Where to start reading grimdark, no matter the genre you prefer

Last Updated on November 26, 2022

Depending on where you get your data from, there are up to four million books published every year. Let that sink in. Four fucking million. Add to that there are so many opinions on what sits in what genre that just getting started reading grimdark and dark SFF must seem like that episode in Squid Game where you have to jump onto one of two tiles and you have a 50/50 shot at falling 30 metres onto concrete, or living to jump onto the next pair of tiles. Everyone is shouting “read my book!” or “read this book!” and with really cool covers on just about everything these days, I can see why it’s almost impossible to know what you’re going to enjoy reading.

This is why you’ve come to Grimdark Magazine, home of the most trustworthy and non-betraying or treacherous people and characters in genre fiction who definitely won’t ever steer you astray!

Now that I’ve had my fun with the preamble, let’s get to the point. THIS, friends, is a listicle of listicles. Yes, we’ve hit peak listicle, and we’re doing it so that you can pick a genre / sub genre and get an instant list of recommendations for dark and grimdark SFF in those genres / subgenres that our team loved.

Grimdark / dark fantasy

Our bread and butter. The fiction that is the reason that Grimdark Magazine was started in the first place. Where Glotka tortures you, Cersei makes you like and respect the unlovable, and Jorg gives you a really good look into the darkness.

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Cyberpunk and SF

The ugly older brother of grimdark / dark fantasy. He’s mean, he’s got a bad attitude, and he smells of cigarettes and cheap booze. He also firmly believes humankind is being crushed by powerful government overlords, but one spark of human spirit can spark a revolution, or a horrible war that kills a lot of people. Either way, it’s going to be a ride.

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Military science fantasy

For me, there is no better military science fantasy series out there than the Warhammer 40k universe. You could probably never read another non-40k book in your entire life, and you’d still struggle to finish them all. But, getting started in such a vast and well established universe can be daunting, so let me guide you through the best starting points so that you can get into the universe without getting overwhelmed.

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If cyberpunk is grimdark’s dodgy older brother, then horror is that other sibling that dresses in black and was born with an intense thousand-yard stare that your uncle had a quiet chat with your mum about last Christmas. Now, because horror translates to a lot of mediums better than some of the other genres in this list, I’ve included video games and movies in this section.

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Characters that bridge the gap between monster and human, vampires are one of the most awesome, notorious, and interesting dark characters out there. Whether they be suave and classy, or rabid and mentally unhinged, or anything in between, vampires will forever be characters that grimdark fans want to read about. I’m actually a little shocked we only have one article on the topic!

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Historical fiction

It’s often said that no fiction can be as grimdark as actual human history. A quick look through our species’ history probably won’t disabuse you of that notion. And while historical fiction lacks the SFF elements we love, it’s still brutal AF and we love it.

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Free reads

Let’s face it, most of GdM’s readership live in societies where you can’t turn left without getting charged $1.99 for the privilege. Sometimes, either because we’re a bit skint or we just don’t want to get the wallet out AGAIN, it’s nice to get a really good quality read for free. Here’s how you can do that without resorting to stealing (and yes, downloading ebooks from pirate sites is stealing).

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.

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