Good Books for 2014 and Beyond

Good Books for 2014 and Beyond, or What's RIGHT with Books These Days

Thumbs Up symbolIt's easy to kvetch about what's wrong with books these days, and I'm certainly guilty of it. To be fair, I thought I should balance my complaints with some praise about what I think authors are doing right, considering this is 2014, well into the 21st Century.

In the romance genre, I like the heroes who truly get the “no means no” concept, even in the face of biological imperatives, such as mating magic in shapeshifter stories, or heat-of-the-moment hormonal rush. It used to be the male characters always knew what was best for the heroine, and somehow that translated into making it his decision as to when/where/why the couple got intimate. In the very bad old days, especially historical romance (a.k.a., bodice rippers) of the 1970s, it was quite unremarkable when the male lead raped the female lead, then later married her because he fell in love. I'm so sensitive to it now that even dubious consent makes me irritable, and I suspect other readers are the same. Progress!

More things I like: 

  • In the science fiction genre, women in combat, who are good at it. The best known is probably the Honor Harrington series by David Weber (e.g., On Basilisk Station, which is free on Kindle), but he's by no means an outlier these days (see Mike Shepherd's Kris Longknife series). The SF genre is still dominated by male authors, so it's good to see gender equality in the writing.
  • Interracial and international relationships that are more nuanced than the two usual approaches of either adding the characteristic as an afterthought (one passing mention of skin color), or making it central to the relationship (OMG, she's black!). It's too easy these days to limit yourself to news sources and opinions that validate your own, so I like stories that acknowledge the differences at the same time as humanizing them. I especially like it when meeting someone from another culture makes the character begin to question his/her own culture and the underlying assumptions.
  • Cross-genre or mixed-genre stories that defy and transcend marketing slots. OK, this is more than a little self-serving, seeing as I write science fiction-action-romance, but I'm very much entertained by steampunk, which mixes Victorian sensibilities with technological wonders, by second-world fantasies that include technology and romance (check out Lindsay Buroker's Encrypted series or Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series). And here's a shout-out to for SF romance, in the form of a free book: Tales from the SFR Brigade.

What would I like to see more of? Men writing romances, for one. Actually, I imagine there are more than I know, because publishers have believed, rightly or wrongly, that women wouldn't buy romances written by men, hence the use of pen names. Check out Ed Hoornaert, for example, who used to write for Silhouette as “Judi Edwards,” and now has a new science fiction romance coming out under his own name on October 21. I know quite a few men who are romantics, and I'd love to see how they'd tackle, say, a romantic suspense novel.

What are you cheering about these days, or want to see more of?