The best books of science fiction and fantasy that create engaging characters

Who am I?

I have been a lover of science fiction and fantasy all my life. As a child, my passion began with DC Comics and characters like Superman, Green Lantern, and The Flash. Soon after I delved into Greek and Norse mythology along with Tom Swift Jr.'s books. My passion continued into my teenage years when I read Asimov, Herbert, Bradbury, Tolkien, and LeGuin. During my adult years, I turned to a variety of authors such as Donaldson, Goodkind, and Brooks. Reading science fiction and fantasy let me view the improbable as possible and the incredible as a metaphor for the world we live in.

I wrote...

Patch Man

By Rick Stepp-Bolling,

Book cover of Patch Man

What is my book about?

An old man sells magical patches in war-torn Hagra-Dis when he encounters a young one-armed girl crying for help. A missile blast kills the young girl, Meesha, but Var patches her back to life and they flee marauding storm troopers. 

Imperial High Command unleashes Ulan, a Lore-trained assassin, who chases Var and his ragged band of followers through an underground labyrinth peopled with powerful beings and monsters. Both the pursued and the pursuers find themselves in life or death situations when they encounter the Greeter, a mysterious being who controls the entrance to parallel worlds in the labyrinth. It is in these domains they discover clues to end the war—with little Meesha as the secret key to ultimate victory and peace.

The books I picked & why

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By Frank Herbert,

Book cover of Dune

Why this book?

One of my all-time favorite soft science fiction novels, Dune creates a world of sand filled with intriguing characters and themes revolving around the interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion. Paul Atreides is the main character who achieves superpowers as a result of a trial by fire or sand in this case. If you are looking for engaging characters in a unique yet familiar world, Dune is a must-read. Heck, it’s a must-read for anyone interested in this genre.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

By J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpré (illustrator),

Book cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Why this book?

This may well be the most popular fantasy series ever and much of that is because of the main character, Harry Potter. Each book has Harry grow and develop as a fantasy character but also as a human being, so in the first few books we relate to Harry as though he were an apprentice wizard and a young middle schoolboy in YA fashion. Then in the later books, Harry must face evil in a very adult-like fashion. As with all of us, Harry makes mistakes but manages to somehow overcome them and in so doing demonstrates his connection to humanity and ultimately to us. It is this connection that makes Harry Potter such an engaging character.

The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings

Why this book?

When I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in college, I was blown away. As an English major, I immediately saw many of Tolkien’s literary connections, but it was his development of Frodo and Sam that are at the heart of this series. Frodo, a Hobbit from the Shire, is the high-minded Hobbit with a mission and he must achieve it at any cost. His determination becomes his cloak of honor and ultimately his heroism. Sam, on the other hand, is the simple Hobbit with simple needs who is steadfastly loyal to Frodo and their quest. It is his loyalty and resolve that becomes his heroic shield, so if you’re looking for the true hero of the trilogy, my vote is for Sam.

The Golden Compass

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass

Why this book?

For those of you not familiar with The Golden Compass, the first book in the Dark Materials series, it flits between fantasy and speculative fiction with Lyra Belacqua as the main character. Lyra is a young scholar at Jordan College who is constantly at odds with her classmates and professors. She is a willful youngster determined to do things her way, but with a daemon familiar (in the form of a cat) who constantly must remind Lyria of the moral and ethical ramifications of “doing it her own way.” The journey Lyra takes is the journey we all must take at some time in our lives: to discover the true path in life—through religion or through science.

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of The Hunger Games

Why this book?

With the advent of the films, The Hunger Games has become one of the most popular dystopian novel series of this generation. At the heart and soul of Hunger Games is Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old youth from a poor District 12 who replaces her sister Primrose in the gladiator-style games—a fight to the death. Katniss is the narrator of the series in the books and it is through her eyes that we see what has become of this future world. Her struggles to overcome almost impossible odds gives her an almost superhero status as a very down-to-earth teenager. This is the strength of the series and the reason why this YA novel has risen so rapidly to become a dazzling success. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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