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Re: Books!

#423
I've been informed that the second book in Nicci Chronicles by Terry Goodkind, "Shroud of Eternity: Sister of Darkness" has been released in audio format and is on its way to me. :D

:shifty: I really need to listen to "Death's Mistress" the first book in the series which is still in its sealed wrapping on my desk. :oops:
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Re: Books!

#424
Talking about books I've got a space orientated recommendation.

My first one would be the Bobiverse trilogy starting with the lovely title "We Are Legion (We Are Bob)". It's got spaceships that replicate via 3d printers and who's job is to spread out and prepare the galaxy for mankind. Oh and the ships got their ai from uploading the mind of a programmer who's name is / was Bob.

I had a lot of laughs out of it and it was a fun read. I'm hoping for some spin-off books / stories as the setting has a lot more that can be done with it.

There's a lot more books I'd recommend but for now I'll stick with shilling one of them. Has anyone else read this yet btw? It was a pretty nice follow up after reading The Martian as the humor is pretty similar.
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Re: Books!

#430
I just finished a book by Harry Turtledove, best known for his alternate history novels, called Noninterference . It's a stand alone work from 1985 so I assume it's one of his earliest works. I found it a truly fascinating read and highly recommend it. https://www.amazon.com/Noninterference- ... 0345343387
Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I have seen, it seem to me most strange, that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.
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Re: Books!

#431
IronDuke wrote:
Tue Jul 24, 2018 3:02 pm
Read book 7 of The Expanse.
Without spoiling it, I gotta say, they think up some EXTREMELY AWESOME WEAPONS. :twisted: :twisted: :twisted:
Doesn't matter, it'll never match the weapons used in the Lensman series.
When you are plucking planets from an alternate universe where matter cannot go slower than the speed of light, and slamming then into your opponents star systems... well, there isn't much room for growth.


I recently finished the Bobiverse books (as audiobooks), those are well worth a look. The first being "We are Legion (We are Bob)".
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Re: Books!

#432
I read the Lensman Series decades ago. E E "Doc" Smith could certainly tell a tale. The Bergenholm Device, allowing inertia less drives, in which you instantaneously reached the speed at witch your thrust and drag were equal. There by bypassing Einsteins theory of general relativity.
I liked the Skylark series better though. It was less scientific but a better story I though.
Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I have seen, it seem to me most strange, that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.
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Re: Books!

#434
Gunther Haldan wrote:
Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:35 pm
I just finished a book by Harry Turtledove, best known for his alternate history novels, called Noninterference . It's a stand alone work from 1985 so I assume it's one of his earliest works. I found it a truly fascinating read and highly recommend it. https://www.amazon.com/Noninterference- ... 0345343387
Gunther Haldan wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:17 pm
I read the Lensman Series decades ago. E E "Doc" Smith could certainly tell a tale. The Bergenholm Device, allowing inertia less drives, in which you instantaneously reached the speed at witch your thrust and drag were equal. There by bypassing Einsteins theory of general relativity.
I liked the Skylark series better though. It was less scientific but a better story I though.

Good grief, dude, are you coming over to my house and browsing my library? :D I'm also a fan of Doc Smith and Turtledove.

The Smith stories are great fun from the Golden Age of pulp SF. Have you tried Edmond Hamilton? His novels are a little more modern, but they're energetic, thoughtful, and an interesting transition between the pulp stories and the humanistic revolution of the late '60s and '70s ushered in by writers like Brian Aldiss and Ursula K. Le Guin.

As for Turtledove... yeah. His alternate histories are as good as advertised, and his other stories are solid, too.

I just counted; I've got 44 of his, including what I think was his first novel, Agent of Byzantium... but I don't seem to have Noninterference! I'll have to remedy that. Thanks for the tip.
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Re: Books!

#435
[I hope I can be forgiven for the double post, but I really didn't want to combine these two.]

Since we're talking about books again, it occurs to me that I've got some notes I put down recently on a literary subject near and dear to my heart, and I thought maybe somebody else might get some pleasure out of it.

Namely, let's talk about High Fantasy.

0. What is "high fantasy?" What distinguishes it from, well, not-high fantasy? (I'd rather not call everything else "low fantasy.")

A quick personal definition is that it 1) deals with large-scale and weighty matters that can't be solved by swords & sorcery alone, and 2) is usually presented in a formal, elevated language rather than in an informal, conversational way.

The first quality is the more important, but if both are present, the odds are good you're holding a novel of high fantasy. By contrast, stories that are primarily about exciting adventure (in fantasy, this is usually the "swords & sorcery" subgenre) or humor (such as the "Myth" novels by Robert Asprin or many of L. Sprague de Camp's tales) undercut the seriousness that's a hallmark of high fantasy. This isn't to say there can't be funny moments in high fantasy; it just can't be the focus.

This isn't a hard-and-fast definition. In the list of recommended books that follows, I'm going to throw in a few that I consider high fantasy not so much due to the subject matter being elevated as to its presentation: the language, and the distinctiveness with which that language is used to describe the world of the book. Novels that accomplish this, and that aren't overtly focused on exciting action or humor, earn a spot on my list if they deliver a singularly memorable experience. I think the books I've picked arguably do this, but I look forward to hearing what you think.

One other note: I'm required here to salute Lin Carter and the "Adult Fantasy" series he edited for Ballantine Books. Most of the books I mention here are part of Carter's Adult Fantasy series. If you can get your hands on any of these books, they will reward you by transporting you to (as Lord Dunsany put it) worlds "beyond the fields we know."

Finally, two caveats. Firstly, just because I'm talking specifically here about books I consider high fantasy doesn't mean other kinds of fantasy are bad! The distinction we're looking at here is a matter of type, not quality. Secondly, the books I list are from the Western, English-speaking world. The absence from this list of high fantasy novels from Eastern European or Asian or other writers doesn't mean they haven't written any; it only means I don't have copies of any such books, so I can't competently discuss them. Suggestions are welcome.

1. In reviewing high fantasy, there can be no other starting point than J.R.R. Tolkien. The degree to which his three major published fantasy works are reasonably considered high fantasy depends on how much each work focuses on hobbits. As simple, conservative, plain folks, hobbits naturally bring a kind of realism to a story. That's not a bad thing, but it is inimical to the feel and sound of high fantasy. Accordingly, The Hobbit is, for the most part, a conventional fantasy adventure tale; The Lord of the Rings has many moments of high fantasy; and The Silmarillion is such high fantasy that some people compare it to the Book of Genesis from the King James version of the Bible.

As a practicing Catholic in the days when the Mass was still mostly in Latin, and as a highly skilled philologist and translator of Old English, Norse, and Gothic poetry, Tolkien was steeped in the use of language by poets and clerics to convey tone that deepens the meaning of the words themselves. The form of the language tells you something about the depth of the ideas expressed in that language. And so the language spoken by Tolkien's hobbits makes them seem as though they've just tromped in from the countryside, fragrant mud still clinging to their boots; his Men speak of hard physical truths with nearly brutal directness; the words of his Dwarves always hold an edge of repressed bitterness at their treatment over long millenia; and the speech of the Elves and Valar is frequently so rich with nuanced power that we immediately recognize the speakers as operating far above mortal concerns.

So: in terms of high fantasy, The Lord of the Rings is the sweet spot. The Silmarillion, in its early sections (less so by the time of the stories of the fall of Gondolin and the love of Luthien and Beren), is... well, whatever the phrase is for the fantasy that's above high fantasy. All of these are entirely worth reading.

2. Beyond Tolkien, a wonderful (in both senses of that word) next step is E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. This is another book in which elevated language is used to grand effect. To fully appreciate this one, you have to be ready to set aside any expectation that modern English will be used: Eddison applied his own version of Elizabethan English to tell his story, and it's a perfect fit for his story of great heroes and foul villains. The highly formal language frames each character within the structure of the high fantasy world that Eddison creates. When Lord Goldry Bluzco speaks to a Demon, he is carefully formal; when Lord Brandoch Daha speaks to his mates, the humor of long familiarity shines through. This novel sets the pace and tone for many high fantasy works that followed, and it's still eminently readable today... but again, you might have to plow through a couple of chapters before the rhythm of Eddison's language begins to feel natural.

3. William Beckford: Vathek. A beautifully-imagined take on the Arabian world, written at age 22 by a man who, when he was 11, became the most wealthy commoner in all of Britain.

4. Ernest Bramah: Kai Lung's Golden Hours and Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat. These aren't, strictly speaking, high fantasy in terms of their stories -- Kai Lung is a bit of a rogue. But the reticent author tells these tales of an imaginary China with such bravado and jewel-like language that I think they're worth including here.

5. Steven Brust: the "Khaavren" series. Although these five books are set in the world of Brust's superb "Jhereg" series (which is absolutely worth reading if you love smartly-told fantasy), they take place centuries earlier and so are told with a visibly more formal language and customs. Although these stories have plenty of adventure and humor, a disaster of epic proportions looms over every moment, raising the whole series into deep tragedy.

6. Joy Chant: Red Moon and Black Mountain. This is one in which, while the language is simple, and the protagonists are two children, the subject matter and the way in which the world is depicted give this book the heft of serious high fantasy. It's also noteworthy that the book was recommended to Betty Ballantine and Lin Carter by Rayner Unwin of Unwin and Allen -- the publishers who discovered Tolkien.

7. Lord Dunsany: The King of Elfland's Daughter. Really, any and all of Lord Dunsany's stories could be included here. Along with William Morris, he was an early progenitor of fantasy as we know it today. (It didn't hurt that he was an Irish feudal baron of a line from the days of William the Conqueror, lived in a 13th-century castle, and wrote all his works with a quill pen.) The King of Elfland's Daughter is recognized as his greatest work of fantasy, but The Charwoman's Shadow is also excellent -- really, you can't go wrong reading anything he wrote.

8. Ursula K. LeGuin: The "Earthsea" trilogy. Including this one was a bit tricky, but it makes the cut because the subject matter burns through to what is essentially human, and because the spare language used gives the stories an impressive dignity that is a perfect fit for the text. The first book in particular is deservedly considered a classic that should be read by anyone who appreciates high fantasy. (Note: I'm aware that there is a fourth book, Tehanu, set in this world. Although I know LeGuin considered it a proper capstone, its tone is so different from that of the original trilogy, and its author's real-world attitudes are so front-and-center, that I can't recommend it as a part of a list of the best high fantasy.)

9. David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus. This is another one in which the subject matter is less vital to creating the feel of high fantasy than the language. The young author of this novel had more imagination than skill... but what imagination! The younger you are when you read this, the more it will stick in the back of your mind like a fragment of music you don't recognize but can't stop humming.

10. Richard A. Lupoff: Sword of the Demon. This one leans more to the adventure side than most of the high fantasy works on this list. But it's another case of a beautifully-rendered world -- Japanese mythology in this case -- and gloriously extravagant language to describe that world. I also can't resist including it in this list because it's one of the very few examples of a good, readable story that's told entirely in the second person, making this one a unique pleasure.

11. Patricia McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. If you have not read anything by Patricia McKillip, it makes me very happy to introduce her works to you. Read anything she's written. It is guaranteed to be very, very good... and at its best, it gleams like a full moon silvering a forest in winter. In particular I can recommend the "Riddle-Master of Hed" trilogy, but here I want to spotlight McKillip's perfect The Forgotten Beasts of Eld. Every part of this story sings.

12. Hope Mirrlees: LUD-in-the-Mist. You will look in vain for much information about Hope Mirrlees, or for other books she wrote early in the 20th century. But this one has remained in the libraries of connoisseurs of great fantasy since that time, and deservedly so. Like Tolkien's Shire, this novel shows us regular folks living next door to the bright and terrible land of Faerie, and how their lives are altered by the occasional incursion of magic.

13. Michael Moorcock: Gloriana. Most of Moorcock's fantasy novels are primarily adventure stories -- swords & sorcery of a very high quality. (That's not a criticism; I own most of them and have enjoyed reading them many times over.) Gloriana is a bit different in that Moorcock uses language similar to Eddison's to give his characters a more strongly formal nature, which elevates their words and deeds to the realm of high fantasy.

14. William Morris: The Wood Beyond the World. There are any number of fine stories you could read by the creator of the fantasy novel, such as The Well at the World's End and The Water of the Wondrous Isles. But The Wood Beyond the World is an excellent introduction to Morris's style of showing us the strangeness of life when magic is real and breaks the routine of the mundane world.

15. H. Warner Munn: Merlin's Ring and its prequel, Merlin's Godson. This is another tale that edges toward the adventure story, but I think deserves to be included in a list of the best high fantasy due to its more important narrative thread: a love than transcends cultures and ages. It's a remarkable work of imagination, linking Roman matter-of-factness to Mesoamerican divinities to the technology of lost Atlantis to Viking determination.

16. Mervyn Peake: the "Gormenghast" trilogy. I debated for quite a while on whether to include this one. In several ways, the material and setting and characters are remarkably mundane... but in every other way, the incandescent language, the moss-eaten and gloomy corners of the architecture, the lost-in-time lives of this place's inhabitants... there has never been anything like Peake's creation, and I think ultimately it deserves a place on any list of the greatest high fantasy ever written. It was turned into a miniseries a while back-- that wasn't bad, but it could not possibly hope to deliver the delicious delirium of Peake's prose. Seriously, at least read the first book in this series.

17. Mary Stewart: the "Arthur" tetralogy. How could any list of high fantasy be considered complete without at least some telling of The Matter of Britain? Mary Stewart's prose is matter-of-fact, so in this case it's the subject matter that immediately raises this series to high fantasy. As always, the first books are the necessary lead-up to the tragedy of dual betrayals that is resolved in the last book, along with the stinging beauty of the promise of hope that follows. This telling is a good one.

18. Evangeline Walton: the "Mabinogion" tetralogy. If for nothing else, Evangeline Walton will always be remembered with pleasure for her wonderful retelling of the stories of Welsh mythology known as the Four Branches of the Mabinogion. These tales ascend to the rarefied plateau of high fantasy from the source material, filled with brightly honorable heroes and dark maddened underworld figures, but Walton's language gives every one of the characters and settings extra depth. Along with the Finnish Kalevala, this is a retelling of an ancient mythic cycle with which every lover of high fantasy should be familiar.

19. T.H. White: The Once and Future King. This is an omnibus collection of the first four of T.H. White's Arthurian stories. Although White plays a bit more fast and loose with the material than Mary Stewart, this version is also very much worth reading for the joy and love and painful experience with which White brings these characters to life. It's in getting to know the young "Wart" (as Arthur is first called) in all his awkwardness that we come to appreciate the pain he feels as he must rule over his subjects, and forgive those who betray him, as a man. This is an outstanding retelling of Arthur's story. (Note that there's actually a fifth book, written much later: The Book of Merlyn. It's not bad, and it's nice as a closer for the whole saga, but the tone is less "high.")

20. Austin Tappan Wright: Islandia. This is another one I debated on whether to include as high fantasy. Ultimately I think it does earn the right to be here by the uniqueness of its world, the gravitas of the characters who give that world its nature, and the fairly formal language used by its characters as they explain their ways to the stranger who is trying to understand them. Wright's encompassing vision of this imaginary place, and the decision that its narrator ultimately faces, pulls Islandia into the short list of high fantasy novels worth reading by anyone who enjoys this genre.

There are a number of additional books I can recommend as great stories that aren't quite high fantasy as I've tried to define it. But these twenty are, I think, a reasonable starting point.

For those who give any of these a try, I look forward to hearing what you think about them.


Honorable Mentions:

Richard Adams: Watership Down. If you only know this from the older and newer movies, you haven't fully experienced it yet. The novel is extraordinarily good.

Poul Anderson: The Broken Sword and Three Hearts and Three Lions. The "Hrolf Kraki" trilogy is also excellent.

James Branch Cabell: Jurgen. Low comedy masquerading as high fantasy so effectively that it was banned for a couple of years.

David Eddings: the "Belgariad" and "Malloreon" series. More adventure than high fantasy, but with some deep themes and strongly memorable characters.

William Hope Hodgson: The Night Land. Too weird to explain.

Barry Hughart: The "Li Kao" trilogy: stories of a delightful character set in "an ancient China that never was but should have been." I love these books.

Fletcher Pratt: The Blue Star and The Well of the Unicorn. More adventure fantasy than high, but told with a consistently high-ish voice that really brings the worlds to life.

Jack Vance: the "Lyonesse" trilogy. While Vance is known for his science fiction that renders truly alien-seeming aliens, this series brings his sense for the convincingly weird to fantasy fiction. The Lyonesse stories are a beautiful, almost poetic depiction of a world.

Tad Williams: the "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" trilogy. Maybe better described as "epic fantasy," but its themes and delivery bring it near "Lord of the Rings" territory.

Whew! :D

So did I miss any obvious other candidates for High Fantasy? Or would you exclude something from my list?

And when are you going to try reading one or more of these suggestions, because they're awesome?

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