Best Literary Debuts of the Last Thirty Plus Years

A Listmania! list by John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
The list author says: "This is a terse, most eclectic, list of novels I have read that I found especially memorable as literary debuts. These are ranked in order with William Gibson's debut novel as the finest of our time."
Neuromancer
1.  Neuromancer by William Gibson
The list author says:
  "Published appropriately in 1984, William Gibson's exhilirating literary debut is elegant and electrifying prose run amok as the quintessential novel defining the cyberpunk literary movement. Critc and author Lev Grossman regards this as the most important novel of our time."
Used & New from: $8.43
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (918 customer reviews) | 2 customer discussions

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The Windup Girl
2.  The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
The list author says:
  "A vivid, compelling, and quite realistic, dystopian future depicted in Paolo Bacigalupi's Hugo and Nebula Award-winning literary debut; among the finest novels published in 2009."
$9.03   Used & New from: $2.50
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (616 customer reviews) | 3 customer discussions

Fool on the Hill: A Novel
3.  Fool on the Hill: A Novel by Matt Ruff
The list author says:
  "Fellow Stuyvesant High School (and Frank McCourt creative writing course) alumnus's memorable sword and sorcery fantasy set on the campus of his undergraduate alma mater, Cornell University, marking the debut of one of the most distinctive literary voices of my generation."
$12.38   Used & New from: $0.01
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)

The Sparrow: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
4.  The Sparrow: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) by Mary Doria Russell
The list author says:
  "An emotionally gripping first-contact space opera science fiction novel about the lone Jesuit survivor of a disastrous first contact mission to the remote Alpha Centauri world of Rakhat is both a great novel of ideas as well as of classic space opera science fiction."
$10.90   Used & New from: $0.01
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (786 customer reviews)

The Gone-Away World (Vintage Contemporaries)
5.  The Gone-Away World (Vintage Contemporaries) by Nick Harkaway
The list author says:
  "Nick Harkaway's bold, brash, near future dystopian alternate history SF novel is late China Mieville ("The City and The City", "Kraken") and Neal Stephenson ("Snow Crash") all rolled up into one. Enjoy the ride, you'll be glad you did."
$12.81   Used & New from: $1.10
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

The Night Circus
6.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The list author says:
  "A hauntingly poetic, often riveting, blend of historical fiction and fantasy that is one of the 21st Century's finest debut novels."
$10.21   Used & New from: $1.23
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4,340 customer reviews)

Memory of Water: A Novel
7.  Memory of Water: A Novel by Emmi Itäranta
The list author says:
  "Emmi Itäranta's debut novel reads like a far future mix of George Orwell's "1984" and Ursula Le Guin's "Hainish" novels. One of the most poetic, and powerful, fictional depictions of a rebel trying to survive as she opposes the totalitarian dictatorship that rules most of Earth."
$11.68   Used & New from: $3.07
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Girl at War: A Novel
8.  Girl at War: A Novel by Sara Novic
The list author says:
  "A beautifully written, compellingly memorable and also difficult to read account of the Croatian civil war as seen through the eyes of a young Croatian girl who still relives the horrors she witnessed in her dreams as a young woman residing in New York City and New Jersey. It warrants recognition as one of the finest debut novels of our time."
$19.26
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

The Song of Achilles: A Novel
9.  The Song of Achilles: A Novel by Madeline Miller
The list author says:
  "An award-winning, exquisitely written, re-imaging of Homer's "The Iliad" as seen through the eyes of Achilles' best friend Patroclus inspired by Ursula K. LeGuin's fantasy writing."
$11.66   Used & New from: $6.07
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (768 customer reviews)

The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty)
10.  The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty) by Ken Liu
The list author says:
  "Quite possibly the best debut epic fantasy novel I have ever read, and certainly the one that is notable for its political philosophical ambitions."
$20.51
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

The Virgin Suicides: A Novel
11.  The Virgin Suicides: A Novel by Jeffrey Eugenides
The list author says:
  "Fellow Brunonian Jeffrey Eugenides's mesmerizing, and wickedly macabre, portrait of dysfunctional surburban life as seen from the perspective of several weird sisters."
$9.49   Used & New from: $2.47
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (599 customer reviews) | 1 customer discussion

Gun, with Occasional Music (Harvest Book)
12.  Gun, with Occasional Music (Harvest Book) by Jonathan Lethem
The list author says:
  "Jonathan Lethem's funny cyberpunkish homage to Philip K. Dick that remains among his finest novels."
Used & New from: $2.46
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)

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King Rat
13.  King Rat by China Miéville
The list author says:
  "China Mieville's first novel is a riveting blend of fantasy and horror which foreshadows his great work in his "New Crubozon" trilogy ("Perdido Street Station", "The Scar", "Iron Council"), "The City and The City" and "Embassytown"."
$14.34   Used & New from: $0.01
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

Moxyland
14.  Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
The list author says:
  "An impressive, fast-paced, near future dystopian cyberpunk SF novel from South African writer Lauren Beukes that echoes early William Gibson, Pat Cadigan and John Shirley in its gritty realism and rapid-fire prose. A notable debut acclaimed by William Gibson and Charles Stross."
$13.43   Used & New from: $5.95
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

Prague: A Novel
15.  Prague: A Novel by Arthur Phillips
The list author says:
  "Arthur Phillips' compelling literary debut marking the advent of one of the finest American writers of my generation."
$11.79   Used & New from: $0.01
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)

The Dog Stars (Vintage Contemporaries)
16.  The Dog Stars (Vintage Contemporaries) by Peter Heller
The list author says:
  "Peter Heller's debut novel is the best recently published near future dystopian SF novel by a mainstream literary fiction writer I have read; it is far more compelling a read than Cormac McCarthy's "The Road"."
$9.88   Used & New from: $1.82
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,314 customer reviews)

High as the Horses' Bridles: A Novel
17.  High as the Horses' Bridles: A Novel by Scott Cheshire
The list author says:
  "Quite possibly the best debut mainstream fiction novel published in 2014, Cheshire's novel brilliantly shows a former Fundamentalist Protestant Christian from Queens trying to find himself after one memorable moment as a child preacher. Cheshire is both a superb prose stylist and storyteller. One of the finest New York City-centric novels published in recent years."
$19.25   Used & New from: $3.30
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)

Spaceman Blues: A Love Song
18.  Spaceman Blues: A Love Song by Brian Francis Slattery
The list author says:
  "Brian Francis Slattery's memorable post-apocalpytic novel set in a near future Brooklyn that's an amazing mashup of China Mieville, Thomas Pynchon, Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem and Gary Shteyngart."
$15.31   Used & New from: $0.01
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

The Adults: A Novel
19.  The Adults: A Novel by Alison Espach
The list author says:
  "Alison Espach's witty and occasionally humorous look at the trials and tribulations of a young girl's path toward adulthood, is also a fine fictional look at dysfunctional suburban life that compares favorably with Rick Moody's "The Ice Storm" and "Purple America"."
Used & New from: $0.01
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Open City: A Novel
20.  Open City: A Novel by Teju Cole
The list author says:
  "Art historian and photographer Teju Cole's astonishingly mature literary debut which earned ample praise as one of the finest novels of 2011."
$11.31   Used & New from: $3.13
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (125 customer reviews)

Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel
21.  Ten Thousand Saints: A Novel by Eleanor Henderson
The list author says:
  "Eleanor Henderson's bold, brash, novel chronicling life in late 1980s East Village (New York, NY) which earned praise as among the best new novels published in 2011."
$20.04   Used & New from: $0.01
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

The Girl in the Road: A Novel
22.  The Girl in the Road: A Novel by Monica Byrne
The list author says:
  "A woman and a girl decades apart deal with the consequences of a near future Earth adversely affected by global warming in India and sub-Saharan Africa. Compellingly told by science writer and playwright Monica Byrne via elegant, simple and poetic, prose, the novel has garnered praise from Neil Gaiman and Kim Stanley Robinson."
$19.31   Used & New from: $0.07
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

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Author

John Kwok (New York, NY USA)
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
Qualifications: Opinionated Amazon reviewer, unpublished SF novelist
Last updated: 3/28/15
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