For Better or Worse: Science Fiction & Horror Books That Surprised Us

A banner with the words The Top Ten Tuesday List on it.This Top Ten Tuesday we’re looking at the books that surprised us (in both good and bad ways). These aren’t random grabs, but instead are ones that we heard lots of good (or bad) things about, and decided to check out for ourselves. Sometimes it worked out unexpectedly well. Sometimes we wanted to put our fist through a wall. Ya win some, ya lose some, eh? See our list of surprising science fiction and horror books below.

Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you courtesy of Broke and Bookish.

Links lead to Goodreads.


For Better or Worse: Science Fiction & Horror Books That Surprised Us


1.) Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. Given my previous experience with the man (Slaughterhouse Five) to say my expectations were low for Sirens of Titan would be a bit of an understatement.  However, Vonnegut managed to make me snicker more than once and sit thoughtfully for a moment after I finished it. For that reason, I rated Sirens of Titan 3/5. And if you’re wondering why only 3/5, it’s because the man’s a douche who put a line in his book where a woman thanked a man for raping her. So, yeah. Moderately entertaining writer at times, but still never willingly reading him again. / BETTERBook cover for A Princess of Mars

2.) Tales from the Midnight Shift by Mark Allan Gunnells. I read The Quarry by the same author and loved it. When I saw the ‘Tales from the Midnight Shift’ anthology I thought I would love it but, no, not quite. The stories were just meh and didn’t seem as well-written as The Quarry. Also, from the title, I kind of expected them to be midnight shift, job-related stories but I think there was only one like that. /WORSE

3.) Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was expecting stuffy, staid attempts at adventure. What I got was loads better. Though there are definitely problems with Princess of Mars, I found it an easy going fluffy read that left me grinning when I was done with it.  / BETTER

4.) Just Plain Weird by Tom Upton. I didn’t go into this story with any real expectations beyond a good story. I just did not enjoy it. The female character was supremely annoying. I think the author was going for cute and quirky but veered off into annoying and a bit psychotic. The story had way too many convenient deus ex machinas to it with no real explanations. /WORSEBook cover for Tales from the Midnight Shift

5.) Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke. Okay, so this one definitely came out of left field for me. Clarke’s writing can be absolutely fantastic, but it is rarely funny. So, I wasn’t expecting much when I picked up Tales from the White Hart. Figured I needed to give it a go, though. And it was in turns absolutely hilarious. /BETTER

6.) Redshirts by John Scalzi. This book managed to exceed my expectations and disappoint me utterly all in one book. But ultimately, perhaps because it ended on a disappointing note, I have to file this one under /WORSE

7.) Carnacki, the Ghost Finder by William Hope HodgsonI bought this as a random free one and at first I didn’t think I’d like the writing style. The stories are told as though they’re being told directly to the narrator so in a way it’s like he’s talking right to the reader. It took a little getting used to but I ended up liking them a lot. I was bummed there weren’t anymore. /BETTER

8.) Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds. Apparently, Alastair Reynolds is fantastic with hard science fiction, and Pushing Ice is considered one of his best books to start on. I hate this book. I hate this book so much that I’m putting it on this list and I’m technically not even done with it. Not what I was expecting from a man as lauded as Reynolds is. /WORSE

9.) The Spirit Chaser by Kat Mayor. When I first got it to read (through this site but before I became a part of it) I initially didn’t see the ‘Paranormal Romance’ tag so when I did notice I have to admit I wasn’t that thrilled. I ended up loving the story. I liked the interaction of the characters, some of whom surprised me into liking them. I had to create a new shelf on GR because of this book. /BETTER

10.) New Tales of the Yellow Sign by Robin Laws. As much as I love the stories of  Robert W. Chambers ( at least his horror stories) it can sometimes be that books that expand on an idea or world can be better than the source material. While I wouldn’t say this surpasses it exactly, I went into it not expecting to like it much. I thought it wouldn’t do the source material justice. That it certainly does and the stories aren’t so interconnected that a reader who has never read the originals can still enjoy them. /BETTER



What about you? What books would make your For Better or Worse listing for Top Ten Tuesday? Feel free to link (or just tell us) in the comments below!

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10 Responses to For Better or Worse: Science Fiction & Horror Books That Surprised Us

  1. 2 that came to mind immediately, the Martian – I thought no way could it be that good, but it blew me away, so funny and smart. The other was world war z. I am not. A zombie fan but this was so well done in such an unexpected manner…

    • gplus-profile-pictureLilyn G says:

      I had zero expectations going into The Martian. I just got it because the Mythbuster guy recommended it. I still regularly put it on at night to listen to!

      World War Z was great too!

  2. Katy says:

    I’ve not heard of most of these but they sound interesting. I’m really curious about The Spirit Chaser even though I’m not normally a fan of paranormal romance either. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single one of these, haha. Guess I need to check them out 🙂

  4. I’ve read various Vonnegut books for classes, and liked some more than others.

  5. imyril says:

    Having read your comment on Vonnegut, I’m taking him off my list of classic SF writers I’d give another try to (I didn’t mind Slaughterhouse-Five). Zero tolerance for ‘thank you for raping me’. WTAF. Hang on, let me suppress the rant about ‘I don’t care if it was the 50s.’…

    …I’m also disappointed to see your comments on Pushing Ice. I’ve not read any Reynolds yet and had likewise heard Good Things, but this isn’t encouraging 🙂 I’ve got a copy of Blue Remembered Earth, so I’ll let you know how I get on with that!

    • gplus-profile-pictureLilyn G says:

      Yeah , it was ridiculous. In full, what she was thanking him for was basically.. “If you hadn’t have raped me and gotten me pregnant than I never would have ended up stranded here on Titan with you.” …. Yep. Even if it was the 50s,there were still people who understood certain things were not okay! It makes you side eye those writers who use it as if it is acceptable to do..

      And yeah, I might give Reynolds one more try, but Pushing Ice just has a multitude of issues.

  6. Donna says:

    I really need to read Princess of Mars before the end of the month and my schedule is so hectic I’ll probably fail but I”m glad it was better than expected!

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