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Authors You’ll Buy Sight Unseen

The other day John sent me an email to the effect of, “Alastair Reynolds has a new novel coming out, House of Suns…”, no doubt to taunt me with more Reynolds goodness. This got me to thinking: Reynolds is one author whose books I would buy regardless of storyline or critical reception. Iain Banks is another. I eagerly anticipate tearing into Matter when it comes out. Sadly, those are the only two who come immediately to mind.

Back in the day that wasn’t the case. There were several authors who I would buy whenever I saw a new book of theirs. Gregory Benford, David Brin, Iain Banks, Neil Stephenson and Dan Simmons. Of these, only Banks has held his place in my book acquiring. All the others have fallen off for one reason or another. That doesn’t mean I won’t read them, just that I’ll investigate a title more before I get it.

The question before you now is this: Which authors do you like so much that you’ll buy any book of theirs, regardless?

For those of you who must know why the above mentioned authors aren’t on my list any more, read on:

Benford – His concluding books to the Galactic Center series weren’t as good as the early ones. Different in tone and much less ‘cohesive’.

Brin – Again, his ‘concluding’ novels in the Uplift series were somewhat disappointing. Still good, just not up to par with Startide Rising and he apparently doesn’t want us to know what happens to the Streaker.

Stephenson – Like many, Snowcrash got me hooked on Stephenson. It took awhile for Diamond Age to grow on my, but it did, and I think Cryptonomicon is his best novel. I was eagerly looking forward to The Baroque Cycle, but, while admiring the sheer amount of information in it, I found Quicksilver to be overly long and I haven’t made an effort to read any of the others. Heck, we went to Austin to see him at a booksigning even.

Simmons – I really like his Hyperion Canton, even the later books. So I really dug into his Illium and Olympos novels. However, while full of really cool stuff, they didn’t really cover much new ground and did so in a form that could have used 100 or so less pages, each. Simmons is really on the fence, I might pick up his next SF book.

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

36 Comments on Authors You’ll Buy Sight Unseen

  1. In science fiction I have 4 authors that I pick up as soon as I see a new book. Dan Simmons, John Scalzi, Tobias Buckell, and Michael Marshall Smith.

  2. I have several: David Drake, Alastair Reynolds, Neal Asher, John C. Wright,Vernor Vinge.

  3. That’s funny… Neal Stephenson heads my list primarily because of the Baroque cycle. I loved Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, and enjoyed Zodiac, but I held off on Cryptonomicon until I heard great things from reviews. But Cryptonomicon was amazing, and the Baroque cycle is just amazingly written and constructed to be simultaneously funny, absorbing, convincing, thought-provoking, etc. They’re also incredibly ambitious, and basically succeed in their ambition. I have no idea where he could possibly go from here, but I’ll be reading.

    Dennis Lehane is not SF/F, but every crime/mystery/thriller book he’s written has been top-of-the-genre for me. That sort of consistency wins me over.

    China Mieville’s next adult SF/F book – I haven’t yet read his YA, but I’d by the next adult thing from him no matter what setting/genre. And I would have bought Un Lun Dun already if I wasn’t frugal about hardcovers.

  4. I have quite a few authors I buy on publication:

    David Weber, Peter Hamilton, Lois Bujold, Neal Asher, Richard Morgan, Alastair Reynolds, John Ringo, IM Banks, Chris Moriarty, Gary Gibson, Adam Roberts, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Patrick Rothfuss, Brian Ruckley, Sarah Monette, Jack McDevitt, John Meaney, Scott Bakker, Mary Gentle, Mary Rosenblum, JC Grimwood, Peter Watts, RC Wilson, Jim Grimsley, William Burton

  5. John Touhey // October 23, 2007 at 6:31 pm //

    Gene Wolfe!

  6. Iain Banks is slipping in my estimation, though I’ll still buy his books for now.

    I used to buy any Terry Pratchett, but he dropped off the must-buy list.

    Alastair Reynolds is one, as is John C. Wright, China Mieville, Scott Bakker.

  7. Agree on the Banks — though I used to get everything he wrote (SF and non-SF) now I skip his mainstream fiction (and the recent non-fiction). Can’t wait for Matter.

    Other must-buy authors: William Gibson, Michael Swanwick, Gene Wolfe, China Mieville, Kim Stanley Robinson.

    How about must-read authors: the writers who do not have full-length books, but a great collection of short stories? I read everything Ted Chiang writes and just about everything Lucius Shepard writes. I’m also liking Paulo Bacigalupi’s work.

    Finally, mainstream must-buy authors: David Foster Wallace (anything, anything he writes–short/long, novel/essay–anything)and Cormac McCarthy (hopefully more on the way soon).


  8. Maureen F. McHugh

  9. When I can afford to buy books, my Must Buy list really doesn’t include much genre: George R. R. Martin, naturally. But otherwise it’s Louise Erdrich, Ann Patchett, Alison McGhee. DeLillo used to be on the list but publishing stinkers after Underworld bumped him.

    My must read list…much bigger.

  10. brainshades // October 23, 2007 at 7:58 pm //

    As for SF, books by Reynolds, Scalzi, Vinge, and RC Wilson are acquired without a second thought, with strong considerations given for Banks, McDonald, and Willis.

    For Fantasy, books by Blaylock, Ford, Powers, and Wolfe are pretty irresistible, with strong consideration given to Crowley, I. Macleod, and Park.

    For short fiction, I find it impossible to pass up collections from Kelly, Kessel, Kress, Landis, Reed, Swanwick and Zivkovich.

    And after only one novel each, I’ve got strong inclinations to purchase the future works of Abercrombie and Lynch (no-pun intended), sight unseen.

  11. Mark Stackpole // October 23, 2007 at 8:12 pm //

    Two authors who have dropped off my must-buy list are Greg Benford and Orson Scott Card . Authors that haven’t yet been mentioned that I still read everything are Harry Turtledove, Nancy Kress, Kessel & Kelly, Stephen Baxter, Howard Waldrop, Greg Egan, Paul McAuley, Ian McDonald, Walter Jon Williams and |-) Timothy Zahn.

  12. Graeme Williams // October 23, 2007 at 8:41 pm //

    Walter Jon Williams (no relation!). I’ve liked everything he’s written. His latest, the Praxis space opera trilogy, was an epiphany.

  13. I’d have bought the last two Ian MacDonald books sight unseen, but I literally have yet to see either of them. The paperback of of River of Gods is out, but apparently critically acclaimed novels are purposely excluded from brick & mortar stores.

    I’m almost done with Hamilton’s Judas Unchained. I’ll certainly buy the Void Trilogy.











  15. Lessee, looking at my bookshelf, I see my list: SM Stirling, Alastair Reynolds, Ken Macleod, Charles Stross, Peter Watts, John Barnes, Scott Lynch, Wil McCarthy, Vernor Vinge, P.C. Hodgell and Karl Schroeder.

    David Drake used to be on that list, but the last Leary and Mundy book, as well as the follow up to The Isles series pushed him off. Bujold was another, but the last Chalion book, plus the info on the Sharing Knife knocked her off the list as well.

  16. Mark Stackpole // October 23, 2007 at 10:50 pm //

    Continuing from my earlier post:

    Other authors who have been dropped from my must read list:

    Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro, Ben Bova, Dean Ing, Frederik Pohl, Sarah Zettel.

    In other words, the entire Baen Books back catalog.

  17. George Lister // October 23, 2007 at 11:01 pm //

    This used to be a really long list, but sadly for many reasons, not all of them quality realted (like being married with a mortgage as opposed to single with a bachelor flat) I find myself with only one lonely author on my “Must Buy In Hardcover” list. Jim Butcher. Nine books into his Dresden Files series and three books into Codex Alera and there hasn’t been a clinker yet. Hell I even loved his Spider-Man novel.

  18. Hmm, that’s odd… can’t think of a single one. There are authors who have yet to disappoint me, and for whom I have read the majority of their work, but I still never seem to be in a hurry to buy their next book.

    I absolutely loved the first Uplift series, but only got about 50 pages in the second series before I decided there were better things to do with my time. I’m not sure what it was that bothered me, exactly — it just didn’t seem all that readable. Different strokes, I guess.

    JP, do you read Iain Banks non-sf as well? Some of it is quite good, IMHO.

  19. Robert J Sawyer, Julie E. Czerneda, James P Hogan, Peter F Hamilton, just to name a few.

  20. Dan Simmons, Ray Bradbury, Robert J. Sawyer, Cory Doctorow, Minister Faust.

  21. Agreed on Banks and Reynolds. Other authors I buy as soon as they have new books out are Eric Brown, Paul Park, John Crowley, Kim Stanley Robinson, Bruce Sterling, John Varley, Sean Williams… although both Sterling’s and Varley’s last couple of books have been disappointing.

  22. spoonofmilk // October 24, 2007 at 3:28 am //

    Banks is a yes, Reynolds is a no these days. I really didn’t like Century Rain and was ambivalent about Pushing Ice. I thought that kind of story was told better by Adam Roberts in Salt. That said, The Prefect went a long way to restoring my faith. I really hope he sticks to the Revelation Space universe more… and leaves the Conjoiners out of it, cos they bore me something chronic!

    Richard Morgan would head the list, until Black Man/Thirteen failed to really set me alight. I loved the Takeshi Kovacs stuff though. The quicker he goes back to that kind of material the better.

    Neal Stephenson, as with Josh, is definitely top of the list. The Baroque Cycle (you really must read the last two mate) was undoubtedly the best story/set of books I’ve read in an awfully long time. The attention to detail is staggering, and yes it’s long… but books are what seperates us from the beasts (or the chavs/pikeys with attention deficiency to the point they can only understand a story if it’s made by Jerry Bruckheimer) and I thought the books weren’t long enough.. didn’t want them to end.

  23. Mel Odom, Barb & JC Hendee, Julie Kenner, Orson Scott Card, Lawrence Watt-Evens, Max Lucado, and Peter David.

  24. Neil Gaiman, I think is my last holdout. There’s a bunch that I’ll buy with very, very little prompting, but Neil’s the last I’ll simply just buy.

  25. “JP, do you read Iain Banks non-sf as well? Some of it is quite good, IMHO.”

    I’ve never read any of his non-SF books, unless you count The Bridge as non-SF. I have heard that many of them are good, I’ve just never gotten around to them.

    There’s a lot of good authors on here, keep ’em coming!

    Maybe I’ll have to re-visit The Baroque Cycle. I didn’t hate Quicksilver so I guess it’s time to head to the library…

  26. You know you are getting on in years when all your favorite authors are passed away. What is sad is that most of the authors on my must-buy list are dead, so I have little reason to must-buy anything.

    I grew up on the Campbell stable of writers: A.E. van Vogt, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein. If they uncovered a new manuscript in a old dresser drawer written by Van Vogt or Heinlein, and it was finished up by someone else (I am thinking of SLAN HUNTER and VARIABLE STAR) I would (and have) pony up the jack to buy the book sight unseen. (To my disappointment, in some cases).

    If they found an old laundry list written by Cordwainer Smith, I’d buy it. That man was a genius: it is as if he invented his own genre that stands to science fiction as science fiction stands to the mainstream.

    Isaac Asimov dropped off my must-buy list after FOUNDATION’S EDGE. Robert Heinlein should have dropped off my must-buy list after NUMBER OF THE BEAST, but, heck, I like the way he writes, even when he is writing pure and pointless dreck. Roger Zelazny dropped off my must-buy list 20 pages into BLOOD OF AMBER, but he got back on with A DARK TRAVELING and NIGHT IN THE LONESOME OCTOBER.

    J.R.R. Tolkien I would buy sight unseen. CHILDREN OF HURIN was the best book by far I have read in the last five years. Even the fragments of his stories in UNFINISHED TALES is better than most people’s finished stories.

    Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe I would buy sight unseen. This, even though Gene Wolfe tries daring experiments that leave me puzzled and nonplussed. I thought LURULU, Vance’s last book, and perhaps his last book, was an inferior effort by the Master, but his old magic was still there.

    Oddly, anything by G.K. Chesteron, fiction, nonfiction, whatever, I would buy sight unseen. I do not think that man could write a bad sentence or an unobservant one in any context. Some of his books are almost science fiction.

    Anything by Historian Paul Johnson I would (and have) buy sight unseen, or by historical novelist Alfred Duggan.

    Dan Simmons deserves a place on my must-buy list, due to his exceptionally fine HYPERION CANTOS, but THE HOLLOW MAN was repugnant to my sensibilities, and I was severely disappointed with ILIUM/OLYMPOS, so much so that I would not finish reading. Too bad. When he is on his game, Dan Simmons is the best there is.

  27. Tad Williams

    Neal Stephenson

  28. Orson Scott Card – Although his last two books were movies written down. The Ender series is on of my favorite series of all time.

    Neil Gaiman – I don’t even want to know what goes on inside his head. American Gods was funny, disturbing, and incredible.

    Jim Butcher – Fun, fun books. Not too deep but so entertaining and the world is so rich. I actually haven’t read his last book because I don’t want there to be nothing left until the next one.

    Timothy Zahn – No real reason, just love his work.

    Hugo Shortlist – Stross, Vinge, and others. I might not read these books right away but I always get the books by the big guys when they come out.

    I haven’t read any Banks yet, and I can’t wait till the Culture books start debuting in America.

    I am more of a book collector. I buy a lot of books as soon as they come out. For me, the true question is what authors will make me stop reading something else half-way through because I can’t wait to read the new book. You should really see my reading pile. It’s more of a bookcase.

  29. Interesting how many of my favorite authors popped up – along with some I haven’t gotten into yet.

    On my current short list are authors like Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken Macleod, William Gibson, Neil Gaman, and Neal Stephenson; in the second rank are folks like Orson Scott Card, Walter Jon Williams, and Past Masters like Frederick Pohl, Heinlein, and Van Vogt. I’d like to get into Iain Banks, and to find some more Ken Macleod, but I haven’t seen them on the shelves in the bookstores; I’ve been kicking myself for not snapping up some of their books when I was waiting for a connecting flight at Heathrow.

    “Mainstream” authors with instant appeal include Len Deighton, Adam Hall (Elleston Trevor – the Quiller novels are an irresistible guilty pleasure) and John le Carre; Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane are always worth reading; Thomas Pynchon used to be my favorite author, but “Mason & Dixon” was less than compelling, and “Against the Day” seems to have missed the mark.

    In terms of authors who have fallen out of favor, Samuel Delany had me scratching my head during the Nevryon series, and I haven’t tried to find his work since he lost his contracts with major publishers; John Crowley was a big fave, but his Aegypt cycle was disappointing; and Alastair Reynolds had me going for a while with the Revelation Space novels (I somehow lost interest in his characters).

  30. I buy few authors on publication nowadays, usually because I enjoy some stuff and not overjoyed with others. However, the two that are purchased regardless these days are Peter F Hamilton who seems to be getting more refined these days, and Neal Asher who just rocks full stop and just continues to grow as a writer with each new book.

  31. I tend to buy paperback or trade books, so occasionally it means waiting a while. For certain authors such as Banks, Bujold, Mieville and Vinge their new books are certainly bought and savored.

    I also like to read the classics so I have picked up a whole range of books by authors such as Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, etc some of these titles are bought on spec.

    On the outs Card, the first 4 Ender’s series books were brilliant sought after and cherished then the series became less important. With Brin, I loved the first Uplift saga, couldn’t finish Earth, made it through the first book of the second Uplift saga finding many other books more alluring. I did however highly enjoy his latest “Kiln people” so there’s hope yet.

    There are also plenty of celebrated new books from authors such as Scalzi, Gaiman, Asher, Reynolds, Wright etc., I have yet to experience.

  32. Greg Egan, Kim Stanley Robinson and Vernor Vinge. Pratchett, but only the main discworld arc: I haven’t been keeping up to date with the young adult branch.

  33. Jack Vance in my case, but we dont see much of his works for this far away lands πŸ˜›

  34. I also buy Ian McDonald sight unseen and literally have bought all of his work this way. Harlan Ellison is another. Raging prick that he is, his work is still high quality. Up to about 26 of his books. J.G Ballard, P.k. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut and last but not least, Miss Octavia Butler.

  35. Used to be more, but much fewer these days as my middle-aged eyes just can’t read as much and my brain wants to rest. πŸ™‚

    But, let’s see: John C. Wright, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison (whoever said above he’s a P**ck is right, but I’ve been collecting him since 1979, and it’s a hard habit to break), Jim Butcher is my latest addiction, could put Gaiman and McMaster Bujold there, and whatever is edited by Datlow/Windling pretty much.

    When it comes to short stories, if Samantha Henderson, Connie Willis, Tanith Lee, or Gene Wolfe’s names are on a magazine cover, it’s nearly impossible for me to resist buying it without looking to see who else is in there. Earlier this year (last year?) I saw Willis on the cover, bought it, and it wasn’t even a story. An interview. Still…

    I still miss that zinging excitement I used to feel during the early years of OMNI Magazine. It was so exciting to have nifty art and terrific stories in a magazine that also had science articles. Then it turned all alien and life-extension obsessed, and just plain weird. I think I’m just an old fart now, is what.


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