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Fantasy and SF Recommendations: Stand-Alone Books


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#21 Samalander

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Posted 11 July 2011 - 03:08 AM

Felix Gilman, Thunderer: The tale of some men come to a shifting, infinite city where gods dwell. Mixing elements of the enlightenment, of Peter Pan, and of Amber, among other things. Nothing really stands out, but it all meshes together well, and you get a nice story in the end.

How is this a stand-alone? It's the first part of a duology. Second part: Gears of The City.

#22 Podrick + Arya = Win

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Posted 04 August 2011 - 11:37 AM

Runemarks by Joanne Harris.

Loosely based on Norse Mythology with maybe a bit of allegory in there. By maybe, I mean it's either there and I'm too stupid to see it or its just wild imagination.

But overall, it's quite humorous, tongue-in-cheek and a light, fun read.

#23 sunworshipper

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 10:31 AM

Roger Zelazny, Jack of Shadows Novel that Zelazy wrote as a homage to Jack Vance. Insignificant thief and trickster in a world of magic goes on a revenge kick. You soon realize that the characters see him as the villain of the story and eventually the readers do, too.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana My favorite of Kay's books. More original and not just a retelling or a twist on history or old fables like many of his other novels. Rich, complex world with complex, violent people.

#24 Contrarius

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Posted 17 August 2011 - 12:03 PM

Roger Zelazny, Jack of Shadows Novel that Zelazy wrote as a homage to Jack Vance. Insignificant thief and trickster in a world of magic goes on a revenge kick. You soon realize that the characters see him as the villain of the story and eventually the readers do, too.


I wish this one had been better written. The idea is interesting, but the darned book reads like a plot outline or a rough draft. Pretty annoying.

#25 boojam

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 05:21 PM

Definitely THE BROKEN SWORD , this 1954 Nordic fantasy by Poul Anderson , was during the 1950's, the only S&S fantasy that I thought equaled LTOR.
Quite adult for its time, and one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.
Anderson went on to make his name mostly in science fiction, where he was a renowned writer.

Edited by boojam, 21 August 2011 - 10:12 AM.


#26 noshowjones

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 02:04 AM

I don't usually read SF, but I recently started "The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi and I have to say that it is AMAZING. His prose is phenomenal and the concepts of the story are fantastic. I'm about halfway through but have no doubt that it will end as good as it began...it did win the Hugo and Nebula awards.

#27 Many and More

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Posted 08 September 2011 - 11:49 PM

It might be difficult to get your hands on a copy, because it's been out of print for a long time, but try to find Mindswap by Robert Sheckley.

It's a vastly entertaining and silly little SF comedy by the Godfather of SF comedy. Okay, so other than Sheckley and Douglas Adams, I can't really think of anybody who wrote a lot of SF comedy, but never mind. Mindswap made me laugh so hard it hurt.

#28 frodostark

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Posted 10 September 2011 - 09:33 PM

Definitely Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. It's rather old (1930's, I think), and is the only fantasy novel she wrote. It's kind of a spiritual precursor to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, dealing as it does with the intersections of a fictionalized England that never was and Faery. It's beautifully written, occasionally creepy, and devastatingly under-appreciated. Also, one of Neil Gaiman's very favorite books.

#29 boiled leather

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 01:11 PM

How is this a stand-alone? It's the first part of a duology. Second part: Gears of The City.

as much as I loved Thunderer, I prefer to think Gears of the City doesn't exist.

#30 Knyfe

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Posted 23 September 2011 - 08:28 AM

"The Fade" by Chris Wooding. It's set in a subterranean world, and at the heart of the story is a soldier (I shamefully admit that I don't remember her name) who goes to war, and, little by little, loses everything.

One of the things I remember best other than how horrible the main character's life is, is how the chapters were arranged. Counting down from 30 is the main plot line while 31 to 40 is the protagonist's past -- all of which is jumbled up.

But I won't lie. The reason I bought the book was because the cover was pretty: http://www.booku.com...book_190160.htm

#31 Aurelian

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:33 PM

Hi everyone, first post on this forum at all.

First of all other people have mentioned him already but anything by Neil Gaiman, probably my favourite living writer (only recently got into ASOIAF so giving it time).

But also read Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susannah Clarke -set during the Napoleonic Wars it concerns the revival of English magic and is one of my favourite books, it creates a huge backstory and well thought out world of magic and mixes it with the norms of that period of English society and features various historical figures like the Duke of Wellington and Lord Byron

#32 RedEyedGhost

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 12:10 AM

"The Fade" by Chris Wooding. It's set in a subterranean world, and at the heart of the story is a soldier (I shamefully admit that I don't remember her name) who goes to war, and, little by little, loses everything.

One of the things I remember best other than how horrible the main character's life is, is how the chapters were arranged. Counting down from 30 is the main plot line while 31 to 40 is the protagonist's past -- all of which is jumbled up.

But I won't lie. The reason I bought the book was because the cover was pretty: http://www.booku.com...book_190160.htm

This book doesn't get enough attention around here, and it is quite excellent. I really liked the way it was structured too.

#33 thekissoffire

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 10:28 PM

I heartily recommend anything by Robin McKinley. The books are short fast reads, but her characterization and action focussed writing is superb. In my opinion her best by far is Sunshine. It's kind of a dystopian, post human-fantastic war novel, with awesome scary vampires.

#34 Warlock Vetolgar

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:00 PM

I don't know if alternate history fits into either fantasy or SF, but my little grain of sand is Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain, the story of the second war between the Confederacy and the United States over the first's acquisitions of two new states from the Empire of Mexico. The novel is populated by historical characters like Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, Frederick Douglass, etc. thrust into an alternate universe where Americans still war with one another, and the seed of a long feud is being watered. The story is so believable that at times I had to remind myself it wasn't a historical novel, nevermind that it read like one.

#35 Ayx

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Posted 13 November 2011 - 12:36 AM

I would like to recommend two standalone Iain Banks SF novels that are not part of Culture series/universe.

Algebraist by Iain Banks is a great stand-alone SF space opera, not part of Culture, that I had rarely seen recommended. It takes a while to get started, but once it starts, its pretty amazing romp through the galaxy.. The villain character is a bit caricaturely over the top, but taken as a whole pretty amazing book, universe,concepts and execution, up there with the best of of his Culture books in scale/wow factor.

Against the Dark Background is set on a single solar system in the middle of the empty pocket of space, such as that nearest stars are millions of light years away, thus making life stuck in a single system for ages.. The book starts with a bang and has a great pace, but kind of wimpers down towards the end, and most people agree that ending is kind of left to be desired, and it suffers from Banks typical "over the top villain" syndrome. But overall its a good change of pace from your typical Culture novel.

Edited by Ayx, 13 November 2011 - 12:37 AM.


#36 3CityApache

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Posted 22 November 2011 - 07:06 AM

Dan Simmons - Hyperion dylogy and Endymion dylogy - I realise it's not very helpful, but it's one of the best s-f novels ever written. The stories of each pilgrim are practically separate novels within the novel, each one totally different, but all great, and we've got several of them. Endymion is less epic, but Hyperion is a masterpiece.

Neil Gaiman - American Gods and Anansi's Boys - Definitely great pieces of work, especially the first one. It's about the inevitable war between the old gods, who migrated after their believers onto the new continent, and the new gods, gods of common things of today. Brilliantly written, fresh, breathtaking novel.

Andrzej Sapkowski - The Last Wish - This is actually a short stories collection and some kind of prologue to the wider series of novels at the same time, but it can also pass as a stand-alone thing. Great introduction to the world and characters from The Witcher series (yes, the video game was an adaptation of the literature). The only problem is, that the English publisher decided to skip the chronogically next volume of short stories (Sword of Destiny), crucially important to understanding what happens in the first novel (they explained, that short stories don't sell well enough) and just published the first of five novels (Blood of Elves). But given the cry of disgust, perhaps there is a chance for SoD to finally be published in English as well.

#37 Woofdog2

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 02:53 PM

Definitely THE BROKEN SWORD , this 1954 Nordic fantasy by Poul Anderson , was during the 1950's, the only S&S fantasy that I thought equaled LTOR.
Quite adult for its time, and one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.
Anderson went on to make his name mostly in science fiction, where he was a renowned writer.


Anderson wrote some brilliant fantasy. Readers who enjoy this book might also want to try Three Hearts, Three Lions by the same author.

#38 Ser Pink of Floyd

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 03:38 PM

3 Stand alone books, but by the same Author.

Iain M Banks, whose SciFi books in the "Culture" series are highly recommended. Ive read 3 and wanted to list them here. I should point out that they are centered on a space-faring society known as The Culture, an Eutopian society where everything is run by sentient machines who serve everyone to make life as pleasurable as possible, yet also play at politics of other societys, bending what happens to ensure that the result is for what (The Culture believes) is for the best of everyone. Each book is stand-alone, no characters shared, different parts of the galaxy etc, no sequels.

- Consider Phelbas -
"The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blodded, brutal and worse, random. The Iridians fought for their Faith; The Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender. Within the cosmic conflict, and individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscibed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Irifians sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictible mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction."

I LOVE this book, it was the first one I read by Banks and probably the best 'Culture book' to start with as it describes The Culture in great detail (making the other books easier to know what is what). Its a non-stop rollercoaster ride from beginning to end with setpiece followed by setpiece.

- The Player of Games.
"The Culture - a Human/Machine symbiotic society - has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer & strategy. Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game... a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gergeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life - and possibly his death."

A different book to Consider Phlebas, more in the desciption of the society of Azad and how desceptive it is from first appearences and less on the space opera action. Great read though.

- Use of Weapons
"The man known as Cheradenine Zakalwe was one of Special Circumstances' foremost agents, changing the destiny of planets to suit the Culture through intrigue, dirty tricks or military action. The woman known as Diziet Sma had plucked him from obscurity and pushed him towards his present eminence, but despite all their dealings, she did not know him as well as she thought. The drone known as Skaffen-Amtiskaw knew both of these people. It had once saved the womans' life by massacring her attackers in a particularly bloody manner. It believed the man to be a burnt-out case. But not even its machine intelligence could see the horrors in his past."

I think, that UOW might be my favourite of the 3 books (ive currently read). Its got an awesome ending, its filled with great intertwinning stories and an excellent plot delivery and 3 characters that I liked. Its probably the least friendly of the 3 books as an introduction, Consider Phlebas is the best for that, but Id say it makes a great book to read afterwards.

#39 Arianne Flint

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 10:55 AM

The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle
I thought this was a beautiful story with a most bittersweet ending. I think the animated film from the 80s is fairly close, but I think the book is darker in tone. Currently Beagle is in some sort of legal tussle with the film's distribution company over not getting what he's owed.

The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
I was recommended this by a colleague. It's a very interesting narrative on alien first contact, and is also considered "hard" science fiction in that there is a lot of discussion of how interstellar space travel might actually work. There are some slow parts in it but I think it's well worth it. The two people I recommended read this both enjoyed it thoroughly.

The Gripping Hand - Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The sequel to Mote; it's interesting what happens 20 years later. There are a few returning characters, not necessarily the ones you would expect. I thought this one started off slow and then got better about halfway through.

Her Smoke Rose Up Forever - James Tiptree, Jr.
A collection of short stories; one of Tiptree's major themes was on gender roles and male/female relations. I highly recommend "The Women Men Don't See" and "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?" (You can read "The Women Men Don't See" at this link here)

I Am Legend - Richard Matheson
Ends a lot differently than the film, and much more realistically also. Set in Los Angeles as opposed to New York City. The paperback I had also included a handful of Matheson's short stories which were also delightful to read.

#40 nickg

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 12:34 AM

The Child Thief - Brom.

Its a dark retelling of the Peter Pan story and its fucking awesome. I didnt know what to expect from this. I believe it was his first full length novel. The story, the mood I guess, goes well with his art. If you liked The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly ( another really good standalone that I absolutely love and highly recommend) then you should give this a shot.

Seriously, read The Book of Lost Things too. I can't praise that book enough.