I need science fiction and fantasy recommendations

I work at a small bookstore, and I am nominally in charge of the sf/fantasy section. I know I’ve read hundreds of books of either genre, but when I’m at work I can only come up with the titles and authors of my particular favourites. We’re running low, and I need suggestions. We don’t have a lot of space, so I’m looking for:

Personal favourites (books or authors you really really like, preferably with a little background and description)

Books that may not be great, but are popular, also preferably with a bit of description. We’ve already got Robert Jordan, may he be forced to re-read all his books. No, I don’t like him, and yes, I read the first eight.

We’ve got a lot of Philip K. Dick, some James Blish, a few Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, a lot of Pratchett, and L. E. Modesitt. We also have a reasonable amount of Ursula K. Le Guin, the C. S. Lewis Space trilogy, and a whole lot of Robin McKinley and Tad Williams because I am a huge fan of both of them. All of this is off the top of my head, so the list isn’t perfect.

Give me your suggestions, please. What books should every bookstore have in their sf section? What do you love?

Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker “Trilogy”, of course! The latter books have their detractors, but the first two or so are unquestionably brilliant.

Anything and everything Heinlein and Robinson, of course. Also, I hear that the entire Horseclans series is going to be reprinted–may want to stock that.

I enjoy Severna Park, Amy Thompson, Nancy Kress, Octavia Butler, Sheri Tepper, Kate Wilhelm; David Brin, Richard K. Morgan, Gene Wolfe, Robert C. Wilson.

Do you have any Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen series) or R. Scott Bakker (Prince of Nothing series)? Their books are quite dark, and Erikson is particularly complex – no exposition, which puts some readers off.

Some others I’ve enjoyed recently: Robin Hobb (a bit simple but entertaining, and safe for kids), Lynn Flewelling (interesting stuff about sexual identity in the Hidden Warrior books), and Garth Nix (the Abhorsen trilogy, also safe for kids).

It would help if you could provide some more info about what your store is like–beyond “small”. To wit, what your customers are like, or what types of books you’d like to promote. Customers who would appreciate authors like Dunsany or Cabell may be different from customers who would appreciate shovelware fantasy, for example.

I rarely see enough Charles de Lint in stores.
Zelazny, Iain Banks, Steven Brust, Glen Cook, William Gibson, R.A. Salvatore, E.E. “Doc” Smith (although I don’t know how well he’d sell, but I’d buy 'em).

In no particular order and with a disclaimer that I don’t read very much SF/Fantasy…

China Miéville! I love love love him. He writes fantasy, lots of different races in a huge sprawling city, magic-as-science, industrial-revolution stuff. I can’t really think of anyone to compare him to, but that’s because I lack the genre knowledge - most of the SF I read is old stuff.

Looking through other responses, I’ll second the William Gibson, and the Charles de Lint. Garth Nix’s trilogy is great. Eragon, by Christopher Paolini is pretty ho-hum but sells well at my work (out of both the SF/Fantasy and kids sections).

Raymond E Feist’s *Magician * is a big fun sword & sorcery epic, almost all his other bokos are exactly the same and not worth stocking. Frank Herbet’s *Dune * series is wonderful, everything written by his son is dreadful.

The His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman is technically a children’s series, but is a good read for adults too.

Hmmm… Mary Doria Russel’s books, The Sparrow and Children of God are good. I enjoyed The Sparrow, all though I wasn’t overwhelmed - it reminded me a bit of A Case of Conscience by James Blish. It’s spacey without being operatic and looks at religion in space while being pretty exciting.

I love Kim Stanley Robinson, especially his Mars trilogy, but also Antartica and Years of Rice and Salt.

David Brin, Lois McMaster Bujold, Joe Haldeman, Peter F. Hamilton, George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, John Varley, Vernor Vinge, and Robert Charles Wilson are all good.

I really like The Man Who Never Missed by Steve Perry.
Prince Ombra is a fantastic read.
Of course the regulars like Dune and Tolkien’s work.
I recommend almost anything by David Gemmell, but especially The Morning Star and Legend.
I really enjoyed Guy Gavriel Kay’s first few books and highly recommend them.
Jim Butcher does some fun stuff.
Glen Cook does some good light fantasy and some not-so-light fantasy. I recommend his Black Company series (only the first trilogy really.)
Lord Of Light is in my top 10 - but I confess that I had to read it more than once to truly appreciate it.

Boy, this many posts nd no one’;sd mentioned Isaac Asimov? or Arthur C. Clarke? That would’ve been unthinkable only a couple of years ago. Even though Asimov’s dead he still sells, and Clarke’s still alive. There’s only one mention of Heinlein, which is surprising. And you really have to include Larry Niven.
A lot of my favorites are long out of oprint, sadly, and even the classioc writers who are still at it (Jack Williamson!) probably aren’t selling really well. I think Frederick Pohl still sells.

I’m not up on newer folks, I’m afraid, but I’d recommend Dan Simmons, Harry Turtledove, David Drake, and Weber.

I’d be careful of stocking authors who are either deceased or not writing much these days - having a new book out always helps to sell an author’s backstock. Stocking anybody in depth, even Heinlein, eats up space and may be slow to turn over. Try the most famous books and expand if you see the demand’s there.
Series which are finished are often lacklustre in sales; it’s it’s been about for a while a lot of people will either have bought it or decided not to.

Authors I would suggest, though, are

Elizabeth Moon - her current Vatta’s War space opera series, not her fantasy books. It’s fairly standard stuff but she does it well.
Trudi Canavan. Easy to read fantasy. It’s all coming out quite quickly as she was published in Australia for years before coming out here (and in the US! (I’m in the UK))
Simon R Green - not the Deathstalker stuff, the fantasy PI series that begins with Something From the Nightside.
Robert Asprin - the Phule’s Company series rather than the Myth books. There’s a new one out soon… Humourous space opera. An incredibly rich bloke is put in charge of a motley bunch of space marine rejects. His money and lateral thinking gets them though many a scrape.
Charles Stross especially his Merchant Princes series. It’s a parallel worlds story - the 1st two are in paperback. He’s also got some hard sf like Accelerando or Singularity Sky.
And does Robert Jordan backstock really sell enough to justify itself? If not, that’s 2 feet of shelf space that could be better used… Assuming you meant that you have them all in stock, that is.

She’s a friend of mine! :slight_smile:

I suggest Diana Wynne Jones. Mostly aimed at children, but still excellent to read no matter what your age.

Well, everyone knows Sturgeon’s Law, I think. And it applies to what gets published as Science Fiction quite as much as anything else.

Here would be my list:

Robert A. Heinlein: Though it’s easy to nitpick much of his output, he essentially created the modern genre as a literary form. Everything he wrote is worth reading, except perhaps his never-published-until-2003 first novel and the “three stinkers” – and criticisms of it are somewhat akin to finding fault with Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet because “it’s full of cliches” – he got there first.

Arthur C. Clarke: Clarke’s work is deceptively “smooth” but contains some deep insights, and is nearly always a good read. Clarke’s collaborations with Gentry Lee are an acquired taste, and most fans of Clarke’s noncollaborative work seem not to like them.

Isaac Asimov: Enjoyable, though for me most later Asimov is nowhere near as captivating as other good SF. Avoid “collaborations” – other writers working from an Asimov story.

Larry Niven: Remarkable. Perhaps the only person to have paved as much new ground as Heinlein. Niven’s characterizations are weak, and their motivations sometimes hard to grasp, but his story lines carry the story along extremely well. Avoid Ringworld and, especially, its sequels until after having read other “Known Space” books.

Jerry Pournelle: Much of Jerry’s solo work is “military SF” and not terribly interesting, but his collaborations, especially with Niven (with or without Steven Barnes) and with Stirling, are remarkable. In fact, Niven and Pournelle as a team are head and shoulders above either writing separately.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Imagine Georgette Heyer, E.E. Smith, and Tom Clancy doing a three-way collaboration, with James Michener helping out on the family-saga aspects. The Vorkosigan saga is all that and more. She also has a fantasy series going, which I am not familiar with.

Marion Zimmer Bradley: MZB started out as a self-taught pulp author, and her works vary from slight to deep. But no one else has ever done so thorough a job of painting a culture in which psychic powers are dealt with on a daily basis. And she pulled this off over a highly-productive 40-year period.

Julian May: Baroque and Jungian, but man, can she tell a story!

Vernor Vinge: Whether space opera epic or short story, he can captivate. The Realtime and Zones of Thought series are especially good.

H. Beam Piper: His suicide back in the 60s leaves a mixed assortment of work. Both the Paratime/Kalvan series and the Fuzzy series are enjoyable reads; other work is variable but generally good.

John Barnes: It’s hard to explain why I like his writing, but, though horrified at some plot developments, I’ve almost always found a Barnes novel worth reading.

Spider Robinson: Heinlein on acid, with puns that make me groan. I’ve never read a Robinson I didn’t enjoy, though the last few Callahan’s stories left me feeling that he’s painted himself into a corner in that series and is now doing an enjoyable tap dance in the small space he left himself. (He’s also taken the Callahan crew off the Reichenberg Falls so many times they’ve opened up a barrel franchise.)

Poul Anderson: An acquired taste. I find his work nearly always enjoyable, but many do not. He has a thing for competent hypermasculine heroes who singlehandedly pull off the highly improbable against astronomic odds. Second only to Niven in setting up odd astronomic situations and making them work as story settings.

Of course you do. How are Sleel, Bork and Juete? :smiley:

Our clientele is reasonably literate, tending towards the Giller prize/Canadian fiction/Kite Runner type books, but the sf section tends to be a little pulpy. We’ve got a couple of Heinlein (mostly Stranger and a few early novels), Douglas Adams, and some Kim Stanley Robinson (I’ve been hard-selling him, too. Well, suggesting). I don’t think we have any Tepper, and I like her. We’ll order some more, probably ones I’ve read and liked.

We’ve got some Charles De Lint, but not enough. Thanks for reminding me. I’ll look up the ISBNs for the adult editions of the Old Kingdom series- the ones with the cool Charter Magic symbols on the front.

I’m trying to strike a balance between pulpy but not dumb, and really good stuff. Lord Dunsany et al would probably not do fantastically (heh), but John Wyndam does okay. I want to move some of our Lovecraft to sf, because it fits better there. Maybe get a little plush shoggoth to hang above it.

Robert Jordan still does very well, even though I try very hard to shift people towards The Dragonbone Chair instead. I’ll look into getting some of the Matador series, Khadaji. Thanks for reminding me.

All these suggestions are great- keep them coming!

Oh, and on the theory that there’s no ___ like a convert, it’s worth mentioning in view of your location that Spider Robinson had been a landed immigrant since the 70s and recently became a Canadian citizen, and much of his fiction (outside the Callahan series) is set in Canada, largely in Nova Scotia and the Lower Mainland of B.C.

I don’t read a lot of sci fi/fantasy, and when I do it’s only by personal recommendation (including yours, of course, Lissla!). That said, De Lint - already on your list - is one I enjoy. I also like Dianna Wynne Jones and Tamora Pierce - I’m a sucker for strong female protagonists. Easy reading, but not pulpy, which for a “sometimes fantasy” reader like me, is just right.

And, for those of us who like to wake up screaming, there’s always Lovecraft…

And Guy Gavriel Kay lives in Toronto and Charles De Lint is from Ottawa. Oh, and Tanya Huff (must order the Blood series) used to work at my favourite science fiction/fantasy bookstore, and now lives in Kingston.

Twinkie, have you read Sabriel? I think you’d like it. And where’s jsgoddess? She should be in here!

Another vote for David Gemmell

Another vote for R.A.Salvatore (the Dark Elf trilogy and the Icewind Dale trilogy esp)

Weis & Hickman’s Dragonlance stuff

Has no-one mentioned Terry Brooks? gotta have The Sword of Shanarra and The Elfstones of Shanarra

Anything by Esther Freisner. She’s written much more - there are 3 trilogies from the 80s-90s that apparently Amazon doesn’t carry
Also Robert Asprin is very good - light, humorous, quick reads