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Steve S

Oh, now this is in my wheelhouse. I've read a lot of these and have a lot more on my shelf waiting. Tolkien I reread a dozen times at least in my teens, though I don't think once since then. I liked a lot of the formula writers in my teens, but Eddings is woeful, Jordan took some interesting stuff and started writing awful books, and Martin lost me when he took about three years off between books.

I started reading Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series but found it so wildly unpleasant that I stopped partway through the first book. Amber I actually got through the entire first series (I think), but it was never a real favorite. Fritz Leiber's sword-and-sorcery series was pretty good.

On your "reread" list I've read all the Tolkien, Hitchhiker's Guide (and all its sequels), Neuromancer, Ender's Game, Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune, Lovecraft, and A Canticle for Leibowitz. I think Canticle for Leibowitz is Walter Miller.

Other SF/fantasy I liked a great deal includes anything by Alfred Bester (The Demolished Man is the best one), a lot of stuff by Philip K. Dick (The Man in the High Castle was my favorite, and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was good too), Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and Arslan (by MJ Engh, I believe).

I don't read a lot of contemporary SF/F anymore, but of what I have, Neil Gaiman's American Gods is a favorite, and Robert Sawyer is pretty good, though he does high-concept SF that reads really well on the back cover and then is just competent inside.


There is an amazing pastiche of the Orson Scott Card book in this year's Best American Short Stories. The title, all groaning aside, is "Anda's Game".


Card is weird...and the Ender series definitely goes downhill after the first two (although I much prefer "Speaker for the Dead" to "Ender's Game," but that might just be the anthro in me). The Alvin Maker stuff = cool idea, but ick writing. But I DO like a lot of the Homecoming series (especially the later ones). Again, maybe the anthro in me. But they would definitely make my shortlist.

As would Guy Gavriel Kay's "Tigana."

So happy to see the Cooper on your list. She always gets missed.

Never read the Hambly or the Morris, so maybe I'll see if those are lying around the house.

And I agree completely with Steve about the Thomas Covenant. Kind of a cool idea. But YUCK.


Steve - thanks for the Miller catch. My blogging has been so half-assed lately. Dick's great - he should go on my short list as well. I keep meaning to pick up Hyperion, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Hannah - I always thought Cooper got short-changed as she worked strongly outside the Tolkienesque conventions (as so many on the list do).

Hambly is easy to find, but stick with her earlier Darwath stuff, which is sort of unconventional world-crosser meets Lovecraft meets Nightfall meets intense realism. Dragonsbane is also interesting.

Morris will be harder to find, but he's worth it. There are still some copies of The Dragon Path (it's out of print). TDP is a collection of short stories, the form he was best at. Morris, a lifelong theosophist, has an intensely non-denominational spiritual focus to his works, and surprisingly little violence. They're pretty unique.

As to Donaldson, I read the Covenant series and his Sci-Fi series (The Real Story?). Donaldson is one of those writers who get distracted by his ideas. I mean, the idea of having a true anti-hero (a self centered rapist) is kind of interesting, but Covenant is just such an unremitting asshole it's difficult to read after a certain point. There are also a number of things that you have to kind of take for granted *within* the world to make the TC psyche work; and that I don't like. It's as though the reader keeps playing out rope to Donaldson, saying, "Well, wouldn't TC come to *this* conclusion?. . .but let's keep going a bit." Eventually you run out of rope.

That said, two passages stick in my brain - the self sacrifice of the giant in the final confrontation with Foul, and the decision not to summon Covenant so he could tend the small girl who was snakebitten. Granted, they're both very *constructed* moments of crisis, but they still pull at that small bit of principle in my heart.


Matthew loves the Amber stuff, but I always found the writing a little spare and just never could get into it.

Have you ever read John Crowley's "Little Big?" I so love that book, although it's maybe skirting the edge of the fantasy/ordinary novel division.

And, speaking of religious allegory, what about Mary Doria Russell's "The Sparrow" and "Children of God?" I know they got uber hype, but still, pretty good.


I never got into Russell, but perhaps I should look again. The Amber stuff *is* pretty spare - there's also something fundmentally grandiose about it, in a very male HS-fantasy god-like way. . .basically, I'm not into stories where the characters are manipulating reality in quite the way they do in the Amber books. It's like Matrix 1 v Matrix 2 - in 1 it's pretty damn cool that he can stop bullets by the end, while in 2, the need to keep escalating the powers so that he's fighting 100 Smiths just bores me. When the outer edge can expand infinately upward, there's no inherent tension or drama that the limitiations of the hero provide.

I haven't looked at "Little Big" - but I've only heard good things about it.


That's a shame you didn't like it.


What - no Gene Wolfe?

Donaldson's Mordant's Need books were excellent, and at just 2 volumes prove he can tell a story in under a million words.

C S Lewis always leaves me cold - I attempted reading the Narnia Series again last year, but it just strikes me as a bit too, well, trite. The film was uninspiring, as well.

I'm surprised Terry Pratchett's work travels beyond the shores of the British Isles - I love his books, but so much of it references local images and icons that I'm surprised anyone raised elsewhere could get the jist of the jokes. I hear rumours that there may be a film of one of the books released later this year.

Rik, currently re-reading Skallagrigg.


By "Williams" I assume you mean Tad?

I loved "Tailchaser's Song." Enjoyed the "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" series, though it had strong Tolkein echoes (if only in the map at the front, which looks so much like Middle Earth it's scary.) But it was looking clear that he was good at screwing up tensions and not so great at resolving them and writing those two words, "The End." Then the Otherland series, which was a great concept and populated with some fantastic characters (I bought the second book in Heathrow airport and read half of it sitting on the tarmac) but really should've been edited dramatically--say three shorter books, because by the third I knew we were just flailing around. I haven't picked up his new series.

Steve S

One section of Hyperion is so incredibly good that it makes up for the rest of the book being inconsistent.

I remembered also Jack Vance's series (The Demon Princes?) is a fun in the space opera vein.

Julie Carter

I'm glad to see Sabriel on the list. I think that book is spectacular. An old favorite of mine not mentioned is Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books.

I'm not a fan of Cooper. I am a fan of Alan Garner.

I'd recommend Chaz Brenchley's Outremer books to anyone and Marie Jakober's "The Black Chalice" for anyone who likes their fantasy in realistic historical settings, well, except for the magic parts.


scoplaw, lindholm is another name that hobb writes under.

and i wonder what you find "melodramatic" about hobb's books?

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