The best fantasy and sci-fi books that you’d have to prise out of my cold, dead hands

Who am I?

From as early as I can remember, I've been fascinated by science and the supernatural. I guess it was the bookcases of my parents and relatives that stoked my imagination as a child. From books about mysteries of the universe, to stories of fairies, nymphs and banshees, all asked questions that I longed to know the answers to. It’s a habit I've maintained throughout my life, always investigating, always challenging my beliefs. I like to think this has given me the skills to write a good, fantasy story. While I create worlds, characters, and rules of magic based on a logic that’s believable, as the world my characters live in is very real to them.


I wrote...

Song of Echoes

By R.E. Palmer,

Book cover of Song of Echoes

What is my book about?

It's a traditional epic fantasy with a mystery element. Yes, there is the good verses evil, a magic system that can be as dangerous to those who wield the power as those it's used against, but not all is what it seems. And when a shocking discovery is made following a tragic act of treachery, old loyalties and beliefs are challenged, bringing the Five Realms to the brink of defeat.

The books I picked & why

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The Lord of the Rings

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Lord of the Rings

Why this book?

The moment I first opened The Lord of the Rings and saw the map, I was hooked. I was fourteen and needed a place to escape at the time, and Middle Earth was exactly where I wanted to be. Tolkien made a fantasy world feel so real that I took every step with Frodo and Sam. His words created the world in my head, and I spent many an hour at school daydreaming about what would happen next on the quest. I’ve read it at least eight times through my life, and at each reading I identify with a different character as I grow older. I’ve moved from Sam, through Aragorn to Gandalf. I just hope I don’t identify as Gollum on next reading!


Of Time and Stars: The Worlds of Arthur C. Clarke

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Book cover of Of Time and Stars: The Worlds of Arthur C. Clarke

Why this book?

Clarke is the master of the sci-fi short stories in my view, and this collection is a great example of his genius. My dog-eared paperback is over forty years old, and I pick it up often for both nostalgic and professional reasons. With evocative titles such as "The Nine Billion Names of God," "No Morning After," and "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth," these stories were just what my young, curious mind needed. In just a few pages, Clarke had an amazing ability to pull you into the world of the character and make you care. Both my children have read and enjoyed this book. Brilliant collection.


Lord Foul's Bane

By Stephen R. Donaldson,

Book cover of Lord Foul's Bane

Why this book?

Oddly, this is a book I both love and hate at different stages of the story. It was the first title I brought from a book club, and the first I read after Tolkien. Obviously, there are similarities, but I loved the idea that someone from our world could be drawn into a fantasy world. Donaldson’s main character, Covenant, is not easy to like following that controversial scene early in the book. But Donaldson’s style kept me engaged—even when Covenant became extremely annoying and I found myself yelling at him to ‘stop your whining and get on with it!’ But the excellent world-building, a clever magic system, and intriguing supporting characters make this book very readable and one I have read a number of times. But while I’m still not 100% sure about it, I wouldn’t be parted from my old copy.


Chocky

By John Wyndham,

Book cover of Chocky

Why this book?

I first read Wyndham when staying at my grandmothers aged eleven during a long summer holiday. I devoured the books left there by my uncle, and Chocky was the one that ‘blew my mind’. The main character was a similar age to me at the time, and the thought that an alien could inhabit his mind was both scary and fascinating. I imagined what I would do if an alien had chosen me, and what I would do with the superpowers it might bring. I was halfway through writing my first book in 2010 when I suddenly realised it was this book that provided the inspiration—now that’s a sign of a good book. I re-read Chocky for the first time last year and found it evoked the memories of my late grandmother and my summers back in the 70s. 


Inverted World

By Christopher Priest,

Book cover of Inverted World

Why this book?

I picked this up in a bookshop due to the cover as it stirred my curiosity. And when I read the first line, "I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles," I found myself walking to the cashier to buy it. This is quite an unusual premise by a quite unusual and versatile writer. It breaks a number of rules by switching from first to third person, but I found it worked. I found myself constantly trying to guess what was happening, and where it was going. That may not sound like a recommendation, but I found I couldn’t put it down without knowing why. And when the last chapter delivers the big twist, I turned back to page one and started it all over again! It then becomes a different book and is still enjoyable.   


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