Today I have some suggestions for those of you who love to read and love to draw inspiration from the books you’re consuming. There are tons of themes in fantasy and sci-fi. Some have become increasingly popular, such as zombie apocalypse, and others are a bit more rare. These themes tie books together into subgenres or at least make reading them feel a bit familiar. What makes them good often involves something that makes that story different from the others of the subgenre. It may be the characters, the situation, the time period, or specific details that deviate from the norm. The following authors are a couple that, I think, have gone a step further. They have produced books that are unique, even among the subgenre, developing a niche that others have not really gotten into or could, perhaps, be credited with the creation of a new subgenre (you never know what’ll happen).
Peter Clines (Ex-Heroes)
As always, I found this author in looking for a new series to try out, waiting for a block of similarly titled books on the Barnes & Nobel shelf. The series caught my eye because all of the books are single word titles beginning with “ex-“. The back cover was enough to get me to buy it and it was everything I could want, and I honestly cannot wait to read more. Ex-Heroes is a book that combines super heroes with the zombie apocalypse. Super hero books are fairly uncommon, being the realm of comic books and graphic novels, but one that looks to take a serious look at the zombie apocalypse? Count me in. I began this expecting to come into the midst of an apocalypse, that there are heroes defending against. What I got was a bleak, but somewhat hopeful, post apocalypse with the event still fairly fresh in the characters minds. A fort exists but there are still problems, information is something as desired as survival. Danger is still paramount though, and there aren’t as many heroes as you would expect, they’re almost as recent a thing as zombies. The tale woven in Ex-Heroes goes between past and present, tying together the histories of the heroes from before the event and what life is like surviving in a world of zombies. By the end of the book, when you learn what you’ve learned, and survived the ride of the story, you are definitely left wanting to know more. To know what happens next. If you want more super hero novels or a new zombie apocalypse experience, definitely pick up the first of Clines’ series, Ex-Heroes.
James Lovegrove (Pantheon Novels)
When I found this author, I could not have been more excited. I have toyed with the ideas portrayed in his novels for around ten years now, never really taking the dive and attempting a campaign. Needless to say, I bought one of his novels. Lovegrove has done something that is not uncommon in fiction these days, what is it like in the modern world where the ancient polytheistic religions exist, in that, the pantheons are real. What makes him incredibly interesting is that (at least in Age of Ra, I have not yet read the others) he considers what would happen if everyone knew about them. There are a number of series and books that consider the existence of the pantheons, with certain people or groups knowing it, and those books are great, but what if the gods wanted to be known, to be worshiped? That is what happens in Age of Ra. There are still the ancient squabbles and family troubles of the gods. There always is isn’t there? And this mirrors what happens on earth, with wars being fought on behalf of the gods. So, not only does Lovegrove consider a modern world were ancient gods are worshiped, but he writes a book that as a military / revolution bent. It isn’t about characters who have found power, or discovered secrets, its about the real people fighting for and against the wars the gods decree must happen. Age of Ra definitely deserves a read or, if you are into other pantheons, check out Age of Odin, Age of Shiva, or one of the others in the series.
A. Lee Martinez (Too Many Curses & Others)
My father can be thanked for finding this author. He saw Monster, read the back, and figured it would be worth the dollar the library was asking for it. I am so glad he did, because Martinez writes crazy, fun, and hilarious novels. I have, since reading Monster, purchased and read at least three of his other novels. Too Many Curses is probably my favorite so far, though Chasing the Moon was also great fun. To give you an idea about the type of book he writes I’ll give you a bit about Too Many Curses. We all know about heroes and villains and fantastic stories of good deeds and the defeat of horrible mages and the like. We also know that the evil wizard in the tower has defeated many the adventure, why else would the DM be sending you in? In all that time the wizard collects things, finds things, and gains the loot of would-be heroes. All of this is kept in his tower. But who takes care of all of these things, while he experiments and creates spells? The answer is Nessy: a poor, magic-less, little kobold who just wants to get her job done. She always has, no matter what, and she is proud of it. But what happens when the wizard dies and the magic keeping it all together so she can tend it starts to wear away? Chaos, to say the least. There are just too many curses to deal with, but Nessy has some allies…kinda. If that doesn’t do it, Monster is about a man who runs a pest control agency and his girlfriend is from Hell, literally. And he gets caught up in world-saving trouble, of course, with a human who doesn’t know these things exist. Oh, did I mention that those pests are like yetis and ogres? Or that he changes colors randomly each day, each with its own supernatural ability? Those are the kind of novels Martinez writes. The are enjoyable forays into the crossroads between insane supernatural events and the utterly mundane. Pick up one of his books for some unique inspiration or, at least, to have some fun.