A book you should be reading: “The Book of the New Sun,” by Gene Wolfe

BlogOkay, technically its four books.  But its a oft’ overlooked tetralogy, so I’m grouping them together.  Any true science fictions/fantasy fan should be aware of the works of Gene Wolfe (if you haven’t, put down your DnD dice and go weep in shame!).  The Book of the New Sun is his masterwork; one of the greatest, most penetrating works of science fantasy ever penned in our time.

The Book of the New Sun
The Book of the New Sun

Set in the far flung future of Earth (called “Urth” by its inhabitants), society has degenerated into a pseudo-medieval system.  Despite advances in technology, most of human wallows in poverty, the victims of oppression.  The world’s resources are stagnant and depleting, due largely to the fading of the Sun–whose pallid light creates neither night nor day.

The story revolves around a young man named Severian, a child raised in the school of torturers.  Trained in the art of execution and interrogation, he is set for a life in the Citadel, when fate throws him in a new direction and he begins a journey into the world.

Sun is a uniquely profound book.  It is also very hard to read.  I’m not going to lie to you, I often spent my time re-reading paragraphs.  Wolfe does not pull any punches in his prose.  He does not water down any descriptions, nor edit his work to appeal to the mass market.  But that is what makes Sun a star among the endless predictable, shallow sci-fi novels written today.  It is a wholly original work, steeped in Wolfe’s own personally inspirations, that will expand you vision of what is possible in literature.  Science fiction and fantasy will never be the same for you.

A book you should be reading: “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

BlogContinuing my series of book recommendations, today I will be featuring “Stardust,” by Neil Gaiman.

The fantasy work of Gaiman is unlike any other.  In an age where too many books/movies/games follow the Tolkien method, Gaiman’s work is refreshingly original.Stardust by Neil Gaiman

From the very outset, Gaiman paints a vivid narrative, so entrancing that you will forever gaze differently at the world around you.  Taking place in the small town of Wall, during the mid 1800’s, Stardust primarily follows the early life of Tristran Thorne, a remarkable young boy who, for the love a girl, crosses the barrier between the normal, mundane world and into Fairieland.

I can’t escape from the power of Gaiman’s prose.  While reading Stardust, your impressed by the beauty of every detail.  Some writers can transport you through the simplicity of their words, some through their overt description.  Gaiman simply puts the love of his story into his work; you feel it and in turn, grow to love it yourself.

Neil Gaiman is a modern master of fantasy.  All those who claim even a mild interest in the genre must be acquainted with his work.  Pick up a copy of “Stardust” to begin your journey.

Of course, here’s the Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stardust-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0061689246/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

A book you should be reading: “The Name of the Wind”

BlogVery rarely does a book come along that rivals the likes of Lord of the Rings. Patrick Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind” is just that sort of book.

It is the story of Qvothe, a seemingly simple innkeeper in an unassuming small village.  One day a strange comes knocking at his door and he is compelled to tell his life’s journey.  It is one that is captivating and unforgettable.

The richness of the settings, the emotions of Qvothe’s experiences, not only transport you to Rothfuss’ world, they The Name of the Windimpart his world into you.  His writing is clean and unpretentious.  You forget you are reading a book.  You are living his life.

I am reticent to divulge any specific details of the plot.  I do not want to spoil it.  It is story you must embrace from the very beginning.  Suffice it say it is parts Dickens, Tolkien, and Rowling–while avoiding the derivative pitfalls in which many writers fall.

“The Name of the Wind” is the first part of the “Kingkiller Chronicles”; the rest of which has not yet been released.  I can say I am one of many eager to read the next installment (slated for 2011).  Pick up this book and you will be as well.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Name-Wind-Kingkiller-Chronicles-Day/dp/075640407X

A book you should be reading: His Majesty’s Dragon

BlogI’m not a fan of most modern fantasy books, largely due to the fact that their “cookbook” styled stories, with little originality or are just poorly written (ie. R. A. Salvatore).  So when I first heard of the premise of “His Majesty’s Dragon,” I wasn’t enthused.

But after a few recommendations, I decided to go to my local Barnes and read the first paragraph.  I was sold.  Not only is Naomi Novik a phenomenal writer, her style and imaginative world will suck you in… and never let go.

The book is the first of a 4-part series called “Temeraire.”  It is set during the Napoleonic  wars.  There’s one unique catch: there’s dragons.  The nations of Europe have Air Forces comprised of dragons, something that has survived since the Roman Ages.  A British naval office by chance discovers a rare dragon, captured by the French, and is plunged into this new life as a dragon rider.

The amazing draw of this story is the relationship between Captain Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire.  They develop  a close bond, something like a man and his dog–but on another level.  Temeraire is intelligent and sweet and fiercely devoted to his master.

You learn about this world along with Laurence and Temeraire.  Novik’s prose is powerful and description and incredibly “in tune” with the era.  Pick up this book and you will soon be searching for the sequels.

My only complaint is that stupid iBooks doesn’t haven’t the series yet!

Get it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/His-Majestys-Dragon-Temeraire-Book/dp/0345481283/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280755318&sr=1-7

An Introduction into the World of Fantasy

BlogI am aware that some of you may not be dyed-in-the-wool fantasy fans as I am.  Rest assured that enjoying my comic can be the first step into a much greater and more colorful world for you.  Let me take a moment to point you to a few materials that will hopefully whet you appetite for this greatest of genres.

“Fantasy” itself is a very wide, blanket term.  So let’s focus on the kind of fantasy that is actually good.  I must make a note, first, to dissuade you of the notion that things like Star Wars or Star Trek are fantasy.  They are not.  They are science-fiction (in fact, pretty much anything that contains the word ‘star’ in the title is probably sci-fi, except Stardust).  The reason the two genres are so often combined is because fans of one are often fans of the other.  Beyond that the content, in my opinion, differs greatly.

The most well-known form of fantasy is called “high fantasy.”  These are the stories set in unique worlds, separate from out own, with lush histories and landscapes.  The plots usually revolve around epic struggles upon which entire civilizations pivot.  For those eager to read some of this, I recommend The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, or the lesser known Phantastes by George MacDonald (a tough read but well worth it).  For a more modern read, I cannot recommend enough The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Another very common form of fantasy is called “sword and sorcery.”  A little odd-sounding I know.  It was coined to describe the sort of writing made popular by Robert E. Howard and his lovable Conan the Cimmerian.  This sort of fantasy epitomizes grand, swashbuckling heroes pitted against dark and, often vile, magical beings (or monsters, lots and lots of monsters).  The focus is on the personal quest/conflict of the hero and how he can obtain his goal.

For some great modern fantasy novels, go after anything by Neil Gaiman.  His work is literally defining the genre for this generation (Neverwhere is my personal favorite).  His work often throws a normal person into very supernatural circumstances and how he is invariably changed by the experience.  A body of work that will forever change the way you view the world is The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe.  His work is very much beyond description (not for the faint of heart fantasy fan, though.  It is for the very hungry).

Why is fantasy so important?  I feel fantasy stories give us a more pure window into our existence.  They strip away the superficial trappings of our modern world and force us to look at conflict at its true sources.  We see good and evil plainly.  We root for the good hero and can see his weapons of victory are readily at hand.  In our often drab and disillusioning age, we don’t always know who’s the villain or more importantly who’s the hero.  A refreshing fantasy tale can sometimes remind us.

I hope you venture forth and enjoy some fantasy today.