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!

Book Review: Creatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny

Awesome Cover!

Awesome Cover!

You know that feeling that you get, when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to do. We all know it. You’re not supposed to eat dessert before your dinner. You’re not supposed to be on Facebook at work. You’re not supposed to read Roger Zelazny’s Creatures of Light and Darkness.

Well I suppose that last part isn’t exactly true. There isn’t any real reason why I (or you) shouldn’t have read Creatures of Light and Darkness. It mainly comes down to the fact that I’ve got some deadlines to meet and there is already too few hours in a day to read any random title I come across on the interwebs (I have a feeling I’ve just angered a good many by categorizing Roger Zelazny’s work as ‘random title’). My ‘To Read’ list is long and if there isn’t order, I’ll never get anything red.

Cue Twitter chats. Cue chaos!

I recently became obsessed with twitter chats. I basically just type any old thing I’m thinking about, add a # sign at the beginning and the word ‘chat’ at the end and see what I can find. Of course I searched #SciFichat. It looks like a variety of people use the hash-tag for different things but I was able to find a weekly chat on Fridays from 2-4pm. Of course I wanted in immediately but had to wait until Friday. It turned out, the topic was Roger Zelazny.

Up until this point, I had never heard of nor read Zelazny, and was thinking I might be sidelined before ever starting my first #SciFichat. Desperate, I turned to wikipedia and was able to learn that Zelazny is a) American (not that it matters), b) writes Science Fiction & Fantasy (could have guessed) and c) has won 6 Hugo awards & 3 Nebulas. He’s officially a big deal.

I scrolled down to find out if I’d heard of any of his work and simply not connected the name. Unfortunately, I had not previously encountered anything by Zelazny but was starting to get excited because it appeared that most of his stories where based in mythology. Indeed he wrote stories using Greek, Hindu, Christian, Navajo, EGYPTIAN, and even Cthulu Mythos.

I stopped reading (and chatting for that matter) after it sunk in that he’d used ancient Egyptian culture and mythos as the basis for one of his novels. Creatures of Light and Darkness was already on it’s way. I did receive this warning from a fellow chatter once I’d announced my excitement  to the group:

He hadn’t given me the half of it.

Pros:

As for things I liked about the novel, obviously I enjoyed the Ancient Egyptian motif. After all, it was basically the whole reason I decided to read the novel. Interestingly, the book was not set in Ancient Egypt (as I originally assumed), but instead, in some future where both men and machines had grown technologically sophisticated enough that some (283 to be precise) entities have become immortal, and whether through technology or supernatural powers, are like unto gods. Hence we have characters named Osiris, Anubis, Horus etc. which for all intents and purposes, are the gods their names evoke.

Another thing I really enjoyed about the book was Zelazny’s writing style. For lack of a better description, the writing felt ‘Old’. Many phrases and turns felt as if they might have come from the Bible or some similar text. This was absolutely perfect as Zelazny is essentially writing about gods. Contrast this with some dialogue that is relatively modern and some description of modern, or futuristic technologies and the effect is a book that readers will shotgun in one week because they can’t seem to put it down.

Cons:

There were some things I didn’t enjoy about the novel. Namely, the plot is quite difficult to follow in some places. Mostly, I think this occurs for two reasons:

a) Much of the action involves something called Temporal Fugue, which is essentially time travel but with the added complexity of probability and martial arts. Not very easy to follow.

b) Still more of the plot involves complex familial relationships (paradoxes really) between the different characters. I originally believed that a better knowledge of Egyptian mythology would have helped but it seems that Egyptian mythology is so convoluted anyway that I’m sure Zelazny could have created the relationships from scratch (however, I don’t think he did. Just used the mythology very liberally).

Who doesn't need more horus in their life?

Who doesn’t need more horus in their life?

Finally, Zelazny creates some instances within the novel that are utterly ridiculous. They don’t seem to match the tone or candor of main plot and are therefore a little distracting. Thankfully, they are quite hilarious and enjoyable on their own. Unfortunately, the reader is left wondering why they are written that way to begin with.

Final thoughts:

In all, I really enjoyed this book. I will certainly have to dive in to more of Zelazny’s work when I get the chance. Looks like my ‘to read’ shelf just got a good deal longer.

Oh, and if anyone who was reading this has already read the book, please comment with thoughts on the last chapter. To me it seems very much like a parallel to the story of the three wise men (from the bible). Curious that the god Horus is conceivably Joseph in that situation. Not sure what to make of it. Please comment below. Bye all!