Speculative Fiction: what’s your fave?

This weekend is the Speculative Fiction Festival, as directed by multi-award winning and amazingly talented Australian author Kate Forsyth at the NSW Writers’ Centre. Held over one day, this festival will bring together some of our country’s best Speculative Fiction representatives to talk plotting, development, industry and more.

For those of you who are unsure, Speculative Fiction is a blanket term for a whole host of genres including fantasy, science fiction, supernatural, utopian and dystopian, horror and alternate history stories.

In celebration of this alternate genre festival, the Aussie Owned and Read team are battling it out once more; this time, to find out whose favourite Spec Fic novel reins supreme! Read on and cast your own vote in our comments, explaining why you think it’s deserved. The best comment will win a $5AUD Amazon gift voucher and the blogger with the most votes gets to take home the all important gloating rights. Oh yes. It’s on, ladies!

northernlightsNorthern Lights, Philip Pullman

Northern Lights is the beginning of one of my favourite fantasy stories. But what makes it special is that it blends elementary particles and amazing scientific concepts with witches and armoured polar bears. If there’s a science fantasy genre, these books would be top of my recommendations list.
Speculative fiction is known for its element of world-building, and here Philip Pullman does a fantastic job. Layer upon layer of background provides a story so sure of itself that the reader has no choice but to become immersed as well. Ten stars for creativity, and eleven for imagination. This is one series you won’t forget.


Divergent, Veronica RothDivergent

I loved how Tris grew through the story. Who she was at the beginning of the book, and who she became were so far apart and I love who she became. The budding romance between Tris and Tobias was also a winner for me. It wasn’t all honey and roses. There was tension and rawness and fear.
The world building in the book was also fascinating, as well as the development of the factions. Such a clever idea.

-Susan Hocking

I Am Number Four, Pitticus Lorei am number four

I love a fast paced book with lots of action, and I also love a bit of romance. I Am Number Four, the first instalment in theLorien Legacies, did not disappoint.  The thought of an alien race hiding on earth because their home has been attacked and pretty much destroyed is intriguing. I even had the urge to look at the people around me and wonder if any of them were from Lorien. This book is so descriptive I felt as if I was there with John and Sarah, experiencing everything they were. I became completely immersed which is why I loved it so much. We all know authors have been creating aliens and monsters for a very long time, but the concept of the Lorien nine fascinated me, and the Mogadorians scared the life out of me. I also really enjoyed the different take on the alien super powers. The Legacies each of the nine have, and develop throughout the series, are way beyond cool, they’re extraordinary I wish my hands glowed in the dark; at worst I could blind would-be attackers, at best I’d never need a torch.

-K.A. Last
Delirium, Lauren OliverDelirium2
I nominate Delirium by Lauren Oliver. This dystopian series is a great example of a well executed speculative story. The concept, the world building, and the basic plot are all centred around the speculative ‘what if’ question.  What if love was illegal. What if the sexes were segregated and only allowed to mix under supervision. What if a boy and girl met and fell in love before their scheduled cure.
Love is disease. Love is feared. Love has a cure. The cure is issued to each individual on their 17th birthday. The rich world building, horrifying concept, and relatable characters make Delirum a suburb story of star crossed lovers. When Lena meets Alex, you can’t help but hold your breath until the very last page.

-Stacey Nash

Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. TolkienLOTR
I have a confession to make; I’m not much of a Spec Fic reader. Sure, I may be the one organising this post, but when it comes down to it I love the reality of life, the strength of emotion and being able to relate to the main characters in books I read; not watching them go off on some far-fetched quest to defeat all evil and have good conquer all.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised a lot of my new favourite books are spec fic; and that, in fact, the first book I probably ever fell in love with was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved this book specifically for the qualities I’m not head over heels for Spec Fic for now: I loved his escapism, I loved the idea that age didn’t matter, that good could conquer all (even in hairy-hobbited feet!) and that happiness will prevail if you work hard and believe strongly enough. His world-building is crazily thorough, his characters so steeped in dimension and history you can trace family trees back for decades and his love stories are simple and yet epic, uncomplicated by the details of sex and betrayal we often see in love stories today. In retrospect, they may seem like young ideals, but I’ve recently tried to embrace this again. Tolkien taught me that magic can happen; and if that’s not a good enough reason to list this as my favourite speculative fiction book, I don’t know what is.

-Lauren McKellar

White Cat, Holly Blackwhite cat
As a reader I loved the super rich world building. I felt immersed in this alternate history and found it all very authentic. Cassel was such a complex character and the plot had grew depth and twists.
But the story was actually recommended to me by Australian Speculative Fiction writer and my mentor, Angela Slatter. It taught me a lot about male POV and writing in present tense as well as the importance of detailed world building.

-Sharon Johnston

Dragonsong, Ann McCaffreydragonsongI chose the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. Specifically, my favourite is probably Dragonsong. I love the main character, Menolly, and how determined she was to follow her craft; I loved the fire lizards and how utterly charming they were. And reading this series was the first time I ever had a crush on a character in a book: Masterharper Robinton. There have been other literary crushes since then, but Robinton will always be my first 🙂

-Cassandra Page


The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collinshunger gMWA
I’m not a big speculative fiction reader either, but one I have read and enjoyed was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I think this is a great example of a plot that is action-packed enough to translate to the glitz and glamour of the big screen, without skimping on the love story elements. Peeta is a very likeable character and for that alone, and Liam Hemsworth in the film adaptation? I rest my case. This gets my vote.

What are your thoughts? For your chance to win a $5 Amazon book voucher, vote in the poll here then comment and let us know why you chose the book you did.

Tickets to the Speculative Fiction Festival are currently sold out, but you can find out more about the waiting list and other things by visiting the NSW Writers’ Centre website here.


  1. I’m voting for LOTR, but that was a tough one. I also love The Hunger Games, but I think all the genres that fall under Speculative Fiction owe a fair amount to LOTR, which really helped set a sort of standard when it was written to which so many other books are often compared back. Tolkien’s writing practically defines world-building – his own world was so detailed in LOTR alone, never mind the other books he has written which went into further details (such as the Silmarillion), and I am yet to read any author who can effectively build a world so well thought out and thorough, as Lauren says. The other thing that stands out for me with this book is that it’s timeless – it’ll still be read in another 100 years, without a doubt. If it wasn’t for LOTR, I doubt a lot of the books on this list would even exist. It’s a big call, but I’m standing by it.



    1. I totally agree with you, Matt! The Hunger Games was a definite close call for me, but I really think Tolkien set such a precedent. His worlds are so real and all-consuming, it’s just – wow. Plus, elevenses. Need I say more?



  2. A toss up between Divergent and The Hunger Games?? So hard!! I’ll have to pick The Hunger Games, though, because Katniss had a fabulous voice and made the narration so special, while I really did struggle with Tris in Divergent (she improved in Insurgent).



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