Novels that deserve to be known (and that you should definitely read)

This thread is to talk about great novels. Not any great novel, mind you, but the ones that for some reason, decidedly not as well-known as they should.
So no recommendations for Dresden Files, the Foundation series, Vorkosigan Saga or even the Mote in God’s eye (disclaimer, this one is still on my to-read list).

Let me start with the book that actually drove me to begin this thread:

The Night Land, a story retold by William Hope Hodgson and James Stoddard

This is actually a rare case in literature, a remake.
The original, the Night Land, was written in 1912 by William Hope Hodgson. It features an extraordinarily powerful retelling of the Hero’s journey and love story thanks for the most part to its extraordinarily setting.

Based on the science of the time, it was thought that the Sun would cool down and be extinct in a few million years (they thought the Sun’s energy was entirely from the collapse of the primitive nebula - nuclear reactions were unknown at the time).
Here, the story (mostly) takes place in the far, far future, long after the Sun went extinct. The last millions of humans live in an immense pyramid, the Last Redoubt, powered by the Earth Current (a geothermal energy source, most probably). Beyond it lies the Night Land, populated by monsters, god-like Watchers and unknown, hostile Forces dwelling into the dark, laying eternal siege.
I won’t tell you more, to let you discover it by yourself.

The problem with the original book is that it was written in an awful, near-unreadable pseudo-archaic style. The reaction of pretty much everyone at that time (and since then) was “what the hell?”, because it would otherwise have reached (and deserved) the status of a classic of SF/fantasy, along Lovecraft or H.G. Wells.

Fortunately for us, in 2008, James Stoddard rewrote it in proper, modern and highly readable style. He made some changes, like adding dialogs (and a name for the protagonist), but stayed faithful to the original book - and what made it so great.
So if the Night Land was called a flawed masterpiece, a story retold is a pure gem.

Note : living in France and wanting a numeric version, I found that the only option was Amazon. Not having a Kindle (and kind of disliking Amazon anyway), I wrote an email to James Stoddard, asking him if he knew of other options, or if he could sell it to me directly.
To my surprise, not only did he answered, but he graciously offered me an ePub version, asking only that I didn’t spread it around (obviously :smile: ) and that if I enjoyed the book, to write a good comment on the store pages.
So in addition to the above, I also recommend the book as (re)written by a great person!

Through Struggle, the Stars by John J. Lumpkin

This is a recent hard-SF novel, the first volume of the so far 2-volumes Human Reach.

If you are here on this forum, it’s probably that you like space opera. Good news for you, then, this may be the best space opera I’ve ever read.

In a not-that-far future, varied nations have reached space, then the stars thanks to mastering wormholes. (They keep one end around, throw the other at a nearby star with an antimatter rocket and voilà, space-borne stargate! And no they can’t travel through time with it, the wormhole would crash before).
As tensions rise between the two main interstellar powers, China and Japan, we see the story from the point of view of a young American space officer on his first assignment on-board a starship, suddenly cast as an assistant intelligence officer.

The story is well-written, excruciately well-researched hard-science-wise (you can feel how much Atomic Rockets was consulted), and pretty gripping. Battle scenes are great, characters are believable, and star powers are gray, ambiguous but not monholitic.
But in addition to it being a masterfully-done hard-SF novel, there is another great thing the book has for it. Its author, John Lumpkin, worked with the intelligence community for years and used his experience in the book. As thus, there is a big layer of “spy thriller” added to it, which works really well. As the character is immersed in the world of military (and, sometimes, civilian) intelligence, he sees and learn more about what is really going on, completing the military Space Opera side very well.

If you like hard-SF, this is a book to definitely read. And if you like it, feel free to send an email to the author to let him know!

So, what hidden gems would you recommend, people? :smiley:


Uh, If i had to recommend a fantasy that I recently read, then it would either be the Ways of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, or those wheel of time books… I’m trying to think of some more…

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A neat series I would recommend would be The Tour of the Merrimack. It’s a military sci-fi with some interesting concepts regarding space travel and politics.

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I’ve recently finished The Xeelee Sequence. Pretty amazing and far-out stuff, tho the ending was very sad.


Last year I went on a roadtrip with my girlfriend up to Vancouver(it’s a long way from Southern California). While I was there I ran across an awesome used book shop and impulsively picked up a series that I’ve never heard of and whose pages were yellowed with age. It looked cool, had dragons on the front, and each book was long with not large words.

It’s a fantasy book obviously and a set of two trilogies. They just take place at different times for different “conflicts.”

Dragon Prince series and the Dragon Star series, both by Melanie Rawn.

I thought the writing was fantastic and the story hit me right in feels. I was so…unhappy I’ll say after finishing one book that it took me at least 3 months before I even wanted to begin the next. I want to clarify this isn’t unhappy at bad writing or because it’s a bad book, but unhappy because Melanie weaves the story around these characters so well I got attached.

If you like fantasy, dragons, magic, and politics(yes politics!), read the books. You won’t be disappointed.

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So I just finished A Sword Into Darkness by Thomas A. Mays.

This is military SF in the near future ; I recommend it, though with some caveat.

When a nearby star turns blue, aerospace tycoon Gordon Elliot Lee figures out that it really looks like a relativistic interstellar spaceship decelerating after mid-course, more than anything else. Unfortunately, he fails to convince NASA or any other official body. And when it starts to become more and more credible as the thing approach, they continue to deny it (because for politicians, admitting you are wrong is way worse than being wrong).
So he starts to use his Sillicon Valley-like fortune, his company and talents as entrepreneur to start make his own spaceship and meet them. After all, if they are benign, the cost won’t mean much compared to what they will bring. If they aren’t, well… better figure that out as early as possible, while they’re still years (ideally decades) away from Earth.
And if they are only passing by, I hear you ask? Well, what are the chances they are coming about right after catching our radio emissions? Yeah, they are coming for a reason, and that reason is us.

This novel has some weaknesses. Some of the lavish technical descriptions will feel a bit dated in decades, though that is also part of the charm of old SF now. (To start with, one of the characters starts on the fifth Zumwalt-class warship, dating it before they decided to build only two. But then again, maybe they’ll change their mind?) So that’s not a big problem.
The prose is not the best: while the author already wrote a few short stories, this is his first published novel, and his lack of writing experience shows here and there. At a few places, another reading may have helped things as well. Relatedly, the characters, while being nice, felt a bit bland.
It’s not unpleasant to read, far from it, though, so it shouldn’t be too much of a distraction from the story itself.

The “brilliant billionaire space entrepreneur steps up to save the world when ineffectual politicians sit around being useless” will feel dated for some, and a nice throwaway to old XXe century SF to others. I personally wouldn’t see even Elon Musk manage half a project of this amplitude (though the “politicians being useless” part felt pretty accurate), but it’s ok to suspend disbelief a little bit for a good story.
And it still feels more credible (and even sometimes nuanced) than those older stories.

Now, the strong points:

  • It is, as much as possible, scientifically and engineeringly accurate - the author thanks Winchell Chung for his Atomic Rocket website, in fact.
  • The author is a long-time US Navy veteran, and uses it to give a pretty credible description of life aboard a (space)ship. As with “write what you know”, one of the main characters is recruited for being a Navy veteran.
  • Add those two, and you have some pretty nice and believable space combat. (There will be space combat, this isn’t a spoiler - just look at the cover!)
  • So, why are the aliens coming anyway? As characters point out early, it’s not to simply eliminate us (they wouldn’t have bothered slowing down) nor for our resources (those are in abundance in any system, no need to cross 20 ly). If they wanted knowledge or data, why didn’t they ask instead of the far slower, more resource-consuming physical movement?
    Yes, we do learn it at some point, and it’s actually pretty decent. So as a First Contact story, this one has been well thought out! And I tend to be merciless on this particular subject.
  • But if they cross stars and there is space combat, how do we stand a chance, with such an impossible difference in technology and resources?
    Because this is a very asymmetrical situation - and History teaches us how asymmetrical conflicts can be … interesting.
    In addition, there is a very smart plot point: by observing the aliens, even that far away, it is possible to deduce some principles of their technology, which is predictably spectacular.

So as a novel, I’d say it’s pretty good.
As a military hard-SF and First Contact story, I warmly recommend it - this is a great one.


Copy Pasta!

I’m currently on amazon buying a couple of orbital mechanics books and I’m being shorted free shipping by 24 pennies. Obviously I need to buy another book and without spending too much more if possible.

I searched here for a book thread but I don’t think we have one.

I thought about buying the expanse trilogy boxed set, but it’s 24$ and I don’t feel like turning 24 extra pennies into 24 extra dollars, and I also thought about sirens of titan by Kurt Vonnegut because I’ve heard good things.

Before I buy, I want to see if you guys have any recommendations for books that are a must read and are eluding my memory or just ones I haven’t heard of in general.

I’m starting this for me, but I the intent is to be a central thread to share good books to read.

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Try John Steakley’s Armor.

Actually, I should go back and read it again. It’s quite the work.

Another would be Hammer’s Slammers by David Drake. It’s a three-volume series which is outside of your price range, but as long as I’m recommending science fiction.

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Maybe try “The Left Hand of Darkness”, by Ursula Le Guin. Great book, pretty short. The world is pretty fully realized, and Le Guin is a very talented author.
Far future setting, a reprentative from a loose confederation of human worlds (the “Ekumen”) comes to a faraway world (Gethen) to convince world leaders there to join. Very little focus on technology, most of the plot is driven by Gethen’s culture and how different it is from the Ekumen’s. Very, very good. LHOD is definitely Literature with a capital L.

If you want a longer book, try “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson. Alternate world/Fantasy/Scifi/difficult to define book. Setting is Arbre, a planet populated by humans (They evolved on Arbre, they are not colonists or their descendants). Arbre’s history is revealed slowly throughout the book. Follows Fraa Erasmus, a monk-like character who lives in a monastery devoted to science, mathematics, and philosophy, shut away from the outside world which has stagnated at ~2020 levels of technology for a long time. There are hints that civilization has been through several cycles of technological innovation and subsequent collapse. Very detailed world, interesting plot. Like LHOD, I felt that Arbre was a real place. More action-y and fun than LHOD. The author is very knowledgeable about math/science and this comes across in his writing.

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In addition to all the aforementioned books (one year later, The Night Land, a Story Retold - here are the first three chapters for free trial - is still one of my favourite books ever), I am currently reading Hegemony by Mark Kalina.
I’m only at the beginning, but so far it is a solid hard-SF space opera (with a particular attention to technical accuracy). It is a relatively light transhuman far future, where you can change body, and in fact short range attack crafts are worn as bodies by the pilots in accelerated time, instead of all this messy, heavy and fragile life support.
I wouldn’t recommend it personally yet (haven’t read enough), but others I generally trust did to me, so here you go.

The same people recommended Torchship by Karl K. Gallagher, another hard-SF space opera about a free trader ship run by a small crew. The interesting detail is that everything is run on retro electronics, with slide rules and crude analog computers. The promising detail is that, for what I’ve heard, there are very good reasons for it.

For those willing to search Public Domain, I recommend other works from William Hope Hodgeson (the author of the original Night Land).
Men of Deep Waters is a collection of novels taking place at sea, written at a time where both science-fiction was starting and the sea was still this mysterious, dangerous expanse.
Carnaki the Ghost Finder is a collection of novels about cases studied by the eponymous Carnaki, specialised in seemingly supernatural cases, with the rational approach of other detective of literature, but also, in the exceptional cases where the explanation may not be so mundane, his knowledge in poorly understood forces and phenomena…

I particularly like some of Hodgeson’s work, as it is early science-fiction written in a time where not only so much of what we know today was still open to mystery, but even what we knew may have changed. For example, in the Night Land or the House on the Borderland, nuclear fusion wasn’t known and we thought the Sun would freeze solid after expanding its primordial energy (from the energy of the nebula falling upon itself), after a few million years - giving a very different far future than what we expect today.

Also I finally read the Forever War recently, and yes it does deserve the praise it receives. Such famed novel doesn’t originally fit this thread, but if you are searching for books, here you go.

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IMHO, the best Sci-Fi book has to be The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. If I had to recommend one fantasy book it would be the Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin (or rather the Earthsea Trilogy). I have a very old, battered copy of this and it is one of my treasured possessions.

I’ve read a tonne of fantasy stuff over the years. All the usuals from David Eddings to Tad Williams (Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy is awesome), but a one that you may not have heard of which is worth hunting out: The Stone and the Flute by Hans Bemmann. More fairy tale than fantasy but a gorgeous read.

I’ve been delving in to some Space Opera type books too over the past few years and I like Evan Currie’s work. The On Silver Wings and Odyssey One series are great reads.

Finally, an alternate history read which I enjoyed a great deal was The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Who’s up for some zombie story stuff?
Manel Loureiro’s The Beginning of the end (Apocalypse Z) is a book I picked up on a whim in my local book store. The premise of the book is a dude in spain, who happens to write a blog during the zombie apocalypse. What you are reading in the book are those blog posts, which gives a kind of fairly unique point of view. I thought it was a good story, and recommend it to anyone who’s remotely interested in zombie fiction. (Last but not least because it’s not just a ‘look at me, I am great at killing zombies herpaderpaderp’ story).
Surprisingly, it seems to be a fairly well known story, seeing how 2375 people bothered to rate it on (first harry potter book has 11ksumthin reviews for comparison), on the other hand, only 34 people bothered to rate it on (compared to 1159 harry potter reviews) sooooo yeah… kind of a not well known thing where I am…

Anyway, let’s move on to another book… Or rather, books
Mogworld and Jam are both books written by Yahtzee Croshaw, who is a guy most well known for making snarky videos about games and game covers. Anyway, Mogworld features a guy named jm, who’s been dead for sixty years, gets undead’ed as a zombie and now has to live his unlife, working for some shady guy, while trying to make himself dead again. It got 226 reviews on (and 16 on, and it is worth a read.
Jam is a book about the apocalypse. It has jam in it. Iirc that was how yahtzee pitched the book, and to be frank, that’s all you need to know going into the book. If you liked Mogworld, you’ll probably like jam. Just to be complete: only 128 people reviewed the book on (10 on

For believable sci-fi, I am a big fan of Stephen Baxter. Flood is good and the sequel, Ark, is better. The Xeelee books were amazing, if a little heavy duty.

By far my favourites though are the alternate reality stories of Voyage and Titan. Both are excellent and tell “what if” stories about NASA and missions to Mars/Titan respectively. Well worth a read of you haven’t already!

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Neuromancer by William Gibson - I read it when I was young and i though it was good, But I re-read it lately and was amazed by just how well written it is. :slightly_smiling:

My all-time favorite is the original Chronicles trilogy for Dragonlance ( It’s at a teenage reading level, which is how old I was when I started reading it, but still good fun. I’ve read the whole thing 4-5 times over the last 15 or so years :stuck_out_tongue:.

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My favorite sci-fy novels are still the Revelation Space Books by Alastair Reynolds, that seems really realistic to me (the most of the time):

And Dune :]


Ready Player One is an excellent sci-fy, 10/10 would read again.


Here’s my favorite


Having never read any of Tracy’s work before, I recently read his novel for Shroud of the Avatar and it was quite compelling. I feel bad missing out on reading his other work now :confused:

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Yeah, I really liked Revelation Space, and his other books as well. Pushing Ice in particular was pretty good.

Also, this might be cheating, but for those of you that heard about the Martian (film) but didn’t read the book, you definitely should. The book is a lot better than the film, though I still enjoyed the film