Nathan’s Weekly Recommendation List, this week featuring books that deserve the Bigolas Dikolas Effect.
If you have spent any time on the internet over past couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard of social-media user “Bigolas Dikolas” who tweeted about their love for This is How You Lose the Time War and caused the sapphic time-traveling novella to rocket up multiple bestseller lists. This happened years after the book’s original publication, and despite Time War quietly being an underground sci-fi favorite amongst readers.
While “Bigolas Dikolas Events” are rare, this shows that no matter how old a book is or how quietly it was launched a book can erupt in popularity at any time.
So I started thinking, what books also deserve a “Bigolas Dikolas Event”? Well, I came up with many books. So many that I couldn’t cut the list down to just five. Instead, I’ll have (at least) two parts to my List of Books That Deserve the Bigolas Dikolas Effect. My only requirement to be a part of this list is that the book has relatively few Goodreads ratings/reviews (I think everything on the list has under 2,000 with many having far fewer than that). And, with one exception, the books have to have been published at least 6 months ago.
Books That Deserve the Bigolas Dikolas Effect
The Lies of the Ajungo by Moses Ose Utomi
One of the reasons that This is How You Lose the Time War went viral was because Bigolas Dikolas emphasized that it was under 200 pages. Well, what if I offered you a fable-like book that was under 100 pages and yet was full of complex worldbuilding, well-drawn characters, and relevant political commentary? The Lies of the Ajungo takes you on a journey of epic proportions in a small number of pages, and it all starts with “There is no water in the City of Lies”. (This one was my one exception to the six months rule because it aligns so closely to Time War).
Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
Combining epic fantasy with a stunning murder mystery, Empire of Exiles was quietly published by Orbit Books at the end of 2022. I don’t know why it never blew up, but this book is an absolute hidden gem. The worldbuilding – about a continent ravaged by monsters and so everyone is pushed onto an isthmus behind a wall – is spectacular without info-dumps, the magic system is really cool and original without feeling overwhelming, and the plot moves. It has everything to be a runaway fantasy success story. The sequel comes out this fall, so jump in!
The Thirteenth Hour by Tru Skies
A steampunk world in which the gods are cruel, there are portals to other realms controlled by a giant clock, The Thirteenth Hour is both adrenaline-inducing and warmly comforting. It is gritty and exciting while also being an absolutely fun ride. It’s queer and has romance. It has action and magic and different magical species. If you liked fantasy properties like Arcane on Netflix, you’ll love this book. Skies throws so much into this book and yet it never feels overwhelming. Definitely recommend to all fantasy readers!
The Spear Cuts Through Water by Simon Jimenez
I’ve seen this one get a bit of traction in certain corners of Booktok, but it needs more. At first glance this is a fairly standard fantasy tale – it is a quest to transport a magical macguffin. And so on the surface there is something nostalgic and comforting about The Spear Cuts Through Water because it has that old-school epic fantasy feeling that you don’t see much anymore. At the core, however, this book is so much more. It has one of the most interesting narrative story-telling styles I’ve ever seen in fiction, and it is all super-queer. I know that it’s more “literary” leanings might restrict it’s potential, but if something epistolary like Time War or whatever Gideon the Ninth is (I say that affectionately) can hit it big than so can this one.
The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu
We’ve all read books with young chosen ones over and over again. But what is the chosen one prophecy was wrong? What if the young person trained and raised to be the chosen one…wasn’t? This is the central premise of The Art of Prophecy, and it brilliantly subverts so many of the genres tropes while also being a martial-arts packed action novel with super clever worldbuilding (there are so many things I had never seen in fiction before), sarcastic characters, and fun-twists on the coming of age story. How this one seemed to come and go without so few people reading it is a crime. The sequel comes out soon, so get to reading!
These were my first five picks for books that deserve the Bigolas Dikolas effect. More are coming later this week!