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View Diary: Books Go Boom! How 'Lord of the Rings' is Not a Very Good Book - and Yet, is a Great One (296 comments)

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  •  As far as I’m concerned, (18+ / 0-)

    George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t even come close to making the shortlist: I find it unreadable.  I tried, but there weren’t nearly enough characters with whom I wanted to keep company, and most of those got killed off.  And it’s not because I can’t tolerate grimth, though I grant that my taste doesn’t really lean that way: Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen will never be one of my top favorites, but I enjoyed it and consider it far superior to the Martin.

    Some (non-urban) fantasy worlds to which I return repeatedly:

    • The Five Gods world of Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt.
    • The world of Joy Chant’s Red Moon and Black Mountain and The Grey Mane of Morning.
    • The world of Diane Duane’s Tale of the Five.
    • The world of Patricia A. McKillip’s Riddle-Master trilogy.
    • The world of Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown.  I consider The Blue Sword a genuine classic.
    • Tamora Pierce’s world of Tortall, which just keeps getting better.
    • Michelle Sagara’s Essalieyan and Elantran universes, the former as Michelle West.
    • The world of the city of Astreiant: the Point of ... books by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett.
    • The Fairyland of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series; who could possibly resist the Wyverary?

    And yes, I also return repeatedly to the worlds of L.E. Modesitt, Jr., especially those of Recluce and the Imager Portfolio.

    Alison Croggon’s quartet The Books of Pellinor is likely to find its way onto that list.  Valente’s two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales create too many worlds for me to put them on the list, but they certainly made an impression.

    •  I am not familiar with most on your list, (10+ / 0-)

      but I will say that I enjoy Robin McKinley's writing very much.

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      by peregrine kate on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 06:51:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree (10+ / 0-)
      Michelle Sagara’s Essalieyan and Elantran universes, the former as Michelle West.
      As Michelle West:

         Hunter’s Oath
          Hunter’s Death
         Sun Sword series
           Broken Crown
           Uncrowned King
           Shining Court
           Sea of Sorrows
           Riven Shield
           Sun Sword

      As Michelle Sagara:

      Cast in Moonlight a prequel from an anthology Harvest Moon    
           Cast in Shadow  
           Cast in Courtlight
           Cast in Secret
           Cast in Fury
           Cast in Silence
           Cast in Chaos
           Cast in Ruin
           Cast in Peril
           Cast in Sorrow

      Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

      by cfk on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 07:03:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Glad to see someone else note Bujold (10+ / 0-)

      I am entertained and enlightened by the depth she brings to her characters.

      In Paladin of Souls, one of the more interesting scenes is early in the book, where Ista is confessing the truth of her great crime against Lord dy Lutez, out of desperation. And yet the questioning by dy Cabon about her circumstances brings her to realize how much she failed to appreciate at the time.

      Bujold has a gift for putting her characters through personal discoveries.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 08:38:01 PM PDT

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      •  She is wonderful (8+ / 0-)

        Her science fiction is also excellent. I think of her as building more in characters than in worlds.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:37:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The worlds of fantasy and SF have grown more 3D (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, RunawayRose, xaxnar, No Exit

          in the last fifty years, and the characters have too. Before then SF especially had a tendency to get by on dazzling ideas, without the writing to back it up (e.g. Asimov).

          But it looks to me like all genre writing has gotten more literary and self-aware, for better and for worse. There's more craft and clear expression, but also more pretension. I see it in mysteries, horror, historical and young adult fiction. The ambition's good, and I like to see aspiring authors writing in every established genre, and inventing new ones.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 10:41:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Another fan of Robin McKinley (9+ / 0-)

      and Tamora Pierce here. They're usually in the young adult or juvenile sections.

      I think I like Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic best of her worlds. Tortall was her first world and the early novels suffer for it. For some reason, the two Circle of Magic quartets really call to me and I've reread them several times. They're very fast, light reads for me.

      Robin McKinley always writes rich, deep books, and usually they're standalones rather than series. I loved the world she wrote for Pegasus and the way she let the human protagonist see herself through pegasus eyes.

      It's easy for adults to dismiss the books for young readers, but IMHO some of the tightest, most wonderful modern writing is in that genre. People who write kids' books know that the pages have to turn themselves, and I find that far more pleasurable than a ponderous, pretentious "literary" style.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 09:36:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree that Tammy’s early novels (7+ / 0-)

        are weaker; the later ones are much better.  The first one that really stands out for me is Squire, the third volume of the Protector of the Small quartet.  The Tricksters duology may be even a bit better, and the Beka Cooper trilogy is outstanding.

        Mind you, I like the Circle books, too; I’m especially fond of Street Magic and Battle Magic – Evvy is a doll – and Magic Steps, Sandry’s second book.  (All else being equal, I’ve always had a preference for female protagonists.)

        If you’ve not discovered Kristin Cashore, you should definitely give Graceling a try: I wasn’t very far into it before I was thinking Tammy Pierce might almost have written this.  In particular, the character Katsa could be a Pierce character.  Cashore has two other books in that world, Fire, and Bitterblue; the last is a bit of a sequel to both of the first two.

      •  I see lots of fine writing aimed at young adults (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, RunawayRose, No Exit

        If a writer can find the next Harry Potter, Twilight or Hunger Games, they can sell millions and the movie rights; and younger readers will soak up good storytelling, without asking it to fit their labels and expectations.

        There are also some phenomenal YA series written several decades ago. I was tempted to put more of them in my poll, but had more books than I could fit. I'm not sure I know any YA series that built worlds with a breadth and depth of detail comparable to Middle Earth.

        "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

        by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 10:49:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Riddlemaster of Hed (10+ / 0-)

      will always be my very favorite book (I've only ever been able to get the trilogy bound as one). I understand that McKillip now thinks that it's not very good, but I firmly disagree.

      Tortall is awesome, and I buy the books for my daughter, who loves them.

      “He said it was better to belong where you don't belong than not to belong where you used to belong, remembering when you used to belong there.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

      by LoreleiHI on Fri Apr 04, 2014 at 10:48:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What a fine contribution, for our To Be Read lists (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BMScott, RunawayRose, No Exit

      thank you.

      You're way ahead of me. The only one I've read, of all the new books you mention, is Paladin of Souls. I make a point of reading any book that wins both the Hugo and the Nebula. But I think that one suffered a bit, by my jumping to the second book of a series. I'll have to try The Curse of Chalion.

      George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire doesn’t even come close to making the shortlist: I find it unreadable.  I tried, but there weren’t nearly enough characters with whom I wanted to keep company, and most of those got killed off.
      I'm a big fan of moral chiaroscuros, and all the shades of gray in between. Martin writes a lot of characters who I find interesting, and want to see what they'll do next.

      I have been frustrated when he kills off characters who are central both to his plot and to the moral balance of his realms; on the other hand, I find it exhilarating that I can never take anything in his world for granted. This feeling of whiplash and sawn-off shotgun blasts is a rare and shocking thrill, to jaded readers like me:

      Reading a novel is a little like commanding a battle: you're always reconnoitering, trying to guess where the author will go next, what's a feint and where the action is really heading. I don't know when I have ever been as comprehensively and pleasurably outgeneraled as I am when I read Martin. He raises and raises the stakes, long past when any other writer would have walked away from the table, and just when you think he's done, he goes all in. There is, apparently, no piece he will not sacrifice, no character that you (and one suspects, he) love so much that he will not orchestrate that character's doom.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 10:04:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You’re very welcome. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kurt, RunawayRose, Brecht, No Exit

        In some ways I’m a jaded reader — I have, after all, been reading sf voraciously for 60 years or so! — but I simply don’t want that kind of uncertainty.  In a bricks and mortar bookshop I will almost always take a quick look at the end of a book before buying it, because I’m not interested in real downers or cliffhangers.  (E.g., I think that Flowers for Algernon is a superb story — but I very much doubt that I will ever be able to bring myself to re-read it.)  Not being able to do this is for me the single biggest drawback to buying books online.  I’ve also been known to read a book out of order to reduce the tension a bit.  (Drove Mary Gentle nuts, since it sabotages some of the effects into which she puts considerable effort.)

        I also need to have enough characters with whom I want to spend time, at least in a fictional world — they aren’t always people with whom I’d be likely to become friends in real life.

    •  i read the riddle master of hed series several (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht

      times in my youth...  enjoyed it immensely.

      If you didn't care what happened to me, and I didn't care for you, we would zig zag our way through the boredom and pain, occasionally glancing up through the rain, wondering which of the buggers to blame, and watching for pigs on the wing. R. Waters

      by No Exit on Sat Apr 05, 2014 at 06:00:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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