. Trust me, you'll want to read them.
- Terry Goodkind — The Sword of Truth series is epic fantasy that thrills from page one to ... a lot of pages later. There are currently 13 books written and I've loved them all. I particularly enjoyed book six titled: Faith of the Fallen. In it he explores a fantasy world where collectivism is the regime and degradation, starvation, and misery are the rule.
- George R.R. Martin — This author is at the top of every popular list. His Song of Ice and Fire series aka Game of Thrones is widely acclaimed. I have enjoyed every book—although I haven't been enjoying waiting and waiting for book six. He's got another series that is not nearly so popular as Ice and Fire, but in my opinion incredibly entertaining. It's called Wildcards. and if you liked comic-book superheroes and super-villains as a kid, you'll love this series as an adult.
- Lawrence Watt-Evans — His Ethshar series has always been one of my favorites. Each book is set in the same fantasy land called Ethshar, but features entirely new characters and plots. You never know where he'll go next. My favorite is called Spell of the Black Dagger, but they're all wonderful, whimsical, and escapist fantasy of the first order.
- Gordon R. Dickson — He's a prolific writer who's particularly good at interweaving philosophy and fiction. My favorite work by Dickson is his Childe Cycle series and particularly book one: Dorsai! I also got a kick out of The Right To Arm Bears but for a completely personal reason that those who know me will understand and those who don't ... won't.
- L.E. Modesitt — Although best known for his Recluce series (Yes, that's how it's spelled.) my favorite series by L.E. Modesitt is the Forever Hero trilogy. It shouldn't be missed by anyone who considers himself a science fiction aficionado. He's written a lot of books from the Recluce series, and the Imager trilogy, to the Corean Chronicles and the Spellsong cycle.
- Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle — They've each written at lot of great science fiction, but together they wrote two books that have fascinated and horrified me by equal turns. Their books feature helpful aliens we call "Moties" and if they seem lovable and friendly, well, you just need to step back and take another look. The first book The Mote in God's Eye, begins with a strange alien ship that sails into our solar system propelled by a a laser that is based light years away in a vast dust cloud, or nebula. It's a really great book, and an excellent answer to the question: in Darwin's world, what if mankind isn't the fittest?
- Raymond E. Feist — The Magicians Apprentice simply shouldn't be missed. It's at the top of many fantasy favorite lists with good reason. Feist doesn't waste any time boring you with pointless prose as plots and counterplots split, and re-split again and again until it seems as though a hundred different balls are being juggled at once. Then Feist takes all these separate threads—the characters and their different exigencies—and culminates the story by reweaving the tangled mess into an incredible and masterful conclusion.
- Piers Anthony — His Xanth series is fun and fast paced. You'll groan and groan again as puns abound. My favorite series by Piers Anthony is called the Apprentice Adept Series. It's a whimsical look at a land split into science-fiction on one side and fantasy on the other. I also really enjoyed his much much darker series entitled: Bio of a Space Tyrant. Not for faint of heart or subject to nausea, Anthony describes a future in space that resembles a time not too long ago on the high seas when pirates and evil men ruled with cannon and sword, and rape and plunder were the order of the day.
- Alan Dean Foster — Flinx and his mighty mini-drag Pip are just too much fun. You'll also love the fantasy realm of Foster's Spellsinger series. Foster has a lengthy bibliography and if you enjoyed Star Wars, guess what?
- J.V. Jones — although this writer doesn't have the impressively lengthy bibliography that the other authors on this list have, her Sword of Shadows series is so incredibly good that there was no way I would leave her off. I've been waiting and waiting for her next, because much like George R.R. Martin when she finally delivers the next in the series, I know I won't be disappointed.
- R.A. Salvatore — Have you read the Dark Elf trilogy? WTF! Get it now! Salvatore writes in elegant prose and succeeds in describing evil in such glittering perfection and yet with such monstrous thoroughness that you will be held spellbound. Imagine one good person born in hell, raised by demons. Trained to fight by a devil. That person is Drizzt Do'Urden.
- Dave Duncan — The first books I read by this author were from the Seventh Sword series. It was a fascinating juxtaposition of swords and gods on the one hand and the inevitable intrusion of science on the other. Later I read his four book A Man of His Word series and I can tell you that this was some incredibly suspenseful storytelling! Don't miss the next four in the same universe entitled: A Handful of Men.
- Steve Perry — The Man Who Never Missed, the first book in the Matador series, is the kind of book that changes you. The person I was when I began reading that book, wasn't the same person by the end. It's not just thought provoking; it's not just entertaining. Most of us believe we're powerless. We are one vote among hundreds of millions—ultimately and statistically insignificant. The universe by Steve Perry introduces insignificant people who refuse to be ignored. All that aside the Matador series is tremendously entertaining.
- Frank Herbert — Dune a book read by millions and millions. It's considered one of the best in science fiction and with good reason. The plot is rich and interwoven with a metaphysical idée fixe called Melange. The books themselves will pull you out of yourself. You'll forget for a time who you are and find yourself transported into a malevolent world of betrayal where seemingly Darwin's survival of the fittest has run amok.
- Steven King — The word "prolific," is completely incapable of conveying the massive library this author has compiled. King is a workhorse and the plow he tills the soil with is a typewriter. (probably a keyboard these days) Have you read The Stand? Some might argue that it's not sci-fi because there are no spaceships or light-sabers. Some might argue that it's not fantasy because they're no elves, wizards or dragons. To me it's a crossover. The Stand is a combination of contemporary humanity combined with a disease—think Ebola—the end of the world, and finally the epic showdown between God and Satan, good vs. evil. All that in just one book. (King has written so many books that I don't think even he knows how many there are.) You have to read the seven book Dark Tower series, Firestarter, The Mist... King's ability to weave a story out of just about anything is uncanny, and often horrifically disturbing.
- Julian May — I first started reading her with a book called: The Many Colored Land. This book is a cross between science and fantasy. Bored twenty-first century would-be explorers could take a one-way trip back in time to the Pliocene epoch, to a particular river valley doomed to be swallowed by massive volcanic eruptions. A dead end in the distant past with a window of opportunity was available for the daring few to escape their endless ennui. No time paradoxes are possible because nothing and no life form will be able to survive the coming apocalypse. Imagine their surprise to discover they were not alone!
- Steve Miller & Sharon Lee — I don't enjoy romance novels. With that said, if the writers are talented and their subject is fascinating, I can be persuaded to take part. Forget that the Liaden novels are inherently romance novels. The plots are so sophisticated, thrilling, and enjoyable that the romance takes a back seat. Don't worry; there's no heaving bosoms or explicit sexual descriptions. The stories center around a world called Liaden where cut-throat entrepreneurs wheel-and-deal and those who can't cut the mustard often have their throats ... well ... you get the idea.
This list is incomplete. There are many other authors who deserve to be here. In truth if I was fair-minded enough, and stubborn enough I'd list my top one-hundred. Unfortunately there's just so much time in the day and just so much energy I have left.
I'll finish with this thought: Song writers can fool all of the people some of the time with three minutes of violent grating noise. Painters can fool some of the people all of the time with shit in a can or piss in a jar. But when you sit down with a book, you're endeavoring to spend many hours seeking understanding of the writer's vision. We who read are not fools. We're not reading to enhance our own popularity. We read because we truly enjoy being entertained. If you write boring long-winded meandering chapters that begin nowhere and end nowhere, then the only people you'll fool are the people who claim they love Tolkien.
P.S. Didja-ya ever notice that LOTR fans are always watching soap operas, reality shows, and Broadway musicals?