The quest for fiction

Now that the Drupal book I am helping co-author is off to the editors, I'm finding a desire to read again in my newly (and temporarily) free evenings. I'm definitely in an escapist mood, so I've turned to good ole scifi and fantasy fiction. The only problem is that I am a finicky reader. Everyone has their own flavor or pickiness when it comes to books I think. It doesn't help that I can't articulate what I like or don't like very well. Books are a lot like wine for me: I like what I like and I know the things I'm typically going to hate a mile away. Not much for people to go on. I will sometimes list my a few of my favorite books (recently I tweeted on that and I need to check out some authors that came back as recommendations) but different people can love the same book for very different reasons. I love certain books for different reasons or at various levels of fealty depending on numerous things going on in my life. At the end of the day, I guess it is just a matter of wading into the text and catching the big one in a quiet lake right before dawn - if the fiction gods so choose to smile upon me.

In a fit of pique the other night I ran out to the library and picked up a few "classics" to take for a spin. I picked up the first two David Eddings books in the Belgariad series and also Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game." I'm done with "Ender's Game" and found it interesting in a number of ways, but I'm not particularly driven to go read the others in the Enderverse. The David Eddings books are OK, and I'm reading through the second one now, but more because I want to read a book than because I really feel drawn into the story. So, I'm kind of striking out.

Now, in my twitter, I mentioned one of my favorite scifi books, Ursula LeGuin's "Left Hand of Darkness." I'm pretty much a huge fan of LeGuin's, due in large part to the true humanity of her characters with all their flaws and brilliance. In response to that tweet, I got back a few other names I need to track down: Steven Brust, Neil Stephenson, and Lois McMaster Bujold. I also got Philip K. Dick, and I have read a fair amount of him and do love his books too. I find that I sometimes have to "be in the mood", whatever that means, to read him sometimes though. I've also read a lot of them and so I've tapped a lot of that mine.

I'm also a big fan (of course) of Tolkien and I have read those books so many times. I haven't gone back to read them since the horrible movies came out (yeah, I'm a hater), though I suspect I will again in the next few years since a I can't seem to stay away for more than a decade. (I actually sat down the evening after watching the first movie and reread the whole series because I was so annoyed by the movie.) For other smatterings of random book directions, yes, I read all of the Harry Potters and I read Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" series. I read the whole thing and while I at least felt drawn to know WTH was going on enough to keep reading, I wasn't really satisfied by the books and wouldn't be inspired to read more of his work. I love Terry Pratchett and rip through his books at a fierce rate, though they are really more on the hilariously entertaining side of things than the deep, soul-changing level. ;-) Other fiction that I have just loved for love's sake off the top of my head are "Watership Down" and "Haroun and the Sea of Stories". I went through a huge Jeanette Winterson period years ago and read every single thing, with The Passion as one of my favorites. I've not revisited her writing in almost a decade. I'm curious how I would react now. Oh, and I can't forget Isaac Asimov. I spent quite a lot of time reading the entire Foundation series which was a wonderful, varied ride.

So there is a hodgepodge of fiction that I'm trying to add to. I've a list of three new authors to track down already but if you have other suggestions, feel free to add them in the comments.

Comments

We seem to share similar tastes, though I found Tolkien extremely verbose (sorry, he needed an editor). The Ender series I found uneven. First book was the best, the rest, m'eh. The "Bean" parallel/companion books to Ender I quite enjoyed.

Bujold has fantasy and sci-fi, I love them both and would read anything she writes. I've met very few people who don't like her. I also really like Brust's Vlad Taltos series and associated pre-histories.

I like some of Stephenson's earlier stuff, but found his recent stuff too tedious.

Authors not mentioned falling into my read everything category: Dave Duncan, Sherie Tepper, Verner Vinge, Robin Hobbs, and Elizabeth Moon.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's recent stuff is great. Some of her earlier Fey novels were a bit of a grind.

And David Weber is my guilty space opera pleasure. I can't claim he's a excellent wordsmith but the man can spin a story to keep me turning the pages.

I'm with you on Pratchett, the man is brilliant. In case you don't know, a UK studio made a 2 part tv movie of Hogfather as a Christmas special. Not brilliant, but more than good enough to watch. The actor playing Susan nailed the role (for me at least).

Hope you have a good used bookstore to frequent! Happy reading!

Not much suggestion here, but you seem to have a lot of the same tastes as me, and I have not read LeGuin and have been trying to find something readable, so I'll have to pick that up. I generally like sci-fi and fantasy, though admittedly there are very few favorites. I actually did like Ender's Game, and I probably Ender's Shadow even more, though there are weaknesses in the series.

I also tend toward end of the world stuff, so I enjoy Niven's Lucifer Hammer and a few of his other books are good, too.

Good luck! Looking forward to seeing some suggestions.

Stephen King's Dark Tower series? I am not a huge fan of sci-fi/fantas, but I am really enjoying this series. I just finished the fifth book and have two more to go.

George R. R. Martin's /Song of Ice and Fire/ is one of my favorites. In my opinion someone finally got epic fantasy right. Sorry Robert Jordan (r.i.p.) but I had know idea where you were going with wheel of time. Martin appears to have a storyline.

I like Terry Goodkind for storytelling, but his plot keeps wearing thin and showing his politics. And he shouldn't try to copy Ayn Rand.

Ender's Shadow is a great comapnion to Ender's Game, the rest are tripe.

Jim Butcher's Dresden files I find thoroughly entertaining and amusing, great for light afternoon reading. Currently one of my favorite authors.

Will try to think up some more for ya.

The Dresden books are fun and not bigtime thinky, which is all good with me. (I admit to some bias because I like to see Jim make money and write more books.) If you like urban fantasy, C.E. Murphy is also fun (they're light reading also and again, someone I like to have succeed).

I tried the Martin books, but wanted to set the book on fire after about 150 pages into book one. I know lots of people who did like it though, so.. =)

The books and authors you listed are good ones as are many of the suggestions. Ursula was probably the first fantasy/sci-fi author that I considered my favorite.

How about Terry Brook's Shannara series starting with Sword of Shannara? They are easy reads but entertaining.

Any of Frank Herbert's books come to mind but Dune is his most famous series. The Dune world is based off of the politics of the middle east(it was written in the early 60s) using influences from the whole region, for example Dune's House Atriedes was based off of the mythological Greek House Atreus. The spice that was so important to the Dune universe was a proxy for oil. The series he starts with Destination Void is also interesting look into what makes consciousness, religion and ethics of bioengineering. He probably has a few other things thrown in there, but it's been a while since I've read it so I'm surprised I even know some of the titles.

William Gibson is also worth looking up. His classics are the short story book Burning Chrome and Neuromancer, the first book in the sprawl trilogy. That and the bridge trilogy, starting with Virtual Light. Through a short story in Burning Chrome, Gibson has been credited with terming cyberspace.

There's also Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time epic, which gets bogged down in a few books and meanders for a few more, but is still a worthwhile read. Another poster trashed it, and for good reason. But in the end, it is a worthwhile read to me, I could have done without 5000 or more pages in the series but it was still a worthwhile read. Since they are finally getting around to wrapping the series up, or so I hear, it might be a good time to start it. This series is more in the Tolkien vein, though the worlds are different.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is also a good series to read by Stephen R. Donaldson. This is more a direct exploration of the fantasy world via a human that has good reason to escape the reality of the 'real world.'

And of course Douglas Adams, starting with Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, if you want some geek sci-fi satire. Go to google and enter:

the answer to life, the universe, and everything

That's all you need to know about Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's series. It's always made me laugh.

I envy that you have time to do some reading for fun.

Have fun!

Hey I'm totally loving Ben Bova and his great ability to create both a "real" world and "real" characters. I've finished The Green Trap (2006), and now reading Mars (1992).

Most of his work is contemporary fantasy in a sort of white-American magical-realist vein. Little, Big is the one most people would probably point you to -- it's a three-generation story set in a world that bears a lot of resemblance to our own, but in which there's a change about to happen, of which people are vaguely aware but don't know how to speak. (I'd say that's a recurring theme for Crowley.) It's one of my favorite books, and for a while in my 20s I re-read it about every two years or so. It's long-ish, though. The Aegypt cycle (which I think just finished up at 4 books, I haven't read past the first) can be intimidating. There are also some excellent shorter, early novels like Engine Summer, The Deep, and Beasts. All of those are technically SF (though The Deep will seem to be fantasy until you get almost to the end), and all from the '70s. He dabbled in SF until he seemed to realize he was really a fantasy writer at heart. It's "good SF," but definitely in more of a fantasy sensibility.

I'm also a huge George RR Martin fan -- Song of Ice and Fire is well worth the investment in time it takes to read the books. Another couple of fantasy series that I've enjoyed are the Joel Rosenberg Guardians of the Flame series and Glen Cook's Black Company books.

On the Scifi side of the fence, you might enjoy Richard Morgan -- he has a cyberpunk-ish series about a character named Takeshi Kovacs that's very much a updated Cyberpunk noir. If you like Gibson, you'll like Morgan.

I can also recommend Jonathan Lethem -- he's writing more mainstream stuff these days, but he wrote some very thoughtful, interesting sci-fi in his early career. Look for Gun, with Occasional Music.

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a post-apocalyptic book that is extremely powerful -- very much worth checking out. A lot of his early stuff is very dark and gruesome, but since All the Pretty Horses he's really found a way to be himself (very simple, stoic prose that is at the same time very moving and powerful).

And, I can't make a book-recommendation post without talking about The Bear Comes Home, by Rafi Zabor. It's about a talking bear that plays jazz saxophone. I can't explain why I picked it up and read it -- I'm not a jazz fan, I'd never heard of this writer, and the premise sounds so . . . goofy. But it's an amazing book, writes about playing music effectively and powerfully. Just trust me and read it.