by Paul Kennedy
Actually, based on past conversations with readers, even if you like half of these suggestions, you'll hate the other half. That's okay. You'll have to buy a book in order to make your comparisons, and that will make some bookseller happy (authors, too). And keeping booksellers happy is a GOOD THING.
I'll include a short sketch of what the author is like ONLY if I have actually read the author. I get a lot of ideas for popular authors from the requests you buyers make. Sometimes I read the cover blurbs and then go on to read the book. Sometimes I don't read the book; I just keep an eye out for more books by that same author. For example, I (gasp!) don't like reading Philip K. Dick. But I buy every book of his I can find because I KNOW that someone out there wants that book. It's my job to stock the books that make you happy and to recommend more books that KEEP you happy. Then you give me money and I go out and buy more books. My version of a "win-win" situation.
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Sadly, Marion passed away recently, after years of heart problems. But she left behind a couple of dozen books on the planet called Darkover, full of insight into the problems of a society where the privileged few have the powers of telepathy, as well as the responsibility to use it for the good of society.
Lois McMaster Bujold
Miles Vorkosigan is a hyperactive little man with one of the great brains in science fiction. He has his everyday identity, as a junior office in the local military, and also a secret identity as the commanding officer of the Dendari Mercenaries (the premier fleet of soldiers-for-hire in the sector). I'm not going to tell you how he got there or what he does, but he grows on you.
Charles de Lint
I haven't gotten to this author yet, but I get rave reviews about him. One of the things a bookseller pays attention to is which authors sell well in an unsigned state. It's a lot easier to sell signed books than unsigned, so when you routinely have requests from customers who happily purchase even the unsigned paperbacks, then you know you've got a winner. Light horror/fantasy.
For several years David Eddings has been the best-selling author in the fantasy genre and he deserves it. His first five books are superb examples of tongue-in-cheek writing, with a deadly serious background. His later books aren't quite as engrossing, but still worth rereading five or ten years later.
Laurel K. Hamilton
I seldom buy any book new since I'm a used-book seller, and sooner or later I'll get a copy. But I waited MONTHS for the latest book about Anita Blake, and I bought it the same day it appeared on the shelf at B. Dalton's. It's rare that you find a character who, over the course of nine books, has grown as a personality, has become stronger and more confident, and, in the case of Anita Blake, has assumed her rightful place as a power to be reckoned with in a society where vampires have the vote, and zombies (among other less savory creatures) walk the earth. Anita Blake, at 26, is a Licensed Vampire Executioner, the person the Preternatural Squad calls when it gets crazy out. She doesn't expect to live to be 30.
Peter F. Hamilton
Peter Hamilton is one of the recent British imports, a master of hard science (in one story he used a laser beam to program a person through the retina, and you believed every bit of it). Good, solid, dependable read.
Robert A. Heinlein
There are a few Heinlein stories that I've read only a couple of times, but mostly I read them about six or more times just to savor his writing ability and sheer genius. I read a letter from Heinlein to another author in which Heinlein called his Puppet Masters a piece of hack writing, on which he "used every trick he knew," but didn't consider it a work that would be much remembered in the future. It may be hack writing, but it's GOOD hack writing. His juveniles, along with those of Andre Norton, are the best starting points for a beginner in science fiction.
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
I've only found two books of hers, but I consider her one of the future greats. Matter-of-fact excursions into a realm of magic in everyday life, they remind me of Zenna Henderson (one of the great short story fantasy writers). I'm prone to reread books I like, and I read her first book six times in the first year, savoring it as much the last time as the first. A treat.
Dean writes good technothrillers now, but he started out writing some terrific science fiction: ordinary life after World War III, or his ideas on handling terrorists. (For example: Soft Targets, which would make a great movie).
Wrote one of my all-time favorite stories, The Moon Goddess and the Son. It's about reaching for what you want, and it's a terrific read. Also try Courtship Rite.
The queen of fantasy, her Valdemar stories will be read for a hundred years to come. She also writes about elves and high magic with the same facility that she delves into Indian legends; she makes you believe there is a giant sleeping under Oklahoma City (If I got the city wrong, don't haunt me).
Paul J. McAuley
New writer that I haven't gotten to yet, but his books sell, and people ask for him when they walk up to the booth.
Best-selling science fiction author in the history of the genre, Anne lives on a working farm in Ireland where she raises horses while turning out one or two great books a year. Read and reread.
Larry has been writing science fiction—with an emphasis on science—for a lot of years, and he does it very well indeed. Try his collaborations with Jerry Pournelle or Steven Barnes.
I consider Spider the best short story writer I have ever read. His Callahan's Saloon stories are masterpieces. Some have made me cry, some have made me laugh - and a couple of his puns still make me howl with delight.
Sheri started with about 15 brilliant fantasy paperbacks, then went on to write even better books about people in diverse and sometimes just plain weird societies.
Harry is a professor of Byzantine history and he can twist history until it sits up and spits in your face. Alternate history is his forte, and he's the best there is in this field.
This is the other author I buy as soon as his books hit the store. A hundred years from now, when they talk about great military leaders in fiction, they'll talk about Hornblower and Harrington in the same breath. In the nine Honor Harrington books the protagonist has grown, influencing a navy and a society in ways that I never dreamed possible. Weber is a master at bringing up a forgotten datum from three books ago, then tying it into the present in a way that makes you go WOW. I've seldom read better, and never a SERIES that is as consistently strong in the ninth book as it was in the first. I strongly suggest you start with the first book (On Basilisk Station, paperback original).
Walter Jon Williams
Written around cybertech and a cybertech society; good solid stories about people who haven't given up.
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Yarbro has been writing great vampire fiction for a couple of decades… along with an occasional mystery or western just for the heck of it.
I could go on with another 100 or so of my favorites, but I'd better stop for now. (Yes, I know I ignored Poul Anderson, Elizabeth Moon, and Roger Zelazny, among others.
So, let's conclude the science fiction section. I also sell mysteries, and if you like my recommendations for science fiction, you might want to try some of these mystery/suspense authors:
Aaron Elkins (mystery)
Dick Francis (mystery)
Stephen Hunter (suspense)
J.A. Jance (mystery)
Alistair MacLean (suspense)
Ed McBain (87th Precinct police novels)
Peter O'Donnell (suspense)
A.J. Orde or O.J. Oliphant (mystery by Sheri Tepper)
Thomas Perry (suspense)
Dana Stabenow (mystery/suspense)
David Wiltse (suspense)
Stuart Woods (suspense)
See you on the Web!
Paul Kennedy, Bookseller