SFF Books That Are Hard to Track Down in North America

One might expect that, in this globalized world, noteworthy books in one region would soon attract publishers elsewhere, especially in regions that happen to share a language. Not so. In the case of the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, some books are published only in the UK, others only in the US. 

It can be frustrating to have heard of an interesting book, to want to read that book, and to find that it is available ONLY in an imported edition. Well, at least it’s available (failing a breakdown in global trade networks, and how likely is that)…but it may take longer to get the book and the book may be more expensive.

You may be wondering why I am vexed about this. Allow me to list a few books that I wanted to acquire and that were not available in North American editions, as far as I can tell.


Forests of the Night book cover

Tanith Lee’s 1989 Forests of the Night. My second favourite Lee collection (after Red as Blood, published in 1983), it contains a selection of the author’s shorter works, accompanied with epigrammatic, allusive introductions. All of Lee’s dark, gothic talents are on display in this collection, but, unless you live in the UK, obtaining a copy could be difficult. Still, what’s a life without dreams?


The Winnowing Flame trilogy book covers

A more recent series that comes to mind is Jen Williams’ The Winnowing Flame trilogy: The Ninth Rain (2017), The Bitter Twins (2018) and The Poison Song (2019). I was unfamiliar with the series (and indeed, the author) when a patron commissioned a review. However, a cursory glance at the ISFDB entry left me confident that acquiring copies would be trivial. After all, The Ninth Rain won a British Fantasy Award! Cue bitter laughter. In the end I had to import copies directly from the UK.

The Winnowing Flame is a secondary world fantasy about a realm on the precipice of disaster. The Jure’lia have staged attempted invasion after attempted invasion, but the god-touched Eborans have always managed to protect their world. The most recent invasion ended with the Eboran tree-god dead; in the following decades, the Eborans have weakened considerably and may not be able to resist another invasion. It’s up to Lady Vincenza “Vintage” de Grazon, action archaeologist, and her companions to unravel Jure’lia mysteries and so save their world from conquest.


War of the Maps book cover

Paul McAuley is another award-winning author whose work can be curiously difficult to acquire in North America. The most recent example is his engrossing War of the Maps (2020), which is set billions of years in the future, on a vast structure that surrounds the burned-out remnants of our sun. The godlike beings who created this magnificent artifact are gone but their works survive. Unfortunately for the mortals, so too do some of the godlike tools—tools that are just the sort of thing an ambitious evil genius might exploit. The lucidor is determined to protect his world from just such a genius. To do so he must first find his quarry, somewhere on a disunited world many times the size of Earth.


Comet Weather book cover

Liz Williams’ 2020 Comet Weather. For the rest of the world, the approach of Lerninsky’s Comet is merely an interesting astronomical oddity. The Fallow sisters live in a world where ghosts can be familiar companions, where the celestial stars can manifest as beautiful women, where otherworldly realms are just around the corner. A year earlier, their mother Alys vanished. It was a mystery the sisters never solved. Now they face another problem: can they figure out what’s happening in time to save the world?


The Doors of Eden book cover

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s 2020 The Doors of Eden (winner of an Arthur C. Clarke award) begins with an innocent monster hunt on Bodmin Moor. Two girls went out; one returned. Four years later, the missing girl reappears, just in time to save a brilliant researcher from a gang of racists. Where has the missing girl been? What followed her home? And why does this researcher, and her esoteric theory, matter so much? Theoretical physics becomes immediate reality in this multiverse thriller.


* * *

No doubt you too are aware of intriguing works that have yet to find a publisher on this side of the pond. Feel free to mention them in comments…

In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennial Darwin Award nominee James Davis Nicoll is of “questionable notability.” His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites, James Nicoll Reviews and Young People Read Old SFF (where he is assisted by editor Karen Lofstrom and web person Adrienne L. Travis). He was a finalist for the 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.



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