Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed

Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed
Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (First published 2001)

These books are set thousands of years in the future in a time of scarce resources and ecological devastation. This has pushed humanity to develop beyond the cities and nation states that we know today. Abandoning the idea of static settlements, many of the great cities have re-engineered themselves as "traction cities" - giant lumbering cities on wheels, tracks, rafts, and even skis.

These cities engage in "Municipal Darwinism" where the stronger, bigger cities literally chase, catch, and eat the smaller ones. When a prowling city catches its "prey", the luckless city is dismantled and the population absorbed into that of the victor.

Meanwhile other portions of the earth, protected by mountains, have formed the Anti-Traction league. These are "static" settlements, fiercely ideologically opposed to the "Tractionist Barbarians".

Caught up in this conflict and age of scarcity are Tom Natsworthy (A humble and sheltered young wannabe historian) and the mysterious scavenger Hester Shaw.

Also throw into the mix massive airship battles, all kinds of pirates, cyborgs made from re-animated corpses, weapons of mass destruction, politics, extremism, hilarious jokes, insight into the human condition, science experiments gone wrong, and a lot of adventure and you have an incredible recipe for a great series. Reeve also frequently has subtle comedic references to our own time in the form of misinterpreted archaeology, folklore, sayings and religion.

This description might sound quite odd, but these books are really quite fantastic. Reeve's world building is superb and his characters perfectly crafted.

This a world where people are people. There are good and bad types in both the Traction cities and the Anti-Traction league. Again, while the concept of moving cities sounds goofy, he executes the idea perfectly.
Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed
D. M. Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy (First Published 2006)

I picked this series as it is another case of awesome world building, awesome characters. Cornish is one of the greatest world builders of any fantasy author I have ever read.

The setting for these books is a fictional world reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire and the European Age of Enlightenment with a large dose of fantasy. For example ship propellers are powered by "Gastrines" - basically giant human created muscles. Some humans undertake strange surgeries that add extra organs to their bodies, giving them superhuman abilities. The cost is that they must constantly take dreadful concoctions to prevent their bodies from rejecting these alien organs.

The main struggle in the world is between "Unterman" and "Everyman": the overlapping realms of monsters and Humans. The cities are the heart of the kingdoms of men, but as one ventures further into the countryside the world becomes more "threwdish" and fraught with monsters.

The story follows a young orphan and his misadventures trying to join the Lamplighters - a special regiment of soldiers tasked with guarding the roads in perilous regions.

What is awesome about these stories is that they are not the derivative Tolkien copy-cat style fantasy you so often get. There are heroes and villains among humanity, and likewise in the world of monsters. The world is also a different setting then so many fantasy tales. This story is set in what is basically an early industrial society with guns, ironclad warships, and cannon, but that also has advanced alchemy. The monsters are also nothing at all like the orc/goblin knock off type fantasy creatures you so often get, and these books steer clear of fantasy tropes and conventions.

The world building is really incredible and the world is fully realized. Cornish even creates scores of new words to really describe the world and its inhabitants. The cherry on top is a number of sketches throughout the books and a thick appendix full of more sketches and lore. Sometimes I actually just like to flick through the books to look at the pictures.

This a series that I really cannot recommend enough and this is likely my favorite of all the books on this list. If my description sounds off-putting at all I apologize, it really doesn't do these books justice
Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed
The Eagle of the Ninth (But really all her books) by Rosemary Sutcliff (First published in 1954)

I suppose Rosemary Sutcliff is technically a writer of historical fiction, but some of her books toe the line with fantasy. She really is a great read even if you are not interested in history at all.

Her books are mainly set in Britain throughout the centuries, highlighting the interactions and conflicts between the different migrating peoples who arrive at the island. Conflicts between Roman and Celt, Roman-Britons and Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings etc. Reoccurring themes are unlikely friendships, heroes who are physically crippled in a tough world (Sutcliff herself was wheelchair bound), and coming to terms with or resisting change. Likewise how different cultures influence each other and meld together.

The Eagle of the Ninth follows a Roman centurion crippled and discharged from the army, his British friend, and their quest to find the lost eagle of his father's legion. There was a not so great movie of this book made semi-recently starring Channing Tatertot. If you didn't like the movie don't let it put you off, as it is really nothing like the book.

What I love about Sutcliff's writing is that it really transports one to another world. You can really smell the bannocks cooking on the embers of a fire and feel the coarse hair of a spirited highland pony in your hands. Equally she captures the anxiety and terror of travelling through enemy territory in disguise, the tension when bonds of friendship conflict with tribal loyalty, and the rush of a mad chase back to safety behind Hadrian's Wall.
Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed
The Weirdstone Trilogy by Alan Garner (First published 1960)

The beauty of these stories is the idea of the "old magic" still underlaying the modern civilization we have built over it. Set in contemporary England, the story follows a brother and a sister who uncover this frightening hidden magical world.

The author has set his story in a very real corner of England, and the physical features of the landscape are ones he knows from personal experience. Within this landscape of cliffs, hills, and abandoned mine shafts lurk dark forces as well as the last hope for the forces of good.

I have always had a deep connection to these stories. As a kid these were books I would read before going to bed, and end up staying up all night reading as I was too entranced and too scared to stop. The tension of the quite ordinary protagonists trying to evade the all-powerful forces of evil would truly hold my heart in an iron grip.

These stories especially resonated with me due to my own childhood. Growing up in one of the most statistically rural states in the US in a town of 2,000 souls, my boyhood friends and I would spend our days exploring the forests and fields. Scattered through the woods were the remnants of times long gone: old stone walls, cellar holes, farm implements, mill foundations, old cars and the like. These were the legacy of a long-lost agricultural heyday rendered obsolete by the ever striding pace of "progress".

Anyways the close connection to the landscape and idea of an older world underlying our own has always resonated with me. If anyone has camped out and heard the howling of coyotes circling your camp, it is not hard to believe in dark forces roaming the woods at night.
Five Awesome Fantasy and Sci-Fi Book Series you may have Missed
The Troy Series by David Gemmell (First Published 2005)

This series is probably the closest to "Heroic fantasy" on the list. In his masterwork Gemmell has taken the myths and legends surrounding the ancient Trojan War and transformed them into a fresh and epic tale.
Gemmell perfectly captures the flavor of the life of an adventurer sailing the "Great Green" between modern Greece and Turkey. Days are spent rowing or battling pirates, while nights are for camping out on islands and telling stories around campfires.

The best part of these books are the heroes, and Gemmell creates some great characters and loves getting them to interact with each other. Gemmell has some straight forward values in the book, and I suppose I find them admirable. What differentiates the "good guys" from the "bad guys" are their values even if they are on different sides of the fight. What is most imporant is upholding the values of loyalty, friendship, honor, and courage in the face of all odds.

The conflict is between the alliance of Greeks against the Troy and her allies. The scheming king of Mycenae, Agamemnon, is the main bad guy. However the opposing king Priam is also conniving, greedy, and cruel.

The main protagonist, Helikaon/Aeneas, is double sided. While part of his character is noble, he struggles with his demons and dark side. While some hail him as the savior of Troy, many revile him as "the burner", a man who burned his wife's rapists alive in a fit of rage.

Odysseus is another main character who has a complex personality. His main reputation is as a joker and story teller, but he too has a dark past that haunts him.

My favorite character from the series is probably Argurios. While technically on the wrong side of the conflict, he stays true to his values even when it puts him in a compromising situation. He is bound by "the law of the road" to fight besides his travelling companions even though they are his political enemies.

If you are at all familiar with the legends surrounding Troy you will get extra enjoyment out of the book. Gemmell reworks the characters and events of the old stories in a unique way, giving lots of nods to the original telling. That being said, Gemmell's story is so different from the original myth that you won't be bored reading this re-imagining.