11 Fantasy Books I Should Have Read By Now #WyrdAndWonder

For today’s #WyrdAndWonder prompt, in no particular order, a list of fantasy titles I really should have read by now:

Kindred by Octavia Butler:

Simply put, I’ve yet to read ANY Butler yet. I chose this one for the list because it’s reportedly “Fantasy” (in Butler’s own words: “a kind of grim fantasy”), but the reality is, I should have read something from her by now. I picked up Dawn and Imago at a used books sale and they have just been gathering dust ever since. I need to change that!

Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks:

The first book in the Shannara Chronicles. This is one of those books that I feel like I should read just to understand the history of one of my favorite genres. After The Lord of the Rings, Fantasy (with a capital F) was on the map and people were scrounging for similar kinds of stories. Apparently Sword of Shannara was what they found . . .

Problem is, I’ve heard it isn’t great for modern readers. I don’t know. The MTV show has been a guilty pleasure of mine, but I think it’s been updated substantially. I suppose I’ll get to it some day.

Gardens of the Moon by Stevin Erikson:

This is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It seems to be one of those series that is just EPIC. In scope, complexity, anything. I’ve never read any of it, but it always shows up on fantasy page count lists. Apparently you can buy the complete thing at just over 10,000 pages.

Regardless of whether or not it’s any good, it seems to be something of a notch on the old fantasy reader belt. Not a right of passage necessarily, but definitely a show of commitment to the genre . . . One of which I apparently haven’t completed yet. Some day . . .

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin:

Apparently I even ate GoT inspired Oreos.

I don’t have a good excuse for not having read this yet. I LOVED the show, and would certainly consider myself a fan of all things GoT. I’ve reviewed a precursor to GoT on this blog, cooked a meat pie from the GoT cookbook, and even waited in a super long line to meet the author and get my copy of this book signed (which I embarrassingly picked up at Target on my way to the signing, and even more embarrassingly, blinked during my photo with GRRM).

But for some reason haven’t read the book . . . Ok. Actually I know the reason. When I first bought the paperback, I wanted to get abs and so I started planking. I could read about two pages in the amount of time I could hold a plank. There are A LOT of pages. Over time I think I’ve developed a bit of a pavlovian response. Whenever I even look at the book, my abs hurt.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman:

Simply put, Neverwhere kind ruined Gaiman for me. All the good things I enjoyed about Good Omens I’ve started just attributing to Terry Pratchett’s influence. This one gets rave reviews from everyone I talk to, and the show seems pretty popular. But alas I’m not very motivated on this one. I know I should be . . . but I’m not.

Dragon Flight by Anne McKaffery:

Dragon Riders of Pern just seems to be one of those series that has influenced nearly everyone under the sun. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so much. Either way, I feel I should have read at least one of these simply because it’s SO pervasive. Time will tell.

Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind:

I feel like I might have been able to lump this one in with the Shannara stuff earlier in the post as this series seems to be one that most people found after reading Tolkien and just wanted more. I put it down here because I think people get the “Terry’s” in fantasy confused enough as it is.

I honestly have no idea what it’s even about, but it seems like one I should have read. Who knows?

Black Company by Glen Cook:

At some point, I feel like I read a short story in the Black Company universe and I remember liking it. It seems pretty popular among people who like Fantasy, and I’ve heard that it is sort of proto Grimdark which . . . could be interesting to read for that aspect alone. It’s on the ever growing TBR.

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny:

This is one that I keep getting told I need to read and a series that I think I might actually enjoy. I’ve read Creatures of Light and Darkness before so Zelazny is on my radar for that reason too. I’ll get there.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman:

I pretty much love everything about the show based off this book that used to be on SYFY channel, and was essentially crushed when it got cancelled (although I suppose it’s probably good that it ended because I personally don’t feel it ever got “bad” as a lot of shows do when they run too long). However, I haven’t approached the books yet. I’ve heard several negative reviews and my love for the show is just soooo much that I don’t want to taint it. But I probably will because I just have to know!

Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber:

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and all their assorted adventures, just seem to be the inspiration for so many fantasy things (I think you could argue all of “low” fantasy, and Sword & Sorcery). I’ve read a few of their stories over the years and enjoy the pair immensely, but I’ve never read the original short story collection. One of these days.

End of post thoughts:

This list could have been SOO much longer, but eventually I got tired. Also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of these books are older titles. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t think I should be reading newer things, because there is TONS of great new fantasy coming out all the time. The reason those titles are probably not on the list is because I’ve been trying really hard to keep up (although it’s impossible) and I think I’ve read at least some of the newer stuff. Older stuff is harder to will myself to go back to, because of all the great new stuff.

Anyway hope you enjoyed my listicle. Please let me know which titles you think should be on the list in the comments! Thanks for reading!

Short Fiction Review: The Way of Cross & Dragon!

Oh man. Another doozy from George R. R. Martin. This week’s short fiction review is about his The Way of Cross & Dragon. At least this one wasn’t completely revolting (I found Meathouse Man pretty disgusting but still worth reading). However, it was certainly another ‘Thinker’. I suppose that is good. Why read if you don’t want to think?

So what did this story make me think about?  A couple things really:

1) People really shit on the Catholic Church

In my mind I want Damien to look like one of these guys!

In my mind I want Damien to look like one of these guys!

I suppose I’m just tired of this motif. There is no doubt in my mind that the One True Interstellar Catholic Church is supposed to revert us back to a period in the Catholic Church’s history, probably the late 1100’s and early 1200’s (really it’s the Inquisitors that give it away). And even though this story is supposed to take place in the future, it feels like we are in the past. It also feels like any form of organized religion is fake or inauthentic, and that belief is for fools. That it is simply constructed to distract us from the harsh and terrible world we live in, or to control the dimwitted masses. I’m kind of over that twist. I’d like to see the Church catch a break once in a while.

Of course I could be misinterpreting the setting. I’m open to suggestions. AKA please comment.

2) Entropy: Really interesting way to look at the world

Entropy is 100% my favorite theme in Sci-Fi and Fantasy literature. Not so much from the everything breaks down and nothing lasts perspective. That’s pretty depressing and not a whole lot of fun. More from the perspective that things must be torn down to be built up. That the universe is constantly changing and from the ruins of something that once was, something else will be. Pretty dramatic stuff right?

The Way of Cross & Dragon seems to frame entropy as a contradiction. After listening to a huge speech about how everything eventually breaks down, the main character seems to be stuck in a seemingly everlasting cycle which will continue on forever. Pursuit of truth is the only true constant.

Is it possible that she's better looking as a brunette?

Is it possible that she’s better looking as a brunette?

3) This story has to be the precursor to GoT

Also, this Judas Iscariot fellow (at least the way he is constructed in The Way of Cross & Dragon) seems to resemble Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones an awful lot. Actually, the only difference I can see is that Judas is a dude. Anyway, I haven’t been reading GoT but I’ve been trying to keep up with the HBO series. Obviously, now I’m going to start looking for any type of biblical references in her character (although at present they are eluding me) as the story progresses. Maybe I’ll find something, maybe not.

Again, if you already know of some of these please comment.

And finally:

4) I think this is as happy as an ending gets for George R.R. Martin

I’m really starting to feel like George R.R. Martin just doesn’t do happy. I sincerely hope that he’s more cheerful in person than some of his writing. This is the second short fiction piece I’ve read by this author and for the second time I’ve need to put it down and go do something else to distract myself. He gets heavy and he does it quickly too.

Anyway, reading back over this post again, it would seem that I didn’t enjoy The Way of Cross & Dragon. That isn’t true. I did enjoy it and would certainly recommend it to anyone reading this post. I really liked the juxtaposition of elements in the story which were supposed to represent Entropy, with those elements which were supposed to represent Immortality. Order from chaos, chaos from order, etc. I think he could have pushed a little harder on in the setting. The inauthentic church motive seems a little tired to me, but this story was written back in the 80’s so maybe it was a fresher idea in that time. I think that’s all for now. If I find any good GoT tidbits relating to this story I’ll be sure to add them. Or maybe just do another post.

Bye!

  

Posting on Vacation.

Yea this boat right?

Yea this boat right?

Ahh the guilt! I wasn’t going to post this week. I’m on vacation in Stone Harbor and have been greatly enjoying some much needed R&R. But alas, I couldn’t hold out. I’ve been catching up on a lot of reading because the only thing to do here is sit on the beach and read (it’s amazing!). I’ve been reading novels mostly. I finally finished Highmage’s Plight, so there will be a review on that later (I’ll post it during the BBF so stay tuned). I also started World War Z which has been great so far. But then the guilt . . .

A short fiction post every week. That was the deal I made myself. My Kobi posts are all but non-existent (I miss that little guy!) since I moved out and if I don’t keep up the short fiction posts then everything I’ve worked so hard (well medium hard) to  attain will collapse into ruin.

Dramatic much?

Well without further adieu, I suppose I should begin this week’s short fiction post. It’s about George R. R. Martin’s Meathouse Man. I’ve come to understand George R. R. Martin is fairly popular these days. Certainly a household name. I’m pretty sure you can get a good deal through a conversation just by mentioning his name and spouting out a few random facets you’ve happened to pick up along the way. It works even better if you’ve seen an episode or two of his HBO series. You don’t even really have to have read any of his work. I never had and I’ve been getting by pretty well (granted I did start watching the show and am pretty much caught up as far as that is concerned).

So, at the beach I was skimming through a zombie anthology and saw his name. It seemed like an opportunity.

I won’t comment on any literary aspect of the writing except to say that it was superb. Everything measured and tempered for maximum effect. Very well done there although I expected as much given the nature of the criticism surrounding his other work.

What I would like to comment on is the content of the piece. It’s horrifying. I often forget how good horror makes a reader feel absolutely uncomfortable while reading. At each break between sections I stopped and seriously debated whether or not I would continue.

Let me explain.

Aww

Aww

The premise of Meathouse Man is rather simple. It is the story of a man who is in search of true love. A man who struggles to rise above base pleasure, above anonymity , above being numb. Something along the lines of having loved and lost being better than having never love at all. He eventually decides that the world is built to break men down and that to believe anything else is just and intricate deception constructed by those too weak to see the truth. Depressing huh?

If that isn’t hard enough to take, please also consider the universe this man lives in. He is a Corpse Handler. Basically, he controls the bodies of six people who are already dead with the aid of synthetic brains (something of a techno-necromancer I suppose). Now the ability to control the dead is fully integrated into this society. Dead men work in the fields, the mines, the forests. They act in theatres and shows. Worst of all, it is dead women who pleasure their customers in the whorehouses.

Yea, pretty revolting stuff.

I think I’ll end the post here and let that sink in. I’m not upset that I read it. Nor am I upset that it exists (freedom of expression and all that). I’m a little bit grateful to be put outside my comfort zone. However, I am still upset; that’s really all I can say to express my feelings after reading it. Perhaps that is the point. I’ll let you decide. Please comment if you can.