The James Patterson of science fiction

By Razib Khan | October 15, 2009 5:59 am

Is Harry Turtledove? Compare the similarity in output to Patterson. I just noticed that Glenn Reynolds received a copy of Turtledove’s second book in a quasi-alternate history series he’s been working on. Turtledove shines when he’s applying what he knows. Even if the Videssos cycle wasn’t artful prose, the books had plots which moved along, while his historical, Justinian, had incredible source material to work with. But a lot of his more recent production just crawls along, rather like the later books in The Wheel of Time. Additionally, I have to say that some of it definitely has an almost Terry Brooks sensibility of mixing & matching plot and character modules instead of crafting the narratives in a more organic fashion.
Note: Piers Anthony could arguably be the James Patterson of science fiction as well, but he seems to have turned himself into a totally marginal figure for those beyond the age of 11 at this point.

  • Jonathan Laden

    Could be Turtledove, could be Anthony, could be a few others. None of them hold a candle to the output of Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard and others of their ilk. Ah, the good old days.

  • Eamon

    I started both of Turtledove’s epic Alternate History series: World War and the ‘Southern Victory’ – but in the end had to give up on them for a few reasons – the bloated size of each volume, and the near total American-centrism of them. Despite there being plenty of chances to delve into the geopolitics and motivations of other nations in these books, they seem to exist only as foils to the US: I guess in order for America to triumph over all the odds that’s all that is needed.
    Eamon the Brit

  • John Grant

    At least Turtledove seems to be writing his own books, unlike Patterson, who uses ghost writers and, more recently, credited “co-authors”.
    (Note to Jonathan Laden: In fact, Asimov’s output of fiction wasn’t so enormous. It was his output of nonfiction that amazed. Similarly with Hubbard, although there you have to stretch the definition of “nonfiction” a bit.)

  • Salad Is Slaughter

    I’ve enjoyed Turtledove’s books for years because I like the basic ideas, but lately several things have really started to annoy me. Seems like he has stock phrases that appear way too often not only in a book but across books. I groan every time I see the line, “tell me that I’m wrong” because it shows up in nearly every chapter.
    He also has characters repeating the same ideas over and over and over. The stuka pilot in “Hitler’s War” was especially bad.
    His juveniles don’t seem to have these problems as much but I really think he needs to hire a good editor that is not afraid to mark up the pages.

  • bob

    Ah, I went through a Piers Anthony phase as a young boy. Naked robot girls, topless centaur women, princesses with ripped blouses, space princesses with ripped blouses — his stuff had everything! :-)
    Seriously, though, Anthony pretty much did offer everything my 12 year old brain craved – robots, wizards, spaceships, magic, rayguns … and all topped with generous amounts of jiggling breasts. All I read were the Xanth, Blue Adept and Incarnations series. The sexy naked robot girls of the scifi-fantasy Adept series I found particularly enthralling.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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