May 19, 2019, 05:54:21 PM

Author Topic: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years  (Read 1312 times)

Offline Yora

Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« on: March 04, 2018, 02:46:45 PM »
At some point I pretty much lost track of what is being released in fantasy books and most new books I've heard about didn't sound very interesting to me. On a first glance from a diatance it all looked very samey. That whole "assassin has to uncover a conspiracy" thing that seemed to have been all the rage for a while. But I can't imagine this perception is actually accurate in any way.

What books from the last 20 years or so would you recommend for their quality of being creative and imaginative? The only name that comes to my mind is Perdido Street Station.
Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

There is nothing to read!

Offline ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 10493
  • Total likes: 6136
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • View Profile
    • LibraryThing profile
Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2018, 03:54:46 PM »
This is quite a difficult question, it depends so much on the person...

Some ideas of mine:
- Dominion of the Faller series, Aliette de Bodard
- Black Opera, Mary Gentle
- Broken Earth trilogy, N. K. Jemisin
- Broken Empire trilogy, Mark Lawrence
- Forbidden List trilogy, G. R. Matthews
- Vagrant series, Peter Newman

At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all" - Douglas Adams

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2018, 05:52:23 PM »
At some point I pretty much lost track of what is being released in fantasy books and most new books I've heard about didn't sound very interesting to me. On a first glance from a diatance it all looked very samey. That whole "assassin has to uncover a conspiracy" thing that seemed to have been all the rage for a while. But I can't imagine this perception is actually accurate in any way.

What books from the last 20 years or so would you recommend for their quality of being creative and imaginative? The only name that comes to my mind is Perdido Street Station.

Speaking of, Perdido Street Station is £1.19 on Kindle today.

China Mieville is definitely up there as a whole in terms of creativity, but I would just as equally argue that guys like Joe Abercrombie or Scott Lynch have done a ton for imaginative attempts at doing something fresh with a tried and true sub-genre like Epic Fantasy. I suppose it depends on how broad you're being in asking this question, because someone like China Mieville is just a wildly different writer with almost every book, and even the New Crobuzon books only vaguely fit within the same sub-genre as '...That whole "assassin has to uncover a conspiracy" thing that seemed to have been all the rage for a while...'

Taking the whole fantasy genre as a starting point, you could argue for folk like the following as being the 'most creative or imaginative':

N. K. Jemisin
Jeff Vandermeer
Susanna Clarke
K.J. Parker
Catherynne M. Valente
Robert Jackson Bennett
Katherine Addison
Nick Harkaway

And the list goes on and on and on. And I would argue that some of the obvious names like Erikson, Hobb, Gaiman, heck even GRRM have all contributed to the continually creative and boundary-pushing genre we all love.

The reality though, I think, is that the last 20 years have been the most creative in fantasy and are why it's in such a good place. If what you've been seeing looks like the same old guff that doesn't interest you, maybe push past all that and look for the books you've never heard of, because it is, for sure, all out there for the reading! It's not all assassins and conspiracies, but even when it is, that can sometimes be the best and most popular stuff for a good reason.
Make Another World.

Offline Skip

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2018, 06:01:13 PM »
Ah, another chance to plug Josiah Bancroft. He has written a series called The Books of Babel. Two volumes are out--Senlin Ascends and The Arm of the Sphinx--with the third due out this spring--The Hod King.  There will be a fourth and final, don't know when.

It is, hands down, the most inventive fantasy I've read in the past twenty years.
Visit Altearth

Offline Yora

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2018, 07:05:15 PM »
This is quite a difficult question, it depends so much on the person...
Well, I am asking for opinions.

A few words on what you find imaginative in those works would be great. Right now I have to look up all the titles to research what they are about.  ;D

maybe push past all that and look for the books you've never heard of, because it is, for sure, all out there for the reading!
Like making a thread on a fantasy forum and ask people what they recommend in regard to new books with creative ideas.  ;D
« Last Edit: March 04, 2018, 07:13:19 PM by Yora »
Beneath the Leaves of Kaendor

There is nothing to read!

Offline Skip

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2018, 07:46:37 PM »
The difficulty with describing something that is truly imaginative is that there are fewer points of reference. I can't say Senlin Ascends is like this or that, because it isn't. But I'll give one indicator.

The central character goes to a Tower of Babel. It's not the biblical one and that core concept put me off at first. He overcame that hesitancy with superb prose. The plot is simplicity itself: the main character, newly married, loses his wife in a crowd and now searches for her.

The inventiveness comes with the various levels of the Tower. We begin outside, in a vast marketplace. Then we move into a basement-like space at the base, and it has a completely different look. Eventually the character makes it up a floor. That floor is radically different. Each floor is so new, and so fully realized, each could easily justify a book in any other author's hands. And just when you think ah, that's the game, you find out there are certain threads that extend across the floors. There's logic and structure encompassing all of this.

It's steam punkish without being steampunk (feels more Edwardian than Victorian), is fantastical without being magic driven (there may or may not be magic), is a mystery story without detectives, and an adventure story whose lead is decidedly not adventurous.

I've been trying to think of other titles that have excited me enough that I told friends and family, you must read this. These are not necessarily new, just titles I've read in the past decade or so that had that effect.
Daemon by Daniel Suarez
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle
True Grit by Charles Portis
Devil In a Blue Dress by Walter Moseley

The first two are both immensely creative. All four are remarkably well written.
Visit Altearth

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2018, 09:19:26 PM »
Like making a thread on a fantasy forum and ask people what they recommend in regard to new books with creative ideas.  ;D

The last 20 years doesn't necessarily equal new, but then that's just me. Skip gave you a recommendation for a very recent book, so maybe go with that? I gave you some suggestions for authors, and Bea gave you some more specific titles. At a certain point it's on you to do a little bit of research into them...
Make Another World.

Offline cupiscent

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2018, 09:33:38 PM »
Some great suggestions here.

I third the rec of NK Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy (first book The Fifth Season), which is post-apocalyptic epic fantasy with amazing characters and intense worldbuilding.

Seconding Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy (first book City of Stairs), which is modern-feel fantasy-world post-imperialism gods-torn-asunder spy-thriller epic fantasy. Contains both thematic exploration of cycles of violence and a barbarian wrestling a hell-squid, so something for everyone! :)

I was just pondering last night (as I finished Fonda Lee's Jade City, which I highly recommend if a fantasy version of a Hong Kong kung-fu gangster war sounds appealling to you) that there's been a lot of modern-feeling fantasy recently, and I'm loving it all. Under this heading I would also put Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence (first book Three Parts Dead), which is another gods-torn-asunder modern story, this time with high finance and legal-and-governance systems as magic systems. It's a world where a courtroom showdown simultaneously is a duel of blade and magic, and I find it absolutely marvellous.

In a more traditional bent, I really, really, really like Daniel Abraham's Dagger and Coin series (first book The Dragon's Path) which I tend to describe as having all the magnificent characters and politics of Game of Thrones, but with bonus weaponised economics and actually concise and finished.

Speaking of economics, I also highly recommend Seth Dickinson's The Traitor (Baru Cormorant), which is like a heart-breaking child of KJ Parker and Guy Gavriel Kay (all the ruthless systems of Parker, all the emotional devastation of Kay), about one orphan child of imperialism who tries to take down the whole system, and what she has to sacrifice to make it happen. (The sequel is coming out this year and I am wriggly-puppy excited.)

Offline ScarletBea

  • Welcome party and bringer of Cake. 2nd-in-Command of the Writing Contest
  • Powers That Be
  • Big Wee Hag
  • *
  • Posts: 10493
  • Total likes: 6136
  • Gender: Female
  • Geeky Reading Introvert
    • View Profile
    • LibraryThing profile
Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2018, 10:04:44 PM »
So, some comments about what's different in each:

- Dominion of the Fallen series, Aliette de Bodard --> fallen angels create different houses in Paris, fighting amongst themselves. There's also a dragon kingdom, but they're really people. Under the river.
- Black Opera, Mary Gentle --> set in a fictional 18th century, by singing opera you can create magic
- Broken Earth trilogy, N. K. Jemisin --> there are people who control earthquakes, and feel the earth's movements
- Broken Empire trilogy, Mark Lawrence --> 1st person POV, a youngster is set on revenge, different from all before
- Forbidden List trilogy, G. R. Matthews --> it's a kind of China... fighting a kind of Mongols...
- Vagrant series, Peter Newman --> written in the present tense, the MC doesn't say a word. And he's carrying a baby throughout his journey ;D
At home in the Fantasy Faction forum!

"Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all" - Douglas Adams

Offline Nighteyes

  • Send me Leopard Erotica.
  • Ringbearer
  • *****
  • Posts: 6740
  • Total likes: 1435
  • OH WOW! JUST WORKED OUT HOW TO DO THIS!!!!!
    • View Profile
Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2018, 11:14:16 PM »
*waves hi at @Idlewilder *


China Mieville is obviously the stand out. Creativity oozes from his books, and really like nothing I have ever read before. And each book is so different! 

Rebecca Levine's Smiler's Fair also stands out for me.  Cities that constantly move because there are creatures that appear from the ground at night to eat their citizens.  And plays around with the trope of the 'chosen one' in a very clever way. 

And gone a bit quiet recently, but Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villijamur was wonderful.  A very creative world facing an encroaching ice age which threatens mass extinctions of the various races that populate the world. 
The Real Powers That Be

Offline Lady Ty

  • Blessed River Lady and Defender of Baby Dragons
  • Ta'veren
  • **
  • Posts: 3438
  • Total likes: 2895
  • Gender: Female
  • So-Old-That-She-Can-Nearly-Be-Called-Oldest-Ty
    • View Profile
Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2018, 11:26:52 PM »
Very good suggestions above, but certainly glad to second :

China Mieville, in particular Perdido Street Station but also Embassytown, both wonderfully creative, imaginative and thought provoking.

Less extreme, but equally outstanding for creativity, imagination and characterisation The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett.
 
And any Neil Gaimann
« Last Edit: March 04, 2018, 11:28:36 PM by Lady Ty »
“This is the problem with even lesser demons. They come to your doorstep in velvet coats and polished shoes. They tip their hats and smile and demonstrate good table manners. They never show you their tails.” 
Leigh Bardugo, The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

Offline Idlewilder

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2018, 11:53:26 PM »
*waves hi at @Idlewilder *


China Mieville is obviously the stand out. Creativity oozes from his books, and really like nothing I have ever read before. And each book is so different! 

Rebecca Levine's Smiler's Fair also stands out for me.  Cities that constantly move because there are creatures that appear from the ground at night to eat their citizens.  And plays around with the trope of the 'chosen one' in a very clever way. 

And gone a bit quiet recently, but Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villijamur was wonderful.  A very creative world facing an encroaching ice age which threatens mass extinctions of the various races that populate the world.

Allo Allo!

Ooh I need to get round to Smiler's Fair at some point - have had the hardback for years to my shame!

Also anyone who has read and didn't get on with Perdido, I'd urge you to give the second New Crobuzon book, The Scar, a go. Much more traditional in its plot and in many ways a better book (PSS is my personal favourite) but a lot of people give up on Mieville after Perdido, which is a shame.
Make Another World.

Offline cupiscent

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2018, 01:43:19 AM »
Also anyone who has read and didn't get on with Perdido, I'd urge you to give the second New Crobuzon book, The Scar, a go. Much more traditional in its plot and in many ways a better book (PSS is my personal favourite) but a lot of people give up on Mieville after Perdido, which is a shame.

I probably second this. I've tried to read PSS about three times, and failed every single time, but I have read The Scar. I didn't think it was All That, but I enjoyed it.

Editing very belatedly to add: in general, I found that for me, Mieville's work felt similar to M John Harrison's work, especially his Viriconium stories, and I preferred the latter. Also somewhat similar to KJ Bishop's Etched City, which I both enjoyed and struggled with, and which has stayed with me long after reading. (I add this in the spirit of "If Mieville isn't quite working for you, there are similar things that might.")
« Last Edit: March 06, 2018, 01:37:47 AM by cupiscent »

Offline JRTroughton

Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2018, 07:32:07 PM »
Mieville is a standout, for sure.

Offline Lanko

  • Sherlanko Holmes, Jiin Wei and Writing Contest Regular
  • Writing Group
  • Khaleesi
  • *
  • Posts: 2805
  • Total likes: 1909
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Lanko's Goodreads
Re: Most creative and imaginative books of the last 20 years
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2018, 01:45:00 AM »
Had you asked in the last 30 years my answer would be pretty easy:

A Song of Ice and Fire by GRRM
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (well, Horror but whatever)

In the last 20 it gets more difficult (for me at least). Plenty of good and enjoyable creative works, but on the same or near the same caliber as those four...

On sheer creativity, Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher is the only one I can think about most creative and imaginative, but definitely not for everyone. And unfortunately not super popular either.

The only works that I think could make into such a list and grow even more, and that I haven't read yet, but are also widely popular and with enormous sales and always stumble about people talking about it in various places are the Malazan series by Steven Eriksson and Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Unless a disaster happens, Stormlight Archives by Sanderson as well. I only read the first book of Broken Earth by Jemisin, but unless a disaster happens with the next two, it would be in the list too.

Yea, I would also add Perdido Street Station. I didn't rate it very highly 2-3 years ago, I wasn't much into Fantasy and specially not into weird, steampunk and etc, so it was very, perhaps too much different. I remember I really enjoyed the first half but not the second. It's a book I definitely need to re-read.

So I'd say to check these for last 20 years:

Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Malazan by Steven Eriksson
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
Perdido Street Station by China Mielville
Slow and steady wins the race.

Lanko's Year in Books 2019