Art by Josh Kirby for the cover of Hogfather.
Christmas is coming and you want to fill the world with your love of scifi and fantasy? Alas! The ruffians that are your family and friends used The Lord of the Rings to start a chimney fire, they think that Foundation is the name of a beauty product and they said that Harry Potter would be nice if only there wasn't so many spells and invented stuff in it.
But here is a way to sneak upon them science fiction and fantasy novels! All the following books have been tested and approved by people who are usually allergic to space ships and magic.
As usual in the collections, they are by chronological order.
1. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, 1985.
Dystopia, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: someone who is interested in gender issues.
In the future, women's rights are denied: they are forbidden to read, some are kept only for their reproductive functions, the others discarded one way or another, their bodies are the men's property. The novel isn't a fast paced story, but it is absolutely chilling and sadly believable.
2. Terry Pratchett, Small Gods, 1992.
Fantasy, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: someone who is interested in religious questions and who has humour.
The Great God Om is back. There's just a slight drawback: he wanted to incarnate as a powerful bull, he turned out to incarnate as a one eyed turtle. Worse: though he has thousands of believers, only a simple novice seems to hear him. As usual with Pratchett, it's funny, it's thought provoking and it's marvellously written.
3. Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere, 1996.
Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: someone who knows London or has a holiday in London planned.
Richard Mayhew should have never helped this mysterious injured young woman he met in the street. Because now it seems no one knows him anymore. The novel is a fast paced and gripping story, that will delight by its original take on the London topography.
4. Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls, 2005.
Your target: someone over 35 who can't stand anymore that the main characters in films, shows and novels are barely out of teenagehood.
Paladin of Souls is set in the World of the Five Gods, that can be read independently from the first volume, The Curse of Chalion. It's a medieval world, in which there are few supernatural events, except those related to the gods. As usual with McMaster Bujold, the characterization is remarkable and Paladin of Souls, is an outstanding story about grief, depression and women over 35.
5. Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair, 2001.
Your target: someone who has read the Brontë sisters' books.
In Thursday Next's world, literature is a hot topic. She is a literary detective and she tries to capture a mysterious terrorist, Hades. The novel is an absolute hoot for whoever likes British literature, a great romp with colourful characters within a unique world.
6. Malorie Blackman, Noughts and Crosses, 2001.
Uchronia, Dystopia, YA, Own Voices.
Your target: a teenager fed up with how unfair this world is (and who doesn't do a thing to change it).
Noughts and Crosses is the first volume in a series describing an alternate world in which the African people gained the advantage on Europeans. The novel follows the story of two teenagers, separated by their skin colour. It's a very thought challenging story about racism that gives teenagers more than the usual run-of-the-mill dystopias.
7. Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveller's Wife, 2003.
Fantasy, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: a romance reader.
Henry has a rare genetic disorder: he travels through time, entirely unvoluntarily. The novel tells his love story with Claire. Despite my extreme dislike for sentimental novels, I find this novel beautiful, moving and very well written. To be offered with a pack of tissues!
8. Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let me go, 2005.
Science Fiction, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: someone who likes contemplative novels and who is interested in ethical questions.
We follow a group of teenagers who grow up in a boarding school. It seems their life is set by a mysterious future purpose. It's a beautiful and thoughtful novel, though the reader shouldn't expect a fast pace or gripping action.
9. Jo Walton, Farthing, 2007.
Uchronia, SFF Noir Crime & Thriller.
Your target: someone who likes noir novels and who is interested in World War II.
The first of a trilogy, Farthing is a mystery novel set in a world where Britain had to accept a peace with Nazi Germany. Jo Walton's novel is great fun (as much as such a bleak world can be fun) for whoever likes the era, mystery and conspirations.
10. Stephen Baxter, Flood, 2008.
Science Fiction, Apocalypse, Stand Alone Novel.
Your target: someone who likes disaster movies.
The water level rises on the planet. On the whole planet. Rises and rises. And doesn't stop. In my opinion, Baxter's weakness is his characterization, but he always has gripping concepts and that makes of Flood a real page turner. There's a second volume, but Flood doesn't end on a cliffhanger so it can be read as a stand alone novel.
Among my previous posts, I also recommend