Since we've finished our second book reading, I though I'd take a break this week before jumping into our next one. This time, I want to give you all a look at what my general plans are for future readings and the chance to offer feedback and suggestions.
The criteria I'm using for choosing these books are kind of loose. First of all, I want to look at books I feel are significant works in the Fantasy or SF genres. I want books that are well-known enough that most people have at least heard of them and may already own a copy. And I want books that I have in my own collection so that I don't have to run to the library. Of these three criteria, naturally, the last is the most important.
I also have tried to select books that touch on social or political issues and will try to bring those out in my discussions. Not all of these books will met that criteria; then again, you never can tell when you might find social commentary or parallels.
Going in alphabetical order, by author:
Isaac Asimov: The Caves of Steel -- Looking over my library, I realize to my embarassment that I do not have either I, Robot or the Foundation trilogy, which I consider to be Asimov's two big important works. But The Caves of Steel is a good story too; a cop "buddy" story and murder mystery introducing his robot detective R. Daneel Olivaw. I also have Asimov's Lucky Starr series, which is a sentimental favorite of mine, but I think there are other works that should take precedence.
Peter S. Beagle: The Last Unicorn -- So far this series has focused more on SF than on Fantasy. The Last Unicorn is a beautiful and moving tale of magic, of immortality and of being what you are.
Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination -- A bare description of the plot makes it sound like The Count of Monte Cristo in Space, but intermixed with this story of obsessive revenge we get teleportation, a radioactive business consultant, a tribe of primitive scientists and a truly hallucigenic climax.
Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles -- Bradbury's classic short story collection about the exploration and settling of Mars. There is music in his writing.
Robert Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress -- Actually, there are more than one Heinlein book I would like to do. I would also like to look into his "Future History" stories (collected as The Past Through Tomorrow). I also might consider doing a look at some of his Juveniles. But several people in different threads have listed Mistress as their favorite Heinlein novel, and I think there are interesting connections to make with modern-day libertarians and Tea Partyists.
Ursula K. LeGuin: A Wizard of Earthsea -- Guilty secret: I've only read of few of LeGuin's novels. But I have read her Earthsea trilogy. It's a good fantasy series and is notable for being set in a world radically unlike the standard Tolkienesque fantasy world. I could be pursuaded to do the entire trilogy. We'll see.
C.S. Lewis: Out of the Silent Planet -- Lewis is perhaps better known for his Narnia books and for works of pop theology that evangelicals love but which annoy the hell out of real theologians. But he also loved science fiction. Not "hard SF" so much as tales of imagination and he liked the way SF could use these imaginative settings to discuss ideas. The first book in what's been called Lewis' "Space Trilogy" is what happens when a Christian with a Medievalist world-view writes a scientific romance in the style of H.G. Wells.
George MacDonald: Phantastes / Lilith -- He's not as well-known today as Tolkien or Lewis, but MacDonald wrote some wonderfully imaginative fantasies. I'm not quite sure whether to do Phantastes or Lilith; both are dream-like works invovling excursions into other worlds. Perhaps I'll do both.
Anne McCaffrey: Dragonflight -- The first book of the neverending Dragonriders of Pern series, and my favorite of the series. Is it science fiction, or fantasy? You decide.
Michael Moorcock: Elric of Melniboné -- I somehow missed Elric when I was devouring Science Fiction back in the 1970s; but a lot of my friends were fans of the doomed albino prince of Melniboné. I've read that Moorcock meant Elric to be the "Anti-Conan", the opposite of the big tough barbarian with a sword. I've only recently started reading some of his stories, but I've enjoyed them.
E.E. ("Doc") Smith: The Skylark of Space -- His Lensmen series is better known, but I first discovered "Doc" Smith through his Skylark books. To me, Smith exemplifies what C.S. Lewis called a "Mythopoeic" writer: one whose skill as a wordsmith may be lacking, but who creates stunning worlds and stories which capture the imagination. The galaxy itself was too small a stage for the ether-busting exploits of Smith's heroes. he elevated the Space Opera to Space Grand Opera.
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit -- If we're going to talk about any fantasy at all, we have to mention Tolkien. His Lord of the Rings is the more important work, but I'm not sure if I want to tackle something that big. The Hobbit is more whimsical, originally intended as a children's tale; but it has some interesting deeper themes as well.
A.E. van Vogt: Voyage of the Space Beagle -- Van Vogt is an unjustly forgotten author of Science Fiction's Golden Age. The Space Beagle is a starship Boldy Going Where No Man Has Gone Before. On it's journey of exploration, they encounter alien creatures (at least one of which will seem strangely familiar) and grapple with personal and political stresses withing their own crew.
Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea -- Verne is one of my favorites. What can I say? This is the first book of Verne's I ever read and probably the best of his Extraordinary Voyages. I'd like to try digging into some of the political subtext and ideas in the book that usually get glossed over.
Roger Zelazny: Lord of Light -- For unexplained reasons, the crew of a colony ship sent to settle an alien world have developed godlike powers. So, naturally, they have set themselves up as gods, modeling their personnae after the deities of Hindu mythology. One of their number decides to rebel against the Heavenly Establishment and fight them by assuming the identity of the Buddha.
These are the books that I would like to eventually cover. I have well over a year's worth here, I think. I might not get to some of these titles; I might add others. Let me know what you think. Vote in the poll for the book you'd like to see next, and I'll post the results around mid-week.