The best SFF novels that take an improbable premise and go nuts with it until you’re like “seriously?”

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former playwright, current novelist, future designation unclear but maybe something like really committing to being the person that always carries one of every kind of charging cable, just in case. I’m old enough to be properly jaded about our media landscape, not simply to “fit in” with “people” who are “theoretically out there somewhere” but because I’ve genuinely seen so much and I’m just like, I mean, whatever. But sometimes a novel forges a new path across the imagination with such an unexpected angle on worldbuilding or a blatant assault on the propriety of common plot structure that I literally swoon with excitement. I’m about to tell you about some of those novels.


I wrote...

Wild Massive

By Scotto Moore,

Book cover of Wild Massive

What is my book about?

Welcome to the Building, an infinitely tall skyscraper in the center of the multiverse, where any floor could contain a sprawling desert oasis, a cyanide rain forest, or an entire world. Carissa lives in one of the countless elevators that make endless trips up and down the Bujilding, ignoring calls to take on other passengers, as long as it means she doesn’t have to speak to another living person.

But when a mysterious shapeshifter from an ambiguous world lands on top of her elevator, intent on stopping a plot to annihilate hundreds of floors, Carissa finds herself stepping out of her comfort zone. She's forced to flee into the Wild Massive network of theme parks in the Building, where technology, sorcery, and elaborate media tie-ins combine to form impossible ride experiences.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Library at Mount Char

Scotto Moore Why did I love this book?

My all-time favorite book.

A handful of children are rescued from certain doom and brought to the Library, where they learn reality’s secrets. Their rescuer and not-exactly-benevolent new father figure is omnipotent, demanding, and merciless; also, he’s good with a grill. Then he vanishes without a trace, leaving creation in the hands of his inexperienced adoptees, and supernatural problems pile up. I’ve read this book several times since I discovered it, and it still surprises me. Big fancy Libraries are a venerable tradition in the SFF arena, but these strangely powerful kids spend most of their time in suburbia, which winds up being plenty freaky.

Plus, they’re not all nice kids, which makes for a strange family dynamic to say the least.

By Scott Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Library at Mount Char as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Wholly original . . . the work of the newest major talent in fantasy.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Freakishly compelling . . . through heart-thumping acts of violence and laugh-out-loud moments, this book practically dares you to keep reading.”—Atlanta Magazine

A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe. 
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.
 
Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas…


Book cover of There Is No Antimemetics Division

Scotto Moore Why did I love this book?

I love books that aren’t afraid to serially explode their own core conceits in the pursuit of absurd escalation.

When I wrote plays, I developed a loose guideline for myself: the audience shouldn’t be able to predict act two just because they’ve seen act one. This book pulls that off but after almost every chapter. Antimemes are non-viral entities, slippery and elusive tulpas that are impossible to remember when you’re not in their presence, and the moment you realize they exist, they realize you exist, which is problematic in an increasingly bizarre number of ways.

This interconnected series of stories takes you from “an average day at the office” all the way to [redacted] and beyond. It’s fearless storytelling, perfectly willing to go there whether you’re ready for it or not.

By qntm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked There Is No Antimemetics Division as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Man In The Empty Suit

Scotto Moore Why did I love this book?

My new book features a solitary time traveler in a key supporting role, so I feel well-equipped to say that Man in the Empty Suit is the pièce de resistance of absurdly trippy time travel stories.

A time traveler celebrates his birthday every year at an abandoned hotel in the year 2100 or so, with all his fellow time-traveling past and future selves in attendance – nobody else is ever invited. This year, however, he discovers the murdered corpse of next year’s instance of himself.

This makes him the lead detective in the case of his own murder, which ideally he’d like to prevent; and the only suspects are either younger versions of himself, although you’d expect him to remember committing the crime, or elder versions of himself, who somehow managed to survive the murder of their younger self – for the time being, anyway.

Twisty and mind-bendy goodness.

By Sean Ferrell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Man In The Empty Suit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Say you're a time traveler and you've already toured the entirety of human history. After a while, the outside world might lose a little of its luster. That's why this time traveler celebrates his birthday partying with himself. Every year, he travels to an abandoned hotel in New York City in 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and drinks twelve-year-old Scotch (lots of it) with all the other versions of who he has been and who he will be. Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it's one party where he can really, well,…


Book cover of The Revisionaries

Scotto Moore Why did I love this book?

My new book features the classic “book within a book” trope as a key plot mechanic, but I think Moxon is going for the gold medal in the category of “books within books within books,” with multiple competing characters claiming to be authors and demonstrating unnatural control over their domains, while bemused but frequently baffled readers attempt to decipher what nested reality is foregrounded and what the hell it all means regardless.

It starts off as a spiritual quest for inner-city redemption, starring the inmates of a forgotten asylum and the local parish that tries to tend to them; then an inmate reveals a deeper story of solipsistic villainy that blows away their current problems, and then at least one if not multiple authors involved throws all the cards up in the air and reshuffles them into a multiverse-spanning road movie.

All this, plus the prose is dense and thoughtful – each moment counts.

By A.R. Moxon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A modern-day classic."—Ron Charles, Washington Post
 
“A spectacular invention.”—The New York Times
 
"Compulsively readable."—NPR
 
 
Things do not bode well for Father Julius. . . A street preacher decked out in denim robes and running shoes, Julius is a source of inspiration for a community that knows nothing of his scandalous origins.
 
But when a nearby mental hospital releases its patients to run amok in his neighborhood, his trusted if bedraggled flock turns expectantly to Julius to find out what’s going on. Amid the descending chaos,
 
Julius encounters a hospital escapee who babbles prophecies of doom, and the growing palpable sense…


Book cover of The Night Circus

Scotto Moore Why did I love this book?

My all-time favorite book. (Don’t tell that other book.)

The parallels between the depictions of the Night Circus setting and the network of theme parks in my own book are no accident. The only thing more influential to my depiction was my actual four summers working as a performer in good old-fashioned American theme parks, where I learned the truth behind industry legends like [redacted].

The steadily escalating duel between the young magicians of the Circus is a pleasingly slow burn, as every maneuver by one of the combatants deftly and carefully raises the stakes. Then all hell finally starts to break loose, innocent bystanders are lost, and the formerly romantic setting of the circus becomes almost diabolical. I’ve read the book several times, and I can never predict how the duel will be resolved, because I’m too swept up in the emotional ride.

Plus, it’s magic, so who says they couldn’t change the ending?

By Erin Morgenstern,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Night Circus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE TIKTOK SENSATION

Rediscover the million-copy bestselling fantasy read with a different kind of magic, now in a stunning anniversary edition to mark 10 years since it's paperback debut.

The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon an iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn

Full of breath-taking amazements and open only at night, Le Cirque des Reves seems to cast a spell over all who wander its circular paths. But behind the glittering acrobats, fortune-tellers…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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