Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:32 pm 
 

Kingofpain89 wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:Can't win with military SF, which is why I don't read it anymore.

Even though they are far from literary masterpieces, I really enjoyed The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell and a few of John Scalzi's books.  Old Man's War and The Ghost Brigades were quick and enjoyable to read.  Lots of stuff exploding, some decent bloody fighting, and some off-the-wall tech makes all the difference.  Who needs deep characterization and feelings when you have nukes and particle beams wiping out entire cities?  :twisted:


Campbell's Lost Fleet series is just good, old fashioned "lost space fleet fighting their way back home" fun.  Not too deep, characterization is pretty shallow, but a good idea and lots of fun action scenes.  Don't think too hard and you'll enjoy them.

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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:48 pm 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
I find it a little ironic that on a site frequented by people who would spend hundreds on several loose leaf pages in a ziploc bag, or 1500% of retail for an adventure module signed in a different color ink by the author, high end small press books seem overpriced :).


Well - you have me there!   :salut:


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 3:52 pm 
 

Nogrod wrote:
FormCritic wrote:He wrote Starship Troopers as a commentary on the anti-war movement of the Vietnam Era.  Starship Troopers actually includes multiple scenes where characters spew hippy rhetoric and other characters demonstrate how stupid their Leftist arguments are.


Not to be nitpicky, buy I am pretty sure Starship Troopers was written in the late 50's and predates Hippies and the Anti-war movement. It doesn't invalidate your point though. He does skewer hippy-esque thinking and was obviously very pro-military.

Zach


Interesting - I guess I was quoting something I read elsewhere without checking it out.

I enjoyed Starship Troopers immensely at the age I first read it.

I don't think Starship Troopers is pro-military so much as it is anti-foolishness.

"War never solved anything."  Umm...Hitler?  Nazi Germany?


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:04 pm 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
Yeah, but dead on this time, for the most part :).

Aslan doesn't get a pass from me, though. Even when I was 11 and reading these, I got to the part where he surrenders himself as a sacrifice to save Edmund, and face met palm. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before that point, and it only goes downhill from there. Lewis was a hamfisted hack, IMO.

And except for Dune. There's a whole lot more going on there than commentary on Islam and oil. The book may be allegorical on some level, but it's more complex than that, and there's certainly no one-to-one correspondence between people/organizations/events in the book(s) and real life. Those Fremen (free men) dudes are American-style revolutionaries of some sort, for starters...


Lewis is a dork, unless the reader is sympathetic to his Christian viewpoint...on which he is both subtle and profound.  On a deeper level, in the Narnia novels Lewis isn't just blathering about Jesus.  He has a lot to say about moral dilemmas, human nature, the cycles of history, the cynicism of the modern world versus the wonder of childhood and the nature of God.

One thing to remember about the Narnia novels:  They are not evangelism.  They are a Christian thinker talking to other Christians about God.  Everyone else is just invited along as guests.

One of my favorite moments is in The Silver Chair, when a girl who is new to Narnia tries to reassure herself that Aslan wouldn't harm a young girl.  Aslan responds that not only would he harm little girls, he has swallowed entire nations.  God, speaking through Aslan, does not offer excuses, justifications or explanations.  That isn't kid stuff.  It is Lewis saying something about the nature of God that is worth discussing between adults.

As for Dune - I agree it is a much bigger and more important work than just a dime novel about Jihadism.  Dune had a profound influence on my thinking starting at 9th grade, when I got it for my birthday.  

I don't agree with the Fremen as American revolutionaries, unless you see the American Revolution as largely the result of mis-understandings and accidents.  The Fremen are great fighters and survivors, but they are wrong about just about everything else.  They live on a backward world with a religion about godlike worms and a nasty, fabricated messiah tradition.  They explode into jihad and inter-planetary massacre that their supposed messiah doesn't want but is powerless to stop.  They upset a feudal, dynastic system that has not accounted for their existence, but they bring no freedom, no peace and no real solutions except the freedom to be considered an infidel if you do not fit their childish misconceptions about the universe.

I guess there is the American Revolution metaphor in Dune about a distant emperor who has issued orders about a distant colony in complete ignorance of the actual situation...and so provokes a firestorm that he never saw coming from a people he has completely misjudged.


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:20 pm 
 

Two novels I read this week on my Nook:

Use of Weapons by Iain Banks and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  The two books seem to have been written from a very similar model...although with quite different results.

I can see why Slaughterhouse Five is a classic.  Vonnegut manages to write an entire book with no plot, no point, no actual storyline and very little to actually say (except that all of us are weak and foolish and the concept of a hero is an illusion)...and still be brilliant.  He even inserts himself into the story freely, occasionally crossing paths with his main character, without seeming hopelessly arrogant.  Slaughterhouse Five is an accomplishment.

Use of Weapons left me confused.  Banks is a good writer with a ton of cool ideas about the future.  It is a future where a small group of people have grown to Star Trek technical proficiency and lofty moral self-righteousness, but the bulk of humanity remain boring old humans living on backward old Earth-like worlds...and the smart, cool people must manipulate them for their own good.  But Banks does not bother to tell a story so much as a series of extended vignettes that add up to an ironic ending.  It left me confused because Banks appears to have spent 300 pages setting me up for a final twist that would have been more appropriate to a short story.  There must be fans of Banks out there, since he seems to have written a number of novels....?  Anyone?


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 5:57 pm 
 

Hey, I read Use of Weapons years ago, and had completely forgotten! It must've been one of his early novels, 'cause for some reason I never made the connection with his more recent stuff and thought I hadn't read anything by him. I must have had a fairly similar "letdown" at the end, though, since I never sought out anything else by Banks.

Even with authors I dislike personally and/or politically, I usually give them at least a second or third chance, especially if they're "important" (e.g., I've read literally everything by Heinlein even though I think he was a total asshat, and most of Asimov despite everything I've read by him except the so-called "robot" novels being a complete snooze-fest). Maybe Banks has gotten better, though; he's certainly been successful enough lately. This practice has paid off a few times by leading me to a book by an author I otherwise detest which was actually pretty decent--Macroscope by Piers Anthony, for instance.

I hear Scalzi's Old Man's War is good; I'll have to pick it up.

The Fremen are great fighters and survivors, but they are wrong about just about everything else.  They live on a backward world with a religion about godlike worms and a nasty, fabricated messiah tradition.  They explode into jihad and inter-planetary massacre that their supposed messiah doesn't want but is powerless to stop.  They upset a feudal, dynastic system that has not accounted for their existence, but they bring no freedom, no peace and no real solutions except the freedom to be considered an infidel if you do not fit their childish misconceptions about the universe.


[sarcasm]Naw, that description doesn't sound like Americans and America at aaaalll.[/sarcasm] Seriously, if you read that three times fast, it sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:14 pm 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:.[sarcasm]Naw, that description doesn't sound like Americans and America at aaaalll.[/sarcasm] Seriously, if you read that three times fast, it sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?



No, it doesn't sound like the issues of the American Revolution at all.


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Post Posted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:01 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:Two novels I read this week on my Nook:

Use of Weapons by Iain Banks and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.  The two books seem to have been written from a very similar model...although with quite different results.

I can see why Slaughterhouse Five is a classic.  Vonnegut manages to write an entire book with no plot, no point, no actual storyline and very little to actually say (except that all of us are weak and foolish and the concept of a hero is an illusion)...and still be brilliant.  He even inserts himself into the story freely, occasionally crossing paths with his main character, without seeming hopelessly arrogant.  Slaughterhouse Five is an accomplishment.



I was quite the Vonnegut fan when younger, reading everything up to Bluebeard.  His "sweet spot" was right after he gave up the sciencefictional stylings of Player Piano and Sirens of Titan to go on a run that included Mother Night, Cat's Cradle, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse Five, and Breakfast of Champions.  All are all over the place, but have some really fun insights and very dark humor.  Then he started getting political (Vonnegut was extremely committed to anti-war movements) and every story has the same ending, the collapse of society.   His first few novels really have a lot of keen insights into morality, ethics, and the human condition.  The later ones get pretty preachy and if you can't figure out Vonnegut is a liberal socialist humanist by the first chapter, you aren't paying attention.  I saw him give a talk, not once but twice, and he was a fascinating, funny, and intelligent speechmaker.   He did, however, advocate the US immediately surrender to Russia (during the early 80s cold war) so that we could live as slaves because that was preferable to facing global nuclear annihilation.  Seriously.

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Post Posted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:44 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:.[sarcasm]Naw, that description doesn't sound like Americans and America at aaaalll.[/sarcasm] Seriously, if you read that three times fast, it sounds a little familiar, doesn't it?



No, it doesn't sound like the issues of the American Revolution at all.


Uh, yeah, there's that. Pardon me, I was on vacation with the family last week, and evidently trying to post while under the influence of single malt while trying to use my in-laws outmoded PC quickly so I could get back to paying attention to the kids... isn't the best strategy if you want to be coherent. Also, I wasn't referring to 18th century American revolutionaries, as you seem to assume, but to our latter-day reactionaries.


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Post Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:15 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
I can see why Slaughterhouse Five is a classic.  Vonnegut manages to write an entire book with no plot, no point, no actual storyline and very little to actually say (except that all of us are weak and foolish and the concept of a hero is an illusion)...and still be brilliant.  He even inserts himself into the story freely, occasionally crossing paths with his main character, without seeming hopelessly arrogant.  Slaughterhouse Five is an accomplishment.


Slaughterhouse Five is one of my favorite books. So it goes...  :thumright:


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Post Posted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:20 pm 
 

FormCritic wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
Yeah, but dead on this time, for the most part :).

Aslan doesn't get a pass from me, though. Even when I was 11 and reading these, I got to the part where he surrenders himself as a sacrifice to save Edmund, and face met palm. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before that point, and it only goes downhill from there. Lewis was a hamfisted hack, IMO.

And except for Dune. There's a whole lot more going on there than commentary on Islam and oil. The book may be allegorical on some level, but it's more complex than that, and there's certainly no one-to-one correspondence between people/organizations/events in the book(s) and real life. Those Fremen (free men) dudes are American-style revolutionaries of some sort, for starters...


Lewis is a dork, unless the reader is sympathetic to his Christian viewpoint...on which he is both subtle and profound.  On a deeper level, in the Narnia novels Lewis isn't just blathering about Jesus.  He has a lot to say about moral dilemmas, human nature, the cycles of history, the cynicism of the modern world versus the wonder of childhood and the nature of God.

One thing to remember about the Narnia novels:  They are not evangelism.  They are a Christian thinker talking to other Christians about God.  Everyone else is just invited along as guests.

One of my favorite moments is in The Silver Chair, when a girl who is new to Narnia tries to reassure herself that Aslan wouldn't harm a young girl.  Aslan responds that not only would he harm little girls, he has swallowed entire nations.  God, speaking through Aslan, does not offer excuses, justifications or explanations.  That isn't kid stuff.  It is Lewis saying something about the nature of God that is worth discussing between adults.


Which is why I have avoided it like the bubonic plague. I have never been into Christian apologists, or any type of apologists, for that matter.


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Post Posted: Mon May 14, 2012 1:18 am 
 


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The final Silver John novel.  This is an ex library copy at a very reachable price.


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:10 am 
 

Some very good short works from Vance for those who prefer The Dying Earth to The Demon Princes but which get little mention are: The Dragon Masters, The Last Castle and the excellent The Miracle Workers from Fantasms and Magics.

Im reading The Island of Doctor Moreau again at the moment. I want to plant the guy on a lone mountain in my campaign.



  

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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:46 am 
 

Bloom wrote:Some very good short works from Vance for those who prefer The Dying Earth to The Demon Princes but which get little mention are: The Dragon Masters, The Last Castle and the excellent The Miracle Workers from Fantasms and Magics.

Im reading The Island of Doctor Moreau again at the moment. I want to plant the guy on a lone mountain in my campaign.


Those are all good Vance novellas. I haven't read the first two in a while, but I'm burnt out on JV at the moment (just re-read all five Demon Princes recently, plus a double handful of his older short stories in Dream Castles). To my shame, I've yet to read anything by Wells other than The Time Machine, which I need to rectify soon.

Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges, making my way in meandering fashion through the stories in Ficciones and The Aleph. It's a nice change of pace from my usual vintage SF fare. He's sort of a cross between Philip K. Dick in one of his rare rational moments and a brainier Peter S. Beagle.


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 10:38 am 
 

I am quite a big fan of Terry Goodkind, liked all his Sword of Truth novels although I thought Law of Nines was a little weak.  Looking forward to his new one coming out in a few months.  I also like George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series and some D&D novels (early Dragonlance and R.A. Salvatore) too.  I also read some early 1st and 2nd century Judeo-Christian stuff and some history and archaeology stuff.

  


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 11:37 am 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:
Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges, making my way in meandering fashion through the stories in Ficciones ...


My fave Borges short story is ~ The Lottery in Babylon.  :D


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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 12:57 pm 
 

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:(just re-read all five Demon Princes recently

Do you prefer Demon Princes to Cugel? Im fairly surprised anyone does - I feel his language, thought and imagination are at their peak in the Dying Earth books (not to mention his PG Wodehouse influence.)

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:To my shame, I've yet to read anything by Wells other than The Time Machine, which I need to rectify soon.

The Island of Doctor Moreau is his best work I believe. There is an excellent film version with Charles Laughton as the doctor from 1932 (old !!).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0024188/

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges

I only read literature in translation if there is evidence that a translation exists to do justice to the original, which is often the case. Borges is one of literary figures I haven't been lucky enough to find a translation which gives me confidence enough to read him. My test is simple - 'Is this a fucking briliiant read?' If the answer is, 'no', then I blame the translator. Maybe you could recommend one.



  

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Post Posted: Wed May 16, 2012 1:42 pm 
 

Bloom wrote:
MetamorphosisSigma wrote:(just re-read all five Demon Princes recently

Do you prefer Demon Princes to Cugel? Im fairly surprised anyone does - I feel his language, thought and imagination are at their peak in the Dying Earth books (not to mention his PG Wodehouse influence.)


Actually I do prefer Vance's "Gaean Reach" (basically all of his SF) stuff to the Cugel/Dying Earth stories. I don't dislike them, and you're certainly right in seeing more Wodehouse influence (which I appreciate) in the Cugel books, but Cugel is such an a-hole and the episodes in Cugel's Saga are so mind-numbingly repetitive that I lose interest after a while. I've only read the Dying Earth cycle once, and will probably do so again at some point, but it's not definitely not my "go to" JV. All Vance is good Vance, in any case, except The Five Gold Bands, which is atrocious, and a handful of merely mediocre shorts.

MetamorphosisSigma wrote:Currently reading Jorge Luis Borges

I only read literature in translation if there is evidence that a translation exists to do justice to the original, which is often the case. Borges is one of literary figures I haven't been lucky enough to find a translation which gives me confidence enough to read him. My test is simple - 'Is this a fucking briliiant read?' If the answer is, 'no', then I blame the translator. Maybe you could recommend one.


I just started reading Borges last week, so I'm hardly an authority, but from what I could gather from reviews of various translations, you want to avoid the Hurley versions (the Viking Press Collected Fictions and the excerpts from that volume in the various Penguin paperbacks). However, Borges was born to Anglophone parents, his grandmother was an Englishwoman, and he spoke fluent English and was an English professor (in Argentina), so while I'm usually skeptical of how much gets lost in translation, I think Borges might pleasantly surprise you. Also, he worked closely with one of his translators (Giovanni, I think the name is) on many of the English translation in the '70s, so considering all of that I'd say most of the worst pitfalls were probably avoided. I'll put it this way.. If someone had handed me Ficciones and the title had been Fictions and the author listed as "George Louis Borgeson", I'd never have known it wasn't originally written in English. I might have been a little puzzled over his obsession with South America, though :).


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Post Posted: Thu May 17, 2012 1:03 am 
 

I just got a reading copy of Lonely Vigils, by Manley Wade Wellman.

This is the 1981 Carcosa publishing collection of all of Wellman's Judge Pursuviant and John Thunstone stories.  It is dedicated to Karl Edward Wagner, with whom Wellman was apparently associated.

My copy is basically new, but without the dust jacket.  I got it for just over $20.

Reading about Thunstone, a theory is growing in my head about Thunstone and Silver John.


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Post Posted: Sun May 27, 2012 9:08 am 
 

A couple months back I picked up an anthology The Best of HP Lovecraft... primarily because several guys here gave Lovecraft 5 stars... I managed to read about 10 or so stories got about 1/2 way thru it before setting it aside.  Some of the stories were The Call of Cthulhu, The Hunter of Dark the Colour of Space, the Dunwich Horror... etc...  I found most to be okay and I can respect Lovecraft's ability to write... None of the stories really grabbed me and said you have to read this now!  Maybe its just too "old school" and I know this post will be sacreligious but the stories were kinda bland.

Probably my favorite was the Dunwich Horror which should have been a longer novel...

Also, there was one technique he seemed to use over and over again, where he would have the main character read the notes of a departed soul who was being driven crazy by some horror that was sooooo horrific, as to be >>>>>> "unspeakable" >>>>>> I really wish he would have described the "unspeakable" horror.... but then it would not have been "unspeakable"

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