The best science fiction and fantasy books with a ton of action

Wayne Santos Author Of The Chimera Code
By Wayne Santos

Who am I?

I’m a Canadian-Filipino science fiction and fantasy author who’s grown up on a steady diet of genre novels, movies, television, anime, and video games. I’m just as happy writing about the intricacies of hacking a system as I am about the ways magic can enrich or complicate lives. I’ve always loved explosive action in other media but since I’ll never be a director with resources to trash real cars or demolish buildings, I became a novelist. You can have all the actions and explosions you want without needing a 100 million dollar budget, and I’ve found some amazing examples of other writers who do just that.


I wrote...

The Chimera Code

By Wayne Santos,

Book cover of The Chimera Code

What is my book about?

Cloke is one of the premier combat mages of the 22nd century, a mercenary for hire that takes only the highest paying or most interesting jobs. Zee is an enormously talented console jockey with no name, no past, and no future unless a big score finally arrives.

When Cloke gets a job offer from someone that’s not even technically alive, she needs a new hacker to fill the gaping hole her dead one has left. Cloke and Zee find themselves on a globetrotting heist of magic, digital hijacking, and taking on the biggest multinational corporation on Earth for a score that can change the world order.

The books I picked & why

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Armor

By John Steakley,

Book cover of Armor

Why this book?

While a lot of people look to Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as the first book to tackle powered battle armor, and soldiers using them to fight aliens, Armor made a far greater impression on me and had me coming back to it again and again.

Felix is a volunteer in a war against the aliens nicknamed “ants,” and while he can’t stand the carnage and senseless loss of life, he’s also very, very good at combat. The first quarter of the book is like the Normandy invasion set on another planet, with amazing battles and acts of, if not courage, survival. A gripping tale of the toll of war.

Armor

By John Steakley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Armor as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Felix is an Earth soldier, encased in special body armour designed to withstand Earth's most implacable enemy - a bio-engineered, insectoid alien horde. But Felix is also equipped with internal mechanisms that enable him and his fellow soldiers to survive battle situations that would normally destroy a man's mind. This is a remarkable novel of the horror, the courage and the aftermath of combat - and how the strength of the human spirit can be the greatest armour of all.


The Forever War

By Joe Haldeman,

Book cover of The Forever War

Why this book?

It’s one thing to go up against aliens, but it’s a whole other ballgame when both you and the aliens are suffering from massive time dilation effects. Haldeman took the confusion and alienation he experienced during the Vietnam War and transposed it into an interstellar conflict.

What’s so amazing about the action in this book is how it constantly changes as the time periods do. With every battle that William Mandella survives and returns from, generations have passed on Earth, meaning huge sea changes in technology and society. Each fight is with unfamiliar technology and tactics on both sides, making for tense battles.

The Forever War

By Joe Haldeman,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Forever War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The monumental Hugo and Nebula award winning SF classic-- Featuring a new introduction by John Scalzi

The Earth's leaders have drawn a line in the interstellar sand--despite the fact that the fierce alien enemy they would oppose is inscrutable, unconquerable, and very far away. A reluctant conscript drafted into an elite Military unit, Private William Mandella has been propelled through space and time to fight in the distant thousand-year conflict; to perform his duties and do whatever it takes to survive the ordeal and return home. But "home" may be even more terrifying than battle, because, thanks to the time…


Jade City

By Fonda Lee,

Book cover of Jade City

Why this book?

The first book of Fonda Lee’s fantasy trilogy takes place in an alternate world/universe that’s still at a mid-20th century level of technology. They have cars and phone lines, but no smartphones or computers. They also have access to a special type of jade that grants specific users insane physical strength and dexterity.

The result, in this book, is an engaging tale of thuggery as a Yakuza/Triad style organized crime family struggles to survive a brutal gang war for supremacy. It’s like The Matrix if Neo and friends had run into a bad crowd and gotten mixed up in organized crime. The fights are fantastic and so is the emotional investment.

Jade City

By Fonda Lee,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Jade City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD

'An epic drama reminiscent of the best classic Hong Kong gangster films but set in a fantasy metropolis so gritty and well-imagined that you'll forget you're reading a book' KEN LIU

'Gripping!' ANN LECKIE, author of Ancillary Justice and The Raven Tower

'Lee's astute worldbuilding raises the stakes for her vivid and tautly-described action scenes' SCOTT LYNCH, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora

*****Shortlisted for the Nebula Awards, the Locus Awards, the Aurora Awards, the Sunburst Awards and an Amazon.com Best Book of the Month*****

TWO CRIME FAMILIES, ONE SOURCE OF POWER: JADE.…


An Unkindness of Magicians

By Kat Howard,

Book cover of An Unkindness of Magicians

Why this book?

Good action isn’t just powered battle armor fights, guns going off, or well-executed martial arts, magic can be pretty damn impressive too. An Unkindness of Magicians opens with a woman auditioning for a spot in a magic dueling tournament by levitating traffic in the middle of New York, and it just gets crazier from there.

I’ve described the book to some as Mortal Kombat with wizards. Magic users in New York face off for an elimination-style tournament where people can die in the matches. It’s not just brute force with fireballs either, any kind of magical ingenuity is on the table, and Kat Howard gives us some really engaging magical duels.

An Unkindness of Magicians

By Kat Howard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Unkindness of Magicians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A remarkable writer." -Neil Gaiman, bestselling author of American Gods

An Alex Award Winner

There is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city's magicians' power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney-a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney…


Neuromancer

By William Gibson,

Book cover of Neuromancer

Why this book?

Okay, so Gibson is one of the reasons I became a writer and Neuromancer is one of the books that influenced me as a writer, so it’s no surprise that it also inspired my love of action in SFF books. A hacker who tried skimming from the top and paid for it is given a second chance by undertaking a dangerous heist.

As one of the seminal cyberpunk novels, this one has it all, covert operations, cybernetic showdowns, hacking duels, and a vision of a future world so outstanding that it has become a trope in the decades since it was released. The world-building is incredible and the action is razor-sharp.

Neuromancer

By William Gibson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Neuromancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The book that defined the cyberpunk movement, inspiring everything from The Matrix to Cyberpunk 2077.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

William Gibson revolutionised science fiction in his 1984 debut Neuromancer. The writer who gave us the matrix and coined the term 'cyberspace' produced a first novel that won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, and lit the fuse on the Cyberpunk movement.

More than three decades later, Gibson's text is as stylish as ever, his noir narrative still glitters like chrome in the shadows and his depictions of…


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