, The Gone-Away World
: a post and pre-apocalyptic novel, written in an ornate, upbeat, fun style. A lot hinges on the dialogues, but the worldbuilding is still good, as is the characterisation. The pacing is excellent, even though the plot is rather simple. Very anti-corporatist, but I can live with that. Also has ninjas. Ridiculously fun to read, though not necessarily always funny.
, The Iron Dragon's Daughter
: A strange romp into a fractured magical cyberpunk land. Strong setting, the first chapters pull you right in. Characterisation is so-so, but it actually makes sense for it to be like that.
, City of Saints and Madmen
: Is it a book, or a collection of smaller works about the same fictional place? One can wonder. However, through the material given to us, the shape of a city emerges, with its dwellers, its history, its secrets, and always, the uncertainty of not knowing the truth. Worldbuilding at its best. Characterisation is excellent, in ways varying as much as the style, depending on which booklet you're at.
: 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.
, Altered Carbon
: Takeshi Kovacs comes back in other novels, but I had to mention this, since they all read as stand-alones. This one is a noir detective novel, only toying with the concept of downloadable immortality. Good plot, good characterisation, great pacing. A classic.
, Lord of Light
: Buddha fights Hindu gods on another planet. It sounds ridiculous, but it's not. Zelazny brings forward great characters, in a coherent world, and it all makes sense, even when they reenact legends.
and Terry Pratchett
, Good Omens
: Chronicles of the Antichrist's advent on Earth. I don't know if I can talk of worldbuilding or characterisation for a book which features bikers of the apocalypse, but the characters are attaching and well drawn, the humour is subtle enough, and there are actual moments of drama, or at least emotional ones.
Philip K Dick
: It's PKD, everything is top-notch, but as always it's all in the service of a really twisted premise. This one explores reality of one's perceptions, and life, and death, in an horror/mystery/gore/SF/noir setting. The author is a must-read anyway.
, The Folding Knife
: Are you tired of Epic Fantasy heroes defeating a dark lord through willpower, magic and contrived coincidences? Follow a banker in a Rome look-alike city dealing with domestic problems and conquering the world. Never before have you seen someone win a war by speculating on timber, or playing on supply routes. Nowhere else will you see someone with the best army actually win. I had heard it was cynical, atheistic, and overall a turn-off for the usual Fantasy reader, but in fact it's just about a realistic economy in a secondary world, where magic doesn't exist. Also, the main character is fun to read. Recurring theme about the shiftiness of reasons for anyone to do something.
For a repeat, as Neal Stephenson
: Perhaps the novel of Stephenson departing the most from standard storytelling. This one has an actual strong, very strong core story, though simple enough, and probably better characterisation than in any of his earlier books, but the meat of the book is an history and vulgarization of science and philosophy, from Pythagoras to quantum mechanics. Strangely enough considering this, it's never boring: it all works within the narrative, and would actually incite readers to learn more about the subjects brought up. This book might take a good chunk of your time, because when you close it, you are likely to crack open real science/philosophy/history ones. Probably the best ending of any Stephenson book.
: An old classic. Simply explores the possibilities of internet before it existed. But delves deeper and goes over what interconnecting consciousnesses could work out. You think it's dry? Think again, it features a teenaged american skateboarding ninja, pizza mafia, glass knives, rock n' roll, and a black cyber samurai named Hiro Protagonist. yeah.
The Diamond Age
: Often low-rated among Stephenson books, I still loved this one to bits. This one focuses more on the worth of society, and more, on the importance of family and otherwise deep human relationship in the raising of children and the making of society. A reflection on the limits of artificial intelligence is also embedded in the narrative. Features deliberate post-cyberpunk, and as always, girls kicking ass. Maybe a bit of a rushed ending (Stephenson is less good with endings than with the rest), but it still works very well.
Edited by Errant Bard, 09 July 2011 - 01:32 AM.