10 of the Greatest Debut Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels


Today marks the release of Danie Ware’s debut novel Ecko Rising , a genre-bending SF-fantasy mash-up set in a futuristic, tech-crazed London. To celebrate the release, Flavorwire asked Ware to curate a list of some of her favorite science fiction and fantasy from debut novelists. After all, she is an expert. Ware explains:

“You never realize what a minefield of explosive wonder the ‘debut novel’ question really is until you start to stretch out a foot, navigating your way to an answer. Even taking it carefully, it’s very easy to get caught off guard and find yourself suddenly stunned and staggering, deafened by an unexpected detonation. Debut novels do seem to fit into some very odd categories.

“There are those that come across as door openers –- publishing a less ambitious project first, making way for subsequent creative vision (Mieville’s King Rat). There are those that said ‘stuff the door’ and kicked it down — breaking onto the scene with their trilogy or major work (Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, among a host of others). There are those whose writing has had a huge effect on the development of the genre/s –- but whose debut novel is either something completely unexpected (Pratchett’s Carpet People) or something I haven’t actually read (my reading list got a lot longer after writing this!). And there are those whose first novel was a standalone epic heralding an author whose life has been all about their craft (George R. R. Martin’s The Dying of the Light, again, among many others).

“There are even those whose first novels are not actually counted as science fiction or fantasy at all, though they themselves went on to write reams of the stuff (David Eddings’s High Hunt).

“Trying to steer through all of this is like facing the crossroads at the centre of the Warlock of Firetop Mountain –- a world/s changing debut in its own right. So, if you like debut novels, click on the sideshow below. If you’d rather talk about anything else, turn to page…”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , Douglas Adams

As game-changers go, they don’t come bigger than this. I hope you know where your towel is, because those Vogons will be here any day.

Legend , David Gemmell

Some things really do live on. The novel that was “one long fight scene” just did heroic fantasy bigger, better, and badder-arsed. Never tire of this book!

Neuromancer , William Gibson

The Internet’s premonition, the single most influential SF novel of our time – moved the whole minefield into another reality entirely. I’d say “watch your step,” but I know you’ve read this six times as well.

Herbert West Reanimator , H.P. Lovecraft

Not sure if this technically counts as a short story – but Lovecraft’s influence on everything we have become is undeniable. Even down to the Shoggoth plush that sits on my chair.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone , J.K. Rowling

I’m not really a Rowling fan – heresy I know – but this is here because it gave magic back to children, and for that alone I’ll forgive her almost anything.

The Hobbit , J.R.R. Tolkien

Do I really need to explain this one?

The Wasp Factory , Iain Banks

Not only because it opened the door for Banks’ subsequent Culture, but because it’s completely original, staggeringly imaginative – and its sheer inhumanity was pretty damn scary.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain , Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone

I still have my copy of this. I have never – legitimately – actually beaten the Warlock… and I’m sure there’s a lesson in that somewhere.

High Hunt , David Eddings

I grew up reading the Belgariad, but this is stark and real, wonderful and completely non-genre. Read it if you get the chance!

Ecko Rising , Danie Ware

A sarcastic, genre-bending shock of a SF character dealing with a fantasy world… what could possibly go wrong? [Disclaimer: Ware might be a little bit biased on this one. — Ed.]