Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week we’re looking at underrated books – quite specifically, under 2000 ratings on Goodreads.
Alright folks, grab a chair and get your wishlists ready – this week we’re talking about the books we love that haven’t had the attention they deserve. I’m pretty sure my TBR is going to take a hammering, and I’m going to do my level best to return the favour!
Some of my most under-rated books are just very new (like the Windswept books and Ninefox Gambit, which I’ve raved about recently anyway), so I’m going to focus on older favourites that somehow got overlooked – and I’m going to stick to the criminally over-looked (books that have under 1000 ratings on Goodreads).
Chameleon Moon – RoAnna Sylver (recent, small press)
Good news: there’s a cure-all drug for everything. Bad news: it has side-effects. A story of unintended consequences, this is also a gloriously Baz Luhrmann-style celebration of love and diversity against dystopian forces as the Powers That Be try to sentence an entire city to death.
Polar City Blues / Polar City Nightmare – Katharine Kerr (backlist)
I was so angry when Kit Kerr dared write something non-Deverry (unforgiving child, me). But then I loved this SF crime/thriller that both adopts and reverses tropes, with a side dish of first contact, intergalactic politics and emergent AI. Excellent world-building, with added baseball in the sequel for sports fans.
Lifelode – Jo Walton (backlist, small press)
Not just criminally under-rated but criminally under-published – it took me years to get my hands on a copy of this US-only small press title by Jo Walton. This is an experiment in world-building and storytelling with delightful results: a domestic fantasy focused tightly on family relationships.
Spirits Abroad – Zen Cho (small press, backlist)
Before Sorcerer to the Crown, I was introduced to Zen Cho through her short stories (which are universally brilliant). The humour and resilience will be familiar to anyone who loves Prunella, and the range is remarkable. My favourites involve dragons and faeries (it’s me, of course they do).
Burning Bright – Melissa Scott (backlist)
Another independent planet caught between galactic superpowers, this SF merges MMORPG with political intrigue as factions manoeuvre for dominance on the planet Burning Bright. Beautiful world-building and vibrant relationships (frequently same sex) add grace notes to a great story.
The Echo – James Smythe (just plain overlooked?)
The sequel to The Explorer (which has 1200 GR ratings), happily this works as a stand-alone. Years after The Explorer, the outrageously talented Hyvonen twins set out to find the Ishiguro and study the Anomaly. Cue a tense space thriller that pushes their relationship to the limits. I may explode if we don’t see book 3 soon.
What You Make It – Michael Marshall Smith (backlist)
I love MMS’s dark and often haunting short stories. More Tomorrow pulls the rug out from under you to set the tone for the rest, but my favourite is the slightly melancholy When God Lived in Kentish Town. Not one for the light-hearted – expect visual and visceral punches.
Golden Witchbreed / Ancient Light – Mary Gentle (backlist)
A young diplomat is sent to an alien planet whose indigenous people have rejected technology after narrowly avoiding an apocalypse. When Christie is accused of being one of the fabled Witchbreed, she’s forced on the run. Epic world-building, intimate relationships, love and treachery – and the politically-resonant sequel broke my heart into tiny, tiny pieces.
The Warriors of Taan – Louise Lawrence (backlist)
This childhood favourite holds up if you can bear the gender essentialism and unapologetic environmentalism. Humanity are the aggressive aliens beating back a native population at odds with itself: an arrogant, unruly Prince and a novice priestess must somehow bring them together and turn the tide. It’s low-key, focusing on character building over action – although sadly m/m undertones go unexplored.
What are your favourite books that don’t get nearly enough attention?