Elizabeth Bear: A Shining Light in the Genre

Today my author-love series continues with a post about why I think Elizabeth Bear is amazing, and why you should read her books (and love them). This series will take place every Monday (unless I forget or run out of people to talk about).

I read my first Elizabeth Bear book a few years ago, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, I kind of think it should be a criminal offense that I didn’t read her sooner. She’s an incredible author. Her first book put her firmly on my top-ten favorite authors list.

The thing about Elizabeth Bear is that you can’t really define her, or box and label her. She defies definition and she overpowers any boxes you might want to place her in. Her writing is just different, and because of that, I find her fascinating on so many levels. Her writing is interesting, but it is also intellectual. Whatever you expect her to do, she’ll end up doing something else. She keeps readers guessing. What’s not to love about that?

All the Windwracked Stars was my first Elizabeth Bear book. I didn’t expect to like it, but I ended up loving it. This book showed me that Bear isn’t afraid to take blend genres, or set her stories in atypical worlds. I have to admit that her ability to take a turn from the typical is one of the reasons I enjoy her so much. Speculative Fiction doesn’t just need to be about European-esque politics or interstellar travel. Bear proves in each of her books that SFF can be something more than that, and her works are more powerful for it.

Elizabeth Bear has a way of infusing her writing with emotion and all the things that make us human. Her books are emotional and visceral, and perhaps because of that and the absolutely human characters she writes about, readers can’t help but feel drawn into her stories, and kin to her characters. She isn’t writing about strange people in foreign lands, she’s writing about each of us. It’s hard not to become personally invested in literature powered by deep emotions and human experiences. Her characters shine, and the emotional impact draws readers in and appeals to them in a very intimate fashion.

Despite her unique settings and her characters that are more real than real, the thing I love most about Elizabeth Bear is her depth. Nothing she writes is surface level. Her landscapes take some time to think about and conceptualize. Her characters take some getting used to and her plots are layered and often take most of the book to unfold before readers understand exactly what they are about. Maybe this turns some people off, but for those of us who enjoy puzzles and mysteries, it’s perfect. Her depth is beyond plot, though. Her stories are about human struggles. Her unique worlds bring the similarities between her character’s plights and our own into sharp focus. She writes about more than foreign people and foreign worlds, she writes about all of us. Her books make me think and see things differently.

There’s something to be said for an author that doesn’t reveal all of her secrets right away. Elizabeth Bear makes you work for it, and I love that about her. Nothing is on the surface, and readers need to strive to understand just what exactly she’s working around, what the center of her plot whirlwind is all about. That effort on the reader’s part just make it all so much sweeter. By the time I understand what is going on, and how all the pieces in her game are moving, I’m so invested that I feel like I’ve figured out some huge life secret on my own. In all honesty, I’m completely in awe of the mind that Elizabeth Bear is working with. It isn’t often that I run into an author that both entertains me, and makes me think so deeply at the same time.

And the icing on all of that delicious cake? Her writing is vivid, flowing, evocative, and immersive. Under her master wordsmith hand everything always seems to come together almost effortlessly, and the wait readers endure for everything to make sense, that ‘Ah ha’ moment that always appears somewhere in her books, is so worth waiting for. You can’t help but love the wait for that delicious moment because Elizabeth Bear makes that wait so much fun. She works her way into your psyche and leaves you permanently changed. No matter who you started out as when you crack open an Elizabeth Bear book, you don’t end as that same person. Your world will look a little different. You’ll think about your life in a new way. You’ll miss her characters like you’d miss a dear friend that moved away. Her books just work and they work on a level that so many books I read don’t.

Elizabeth Bear. She redefines the genre. She’s powerful and deep. SFF is a better genre for having her in it.

8 Responses

  • I was on board the Bear train early (actually before she starting publishing novels). I think she is moving from strength to strength, and getting better and better.

    • She’s one of those authors that always seems to surprise me. I agree with you. I think she’s getting better and better. I expect her next book to knock me off my feet.

  • She is definitely on my radar, though I’ve yet to properly pick up one of her books. Sounds like I need to be bumping her up on the must-read list! 😉

    • Start out with her newer series, it starts with RANGE OF GHOSTS.

      I hope you like her!

  • Totally agreed on all counts. I’d also add that Bear is a great mentor and teacher, and was extremely kind to me when I was just starting out. She’s one of the first pro writers I got to know, and she continues to show me great kindness whenever we cross paths. I hope a day will come when I can return the favor.

  • I absolutely love Elizabeth bear. Her Eternal Sky series in particular has some of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I can’t wait for the last book to come out!

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