Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten of the Most Unique Books I’ve Read
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This week’s topic: Top Ten of the Most Unique Books I’ve Read
This is by no means a comprehensive list. I have read many books that can be considered unique in and of themselves, and there have been plenty of standout titles with unique ideas, stories, settings, characters, or a combination of any of these factors. The books I’m featuring today are the ones I’ve decided are worth giving extra attention to though, because they all have one thing in common: In one way or another, they’ve all made me go, “Whoa, this is different.”
Sometimes it’s because the books themselves are weird, or they feature some very unconventional or original ideas. Sometimes it’s because the stories are unpredictable, and there’s just no way of telling how things will play out. A couple of these books are among my favorites, while there are also a few that did not work for me at all. If there’s one thing I know though, it’s that you definitely won’t find too many other books like them.
The best description I can come up with for my mind-bending experience with this book can be summed up in the words of Jerry Garcia: “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” I had initially agreed to review The Hike with no small amount of trepidation, fearing that it might be too “weird” for my tastes. Can you blame me though? The summary I wrote for this book sounds like a lot like the mad ramblings of someone on a bad acid trip. To read this book, you pretty much have to throw everything you think you know about it out the window. That’s because it’s going to do its own thing. I doubt it’s coincidence that the moment I decided to let go of my preconceptions was also when I started enjoying myself. There is truly no guessing where things will go, and once you relinquish the reins and simply let this baby take you where it will, The Hike will delight and enchant you. (Read the full review…)
On the one hand, there were parts in Ninefox Gambit that made reading it a real struggle. On the other, there’s also no doubt it’s one of the most fascinating sci-fi novels I’ve ever read. First, just let me first state unequivocally that this book contains some of the freshest, most inventive ideas I’ve ever encountered in sci-fi. The story no doubt breaks new ground in combining elements from multiple genres, and it is extremely clever. Still, it’s easy to become confused and overwhelmed if you’re not paying close attention, and sometimes the ideas that make you gawp in wide-eyed wonder at its ingenuity are the same ones that will make you want to tear your hair out in frustration. As such, I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but if you’re a sci-fi fan interested in something more innovative and unusual, then this might be exactly what you’re looking for. Ninefox Gambit might not be an easy read, but there’s also a lot to like if you’re willing to invest in it. (Read the full review…)
For this list, I think I could have gone with any of the books I’ve read by Claire North, but I decided to go with Touch because of how much I loved it beyond just its inventiveness and ingenuity alone. It’s especially a great read if you enjoy what-if stories and thought experiments, though imagining possible scenarios based on the theories in this novel might take you places you don’t want to go. “Have you been losing time?” I don’t think I can ever hear or read this phrase again without getting a shiver down my spine. Touch was, in a word, fascinating. If you enjoy wild, mind-trip movies like Inception then you need to read this book. I adored the novel’s premise and I think the story would make an excellent movie, if only there was someone talented enough who could pull it off (quick, someone send a copy to Christopher Nolan!) (Read the full review…)
There’s nothing else quite like book, which I guess says a lot about the direction of much science fiction today. So The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet might not be your typical heart-pounding space opera, but it’s…it’s…well, it’s actually kinda hard to explain. Yes, it encompasses a number of familiar genre concepts like exploration and conflicts between alien cultures, and there are even a handful of tense situations thrown in. Still, what got to me was the heart, the love and “feel-good” vibes at the core of this novel. Even though many of its ideas are not new, Chambers’ story, characters, and worlds all felt like something I’d never experienced before, simply due to the way she presented them. I can truly say this book was nothing like I expected, but the end result was refreshingly beautiful and uplifting. Definitely one of a kind.
This is definitely one strange book, and difficult to summarize or classify because it is made up of so many perspectives and interconnecting parts. The overall concept behind the novel is certainly ambitious and ingenious, but the way the story is presented will probably make it seem unfocused. Still, I had a shockingly good time with this book. At once frustrating and rewarding, The Night Ocean is alternate history on a completely new and innovative level. Easily one of the more clever, intense, and haunting books I’ve read so far this year, and its ending will likely stay with me for a long, long time. Because of its tangled nature, I doubt it going to be for everyone, but I highly recommend it if the description interests you. Even though there’s a lot of ambiguity in the story—a fact that often vexes me—in this case, I believe it might actually add to the book’s mystique. (Read the full review…)
I have a feeling this book will pose a head-scratcher even for fans of time travel stories, which is a shame because there are some truly unique and riveting concepts in here. Still, it doesn’t matter how amazing a novel’s ideas are, they mean very little if readers cannot make heads or tails out of its story or what the author is trying to accomplish. That said, even though I can’t wholly bring myself to recommend the novel because of how confusing the story is, I have to admit that the ideas are cool enough that it might be worth picking up this book to experience them, especially if you’re into time traveling tales that are different, and if you’re feeling in the mood for a challenge. You definitely won’t be able to predict what happens! (Read the full review…)
In Beyond Redemption, the world that Michael R. Fletcher has given us is literally steeped in chaos, madness, and delusion. Individuals known as Geisteskranken are the unstable and insane individuals whose psychoses manifest as reality. Furthermore, under normal circumstances their powers are also shaped by collective beliefs, so the more people who believe in your delusion, the more those ideas become the truth. Let’s just take a moment to digest this, shall we? You’re essentially being thrown into a world where the “magic” is delusion, and all your magicians are batshit insane! Come on, doesn’t that sound amazing? Though I suppose if you think a book like this sounds too crazy and ludicrous to pull off, I don’t blame you. The thing is though, it works. It really does. Well, perhaps one has to be a little bit crazy to enjoy a book as dark, gritty and twisted as Beyond Redemption, but if that’s the case, then please pass me some more of that sweet, sweet insanity. (Read full review…)
You should have known I would try to work in something by Brandon Sanderson, master of world-building and creating unique magic systems that he is. So what am I going to go with? Mistborn? Stormlight Archives? Warbreaker? Nope, nope, and nope. I’ve decided to go with one of his YA titles, The Rithmatist. Rithmatists are a chosen group of magic users who can make chalk-drawn lines, circles and figures called Chalklings come to life and take on unique properties. They are trained at schools and sent on to the wilds where they defend humanity against hordes of dangerous and blood thirsty Wild Chalklings that threaten to overrun the territory. Rithmatists also battle each other for practice and for sport, and their matches are intense, with most strategies coming down to whether to spend the time drawing a strong defense, or mounting a fast and powerful offense. Admittedly, The Rithmatist isn’t one of the author’s strongest novels, nor is the magic and world-building in it the most robust – and yet, I love this book and its cool magic system is one of my favorites. Sanderson’s flair for fantasy and writing about magic is as usual unparalleled and something you absolutely won’t find anywhere else. (Read the full review…)
When We Were Animals may well be one of the most interesting book to ever hit my shelves. I’m still finding it difficult to categorize this unconventional coming-of-age tale, which combines elements from a variety of genres including mystery, paranormal and horror. Most of the story is told in retrospect, as the protagonist looks back on her childhood growing up in a small town with a big, dark secret. For a few nights every month during the full moon, the town’s teenagers run naked and free through the streets like animals, seized by a mysterious and uncontrollable urge known as “breaching”. Every resident of this town has gone through it and know to also expect it in their children, which typically coincides with puberty and lasts about a year. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to figure out When We Were Animals is an allegory for growing up, but it does it in an absolutely fantastic and well executed manner and does not flinch from the stark realities of human nature. I’m still reeling from the rollercoaster of emotions. (Read the full review…)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t often do well with “weird.” Personally, I prefer stories that are more grounded, and books that push the metaphysical boundaries or flirt with the abstract will sometimes give me pause. Comparisons of this book to Neil Gaiman were probably the first warning bells, and the second flag was raised when I read several reviews for this book mentioning a rampaging psychopath going on a killing spree clad in a purple tutu. So, I was definitely prepared for some bizarre WTFery. Ultimately though, I think The Library at Mount Char deserves to stand on its own merits as a uniquely imagined masterpiece. If I had any designs to become a writer, I would be completely green with envy at Scott Hawkin’s incredible imagination and creativity. If you want your mind blown by fresh, never-before-seen ideas, then you’ve come to the right place. While this book did test my limits, I will say at no point did I lose interest. (Read the full review…)