Those of you who know me personally should know that I love reading fiction, especially crime/mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy/magic. I am a firm believer that reading, both fiction and non-fiction alike, is entirely necessary for everyone. It encourages imagination, creativity, grammar and spelling, critical thinking, and increases knowledge – all of which is essential for growing children to be the best they can be. Not to mention sitting down with a proper book for a few hours is an ideal way to relax, and in this digital age where children are having touch-screen smartphones as their first mobile before they’re even teenagers and toddlers are playing with their parents’ tablets it really can’t be a bad thing to have them spend a while with some actual paper every now and then.
My favourite author of all time is undoubtedly Terry Pratchett, thanks to an old hardback copy of Thief of Time my sister got for me from a charity shop years ago. His works, both Discworld and other, are exceptional pieces of literature that should be known as no less than national treasures and his passing was a terrible day for all readers. Even if you have never read a single one of his books, Terry Pratchett has inspired generations of writers around the world and his presence will be sorely missed. Thankfully, his final gift to the world is one that – I strongly believe – will stand the test of time and become a testament to his incredible skill with words. I am, of course, referring to the Long Earth series co-authored with Stephen Baxter. Unlike much of Terry Pratchett’s works, this series is very much a science fiction piece but his signature flare for the weird and fantastic can be felt all the same.
Incidentally, for my birthday this year I have been graced with the UK release date of The Long Utopia being in the same week and mother gifted me the unbelievably beautiful slipcase limited edition hardback. Unlike the normal hardbacks (the type I bought the other books of this series in) which have their artwork be a removable cover wrapped around the book, this one is a mostly-wordless fixed cover with sturdy box to keep it in – it is truly in a league above the rest. I couldn’t be happier with it, though I’m actually scared to read it in case the book gets scuffed or the spine is damaged.
For those who don’t know, the basic premise of the Long Earth series is that a mad scientist goes missing immediately after releasing weird blueprints online for free. By assembling the odd device described in said blueprints, massive chaos is caused across the entire world which leads to all sorts of societal fractures. The books explore the social, political, and economic impact of “Step Day” – when a huge chunk of humanity almost simultaneously activated their devices – and the near-infinite repercussions of what that activation allowed them to discover. The main character is Joshua Valiente, beginning as a young orphan caught up in Step Day like so many children and unintentionally – see: against his will – becoming a pivotal actor in the play that unfolds over the next few decades. It’s not even that far-fetched to call it a play, with a somewhat-megalomaniac robot pulling more strings than most know have been woven. (wow, I’m finding it surprisingly difficult to adequately describe the series without humongous spoilers)
As well as Terry Pratchett I’m also very much into Jay Allan’s Crimson Worlds series, of which I am very near the end of the 6th book To Hell’s Heart. It’s an excellent military science fiction series that follows Eric Cain from the moment he’s offered a place in the Western Alliance’s (space) Marines in exchange for getting out of the death sentence his gang life lead him to as he stumbles his way through crisis after political scheme after war, only to find himself as one of the most revered – and feared – Marines in the force’s history. But medals and glory aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when ancient things are stirring out of sight and calling your own government “corrupt” would be a compliment!
And last but most certainly not least, a series I’ve been following the past few years – ever since I picked up the first book a month before the release of the second – is Will Hill’s blend of military sci-fi and fantasy. Department 19 is generally considered teen fiction, it is certainly less gritty than Crimson Worlds and an easier read than much of Terry Pratchett’s works, but I find it thoroughly enjoyable and consider it a very successful attempt to modernise Dracula. The 5th book has just been released recently and is next on my list after To Hell’s Heart and before The Long Utopia, and it will reveal to readers the conclusion of saga in which many large and small sub-plots have been swirling around and intermingling since the beginning. While the main plot is almost guaranteed to be resolved favourably from mankind’s perspective, I suspect there will be many hard decisions and some potential fracturing of allies as this turbulent roller coaster of a series comes to an end.