Saturday, April 3, 2021

Another 25 Recommended Indie Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Gratuitous pic of my 1st book.

Listicles are one of those things that are inescapable on the net and that's because they're awesome, at least some of the time. However, no more useful a listicle is the collections of books that you want to share because you enjoyed reading them. There's a billion books out there and if you tried reading them one after the other, you'd die before you ever got through a percent of them. So, it falls to people like the noble book reviewer to try and sort them to provide others with what you might actually like.

I did a "25 Recommended Indie Fantasy and Sci-Fi" list before this one and it remains one of my most popular posts. There's some overlap in authors between the two but not in series because if you've recommended a series once there's no point in doing it again. You either like it or you don't. These books are all things that have helped me write my own United States of Monsters and Supervilllainy Saga books. Whenever I hit writers block, I just sit down to read them to remind me how much I love writing.

Why indie? Because, well, I like indie and the road less traveled.  I hope you enjoy this collection of stories and check some of them out. They all deserve a second look.

25. The Blighted City (The Fractured Tapestry #1) by Scott Kaelen

The Blighted City is an interesting fantasy novel that I quite enjoyed. A group of adventurers go to an abandoned city looking for treasure like in so many D&D campaigns but what they find is a supernatural plague as well as curse. Basically, it's a series which could best be described as The Last of Us, The Shadow over Innsmouth, meets your typical Dungeons and Dragons dragon crawl. It's a classic fantasy premise played for horror and works very well.

24. Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain (Please Don't Tell My Parents #1) by Richard Roberts

I frigging love this series and it is one of the rare few that I put above my Supervillainy Saga for pure fun (because I'm an arrogant jerk). A group of junior high kids in a superhero-filled world decide to fight crime only to get themselves labeled as supervillains. Finding it hilarious, they proceed to go on a crime spree that more resembles mischief than mayhem. It's just a joy to read from beginning to end.

23. The Second Star by Alma Alexander

Earth's first faster-than-light vessel was missing and presumed lost for centuries. It has since been recovered and six of its crew are still alive, the same age as when they disappeared. It would be a cause for celebration if not for the fact that they're all suffering from Disassociative Identity Disorder. It's a surprisingly serious handling of the subject and deals with the question of whether something "else" had happened to them out there. It's thinking scifi and I really enjoyed finding out the truth of events.

22. War of the God Queen (Age of Monsters #1) by David Hambling

Call of Cthulhu meets A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is an odd combination. However, it's one that I think works. I've been a big fan of David Hambling's work for a long time and especially love his Harry Stubbs 1920s occult investigative series. Set in the same "world", it is about a young woman transported to a primeval Howardian time where monsters are amuck and she is forced to try to unite the local nomads against the dreaded serpent men. Oddly, less pulpy than it might be since she's an architect and nerd rather than superwoman.

21. Black Heart Stone (The Obsidian Path #1) by Michael R. Fletcher

An unconventional fantasy novel about an immortal warrior who slowly regains the memories of the man he used to be and starts to wish he hadn't. It reminds very strongly of Planescape: Torment and that is very high praise. I love everything Michael R. Fletcher has written and think he deserves a much bigger audience among both dark fantasy as well as grimdark fans. Seriously, I've never read a single book of his that I haven't liked.

20. Never Die (The Mortal Techniques #1) by Rob J. Hayes

A wuxia-themed fantasy about a child who has the power to raise the dead and has begun doing so in order to bring about the overthrow of an evil Emperor. Unfortunately, the collection of warriors they assemble are a terrible band of misfits that are disinclined to help in his quest. Oh and there's also the fact they have to die first. I really enjoyed this story and it reminded me a lot of Jade Empire's main quest. Rob J. Hayes has been a favorite of mine since the Ties that Bind trilogy and this is one of his best works.

19. Star Quest: The Journey Begins (Star Quest #1) by Patricia Macomber 

Sometimes you just want a story about Tony Stark/Elon Musk and some other super-genius heroes journeying into space to peacefully explore Star Trek-style. Its a kind of blatant pastiche but that doesn't make it bad and it's fun just to read uncomplicated heroics.

18. The Beautiful Ones (The Beautiful Ones #1) by Kody Boye

What if The Hunger Games was a beauty pageant but kept the social commentary? Odd premise, I know, but in the future the world is divided into the haves and have-nots in the Deep South. A eugenicist cult is the haves and is in a constant state of war with its neighbors. The only way to get out of a life of enslavement and uncertainty is to be beautiful enough that your genes are judged good enough to be added to the elite. Our heroine wins the contest, to the delight of her family, but finds the life of vapid parasitism unsatisfying. Also, their society exists on the edge of collapse despite its luxuries too.

17. Ashes of Onyx by Seth Skorkowsky

I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, which is a bit more fantasy than horror as compared to his normal stuff. I am also a big fan of Seth Skokowsky's Youtube channel where he reviews Call of Cthulhu and Traveller games. This is a story about a drug-addicted witch who needs to go to Carcosa and I really enjoyed it. I think fans of darker urban fantasy will appreciate it.

16. Poor Man's Fight (Poor Man's Fight #1) by Elliot Kay

Merging space piracy, space marines, and student loan debt! Yes, the future being capitalistic is a safe bet but it's absolute hell on those who can't afford a proper education. I really enjoyed this book because it has the social commentary as part of the world-building without ever forgetting that this is a epic space adventure either. I had lots of fun with this one.

15. The Skald's Black Verse (The Dreadbound Ode #1) by Jordan Loyal Short

A Warhammer-esque world where an ancient decaying spacefaring civilization has enslaved a planet of humans that are not much more advanced than the Medieval Vikings. Oh and there's magic too. Unfortunately, the planet is about to be destroyed by a comet and the empire isn't inclined to evacuate their own troops let alone the population. I really enjoyed this piece of dark fantasy (space opera?) and strongly recommend it.

14. Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter Omnibus vol. 1 by John G. Hartness

I'm a big fan of John G. Hartness' Bubba the Monster Hunter series, which is kind of like Supernatural except with even more redneckery. I can say that, I'm from Kentucky. Quincy Harker is the better series, though, and hilarious. Dracula's "nephew" is an exorcist that fights the forces of Hell while being decidedly irritated about it. Snarky urban fantasy is hardly rare but rarely done as well as this. It's also got a HUGE backlog with dozens of novellas assembled into multiple collections.

13. Shroud of Darkness (Brooklyn Shadows #1) by Brock Deskins

Sometimes you just want your vampires to be scumbags. Leo Malone isn't as bad as some of the nosferatu in fiction but he's a private investigator/occasional hitman and jerkass that doesn't spare much effort toward the moral side of undeath in New York City. Brock Deskins made an enjoyable world that I had a lot of fun exploring in this trilogy.

12. Shadows of Fairie by Martin Owton

One of the rare gems I've found among indie fantasy was Martin Owton's Exile, which was a low stakes fantasy story about a knight errant being hired to rescue a kidnapped Earl. Shadows of Fairie is one of his other rare number of books with a changeling possessed of psychic powers in the modern era. Trying to use his power of psychometry to solve murders, it leads him to a kidnapping scheme involving the Fair Folk. I just really liked this one and also note it's refreshingly free of snark or humor. Its protagonist is terrifed of his situations and treats them with the utmost seriousness.

11. Brutal by James Alderdice

A wandering swordsman heads to a town that is divided between two feuding wizards, a decadent Duke, and his duplicitous wife. It's very much based on A Fistful of Dollars combined with Conan the Barbarian. I very much enjoy James Alderdice's epic pulpy fiction and think he's a throwback to when the genre was more mighty thews than epic sorcery. All of his books are big swinging swords and fun.

10. The Statement of Andrew Doran (Andrew Doran #1) by Matthew Davenport

I am a big fan of The Trials of Obed Marsh, which I feel is Matthew Davenport's best novel. I enjoy most of his work but I think I had the most fun with the Andrew Doran series. It is an homage to Indiana Jones and basically just consists of murdering Nazis allied with the Great Old Ones. If that intrigues you then that's what you'll find within. Andrew Doran is kind of a selfish jerkass but it doesn't matter as long he's slaughtering the Reich and Deep Ones.

9. Deicide (Agents of Mortal #1) by MK Gibson

The supernatural has become revealed to the world with all the gods, fairies, and magicians all being real. Well in what is probably distressingly realistic, the government herds them all to Alaska and forbids them from ever leaving. This (in)human rights violation isn't the focus of the series, though. Instead, it is more like Brooklyn 99 with gods. The first book deals with someone having murdered Hermes with a drug overdose and the human agents trying to deal with it.

8. Heart of a Dragon (The Dechance Chronicles #1) by David Niall Wilson

The majority of urban fantasy novels that I read are very snarky and semi-serious at best. The Dechance Chronicles tend to be on the more serious side with a protagonist very similar to Stephen Strange. This book deals with two street gangs turning to folk religion to fight one another and its up the city's resident archmage to sort it out. The rest of the series has a more complicated Edgar Allan Poe-influenced mythology.

7. The Tale of the Vampire Bride (The Vampire Bride Dark Rebirth series) by Rhiannon Frater

The Tale of the Vampire Bride is the story of one of Dracula's brides. No kidding, I know. However, I think it's Rhiannon Frater's best work with the story of a young woman lured to the Count's castle, changed against her will, and forced to deal with being his prisoner for the centuries after. Gothic and moody from beginning to end.

6. Get Bent! (The Hybrid of High Moon #1) by Rick Gualtieri

I am very fond of the Tome of Bill series by Rick Gualtieri. They're an irreverent, crude, and hilarious series about a Big Bang Theory-esque sexist nerd turned into a vampire. Get Bent! is a somewhat more female-friendly series about a sarcastic teenage girl who is a hybrid of a witch with a werewolf. Something forbidden in both cultures. She reminds me a bit of my creation, Jane Doe, in fact. In any case, I love the trilogy and I feel its undervalued.

5. The Company of Death (The Immortal Journey #1) by Elisa Hansen

I absolutely love the Youtube channel "Vampire Reviews" by Elisa Hansen a.k.a the Maven of the Eventide. Sort of a PG Elvira, she's a great media personality that exclusively reviews vampire media. So I was a bit surprised that she decided to do a zombie novel. Specifically a zombie novel with Death (ala Pratchett) as a side character. It is a profoundly weird, fun, and entertaining novel.

4. The Dragon Mage (Rivenworld #1) by M.L. Spencer

I am a huge fan of M.L. Spencer's Rhenwars Saga. It is a work that managed to be grim and dark without being overloaded with torture as well as shock value. The Dragon Mage is a more PG-13 throwback to 80s fantasy that I read in my Waldenbooks years. Speaking as someone neuroatypical, I also appreciated that the protagonist is autistic even if they don't use that word. It's about a young boy, dragons, and an evil empire. Stuff that never goes out of style.

3. Into the Dark (Alexis Carew #1) by J.A. Sutherland

Steampunk space opera! Yes, get your void sails up and other rigging because there are pirates threatening Her Majesty's Navy! I really enjoy this series of novels because they're just so offbeat and fun. Fans of Honor Harrington will like them as they have many similarities but they avoid a lot of the bloat from later Weber novels. Alexis starts as a Midshipwoman in this story and we get to see her slow but inevitable rise to power. 

2. Forging Hephaestus (Villain's Code #1) by Drew Hayes

I am a huge literary superhero fan. I am always scouring Amazon for new superhero stories and have an entire library of the good, the bad, and the capey. I freely admit Drew Hayes is much better at superhero storytelling than me and think the Villains Code books are even better than his Super Powereds series. They're about a group of villains who have mostly retired due to their adoption of a code of conduct that makes the heroes less inclined to fight them as well as making vast amounts of money in their normal professions. It's also a book about how this is a peace destined to fail.

1. Of Honey and Wildfires by Sarah Chorn

Finally, no. #1 on this list is the steampunk adventure set in a fantasy American frontier. Actually, it feels more like the mining boom towns in Appalachia but its still pretty cool either way. In this world, shine is the most important thing you can get. Its in food, powers machines, and is mildly addictive. Whoever controls shine controls the economy and the miners live their lives in the service of the Shine Mining Company. Our protagonists are intimately tied to its production. Sarah Chorn's best work and strong LGBT representation. Very good character study over combat and special effects.

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