I've got to admit, the first coherent question that came to my mind after first reading the title of this thread was "Books??"
When it comes to my favorites, I can't recommend Jasper Fforde's work enough. Most of his stuff is so unique that it's practically unclassifiable as a genre. The Thursday Next series contains alternate universes, time travel, vampires, werewolves, extinct species brought back to life and an entire world within the realm of fiction. As I've mentioned before, his series was also one of the prime inspirations for my game, Adventure: The Inside Job.
The Nursery Crime series is similar to the TN series in some ways, but also has its own unique flavor and charm. At it's core, it's a detective/mystery series, but the many genre-defying tendencies of the story (a detective who isn't
an alcoholic loner, but a man with a happy marriage and several kids!?) make it a unique experience. Characters from poems, nursery rhymes, mythology and fairy tales coexist with real life characters in present-day England*, and as the series' title suggests, some of them become entangled in some peculiar and horrific crimes.
As for other authors, Robert Sheckley has become one of my favorite authors of classic science fiction (stuff from the 50's to the 70's). His short stories are witty, insightful, humorous, dark at times, and have some killer twist endings (sometimes both literally and figuratively). The aliens and robots he writes about aren't just humans with green skin or metal bodies -- they truly are completely different creatures. For instance, one of his short stories ("Warrior Race") tells of a culture whose concept of warfare is killing not the enemy, but themselves
. This may sound ridiculous, but as it turns out, for the humans that come to this race's world, the sight of these people slaughtering themselves is so horrifying that they are forced to retreat in order to stop the bloodshed.
Alas, most of Sheckley's stories are out of print these days, but most of his best short stories are collected in Masque of Mañana
. There is also a collection of his novels, but his novels have never really entranced me the way his short stories have. Even Dimension of Miracles
, the book which was said to have inspired Douglas Adams' The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
, felt a bit lacking to me (of course, maybe I'm a bit biased, having been exposed to H2G2 years before I even heard of Sheckley).
Like many early science fiction authors, lot of Sheckley's early stories have been eerily prophetic as well. Read The Prize of Peril
(which was written more than sixty years ago) and tell me if you don't feel a few chills.
Another science fiction author I've found a few good stories by is Clifford D. Simak. The best novel from him that I've read so far is The Goblin Reservation
, but sadly, I've failed to find any that have the same spark that this story did. It's a bit like the Thursday Next series, only with the addition of aliens. I actually thought the story would make a good adventure game, and I was psyched when I found that someone on the AGS forums had the same idea.
*It's a little like a modern-day King's Quest in that respect.