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Monday, April 6, 2015

Suggested Reading: Science Fiction and Fantasy

In the past I have been asked about what fantasy or science fiction books one should read and, during those times, I often find myself reaching for a list that I can throw at the person. This is a pretty simple task as I have read and continue to read from these genres everyday.

So, with that in mind, I have decided that, as this is a blog about writing and its importance, a list of science fiction and fantasy for those who don't know where to start (as well as the appropriate links so that anyone can purchase said books) and would like to immerse themselves in the genre. So, here it goes, my suggested reading in science fiction and fantasy.

Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut

While not Vonnegut's most sci-fi work by any extent, this novel does what Vonnegut does best. It is zany, moral, and without reproach, In short, Slaughterhouse-Five is a post-modern science fiction master piece that struggles with meaning in wartime and life, taking on these huge and important questions with wit and humor, as well as a sympathetic humanist view. For those looking to enter the world of science fiction, here is your gate-way drug.

American Gods By Neil Gaiman 

Neil Gaiman is likely one of the most loved fantasy writers of the day, and for good reason. Gaiman, like Vonnegut approaches his work with a post-modern slant (anyone seeing a trend here) and bends toward the humanistic in his world view. However, unlike Vonnegut, Gaiman writes with refinement. There are passages in American Gods that stunned me for their sheer cold brilliance and, Gaiman being the master of myth that he is, he truly knows how to play with established deities such as Odin. If you are looking for urban fantasy that is more mature then this book is for you. If you just want a good book, well, you are in luck.

   Neuromancer By William Gibson

Here, in William Gibson's beautiful novel about cyber-space, dirty streets, and arcades buzzing with chip-tune and neon light, we get a glimpse into a world full of grit and of secrets and of cool. Not only that but Gibson's use of language in this novel is some of the most interesting I've ever read. This book is responsible for the existence of Cyber-punk as a whole just as Gibson himself is responsible for creating the world cyberspace. This is likely one of the most thematically interesting books I've ever read and one that oozes authenticity and, though they hold no meaning for me, without this book the idea of The Matrix would not exist as it does. Damn! William Gibson is the Brian Eno of literature.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle) By Patrick Rothfuss

Oh, look at that! A book I've already reviewed on this site. Well, I'll be quick here. Rothfuss is great. He has a poetry to his prose that not many modern fantasy writers even reach for. To put it another way, his authorial voice is like dark chocolate (or milk, if you like that taste of that more). Now, there are some rough patches in this first effort, but don't worry, you'll love the story too much to get hung up on them.

 Ubik By Philip K. Dick

Much like Gibson, Philip K Dick's work is philosophically dense and uses the average man as its source for character. However, Dick's work is much, much deeper and does not possess the same play-fullness with description and language as Gibson. That is not to say that Ubik is a tedious or hard read as Dick writes clearly, the style of a pulp writer pushing him forward. However, in that simplicity there is a depth that few writers, even those making a career of such things, manage to reach. This is the book you want to read if you are the kind of person that listens to Pink Floyd and likes to be alone with their thoughts.

Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence) By Max Gladstone

Yet another book that I've already talked about here and what a great one it is! Much like Rothfuss, Max Gladstone has a penchant for having a certain poetry in his prose. However, where Rothfuss is like the romantics, Gladstone in more akin to the beats or free-verse. This is the urban fantasy I would suggest to someone who is itching to find a badass female character in their story as well as an interesting world. I won't say too much as I believe my review can answer any question, but I'll leave you all saying that this is a clever book that you may have to take your time with, but then, isn't that the fun of it?

Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet) By Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game was a book I wanted to avoid and for good reason, or so I thought. Orson Scott Card does, after all, have a penchant for talking shit and saying ridiculous things about the gay community.

As a liberal and rational person I am wholeheartedly against giving money to someone that will use to it tear down another group for any damn reason.

Yet, here we have an example that proves that the person and the art aren't always the same. This is a story of the war machine and, while primarily for a younger audience, it does deal with themes of belonging, of death and life, and of having the power to destroy something. It humanize an enemy and shows that war is not a matter of honor and that, in war, we are all as children. Simply put, this is the novel you want to teach to a middle school or high school child. Hell, this is a novel to read in general. Too bad the rest of the books in this series show Card's political and religious beliefs overly much.

Hogfather: A Novel of Discworld By Terry Pratchett

The thing about Pratchett that I love is his humor. It is not as deep or vivid as someone like Adam's, but it is the kind of groaning humor that you tend to shun as you expand your horizons.

The other thing I love is that, while most people thing he is the fantasy version of Douglas Adam's, I would argue that he is much more akin to Vonnegut. His characters are profoundly human, just as is Pratchett's writing. This one, I think, is the best introduction to his work. It gives his view of death and absurdly uses Christmas. All around, this is where to start and it will be a journey you will continue to walk down. Thank you, Mr. Pratchett.

Well, that is it for now. This is not a complete list, it never will be. I expect fully to add to it over the coming years and when I do I'll be sure to make some sort of announcement or whatever. Regardless, I hope that those of you who follow those links and read these wonderful stories enjoy them as much as I have.

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