Kindle Unlimited is the seedy underbelly of Amazon Kindle offerings, filled with 2nd tier books, scams and trash. But there are also some great books I’d never have read otherwise. And even the books that aren’t perfect can be a fresh perspective over mass market books.
Hard(ish) Sci-Fi / Space Opera
The Privateer Tales by Jamie McFarlane. This series staring three teenagers who foil a pirate attack on their asteroid mining colony and capture a pirate cutter is filled with common sci-fi tropes, but it has the adventure of a Heinlein juvenile with more respect for women and without the heavy handed politics. It’s heroic fiction rather than hard military sci-fi, but the author gives it a plausible military edge at times.
The first book, Rookie Privateer, is actually completely free on Kindle, no subscription needed. The subsequent books are all included in Kindle Unlimited. I’m not sure if this is quite different or edgy enough for @jlw, but it was good enough that I read the whole series.
This is solid urban fantasy staring a tough female lead. Pretty standard pan-supernatural setting with vampires, werewolves, witches and some others. I like the protagonist and the writing and consider the books on par or better than many I’ve read in the genre by popular mass market authors. Olson is a smart writer and it shows.
The Celia Winters series starting with Witch’s Moon by D. L. Harrison.
Witch’s moon is a bit more 2nd tier, lacking the detailed world building, full novel length and copy editing of mass market urban fantasy, yet I enjoyed it a lot. This Harrison’s best series.
Sara King’s Outer Bounds series is well worth a read. Ada King by E.M. Faulds is very good as well. I’ve also enjoyed the Isaac’s Story series by C.L. Walker. Oh, and the Life Is A Beautiful Thing by Harmon Cooper. Demented, Burroughs-tinged cyberpunk. I could go on. There’s loads of good SF on Kindle Unlimited once you get good at filtering out the dross.
Ooh, nearly forgot; Proxy by Chad J Shonk.
I’ll check that out. I’ve read some of Kings works, and the writing can be quite good, but the subject matter disturbing. Her “Forging Zero” makes Ender’s Game seem like puppies and rainbows.
Let me add Connie Suttle to the list of good writers on KU. She’s a good genre fiction writer with a fatal flaw, she can’t stick to a genre. I read the first books in her Blood Destiny Urban Fantasy series and thought, “This is great! Why haven’t I heard of Connie Suttle before?” A book or two later I found out, “Wait, WTF? Why are there space aliens in this book?”
Suttle does this with pretty much all her series, which are pretty good right up until she tosses in her genre gulash into the mix. It’s not a fun “Wow, what a cool mash up” kind of mix but more of a “What the eff is going on here” sort of thing. Still, the books are really good until she runs out of ideas and tosses in her usual response to the series.
The Privateer Tales book 1 is on my kindle – but it has been for a few months. That Timothy Ellis series kinda filled that need for now.
I’m a huge fan of Unlimited and think the best stuff I’ve been reading the last few years has been indie published stuff, which Unlimited is full of.
Unlimited’s big publisher offerings are 90% stuff I would never read. 10% is pretty great tho.
I’ll say I feel like I net out very positive on $10/mo Unlimited vs buying books, regardless the very useful discovery engine. If not for Kindle Unlimited you’d probably see more reviews of classic scifi from used bookstores. ‘Jason buys the 5th copy of all the books he loves as a kid’ is fun for me, but I think folks like new stuff… especially stuff that isn’t on display in a bookstore.
That reminds me. I read Steeplejack, a YA book you suggested, IIRC. It held my interest, but I would have loved more world building and detail on steeplejacking. The few tidbits in the beginning about steeplejacking mention that steeple jacks had to chisel out holes in chimney brickwork and attach ladders every time they work on a chimney. That piqued my interest in the details of how it worked, which are even more interesting than the book. A quick search on YouTube reveals a wealth of videos featuring Fred Dibnah, and techniques of steeplejacks from the late 1800’s.
The precarious technique of “laddering” a chimney, attaching the ladders by pounding a piton called a “dog” into a piece of wood loosly stuck in a hole in the bricks, is covered in detail. It’s time-tested, yet dodgy looking stuff that is fascinating to me:
It’s strangely discordant to watch Fred Dibnah and his partner laboriously haul ladders up the side of a chimney and attach them with with thin, loosely tied rope and all too few iron pitons, while a film crew effortlessly keeps up with them, filming from a handy cherry picker basket.
When last I checked, most of the works of Arthur C. Clarke were available on Kindle Unlimited. I haven’t checked lately, though; I dropped my subscription when I discovered that Amazon’s definition of “unlimited” uses the modern corporate definition of that word.
Doh! I should have actually Googled if I was unsure enough to put “IIRC.” Apologies. It was just offbeat enough for me to think you might have suggested it. I still think the steeplejacking is interesting, though.
Let me add Zachary Rawlins to the mix. I liked the Academy when it came out. It was one of the first indy books I read on Kindle - it was either free or very cheap a the time, and is now on Kindle Unlimited. I was impressed by how much better it was than many of the mainstream publisher fantasy/sci-fi books I had read that cost way more.
I’ll also add the Demon’s Apprentice series by Ben Reeder. A surprisingly good supernatural YA, featuring Chance Fortunato, a boy who manages to escape forced servitude at the hands of the demon his father betrayed him to, but only after years of horrific abuse. The series is much less dark than it has any right to be, and even though I usually find books that have demons in them to be hoaky, this series pulls off the concept well. Fortunato is a literally damaged bad boy, but not necessarily a bad bad boy. Anyway, the series is included in KU and I’ve liked the series through the latest book.
And Emperor’s Edge by Lindsey Buroker. She’s a fine independent author who publishes on multiple platforms. She writes fantasy, steampunk and sci-fi, though I’m less enamored by her latest sci-fi than of her earlier works. The Emporer’s Edge is fantasy that is completely free on Kindle. No subscription required. It’s the first of a series, so it’s one of those “first taste is free” offers, and a great deal. I enjoyed the series, though my interest in the later books waned a bit.