Just a reminder, this is the re-branded "Suggested Reading" weekly Monday post.
For this week, I promised to stray from the comic book path and list five Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels you should read -- I could easily do five from either of those genres, but I'll stick to my absolute favorite five from both. To make this a touch more difficult, I'm going to avoid any series that requires you to read the whole set to get the full story. IE, I'm not including Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings, though I will include other titles that do have sequels and more.
|The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold|
I will generally like any book if I find myself liking the characters. This story follows probably my favorite character I have ever read: Cazaril. He is a beaten and down trodden war veteran/released POW. He is finally coming back to the only place he ever knew as home, even though he has no reason to expect it to still welcome him after all this time. From there, he gets embroiled in a family's issues and their horrible curse and determines to do whatever it takes to save them, even if it would cost his life.
From the very first chapter, I loved the character of Cazaril. He is NOT what you expect as a typical fantasy hero, but he is done perfectly. The supporting cast are all so different and, generally, so un-cliche that they become integral parts of Cazaril. I have read this book many times and enjoy it immensely, I can't recommend it enough for anyone who likes fantasy novels of any kind. I don't want to say more because I would hate to spoil this fantastic story in any way, shape, or form.
There is a direct sequel, "Paladin of Souls", and a few novels that take place in the same universe, but none of them star Cazaril and suffer for it. Paladin isn't aweful, but I'd only suggest picking it up if you really loved Bujold's writing.
|Ender's Game OR Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card|
This is an unusual pair. Many people have told me they've read "Ender's Game" in school, and that's awesome. It is a fantastic Sci-Fi that follows a brilliant child, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, as he is sent to the Battle School Space Station and beyond for training to defend/defeat an alien race of intelligent ant-things, known as the Formics or "Buggers". It is an amazing book and easily on of Card's best works -- and I like almost everything I've read by him.
"Ender's Shadow" is set in/around the same time and deals with most of the same characters -- the different is that it is from another child at the school's eyes, named Bean. Ender is being groomed as the final hope for humanity, attempting to being turned into the typical hero. Bean is put to the side, but is secretly the back up -- he is the smartest kid on the school but is cold and logical. His background story easily trumps Ender's and makes the character really enduring. I actually read this before I read "Ender's Game", and I was no worse for the wear. I suggest you get them both.
Both novels have a series of sequels after them that follow Ender and Bean on their separate paths. You can end with the novels I listed here and be happy with a complete story, but if you find yourself liking either, I suggest you hunt down the rest. I prefer Bean's (stays in the same vein as Shadow) series to Ender's (becomes much more sci-fi), but they are both done well.
|Stardust by Neil Gaiman|
This title is something I struggled with putting here (I was going to go with another Gaiman title, "American Gods", instead). I generally like Gaiman's writing, and I really love the story of Stardust, but this is one of the few stories that I liked better as a movie. That being said, it is a story about a boy who travels to the other side of The Wall, the barrier dividing our real from the magical realm of Stormhold, to find a fallen star and win the affection of his true love.
Yes, that sounds like a terrible synopsis. Trust me when I say it is all uphill from there. The major twist that I don't mind telling you here is that the fallen star is a young woman, which is par the course in Stormhold. Oh, and our protagonist, Tristran (Tristan in the movie), isn't the only one looking for her: he's unknowingly racing a trio of evil witches and the fratricidal, homicidal sons of the dead king (and their ghostly brothers).
The book is still good, I just love the movie so much more. I think I'll do a post about films that I've liked better than their books soon... it should be short enough, I think.
|Time Enough for Love by Robert Heinlein|
Let me preface this with stating that I am woefully under-read when it comes to Heinlein, but I'm working from it. He has a unique writing style, and I don't always appreciate it at first glance. Time Enough, however, caught me because I was so interested in the main protagonist, Lazarus Long, who just happens to be the oldest living human (which, at this point, puts him over two thousand years old).
This novel is actually a series of short stories that Lazarus is telling his companions. He has decided he doesn't want to live anymore and he is only alive at this moment because he wants to tell these stories.
They are all interesting stories and the characters and situations are just plain strange. And, honestly, they're better for it. Check this out even if you aren't a huge Heinlein fan, you want be disappointed if you stick through it to the end.
|The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny|
Ok, so I'm kind of cheating here. Chronicles is actually a collection of ten different novels that make up the two main series (five novels apiece) in the world of Amber. That being said, the individual novels are fairly short, probably better called novellas.
This story is a perfect end for this list because it is a mix of sci-fi and fantasy. They are all told in first person and the very beginning has us following the protagonist (of the first five, at least), Corwin, as he wakes up in a strange hospital, having apparently lost his memory in a car accident. He immediately notices something is amiss and flees. We learn along with him many things, but the most important is that he is one of the Princes of Amber, beings able to shape and create new worlds around them.
It sounds far fetched buy Zelazny is in rare form and really nails this story and the characters. From the very first moment, the pace is set fast and hard and he manages to keep it up at almost all times. Every revelation is fantastic and this becomes an amazing novel of revenge, one of my favorite themes.
I've read at least the first five novels many times and they are well worth it. The second cycle follows a new character, one I won't name to avoid spoilers, but I didn't enjoy it as much, it follows more in line with other works I've read and not enjoyed from Zelazny. They're still worth reading for the continuation of the Amber story, but at least the first five novels are phenomenal. You can get all ten collected in "The Great Big Book of Amber" for easy reading -- I'd suggest you pick it up ASAP!
That was MUCH harder than I expected -- most of the books I wanted to put on their were part of bigger stories. As I'm unpacking (back in to my now-renovated apartment), I'll have to check through my books to see what I missed -- I'm sure there are plenty, but I'm happy with the list here.
Eventually I'll do a Monday post for sci-fi and fantasy series (and I'll even split up the genres), but that will come later.
Next Week: We're going back to comic books, but I'll suggest five Trade Paper Backs I think everyone should have. You could get them as single issues, but these will be titles that I think work best collected.