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best little-read books of the last ten years

Via Boing Boing, the Guardian's list of the decade's (sic) best unread (sic) books.

Which of course got me going on my own list. Three immediately came to mind, and even after perusing my booklog I couldn't improve on them:

  • The Last Hot Time, John M. Ford (booklog). Beautiful, evocative, compact urban fantasy about growing up and love and power and magic; an adult version of the Borderlands books.
  • The Apocalypse Door, James D. Macdonald (booklog). Fast-paced fun fantasy thriller featuring Peter Crossman, Knight of the Temple, and Sister Mary Magdalene of the Special Action Executive of the Poor Clares.
  • Point of Honour and Petty Treason, Madeline E. Robins (booklog). Austen noir, with all that such a juxtaposition implies.

I don't get the impression that any of these is really widely known, and indeed the novels by Robins sold badly enough in mass market paperback that I understand the author will be publishing under a different name in the future. If forced to pick just one, I would say The Last Hot Time; but I think all three would be well-loved by the people who like those kinds of things if they knew about them. (And, happily, all are currently in print.)

What about you? What little-read books of the last ten years do you want to bring to the world's attention?


A note to U.S. readers.

You may be able to find the Macdonald book at your local big-box bookstore.

(Apparently it's just been rereleased or something.)

Yep. Now available in trade paperback, with a spiffy cover.

(no subject) - kate_nepveu, 2009-12-18 06:12 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - malkingrey, 2009-12-18 06:27 pm (UTC)(Expand)
The first and last of yours, plus Cloud & Ashes by Greer Gilman.


That's one that I suspect I am not the reader for, but like I said, people who do like that kind of thing . . .

Those all sound quite wonderful!

I understand that Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet sold so poorly that he's no longer writing for Tor and will be focusing on urban fantasy books (under the pen name MLN Hanover). This is a travesty. Anyone who loves epic fantasy but thinks it needs less racefail (I do not promise zero racefail, there's probably a little, but so much less than most) and more interesting examinations of gender roles and servitude and less reckless bloodshed and more slow, grim decisions and less fluffy escapism and more kicks to the gut should pick up these books. I believe they're all still in print; if not, they may be library-findable. A Shadow in Summer, A Betrayal in Winter, An Autumn War, The Price of Spring.

Sorry to hear that--they were certainly spoken well of by people of my acquaintance, enough so that I wouldn't have guessed that.

*wishlists all four as a reminder to self*

(no subject) - rosefox, 2009-12-18 06:17 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - athenais, 2009-12-18 06:51 pm (UTC)(Expand)
Oh, and on a hunch I would add Sarah Micklem's Firethorn and Wildfire simply because I haven't ever seen anyone recommend them. More epic fantasy, this time with a protagonist who is mentally ill. Extraordinary prose. We were fortunate enough to hear Sarah read from Wildfire at KGB last month and everyone was bowled over. It's rare that I say "highly recommended" about books I haven't yet read, but I think I know enough about them to promote them to anyone who loves rich, cerebral, complex, brutal, character-centric fantasy tales that don't shy away from difficult topics.

I have never heard of them, so thanks!

In fact, shortly after I put you on my friends list, you had a giveaway for The Last Hot Time and I snagged it. I still owe you and your husband some sort of beverage as a thank you, because that is one helluva book.

I just bought The Apocalypse Door this week, and I've been remiss in picking up Petty Treason. Point of Honour was great fun, but when I learned the series was cancelled (I'm always behind in my reading) my enthusiasm dimmed.

I would add The Bone Key by Sarah Monette. I'll admit that I bounced off her Labyrinthe books, but The Bone Key was fantastic.

I'm so glad you liked it!

It's hard picking up the last in a series you want to be continued, I know, but they are standalone and there is so nice character movement.

I haven't read _The Bone Key_ yet.

(Deleted comment)
Re: _The Last Hot Time_: I do think that with urban fantasy being so popular right now, it could find more readers, but I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that.

I will have to move the Alchemist books up on my list! We have at least the first one.

And yes, it's hard to imagine that the Steerswoman books could be popular enough.

(no subject) - thistleingrey, 2009-12-21 06:20 pm (UTC)(Expand)
John Crowley's The Translator, which is a book I expected a lot of people to really love and then it vanished into a sea of people excited about the finish of the Aegypt books and annoyed about Lord Byron's Novel. But The Translator is the book I recommend even to people who don't like Crowley, melancholy, sometimes joyous, so subtly fantastical that it was marketed as mainstream.

Seconding Cloud & Ashes.

I really, really hope that is not true about Daniel Abraham. He has an LJ, but I don't think I've the nerve to ask him.

It's true. :(

(no subject) - mswyrr, 2009-12-19 07:06 am (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
In what ways do you think they'd be awful?

Ooh, good question. Conveniently, my date-indexed book list goes back to mid-2000. I advance:

Adam-Troy Castro, _Emissaries From the Dead_ and _The Third Claw of God_. Far-future detective series, with politics in the background, and one of the most charismatically unlikeable protagonists I've run into in a long time. (Many writers, particularly the ones trying to adapt the noir tradition, aim at "charismatically unlikeable". Most of them wind up with plain old "unlikeable", at least for me. Castro gets the balance of snark, misanthropy, defensiveness, and sympatheticness right.) (Again, at least for me.)

Michael Swanwick, _The Dragons of Babel_. This is the one where he got it right, IMHO. But I suspect that a lot of people bounced off _The Iron Dragon's Daughter_ and gave this one a miss.

Liz Williams, _Snake Agent_ and sequels.

Laurie J. Marks, _Fire Logic_ and sequels.

Mary Gentle, _Ilario_. Again, this is the book (two-volume set in the US) where I think the author got it right. She's written many books where I thought, wow, so much cool stuff and yet the story either fails to cohere or is overwhelmed by squick. _Ilario_ is about humans who are flawed, not about the flaws of humanity.

Stephan Zielinski, _Bad Magic_.

Alexander C. Irvine, _A Scattering of Jades_. I need to re-read this.

And just because I like being obscure: Dave Whiteland, _The Knot-Shop Man_. This is a perfectly charming quartet of fairy tales, about a place where you can go to tie knots in your fate, and four people who do that. Why is it underread? Because it's a self-published limited edition with no marketing except for word-of-mouth and a web site ( ). And shipping to the US costs a bucket. But the limited edition comes in four volumes *tied together with a rope*. Take that, giant heartless book distribution industry!

I've heard enough word-of-mouth that I bought _Emissaries_, but that wasn't a lot. Haven't read it yet, though.

Marks & Zielinski are also good calls.

As to earlier suggestions... I read one MLN Hanover book (Unclean Spirits?) and had no idea until now that that was Abraham. Wow. The Hanover book was decent, I thought -- it had enough self-awareness to dodge the worst sins of current urban/romance/fantasy -- but I didn't feel any need to buy more of them.

I still have _Cloud and Ashes_ sitting on my pile, waiting for me to have the energy to invest. (Sorry! I just finished _Anathem_, which was exhausting for completely different reasons, but it's the same energy used.)

I just ordered the Lulu chapbook of short stories that go along with _The Apocalypse Door_. It hasn't arrived yet.

Most of what I really love is pretty popular, at least for prose works (webcomics are a whole continent of teeny tiny ghettos). And I'm sure everyone here has heard of Rosemary Kirstein and Laurie J. Marks and P.C. Hodgell, so I'm going to limit myself to stuff published in the last ten years that went out of print before I realized I needed to buy it.

Science Fiction:

Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian quintet, reminded me a lot (in a good way) of Robin Hobb's Fitz books despite being in a completely different type of setting, not to mention genre.

Urban Fantasy:

Stephan Zielinski's Bad Magic, one of the best snarky urban fantasies I've read, and I knew right away I wanted it in paperback. Unfortunately, by the time I learned there wasn't going to be a paperback, the hardcover was unavailable.

I somehow never actually wrote up _Bad Magic_, which is probably why it stayed off my list.

OTOH I do suspect its appeal may be a little more limited than the ones I picked.

Kristine Smith is an author who I believe publishes steadily and yet no-one I talk to seems to talk about. I will have to investigate.

(no subject) - kgbooklog, 2009-12-21 10:28 pm (UTC)(Expand)

Two excellent books

"Point of Honour and Petty Treason, Madeline E. Robins . Austen noir, with all that such a juxtaposition implies."

The actual phrase would probably be Regency noir, but in fact they're mystery/suspense set in an alternate history.

The departure point is the eldest son of King George marrying Mrs FitzHerbert and is disqualified from the succession. When George the 3rds madness strikes the Queen becomes Regent.

In terms of the time line these are relatively recent events and the principals are mostly still living and active.

Because the change point is so recent the "butterfy effect" has made only relatively minor changes.

Robins has an LJ under the name madrobins.

Re: Two excellent books

And is part of the Book View Café ebook collective ^^.

Re: Two excellent books - estara, 2010-01-14 09:27 pm (UTC)(Expand)
(Deleted comment)
It's the bit where I'm not really fond of dystopias that's keeping me from reading _Shelter_. But I feel (irrationally) guilty about it, if that helps!

here via

Since P.C. Hodgell was already mentioned I'm going to vote for

Sherwood Smith and her Inda series

Elizabeth Wein and her Aethiopian alternate history Arthuriana starting with the Winter Prince.

Re: here via

I have really got to give _Inda_ another shot--I own the first two, but the day I picked up _Inda_ I foundered on the first chapter. Soon.

Re: here via - estara, 2010-01-15 10:40 pm (UTC)(Expand)