Today’s guest is Janice from Janicu’s Book Blog, one of my must-read sites! Janice mostly reads and reviews speculative fiction with a romantic element (although she also reads SFF without romance and romance without SFF). In a rare turn of events, I actually met Janice in person before I was familiar with her blog when we both attended the first Book Blogger Convention. She was reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin (a book I loved) and I was reading the third Kate Daniels book (a book she loved) so we had a lot to talk about and found we had a lot in common. Ever since then, I’ve been a big fan of her blog for her well-thought-out reviews, great enthusiasm for reading, and friendliness to those of us who stop by and comment. She’s a great person to talk about books with! You can also read her blog on Livejournal and follow her on Twitter.
Janice is sharing some of her favorite SFF books written by women today, mostly ones that are closer to the science fiction side of the genre. I now really want to read all of the authors she mentions that I haven’t read already!
Thank you for the invite to your Women in SF&F Month Kristen! I’m happy to be here. For this guest post I spent a lot of time thinking about why I read so many speculative fiction stories by women, and I couldn’t come up with one reason. Part of it is that I am a woman and I want to read books with female characters and support female authors, part of it is my love of character driven stories along with great world building, part of it has to do with my being a romantic and gravitating to stories that are about relationships. I don’t think these are things unique to women writers, but they’re not uncommon. Even then, I still don’t think I’ve really explained why I read books by women because each book I pick up involves a decision that has a countless number of factors including mood, taste, proximity, hype, recommendation, and page number. In the end, I just read a lot of speculative fiction books by female authors. Here are some of my favorites (these fall on the science fiction side of the spectrum, but aren’t necessarily limited to that genre):
Wen Spencer – How do I describe Wen Spencer? I think that her style of world building is the most out there of my favorites, which is one of the reasons I adore her books, but each of her series is very different from the next, and all defy categorization. I think you have to like weird.
Her Tinker series features a girl genius in a futuristic Pittsburgh that moves between dimensions (one on Earth, one on Elfhome) and has a mix of sci-fi, fantasy (with nods to Japanese and Celtic folklore), and romance. It has a cross-genre appeal, but I feel like it is one of those books where it’s better when you are a fan of all the genres it nods at rather than one. Tinker and Wolf Who Rules The Wind are out now, Elfhome has a July, 2012 release date.
Her Ukiah Oregon series has a protagonist who is a private investigator that was literally raised by wolves and has no idea where he originally came from. The truth about who he is quite mind-boggling, but if you accept it, oh-so-great. I have read the first three books, and there is a fourth that I can’t make myself read because then it will be over. This series falls into the urban fantasy / X-Files category.
Spencer’s standalone A Brother’s Price is probably closest to romance of all her stories, but again, it’s turned on it’s head with a Wild West world where families are mostly female. Men are rare and prized — hidden from the world until they are married off to be shared by a group of sisters. If you can wrap your head around a world where the stereotype is that men are blushing, stay-at-home types, it is delightful. I would call this one a fantasy romance.
Finally, there is Endless Blue, another standalone that is a space opera-ish story with a Japanese influence, with two adoptive brothers – one a clone, one a supersoldier. This was a complex, complex world, and it took me some time understand the rules of an inside-out world, where all manner of people “jumped” to it and were trapped. This is probably the most complicated of the books I’ve read by Spencer, but I wouldn’t call it hard science fiction either since there are a lot of fantastical elements.
Karin Lowachee – Karin Lowachee is an author I like because the voices of her protagonists are always so distinctive and so compelling.
For a while, she only had one science fiction trilogy out – this was the Warchild Universe – Warchild, Burndive, and Cagebird. Each of these books are told from the POV of a different character within the same world and around the same events, so you really could read each book as a standalone, if you really wanted to, but I would read them in order because there is a story arc that links all three. All the books are narrated by young men that are caught up in the same war and see it from a different perspective. Warchild blew me out of the water with how good it was – it’s a coming of age tale with heartbreak and shades of Ender’s Game. I was disappointed that Burndive features someone who was not Jos, but I was just as reeled in by Ryan’s story, even though he was a much more sheltered character than Jos. To be honest, I am still sitting on my copy of Cagebird (she doesn’t publish every year, so I’m hoarding), but just writing about this series here has me eager to do a reread so I can review these three properly on my blog. I also have to read The Gaslight Dogs, which is billed as “a Victorian era steampunk novel” and has a gorgeous cover.
Katie Waitman – Katie Waitman’s books are out of print but I believe you can find them used for a decent price online. Here’s the deal though – there are only two. I have read both The Divided and The Merro Tree, and they are very different from each other.
I liked The Divided, which is a story of two groups at constant war with each other, but I LOVED The Merro Tree. The Merro Tree follows the life of Mikk, an abused young boy and his journey to becoming the galaxy’s greatest and most infamous performer. This is a compulsively readable story about young man overcoming a harsh upbringing and his own particular learning disabilities to become someone amazing. For that alone I love it, but you can also find messages about censorship and about same sex relationships here. Every year I will check google to find out if there is ever going to be anything new from Katie Waitman, and I’m always a bit heartbroken when I find nothing.
Linnea Sinclair – I feel like I must add Linnea Sinclair for something a little different here. This is an author that is well known for her space opera romance. She is my go-to comfort read author in the genre because her stories are reliably full of space battles and light science fiction, and they always end in a happily ever after. This is an author I would recommend to romance readers to introduce them to science fiction — a gateway author.
Her four standalones are An Accidental Goddess, Finders Keepers, The Down Home Zombie Blues, and Games of Command. These are probably the best place to dip your toes and try this author. My first Sinclair was Finders Keepers because of the cover that shows a woman meaning some serious business, but the newer covers have been repackaged to show the romance aspect more (kissing couples).
Her Dock Five Universe has four books. The first two, Gabriel’s Ghost, and Shades of Dark focus on the same couple and is a lot darker than the usual Sinclair. The next two, Hope’s Folly and Rebels and Lovers are further along in the same timeline and feature different couples. They aren’t as dark as the first two books, and further the overarching plot, but I feel like they can be read alone without problems.
Ann Aguirre – If Linnea Sinclair is a gateway author for romance readers, I think Ann Aguirre is the author to lure urban fantasy fans into science fiction/space opera.
Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series focuses on Sirantha Jax – a Jumper (someone with a special J-gene that allows her to send a spaceship through a hyperspace jump), and her pilot March. Although the series does spend some time on their relationship, there is no guarantee that things are going to end well. They are very complex characters and the series never fails to throw Jax and her crew into desperate situations without easy answers. Early on Jax is someone with only her best interests at heart but she develops into a more heroic figure. March starts off as a Hero figure but loses some of himself in the course of the series. There is death, violence, and plenty of angst, but I am hooked. The relationship between Jax and her crew (all who have distinct personalities of their own), and the on-the-edge of your seat space drama keeps me reading until the wee hours of the morning. The last installment promises to come out this year, and I have been saving my copy of the second-to-last because I’ve heard it is a gut-wrencher. I am going to read it when the end is within spitting distance. The order of books is Grimspace, Wanderlust, Doubleblind, Killbox, Aftermath, and Endgame.
Ann Aguirre is a very prolific writer. In the past few years her backlog has grown quite a bit. There’s an urban fantasy series (Corine Solomon) that’s already 4 books long (with a fifth coming out 2013), and two pending series (another SFR trilogy set in the Jax universe – Dread Queen, and a steampunk duology). That doesn’t include her YA series, or her series under her pseudonyms of Ava Gray and Ellen Connor.