Books that twist sideways

From 8 Puzzle Box Books With Surprising Twists and Turns

Now, nothing is going to beat And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst. But sure, lay it on me: what SFF books are you thinking about that suddenly tilt the reader off the expected path?

The Magus by John Fowles

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Of these I have read only the last book. When I saw this title, I immediately said ????? because this book does not contain anything that remotely resembles a shocking plot twist. Does it? Should I doubt my memory on this point? What does the author of this post say?

The Road is not a puzzle box book. It has no place on this list. It’s a terrifying dystopic journey, a post-apocalyptic trek of father and son, seemingly the last two good people in a world of char, ash, and soot in various forms

Oh, we have some other metaphorical kind of puzzle or plot twist! Well, that’s cheating, sorry. Having read the author’s explanation for including The Road, nope, still cheating. Click through and read the whole post if you wish, but in the meantime, what are some books that actually no kidding jerk the reader sideways into a plot twist?

Other than And All the Stars?

Well, here’s one:

Here’s part of the description:

In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. 

The truth isn’t as shocking as the plot twist in And All the Stars, but it’s an effectively creepy story. It worked for me, anyway.

Let me see, what’s another example . . . oh, here’s one, solidly SFF rather than horror.

Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling pre-nuke videos from the world before. … But the hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen—the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after.

But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind….

What’s a really startling plot twist you can think of?

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10 thoughts on “Books that twist sideways”

  1. Whatever happened to Will Shetterly and Emma Bull? I don’t think they’re dead but I can’t remember the last new novel I saw from them. Did they retire?

  2. The thief, by Megan Whalen Turner, is the one I thought of right after And all the stars.
    That one, I immediately turned back to the beginning and read the whole book again, to savor the difference after the revelation at the end.

  3. Not SFF, but Tiffany Jackson is amazing at pulling off twists that maybe shouldn’t work, but do.

    Also not SFF: Code Name Verity. :)

    Of course The Thief, and even in the later books there’s generally a twist even if the readers are in on part of it.

    Rosemary Kirstein, maybe?

    Oooh, also maybe The Raven Tower!

    I have a feeling that there are a couple of others that I should be thinking of but have forgotten at the moment.

  4. Oh, really great suggestions!

    I ought to have thought of The Thief — and I agree, MWT pulls off quite a twist in The Queen of Attolia too. Yes, she really does a pretty nice twist in all of them now that I think about it.

    I also re-read And All the Stars immediately to enjoy the way the story unfolded when you know what’s coming up.

    Maureen, yes, Code Name Verity! Wow, that is an incredible twist, and I don’t think anyone is going to see it coming.

  5. The twistiest story I can think of comes from a manga, Pandora Hearts . You think you know what’s going on and it pulls the rug out from under you, multiple times. But it all hangs together in the end, except for not sticking the ending (imo). Structurally the ending works, characterwise it doesn’t.

  6. I don’t think I’ll ever find another book that demands multiple re-reads to get everything straight as Diana Wynne Jones’s Hexwood. When dealing with a reality-manipulating machine, EVERYTHING is suspect—and yet it all comes together by the end, although it almost demands I read it twice since then I want to spot where the various manipulations are popping up.

  7. Ooh, ooh, Megan’s comment made me think of another one! SFF/Thriller.

    Patrick Lee’s The Breach and sequels. WOW, talk about TWISTS. And then you really do have to re-read to figure out what was real and what wasn’t and oh my God when did reality stop being real? The moment when the unreal things get revealed are huge unmissable shocks, but then you have to re-read to figure out and appreciate how you got to those shocking moments.

    Great trilogy. I mean, I don’t know that I entirely suspended disbelief all the way plus there are a couple moments when I rolled my eyes (Oh, the woman has to be rescued AGAIN because of course she does), but basically a fantastic thrill-ride of a trilogy.

  8. I read the original version of The Magus a looooong time ago; it was my first “serious” book and the twists and turns kept me enthralled. I was an avid fan until he published an “updated” version, meaning with more explicit sex to compete with the racier books at the time. Totally lost my respect for him. Robin Hobbs’ Assassin and Liveship series also had major twists.

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