Oddly-Specific Genres: Imagining a Better World

You may have heard, we’re Building a Better World at libraries all over the country this summer.  We’re trying to build one here in Berryville too.  But before you build it, you’ve got to dream it!  So dreaming of new and better worlds is what we’re all about this June.

Fantasy authors have been building imaginary new worlds in their writing for years.  Read on and you may just find a new world worth exploring!  Or at least ideas of things we may want to start doing (or avoid doing) in our real world. . . .

If you love multi-genre fantasy:

Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library (2015)*

The Invisible Library

Irene is a time and space-traveling spy for the mysterious organization known as The Library. She finds and saves fictional books for future generations. Her latest mission has her training a newbie and working in a fantastical London, beset by vampires, werewolves, and more. You know, all in a normal day’s work for a librarian. Complications ensue when the book she is supposed to be retrieving and protecting is stolen.  Cogman won a lot of praise for her blending of humor, action, fantasy, and romance with this first book in a series. If you enjoy it, you’ll want to read the others, as well!

*Ebook also available on Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy Victoria Schwab, Robin Sloan, and Jasper Fforde.

If you love dystopian fiction:

Malka Older’s Infomocracy (2016)


A dystopian political technothriller, Infomocracy envisions a world divided into areas called centenals, each with populations of 100,000. In a complex new system of government, the centenals get to pick their own government from a range of global parties but an overarching system called Information manages the system. It’s election time in this brave new world, and one political party researcher named Ken is tasked with researching centenals that might be open to his organization’s policies. Along the way, he uncovers a conspiracy. This is the first book in a projected series, and author Malka Older received a lot of praise for the depth of her world-building and her blending of interesting characters and science fiction action. The next book is slated to come out later this year.

Recommended for those who enjoy Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season (2015)**

The Fifth Season

The Stillness is a bleak place in the aftermath of the collapse of civilization. Nature itself has been torn asunder, and people live in fear of orogenes, who have the power to control natural forces like earthquakes. Orogones are brutally persecuted and hide their identities as they seek shelter in tiny communities scattered across the land.

One such orogone is Essun, who has passed her abilities on to her children. Their powers are secrets she carefully guards. But someone knows her secret, and she returns home one day to discover that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Essun is determined to retrieve her daughter at all costs, even if it means destroying what’s left of the world.

Jemisin wrote this book a couple of years ago to widespread acclaim for the complexity of her world, story, and characters, and there is another book in the series, with more to follow.

**Ebook and audiobook also available on Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia E. Butler.

If you enjoy mythology:

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology (2017)***

Norse Mythology

If you’re a mythology fan, you’re probably already aware of the traditional adventures of the likes of Odin, Thor, and Loki. In this work, Neil Gaiman turns his attention to retelling famous and not-so famous ancient Scandinavian myths. Even if you think you know your Norse myths, you’ll be in for a surprise as Gaiman puts his own inimitable spin on the adventures of these gods. Perhaps his biggest change is shaping the individual myths into an overarching story and amplifying the epic themes in the process.

***Ebook and audiobook also available on Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoyed Dan Simmons’ Olympos and John Gardner’s Grendel.

If you love YA:

Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer (2017)****

Strange the Dreamer

In Laini Taylor’s latest series, the world is reeling from the aftereffects of gods and humans battling it out hundreds of years earlier. (Does that ever end well?) A young librarian is obsessed with the mythical city of Weep, which was supposed to have been destroyed in the war. He gets his chance to visit and soon realizes that the hostilities are going to recommence shortly. Taylor has drawn praise for the evocative world that she has created in this book. As with many of the other books listed in this post, Strange the Dreamer is the first in a projected series.

****Ebook and audiobook also available on Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy Sarah Rees Brennan.

If you prefer epic fantasies:

Sarah Beth Durst’s The Queen of Blood (2016)

The Queen of Blood

In the magical world of Renthia, the queen keeps the peace between groups of antagonistic spirits. This land is no inherited monarchy because the queen must be chosen. And the current ruler seems helpless in stopping the growing turmoil that is enveloping her country. Into this situation steps a young contender, Daleina. Her leadership qualities are recognized at a young age, and the book follows her as she is groomed as an heir. Durst’s book combines political machinations with a fresh take on the old fantasy trope of a young trainee. It is also the first in a projected series.

Recommended for those who enjoy Daniel Abraham, Elizabeth Bear, and Joe Abercrombie.

If you don’t want to start a series:

Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky (2016)

All The Birds in the Sky

As children, Patricia and Laurence were drawn together as fellow misfits in school, Patricia because of her magical abilities and Laurence because of his mechanical genius. Now years later, they meet again, both at the top of their field in magic and science, respectively. The good news is they might be in love. The bad news is that the world is probably going to end because a war has just broken out between the worlds of magic and science. (If fiction has taught me anything it’s that this also never ends well.) Does the world get destroyed? Does love find a way? You’ll have to read this standalone book to find out.

Recommended for those who enjoy Nnedi Okorafor.

If you are interested in any of these items, please follow this link to our online library catalog to learn more and to place requests.

What are some of your favorite fantasy authors? What is your favorite fictional world? What dreams do you have for making our world better now? Tell us in the comments!


Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

2 thoughts on “Oddly-Specific Genres: Imagining a Better World”

  1. I have to admit that I had forgotten how fun it can be to escape into another world! Not a big fantasy reader, I met this month’s challenge with trepidation but ended up absolutely racing through Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling.” (Thank you Jen for pushing me to try it!) Great characters, great plot but, most of all, fascinating world building. Looking forward to seeing how the Graceling Realm world evolves in the next two books of the series. I like that she sets each book in the same world but with lots of new characters introduced in each one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really intrigued about Graceling now! I don’t mind fantasy and do enjoy it–more so than science fiction–but it’s not a genre I read much of, as a general rule. I’m still looking forward to trying Jemesin’s series, though. I just need to find some time to read it! 😉


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