Wednesday, January 3, 2007

On the Move

My fiance and I are moving this week so we've been packing up all our books and no matter how many we pack, there's always more. And I even have a bunch that never got unpacked from before. It's amazing how many we have, and how many of those I haven't yet had time to read (many of which are on my To Read list for 2007).

Here are a few of the books I came across that I'd recommend (something like an amazon list without the books and prices):

George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire

If you haven't read these yet, what are you waiting for? The first book, A Game of Thrones, is a little hard to get into at first, but it is worth it. The storyline is pretty well done, and the characterization is amazing (even if there are so many characters that it's hard to keep track of them all). There are so many good characters, and they are not the stereotypical black and white/good and evil characters at all. Some of the ones you start off loving to hate, you end up hating to find you love (such as Jaime Lannister, when he is introduced as a point of view character in the third book). A Storm of Swords very well might be the best book I have ever read - from start to finish, it was hard to put down. A Feast for Crows admittedly does not live up to the previous books, but I am hoping that's just because a lot of the best characters were missing and the author actually wanted to continue the story 5 years later but couldn't because he would have had a hard time explaining some events. In any case, the first three books are amazing. Very realistic without being too fantastic. But do be forewarned - Martin is not afraid to kill off his characters, and characters you are attached to may die.

Robin Hobb's Farseer/Liveship Traders/Tawny Man trilogies

Robin Hobb's three trilogies tie together, even though the second one contains a different set of main characters. They are simpler than some of the fantasy books I've read and sometimes not very subtle, but the characterization is top notch. The story is unique, particularly that of the liveships, which is a different and compelling concept. I thought I'd find the Liveship Trader trilogy hard to get into after being so attached to Fitz, the main character from Farseer, but I read them since I understood Tawny Man was supposed to make more sense after reading the second trilogy. Am I glad I did, since I enjoyed them even more than the Farseer trilogy. They're definitely a fun read, and they are better than most of what is available for fantasy today.

Hobb's writing pace is amazing - she consistently writes about a book a year and they come out well. The only one of these nine books I had trouble getting through was Assassin's Quest, the last book in the Farseer trilogy. It just seemed to plod to me somewhat, but that is the only one of those nine books that I didn't find nearly impossible to put down.

I just got Shaman's Crossing, the first book in Robin Hobb's new trilogy. I have not read it yet, but I am looking forward to reading it.

Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles

You may have heard or read the story of Merlin and King Arthur, but never like this (unless of course, you have indeed read this series)! Whyte's writing style is far superior to that of most authors I've read; it's very intelligent. The only thing that irked me about it was that a few times he did use the so-called word "irrespective"; I hate incorrect grammar, but that seemed especially out of place when the rest of the writing was superbly done.

This series is generally in the fantasy/sci fi section in the bookstore, but I think of them more as historical fiction books. The emphasis is not on King Arthur and magical events, but starts with Merlyn and Arthur's grandfathers and later is told through Merlyn's eyes. There's a lot of background about the Roman Empire and Britain. It's a very realistic vision of Camelot, and it shows how (mostly) realistic events could have evolved into the fantastic stories about Merlin and Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and Excalibur.

The last book in the series just came out about a week ago, and I haven't read that one yet, but all the others were wonderful.

Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen

Unfortunately, only four of these novels are currently out in the U.S. (and at least two novellas). At least they did eventually come out in the U.S.; I heard Erikson was originally told that American authors were not intelligent enough to appreciate this series. This was disappointing, since I had heard good things about the series when it was not out in the U.S., so I was thrilled when they were finally here. I was worried they were not selling well enough to continue publishing them, but they seem to have so far since the fifth book is supposed to come out here next spring.

I've read the first three novels as well as one of the novellas (Blood Follows). The fourth book, House of Chains, is one of the books I packed the other day and is on my list of books to read when I have time to concentrate on a massive, involving book.

So far, the series is amazing and I can definitely see what the hype is about. They're intelligently written, and the worldbuilding is well done. The dialogue is entertaining, especially in the third one which often made me laugh, and there's a wide cast of well-developed, three dimensional characters. There's an interesting combination of magic and a realism in this series as well. Erikson does a masterful job of drawing gods into the tale and making them powerful yet human, much as the Greek gods are depicted.

Maybe it's just something about Canadian authors, but Erikson and Whyte both really struck me as having the most intelligent writing style of any of the modern authors I can think of (with the exception of Martin, of course).

Terry Pratchett's Discworld

There are currently 30 novels in the Discworld series, as well as various illustrated books, maps, Science of Discworld books, GURPS Discworld, and probably more. I have to admit, I was skeptical about this series at first since I generally like books that have an engrossing storyline with realistic 3 dimensional characters, so I thought a comical series would not really appeal to me. Luckily for me, my fiance became addicted to them and read them all and kept trying to get me to read them. They may be short, they may be funny, but they're also a great piece of satire with a lot of subtle philosophy about modern life thrown in.

I was also surprised to find I really like some of the characters. No, they're not as "real" as Tyrion from Song of Ice and Fire or Fitz from the Farseer trilogy, but you've just got to love Death, Sam Vimes, and Captain Carrot. The books focus on a small selection of characters and Death is the only one who generally makes at least a small appearance in all the books. The books about Death and the Night's Watch are the best; the witch books aren't as good. There are also a couple of books that do not have any of the regular characters, such as Small Gods and Pyramids. Small Gods, which deals with Greek philosophers and religion, is one of the best in the series.

Those are probably my top 5 series at the moment, but I keep thinking of a few others that I find hard not to include on my top 5 list. I'll write about some of those and some other decent reads later.

P.S. I don't know what it is with this HTML editor but the font size just is not working as expected. Yes, I know, I do websites for a living, which is probably why I'm too lazy to go rewrite the HTML.

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