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Author Topic: Books n' Stuff  (Read 2190 times)
So Warm and Cuddly
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« on: July 22, 2014, 07:14:41 PM »

It've recently come upon myself in realizing that I really haven't read that many good fantasy/sci-fi books, and any GM worth his or her salt should probably have some solid staples under their belt. I was wondering what books people on here have read and would recommend to someone such as myself, or for anyone else for that matter. I'd like to make a thread recommending good fantasy/sci-fi books people might or might not have heard of (this may have been done before, but what the heck here's a new thread).

For myself, I've recently finished the Bas Lag series by China Miéville and highly recommend them. I also picked up the entire Dying Earth series by Jack Vance, but I've admittedly been having a much harder time getting into it (I've finished Cugel's Saga and can't seem to find the motivation to read on). I've read the Game of Thrones books twice, most of Neil Gaiman's works, both of Mark Z. Danielewski's books (House of Leaves and The Fifty Year Sword), Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (I guess I'd count this as sci-fi), the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and Hobbit. I'm yearning for something else to scratch this reading itch, but I'm not sure where to direct my search. What have people on this board read that they could recommend to myself or others?
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« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2014, 07:44:31 PM »

Weave

I really haven't read that many good fantasy/sci-fi books, and any GM worth his or her salt should probably have some solid staples under their belt.

I'm not sure reading fantasy/sci-fi novels correlates with being a good GM, or should I say storyteller. Alot of the history books I've read this year are written in such a way that it feels like you are part of an adventure (especially the biographies, whereas the stories of whole peoples, or wars, feel like you are several people at once). Take this comment with a grain of salt, I don't GM at all, ever. So, maybe my opinion on this is worthless.
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So Warm and Cuddly
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2014, 07:52:04 PM »

Magnus Pym

Weave

I really haven't read that many good fantasy/sci-fi books, and any GM worth his or her salt should probably have some solid staples under their belt.

I'm not sure reading fantasy/sci-fi novels correlates with being a good GM, or should I say storyteller. Alot of the history books I've read this year are written in such a way that it feels like you are part of an adventure (especially the biographies, whereas the stories of whole peoples, or wars, feel like you are several people at once). Take this comment with a grain of salt, I don't GM at all, ever. So, maybe my opinion on this is worthless.

I mostly meant that sentence to be anecdotal, and I wouldn't take it too literally. However, I would argue that having read more than less would generally lend oneself better to GMing. I don't read books to replicate their narrations but to inspire myself, "borrow" plot ideas, and generally learn more from the medium (also, they tend to have great vocabularies, so I get to pick up some great new words usually).
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Planar Grazer
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2014, 08:15:18 PM »

  • Anything Glen Cook, his most famous are The Black Company, but Starfishers, Darkwar, Dread Empire and his standalone stuff is great.
  • The other stuff by Meiveille, the Kraken for example. City & The city is my favourite novel ever.
  • Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence. Amazing fantasy, very good worldbuilding.
  • Anything Branden Sanderson, the Mistborn series is great and The Way of Kings is doubly so.
  • Classics like Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frakenstein
  • Clive Barker, although it's a bit weird.
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King
  • Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, probably some of the coolest world building ever in a novel. Fantasy, somewhat steampunk-ish, or probably industrial revolution fantasy
  • The Malazan Book of the Fallen, actually based of several of the authors GURPS campaigns. Epic gritty fantasy. Some great world building and interesting takes on some standard fantasy tropes.
  • All you need is kill (the japanese light novel that the film The Edge of Tomorrow is based off of. Will become a classic.
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan/Branden Sanderson. Heroic fantasy at it's finest, beware the writing has put some people off.
  • Joe Abercrombie, awesome gritty low power fantasy. The First Law Trilogy is good and his follow up books are better.
  • For crazy science fiction, check out Hannu Rajaniemi.
  • The Culture novels by Iain M Banks, but also his other stuff (under Iain Banks) is great. The Culture is far future science fiction.

This is all I could think of off the top of my head without access to my library (it's at my parents place across the country), but covers the best/most memorable fantasy/science fiction books of the last 15-20 years. It is biased in that I have a strong preference for longer series rather than standalone novels, so a lot of good single novels will be missing.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2014, 08:24:32 PM »

Reading both history and fiction can be helpful, but personally I'd say fiction a little more so, at least for my DMing, since it can specifically provide ideas for things that history can't (i.e. magic, speculative technology, monsters).

Weave

What have people on this board read that they could recommend to myself or others?

EDIT: a few repeats with the exceptionally well-read Llum, ah well.  I also heartily second Llum's recommendation of the Culture novels, though they may turn you into an anarcho-socialist... also Banks' "non-genre" novel The Wasp Factory is sublime and rather disturbing.

Here's a few:

Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris trilogy (steampunk, fungi, postmodernism)

Jack Vance's Lyonesse trilogy (quasi-Arthurian myth/historical fiction with a heavy dash of fairy tale)

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun tetralogy (baroque science fantasy/dying earth)

Robert Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories (class sword and sorcery - most of them available online)

Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories (classic sword and sorcery and picaresque)

Michael Moorcock's Elric stories (antiheroic sword and sorcery)

Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne stories (Weird quasi-historical France - mostly available online)

George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle's Windhaven (low-tech political science fiction, brilliant world-building)

Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy (gritty medieval fantasy)

Glen Cook's Black Company series (dark military fantasy)

Celia Friedman's Coldfire trilogy (science fantasy, interesting magic system)

Stephen King's Dark Tower series (postapocalyptic/dark fantasy/horror/western)

J.R.R. Tolkien's Silmarillion (epic mythopoeia)

Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast (surreal/Gothic fantasy of manners)

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Napoleonic alternate history/fantasy/comedy of manners)

Frank Herbert's Dune (classic space opera)

Roger Zelazny's Chronicles Amber series (high fantasy married to a little quantum mechanics and Platonic philosophy)
« Last Edit: August 01, 2014, 01:34:33 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Giant Space Hamster
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« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2014, 08:36:04 PM »

I'll admit my fantasy reading is relatively limited, so my list there is pretty short.  On the scifi front, I can give you a nice reading list for sure.

Fantasy
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tokein
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tokein
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tokein
Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tokein
A Song of Ice and Fire (A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A __ of __s, etc.) by G.R.R. Martin
Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher
Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction
Barsoom novels (Warlord of Mars, Gods of Mars, Thuvia Maid of Mars, etc.) by Edgar Rice Borroughs
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
The Past Through Tomorrow by Robert A. Heinlein
Okay, anything by Robert A. Heinlein, to be honest.  I've read all of his books and can't say I disliked any of them.
Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (All seven of them!)
Empire trilogy by Isaac Asimov
I, Robot series by Isaac Asimov
The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
Again, most scifi works by Asimov are awesome. He wrote 600+ books, from textbooks to novels to dictionaries, so you'll need to sift through his works for the fiction ones.
Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clark
Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clark
Tales from the White Hart by Arthur C. Clark
Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clark
The last of the Three Greats of scifi, Arthur C Clark is my least favorite. I find his writing a bit dry and have omitted some of his most famous works because I really didn't enjoy them that much.  My mother LOVES him, though.  So he's worth checking out.
Dune Trilogy by Frank Herbert
Helstrom's Hive by Frank Herbert

And Steerpike will kick me if I don't mention this next guy. He is definitely in the realm of scifi, especially considering the time when he wrote and that he innovated a lot of very standard and well-worn traditions in use today. His works are also broadly applicable across nearly all genres. So go read everything ever written by H. P. Lovecraft.

Honorable Mentions
Ray Bradbury
Harlen Allison
Poul Anderson

And another suggestion: Go look up the nominees and winners of the Hugo Award. It is specifically given for excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy in a wide variety of categories. Check that out and then research authors from there.  That's what I'm starting to do.
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« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2014, 08:57:36 PM »

ADENDUM!
I should be hit.  I forgot some.
Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep by Philip K. Dick
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
1984 by George Orwell
A Brave New World by Audrey Huxley

Also, check out the planetary tour books from Ben Bova (Mars, Jupiter, Titan, Mercury, Venus, etc. Yes those are the titles...). They do a great job of describing just how different other worlds are, even in those tiny, easily forgotten ways. Frex, on Mars, the horizon is a third as far away as it is on earth. It would look like the world drops off a giant cliff, probably, because we aren't use to that at all. The sunrises are blue and noon is red - the opposite of Earth! He's great at picking up on that sort of thing we take for granted.

More Fantasy-ish-ness
Illiad
Odyssey
Beowulf
Ivanhoe
« Last Edit: July 22, 2014, 09:09:18 PM by Humabout » Logged

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Yrthak
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2014, 04:04:39 AM »

Not that they'd necessarily be any more useful from a DMing point of view than anything else, but history book wise I've got really into Peter Hopkirk's various histories of 19th/early 20th century central Asia. The Great Game, about jockeying for power between the Russian empire in Asia and British India. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, about western archaeologists sneaking into Chinese Turkestan to excavate ancient Buddhist cities buried in the desert. On Secret Service East of Constantinople, about Turko-German attempts to foment a Muslim holy war against British India during WW1. And I'm just about to start Setting the East Ablaze, which seems to be about Bolshevik territorial ambitions in central Asia during the Russian civil war.

As far as fantasy novels go, I was really blown away by R. Scott Bakker's Second Apocalypse novels. I've read the first trilogy, and I'm waiting for him to publish the 6th book so I can read the second trilogy back to back. It's like a really dark twisted version of a Tolkienian high fantasy mashed up with the first crusade. Super grimdark, but in a really exciting way, and superbly written.
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2014, 06:00:52 AM »

Lots of good suggestions here already, I'll throw in a couple more:

  • The Hyperion Cantos novels by Dan Simmons, especially the first two books.
  • The Zothique cycle of stories by Clark Ashton Smith, for something slightly more weird and less medievalesque than Averoigne.

Kindling

As far as fantasy novels go, I was really blown away by R. Scott Bakker's Second Apocalypse novels.
I found reading the first book started to feel like a massive chore about halfway through. Not sure why; I certainly liked all the cynical political intrigue and intertwining plots going on. Could be that his style of writing just rubbed me the wrong way.
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2014, 06:41:38 AM »

Ghostman

Reading the first book started to feel like a massive chore about halfway through. Not sure why; I certainly liked all the cynical political intrigue and intertwining plots going on. Could be that his style of writing just rubbed me the wrong way.
I'll not pretend his writing can't be hard work at times but I did find it very rewarding to persevere. Some of the set-piece stuff in the 2nd and 3rd books is pretty amazing. And the monsters, when they appear, are truly monstrous.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2014, 06:44:18 AM by Kindling » Logged

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So Warm and Cuddly
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2016, 11:37:00 AM »

I definitely know this was asked before and I'm pretty sure I'm repeating this question word-for-word, but: I just finished Dune (I generally liked it, but the way everyone interacted was so methodical and robotic that I can't tell if I found myself unable to gel with any characters or if that was just an excellent representation of Bene Gesserit training and the Spice). Anyways, as I read on, the book went in a direction that I found slightly less interesting than what I started with, so I wanted to ask if the ensuing Dune books are any good.

Also, has anyone read the Book of the New Sun series? It was recommended to me and sounded interesting.

EDIT: I see Steerpike has read BotNS, and recommends it!
« Last Edit: June 14, 2016, 11:40:01 AM by Weave » Logged


Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2016, 12:17:53 PM »

It's good, although I will caution that if you disliked the strange, stilted way in which people think in Dune, Book of the New Sun may not be your cup of tea.

If you're looking for recommendations I am enormously enjoying Ada Palmer's debut novel Too Like the Lightning right now, an absolutely tremendous novel. She's a Renaissance/Early Modern historian who specializes in the history of ideas, especially metaphysics, and she consciously modelled the book after the 18th century science fiction of Voltaire. It's an absolutely astoundingly good book, although at times a very dense and difficult book.

It's essentially utopian - flying cars can conduct people around the world in minutes, the geographic nation state has been abolished in favour of voluntary "hives" based around shared philosophies and interests, there's been world peace for decades, everyone lives well past a hundred, the average work week is only 20 hours, and we have colonies on the moon and mars. Golden age science fiction stuff, done better than it often was in its heydey. But there are also elements that read, to us, as very alien to our way of seeing the world, perhaps bordering on the dystopian - like gender identity is now almost taboo, organized religion is illegal (though everyone thinks very deeply about religious ideas all the time using "sensayers," professional metaphysicians), everyone wears a personal tracking device, and the nuclear family is a distant memory, for example.

There's also a really strange, fascinating magical realist element that really puts the whole world off-kilter in an unexpected way that perhaps keeps the book from being "hard SF," for those that care about such things.

The first two chapters are available for preview.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2016, 12:27:18 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2016, 04:31:28 PM »

I'll throw in a couple

Scifi:

Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld (Alt. WW1 where the english, french, and russians use genetically inhanced super animals, and the Germans, Austrians, and Ottomans use mechs)

Dragonriders of Pern, and  the Ship Who Sings by Anne McCaffery

Anything by Jules Verne

Fantasy

Redwall by Brian Jacque (fun childrens book, but he has a good sense of language)

I actually really like the Eragon books. I know they are highly derivative books, but they were a good introduction to fantasy when I was a teenager.


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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2016, 10:53:10 PM »

Also, Weave, if you liked House of Leaves, I can heartily recommend Jeff Vandermeer's Southern Reach Trilogy, which starts with Annihilation. It's difficult to describe... "numinous eco-horror" might be the close. The books have kind of a Lost vibe, if Lost had been carefully planned since the beginning and was written in beautiful prose. They also strongly remind me of the adventure games Myst and Riven in places, not because of linking books or something but because they have a very eerie, empty atmosphere, and a lot revolves around solving strange mysteries and exploration.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2016, 10:56:18 PM by Steerpike » Logged


Straight Outta Johto
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« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2016, 04:42:45 PM »

I found this guide to modern Fantasy and Science Fiction, and I found some stories I want to look at, and I've only been on the first page of it.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1y6gD5Ppu7EoSWfhUJyymcCNTCYn_rRurPe-KoSdN24U/pub?gid=0

Since the title of the thread is "Books n' Stuff", I thought I'd post my thoughts on the Podcast discussion in the Tavern.

So thanks to Mason for introducing me to TANIS. It rocks!

Anyone else got cool story podcasts?
« Last Edit: June 15, 2016, 05:01:47 PM by LoA » Logged


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