Best of Fantastic Fiction: Clever, Quirky Fantasy and Science Fiction

Posted on April 24, 2017

by Amy H

There are few things as compelling as really well written dark sf/fantasy, especially when there’s clever humor worked into the story and the characters are complex and the situations force them to make bad decisions with appreciably complicated results.

Here are some great dark reads:

Midnight Riot by Ben AaronovitchMidnight Riot by Ben Aaronovich Peter Grant series (aka Rivers of London), book 1.

Formats: Print | eBook | eAudiobook

Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad he’s stuck in a unit where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But his prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve CogmanInvisible Library by Genevieve Cogman Invisible library series, book 1.

Formats: Print | eBook

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Her most recent mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book in an alternate London. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation as a Librarian at stake, it ’s the nature of reality itself.

Just One Damned Thing After Another - The Chronicles of St. Mary's by Jodi TaylorJust One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor Chronicles of St. Mary’s series, book 1.

Formats: Print | eBook

Behind the seemingly innocuous facade of St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research, a different kind of academic work is taking place. Just don’t call it “time travel”—these historians “investigate major historical events in contemporary time.” And they aren’t your harmless eccentrics either; a more accurate description, as they ricochet around history, might be unintentional disaster-magnets.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Shades of Magic series, book 1.

Formats: Print | eBook | eAudiobook

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes. There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. There’s White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. And once upon a time, there was Black London . . . but no one speaks of that now. Officially, Kell is an ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, and runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Three Years with the Rat by Jay HoskingThree Years with the Rat by Jay Hosking

Formats: Print

After several years of drifting, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job thanks to his sister, Grace, and her coterie of friends. But soon Grace disappears, and the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. This kinetic novel catapults the classic noir plot of a woman gone missing into the twenty-first-century city, where so-called reality crashes into speculative science.

Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. HowardJohannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan Howard Johannes Cabal series, book 1.

Formats: Print

A charmingly gothic, fiendishly funny Faustian tale about a brilliant scientist who makes a deal with the Devil, twice. Johannes Cabal sold his soul years ago in order to learn the laws of necromancy. Now he wants it back. Amused and slightly bored, Satan proposes a little wager: Johannes has to persuade one hundred people to sign over their souls or he will be damned forever. This time for real. Accepting the bargain, Jonathan is given one calendar year and a traveling carnival to complete his task. With little time to waste, Johannes raises a motley crew from the dead and enlists his brother, Horst, a charismatic vampire to help him run his nefarious road show, resulting in mayhem at every turn.

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan StroudThe Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud The Bartimaeus Trilogy, book 1.

Formats: Print | Graphic novel | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

Nathaniel, a magician’s apprentice, summons up the djinni Bartimaeus and instructs him to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the powerful magician Simon Lovelace.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan StroudThe Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud Lockwood & Co. series, book 1.

Formats: Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

Follows three young operatives of a Psychic Detection Agency as they battle an epidemic of ghosts in London.

Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee MartinezGil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez Formats: Print

Hired by the owner of an all-night diner to eliminate the zombie problem that is costing her customers, werewolf Duke and vampire Earl tackle an even stickier adversary who is out to take over the diner, in an adventure involving an amorous ghost, a jailbait sorceress, and a pig-latin occult.

John Dies at the End by David WongJohn Dies at the End by David Wong

Formats: Print | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

This may be the story of John and David, a drug called soy sauce, and other-worldly beings invading the planet. Or, it may be the story of two beer-drinking friends who live in an unnamed Midwestern town and only think something horrific is going on. But the important thing is, according to the narrator, None of this is my fault.

Redshirts by John ScalziRedshirts by John Scalzi

Formats: Print | eBook

Enjoying his assignment with the xenobiology lab on board the prestigious Intrepid, ensign Andrew Dahl worries about casualties suffered by low-ranking officers during away missions before making a shocking discovery about the starship’s actual purpose.

Looking for more great reads?

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