I (Jesse) am a long time fantasy and science fiction reader, and this page will look at some of my favorites which we currently have in stock, and perhaps a few that I love and would like to have in stock. First to give you an idea of my bias, here is my list of
All time favorite fantasy and science fiction books:
(in no particular order)
Stranger in a Strange Land Robert Heinlin
Game of Thrones series George R.R. Martin
Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkein
The Dispossessed Ursula LeGuin
The Lions of Al-Rassan Guy Gavriel Kay
The Star (short story) Arthur C. Clarke
Good Omens Neil Gaimon and Terry Pratchett
I, Robot Isaac Asimov
Now featured in the store:
The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula LeGuin
This could have been on my all time favorites instead of the Dispossessed, but I decided to toss a coin and pick one. This is a more subtle book, with a premise which makes for a lot of introspective reading. The protagonist is the ambassador from Earth in the far distant future to a colony which had lost contact with the mother planet. In the intervening years the colonists evolved a unique biology. In short any individual can be male or female based on hormonal or emotional stimulants at any time during their life. The story is an adventure and love story, wrapped around a multi layered consideration of gender. When it was printed in 1969 it was like nothing I had ever encountered. Even to this day I do not think I have read anything which compares with it for stimulating a discussion of a multitude of topics.
We have several of LeGuin’s books in stock, and they are all thought provoking and fun to read.
I have been rereading The Dispossessed. I read this book when it first came out in 1969, and when I picked it up to read again I was once again amazed by the intelligence and depth of her stories. This book is a fascinating comparison of Capitalism, Socialism and Anarchism. The main character is a gifted scientist who lives in an anarchistic society, located on a moon, which is completely isolated from the societies on the planet below. He has made an extremely valuable discovery, and is invited to come down to the planet and present it. The simple premise leads to examination of freedom, individualism and greed. This may sound like a profound, tedious read, but it is exceptionally entertaining and the main character is very sympathetic.
Ms. leGuin is one of my favorite authors (as most anyone who knows me has already found out). Her Wizard of Earthsea series is a classic of young adult literature (winner of the Newberry Award) which I always recommend to people who want something for their teenager to read. I enjoyed it immensely as an adult. Her book, The Left Hand of Darkness is one of the most thought provoking books I have ever read, and it seems like it could have been written yesterday instead of 45 years ago. Sue is reading the Left Hand of Darkness, so it will be available again in the store soon.
The Privilege of the Sword, Ellen Kushner
For lighter reading this is an excellent choice. This is an impossible book to categorize easily. I would describe it as sort of a cross between a romance novel and a swashbuckling fantasy. The heroine is a 15 year old girl, but this is not a young adult book, it is clearly an adult read. Humor and plot twists abound, and the ending is clearly appropriate, but not telegraphed during the book itself. The characters are multiple dimensional, and always interesting. We also have the first book in this series, Swordspoint, in stock. The books stand alone, but I would recommend reading them in order because the intersecting characters are fun to catch up on.
In preparation for Conquest 45 (see our events pages) I have started reading some books by the Guest of Honor, Glen Cook. I just finished Passage at Arms, and I was very impressed. People lately have been asking what happened to “hard” Science Fiction. This book is an excellent example of that type of book. Published in 2008, it shows that this type of story is still alive. It also fits in the sub genre of military science fiction, and he has written many other novels in the same vein.
The book chronicles a single mission on a “climber” which is similar in many ways to the submarines of WWI and WWII. The conditions are similar, and the focus and intensity is much like in the film “Das Boot.” It also brought to mind the interactions and personalities on the frigates described by Patrick O’Brian in the Master and Commander series. The author points this out, saying that the interactions and personalities of the men have not changed much since the first Phoenician sailors pushed their ships out from shore.
The book certainly does not glorify war, nor romanticize the warriors. This is a gritty book, describing a gritty, hard core group of men on a desperate mission. This is very much not an action adventure. It is a psychological study of how real men respond to a real situation. I was totally drawn in by the end and very impressed by the power of the writing and story. Based on this book I intend to pursue some of his other series, particularly the military fiction.