Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:55 am 
 

I'm in a private eye mood right now (flip back and forth between mystery, SF, horror, and fantasy). I generally try to find an entire series and read it start to finish, it's very interesting because you see the development of the writer as well as the character in these series.

One of my favorites is Michael Connolly's Harry Bosch series (LA detectve) and as long as this series is now there isn't a bad book in the lot, flat out the best ever, although the first 5-6 are the best written.  Robert Crais has a LA detective also, Elvis Cole, a bit more action oriented and the series gets better as it goes along. Also enjoy the CJ Box series, his detective is a park ranger named Joe Pickett, interesting locales and points of view as his terriorty is the Wyoming/Montana area. Most of the series is very good but there is one total stinker and one eh book in there, but the first 3-4 are really good.

Right now I am reading my way through two series, both are not jump starting me that much. One is Benjamin Schulz who wrote about ten books in the 80s and 90s about a Washington DC private eye named Joe Haggerty, got through the first two they are very general but the next two books in  he series won the Shamus awards for those years (Shamus award is for the best Private Eye novel of the year) so I'm hoping the writing gets better. Also getting through the George Chesboro "Mongo" series, Mongo is one of the most unusual detectives in fiction in that he's a dwarf who is also a doctor of psychology, a black belt in karate, and a private eye.  Oh and he used to work in the circus...and his stories always seem to have a supernatural/psychic bent. Not enjoying them much but they read quick, a little too far fetched, sort of like a detective novel crossed with Fringe or X-Files.

For classic private eye stuff I can recommend a couple of series. Howard Browne wrote one of the hands down best PI series of all time in the 50s, all four books have been reprinted. His PI is Paul Pine and he's the stereotypical Sam Spade type, except the stories are incredibly well plotted and well written and all four have a twist ending you won't see coming. Browne wrote hundreds of TV shows in the 60s and 70s after giving up novels and he's a helluva writer, he also wrote one of the best missing person/suspense novels of all time, "Thin Air".  Paul Pine books are Halo in Brass, Halo in Blood, Halo for Satan and The Taste of Ashes.  They aren't hard to find and if you have never read a "real" private eye novel from the time period that made them famous (40s-50s) you can't go wrong with these.  And of course if you haven't read the entire Raymond Chandler output of Philip Marlowe tales you haven't really ever read a "true"detective story. Forget the movies, the books are the real thing, and Chandler wrote like a dream.  There are only really five books to care about as the later couple are pretty bad as he kind of ran out of ideas. When you read them you realize he is NOT your typical pulp writer and instead is a poet of the world trying to fit his life's philosophy around the doings of the prototypical everyman PI, Marlowe.  Some of his stuff will resonate with you forever it is so well written, heartbreakingly sad and depressing (at how low the human being can go and how much pain the soul can take), and a great portrait of life in California in the 40s.

And of course have to throw Mickey Spillane in there. I actually had never read a Spillane novel because I heard they were so over the top so I finally did a few years ago. Yeh they are over the top but great fun, Spillane's Mike Hammer just keeps th one-liners going and the violence is part of the price he pays. Fun stuff actually. Like most writers of the time he ran out of ideas but the first three or so are classic....

I have over 1000 pulp novels and I have been slowly working my way through them the last couple of decades, I'll never fniish but I'll have plenty to do after I retire....!

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:57 am 
 

Starship Troopers - "On the bounce, trooper!" I could read this over and over. Sure, the movie was great eye candy, but it didn't even scrape the surface of...anything in the book!

Bill, The Galactic Hero - even if you only read the first (and best) book, if you don't smile at least once, you have no soul. "Death to Chingers!" "Don't be a bowb!"

Deathworld Trilogy - what a shitty place to be. The entire freaking planet is trying to kill you! Enjoyed this one tremendously.

Splinter of the Mind's Eye - I remember reading this way back when in 86 or 87. It was really the first time I tried to visualize characters out of their everyday world, so to speak. It totally worked for me. Darth Vader freaked me out even more than he did in the movies!

For non-fantasy/sci-fi, I really enjoy W.E.B. Griffin's military and police series. And I was totally into Tom Clancy, right up until The Bear & The Dragon, I think. Then it seemed like he was writing really bad softcore porn.


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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 4:16 am 
 

TollHouseGolem wrote:
Bill, The Galactic Hero - even if you only read the first (and best) book, if you don't smile at least once, you have no soul. "Death to Chingers!" "Don't be a bowb!"

Deathworld Trilogy - what a shitty place to be. The entire freaking planet is trying to kill you! Enjoyed this one tremendously.



Bill, the Galactic Hero - indeed - they are fabulous fun for all the right reasons and youre right, if you dont read this and smile, you dont have a sense of Humour. Its a good read and an interesting story that works wonders with the imagination.

Deathworld Trilogy, this was actually one of my favorite reads of the last 10 years. i enjoyed it immensely and would heartily recommend it to anyone who hasnt browsed them yet. very interesting concept and the story flows very well. from an imagination perspective, it got me right in there and i was living the story as i read it - most excellent.

oh yeah you reminded me, another novel i picked up of late and read again for the umpteenth time:

"Dream Park" - Larry Niven & Steven Barnes.

a great book and a super story. before the RPG came out, i actually wrote up an adventure based on this waaaaay back in the 80s and based it around the plot of dream park....worked out real well - apart from the fact that half the group managed to blow themselves up with some dynamite they found....but it was still good fun and i nice break at the time from the norm.

best, Al

ps this thread is great - its reminding me of tons of stuff i have read in the last 12 months!!



  

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:30 am 
 

There are two authors (one "SF", one "Fantasy") whom I never see mentioned in lists like these, Cordwainer Smith and Peter S. Beagle. Is it just that their stuff doesn't quite fit the bill for gaming inspiration, or what?


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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:32 am 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:There are two authors (one "SF", one "Fantasy") whom I never see mentioned in lists like these, Cordwainer Smith and Peter S. Beagle. Is it just that their stuff doesn't quite fit the bill for gaming inspiration, or what?


i've never heard of them i have to say....could you point me at some of their works that you would recommend a look at? willing to have a look if you spill the beans :)

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 8:59 am 
 

killjoy32 wrote:
i've never heard of them i have to say....could you point me at some of their works that you would recommend a look at? willing to have a look if you spill the beans :)

Al


Peter S. Beagle wrote The Last Unicorn (I think)

Cordwainer Smith wrote science fiction (a series of books that are slightly absurd). It is a strange future history series wih a planet settled by australians who raise giant (100ton sheep) for an immortality serum.

  

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 10:49 am 
 

now THAT sounds fun :)

think i have read that last unicorn novel now coming to think of it...looooong time ago tho.

thanks for that jason!

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 12:53 pm 
 

One I recently picked up, on a whim, that grew on me was "The Iron Hunt" by Marjorie M. Liu.

It's classified as an "urban fantasy novel" about a female demon hunter who is the last of her kind.  She's the only thing standing between humanity and the demons.  This is the first in the series.  Hopefully it will get even better with the next book(s).

There was a prequel to this book in "Wild Thing, a Berkley Anthology".

  

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 3:14 pm 
 

It was probaby mentioned earlier in this thread, but as I don't have time to begin on page one to find out.....

I really enjoyed the Belgariad series of five books by David Eddings.  It was one of the first series of Fantasy novels I read.


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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:01 pm 
 

A good series that captures the medieval lifestyle feeling is the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.


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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 5:35 pm 
 

jasonw1239 wrote:A good series that captures the medieval lifestyle feeling is the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters.


The TV show isn't bad either but more stylized and less realistic.

  

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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 7:33 pm 
 

JasonZavoda wrote:
The TV show isn't bad either but more stylized and less realistic.

Derek Jacobi was excellent in the leading role in that series.
I remember watching it on Vision TV many years ago (mid-90's?).
I'll have to track those down and watch them again.


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Post Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:51 pm 
 

I just finished an omnibus with the first three Harold Shea novellas by de Camp and Pratt. First time reading them, found them entertaining (a bit slow in places but the ending of each picked up steam). Interesting to see some sources for D&D/AD&D: plane shift to alternate prime; G-series type giants; verbal/somatic/material spell components; a "Bigby's hand"-type spell; perhaps even the pseudodragon. Plus each story visits a different "mythos" (Norse, The Faerie Queene, and Orlando Furioso for the first three).

Just started "The Night of Madness" which is the seventh book in Lawrence Watt-Evans' Ethshar series. Each is a stand alone story, but the setting is the same. The first, "The Misenchanted Sword", is the most well known - I remember the Darell Sweet cover from Waldenbooks back in the 80s. Never read it until last summer, but it's very D&D inspired (apparently the setting was originally created for RPGing in the late 70s). The only monsters are dragons and demons. The most interesting theme is the magic system: there are wizards, warlocks, witches, sorcerers, demonologists, theurgists (sort-of clerics) and more, each with their different spells/powers. Most of the stories revolve around problems created by the different types of magic. These are quick, easy reads.

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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 12:53 am 
 

Some great books mentioned in this thread - lots ive never heard of which is great for future reading.
I just re reread the songs of Fire & Ice series by George RR Martin - think I enjoyed it even more the second time. Its right up there with JRR for me. Incredible character development & I love his restraint in alluding to the existence of potent magics and malevolences , they always remain shadowy  , there in the background - slumbering and ancient but not lost  . he's pacing the series awesomely and has offered up some stunning imagery and ideas. Seems like hes leaving the way open for some big monster & magic appearances too ( fingers crossed ) gotta say though.. Hes taking his sweet time in getting that next book out!!

  


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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 3:46 am 
 

George RR Martin wrote some terrible bad Twilight Zone episodes in the 80's. I tried getting into his 1st GOT book and couldn't. It seems like the older I get the more things seem contrived to me. When I was little I dug the Myth books quite a bit and Belgriad and Shannara
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and then the subsequent series, Mallorean and Shannara part2 or whatever were so ripoff shittastic and it's like I got very jaded. Books that stuck with me are Clive Barker "Books of Blood" "Armor" by Steakley (a one hit wonder of an author) "Swan Song" a copy of Kings Stand but better and it got Kings blessings in the 80's. The only stuff I can get into now is the historical biography shit on Hitler and WWII generals and the Crusades and whatnot. The really interesting times sort of stuff. I certainly dig the art over the books as you might be able to tell...

and what was so shittastic about those other books is that Brooks and Eddings ripped off their own Goddamned ideas! Some critic said AC-DC created the same album 9 times in a row... Eddings and Brooks were much less original than AC-DC.

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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 6:06 am 
 

Barkers Books of Blood are genius IMO as much for horror as Serling Twilight Zone is for everything else (including horror). Unfortunately no Barker art here (yet) but more Myth:
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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 4:56 pm 
 

Tharizdun wrote: "Armor" by Steakley (a one hit wonder of an author)


Search out Vampires by Steakly.  (I don't think the author's name is supposed to be ironic.)

Probably the best modern vampire book I've read.  (If you like Ann Rice and want to go on a dream date or just have sex with the undead then you probably won't like Vampires.)

It was made into (what I've heard is) a horrible movie starring James Woods.  The movie fell apart by following vampire movie cliche's and reversing the identity of the bad guys.  The book blows up most of those cliches.  Ignore the movie.

The characters from Armor are washed off and inserted into Vampires with excellent results.  

One Steakly quirk:  The coolest person in the world that Steakly can think of is a Texas county sheriff.


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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 5:40 pm 
 

I didn't like Vampire$. It has good ideas but I liked Armor way better!

That movie was John Carpenters and yes it wasn't good.


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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 5:46 pm 
 

Tharizdun wrote:I didn't like Vampire$. It has good ideas but I liked Armor way better!

That movie was John Carpenters and yes it wasn't good.


In fact, it was unintentionally funny. I think I asked for my money back from the theatre, too

  


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Post Posted: Sat May 01, 2010 6:46 pm 
 

The tail end of Carpenters sad fall from grace...


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