Man, I hated Killashandra. I guess that the point of the first book is that she starts off as a bitchy primadonna and then changes and grows and matures, but I grew to hate her soooo much in the first few chapters that I just despised her throughout the book and I was glad when it was finally over. I was a big Pern fan, but Killashandra turned me off from McCaffery for good.
My recommendation is for John Barnes. A Million Open Doors is great, but be warned: It’s about a character from a society that is essentially designed around male chauvenism. It’s full of bitchy, twisted women (Gee, I wonder how come they’re so screwed up?). The main character ends up moving to a very society where the genders are equal. It takes a while for the Moral of the Story to get through his thick skull, but he finally gets it . . . There’s a really funny review of the book at Amazon that is completely disgusted with the author for being so terribly, terribly sexist. It’s amusing in that it shows two levels of cluelessness: 1) Mistaking the beliefs of the character for the beliefs of the author and 2) Not noticing that the character’s beliefs develop and change over the course of the novel. I guess I’m guilty of #2 with Killashandra, though.
Orbital Resonance is about a girl growing up in a colony in a hollowed-out asteroid. It’s compared favorably with Podkayne of Mars, and for good reason, I think.
Then again, McCaffery once wrote that Podkayne was a horrid little monster and that Heinlein created that character to show what happens when a girl is raised by a working mother.
Let us just say that I disagree with that interpretation, and leave it at that. (Huh. I guess I just have McCaffery issues. Who knew? I still recommend the Dragonriders and the Harper Hall trilogies without reservation!)
Hmm… Suggestions from me, include many of those mentioned above, plus:
Many of Robert A. Heinlein’s books, but especially The Puppet Masters - the story was written in the late 40’s, so the gender roles aren’t completely PC, but you can’t say that Mary is a weak woman.
Anything by Connie Willis. Especially her Doomsday Book, with a modern woman finding herself stuck in the Black Death.
Anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, not just her most recent book, but even the Vorkosigan books (Beginning with Shards of Honor, and the start of Cordelia’s story, or The Warrior’s Apprentice for Miles’ first outing.) have scads of strong female characters. Of course Miles is the hero for most of them (some focus on his mother, too.) so, it’s not usually the viewpoint character that’s the strong character.
If you’re looking for a twist on the Hornblower type saga, try David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, beginning with On Basilisk Station. Space Opera, I’ll admit, but well-written, fun, and very strong female characters.
For straight fantasy, I can’t recommend Jane Lindskold’s Firekeeper books, beginning with Through Wolf’s Eyes enough. Another of my favorite authors. This series of books has the central character as a foundling who has been raised by intelligent wolves, and her interactions with human society when she returns.
Oooh, and the mention of Mercedes Lackey reminds me of the series she’s doing with Eric Flint and Dave Freer for Baen books: The Heirs of Alexandria - beginning with The Shadow of the Lion. It’s also available for free on the Baen Free library.
I should warn you, though, the Free Library is NOT an altruistic endevour. It’s coldly calculated as advertising - and it works. If you start reading the books there, you’ll read more. You’ll want to finish the series shown there. Then you’ll start reading the e-crack, I mean snippets, the authors post from upcoming releases - getting so frantic to see the book you’ll go out and get the hardcover copies…
I can’t remember the author’s name, but there’s a book called The Golden Witchbreed that you might like. The lead character is a pretty strong female, and there’s an interesting bit on gender vs. sex that runs through the story, too.
I also recommend Moon’s Deeds of Paksenarrion trilogy and McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (particularly the former if you’re the D&D type).
Kristine Katherine Rusch’s Fey series and Jennifer Roberson’s Tiger and Del series feature strong female characters, although the stories tend to focus more on the men (the latter is told entirely from a man’s first-person PoV). Still, excellent reads if you can find the books.
Jack L. Chalker’s Well World series is good (at least for the first five books, anyway), if a little . . . different. No strong women in the first book, but it still has to be read before the rest of the series.
I also liked Andre Norton’s and Mercedes Lackey’s Elvenbane series, even for “fluff” fantasy. The protagonist is a half-human, half-elven woman, raised by dragons, who wants to lead former slaves in a revolt against the evil Elf overlords.
Uh, the Otherland series, by Tad Williams. All of his characters are strong but flawed, and interesting. The main character is definitely not weak. Third (or fifteenth, or whatever) the Abhorsen series, particularly Sabriel, although the idea of an armed librarian is so cool…
Robert Jordan’s female characters are annoying and bitchy. He spends a lot of time talking about their breasts. And they’re (the characters, but maybe their breasts, too) manipulative and nasty. Of course, I only read the first eight books. They might have improved, but I doubt it.
I just want to point out that I still think it’s incredibly cool to have a “Harimad-sol” on the SDMB.
Actually, that’s where I felt he’d started to actually move away from the Napoleonic Wars model he’d had set up. But, yes, he’d had to keep the ‘one person doing things against the odds’ motif going, since who wants to read the annals of Scarlett’s Heavy Brigade?
I’d like to second The Time Traveler’s Wife and add James Gardner’s Expendable series, which starts with Expendable. It’s a little on the light side, but most of the books feature strong, smart women (starting with Festina Ramos), fighting against the establishment. The whole series is pretty funny, not Hitchhiker’s Guide funny, but funny.