Books - What are you reading?

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  • The Earthsea books are fucking amazing.

    Gormenghast is essential (the first two books anyway, don’t bother with the third). Glacially paced but absolutely incredible.

    The Vorrh, by Brian Catling. Initially offputting prose style but that calms down after the first few chapters and makes way for a genuinely original vision.

  • M. John Harrison has written a lot of good stuff (e.g. the Viriconium series) and is still going strong. Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood series pretty intense (not at all like the authors in your list).

    Another vote for Earthsea but only the original trilogy. Great stories, although strongly criticised in some quarters for internalised misogyny ("weak as women's magic, wicked as women's magic" isn't the half of it). So later on she went back to try and correct the very traditionally patriarchal tone of the originals but unfortunately wrote a shit book to do it.

  • Mark Lawrence's Broken Empire trilogy (first book Prince of Thorns) and Red Queen's War trilogy (first book Prince of Fools) are superb. Fast paced, funny, clever, don't talk down to the reader, try to avoid cliches. They take place contemporaneously in the same universe and reference each other which is nicely meta. (although both stand alone if you have't read the other).

    then I tried to read his Red Sister trilogy, which is the latest, and couldn't get past page 5. So your mileage may vary

    EDIT have you read the Abercormbie YA trilogy? just as good as his adult work and to be honest I couldn't see much of a difference. The book of short stories is good as well, the one where two different parties met on a bridge is hilarious.

  • M. John Harrison

    Climbers is one of my all-time favourite books. (Although not fantasy)

  • I've read an M John Harrison, but cant remember which one despite looking at his bibliography. Climbers sounds good though, ordered a copy.

  • it looks a bit dated

    All of his stuff is. "Dracula Unbound" reads like it was written in 1950, not 1990. The Helliconia trilogy feels to me the least dated of his work, managing some character development and complex interpersonal relationships that his other work mostly lacks. And the scope that @AlexD refers to is much more ambitious (and successful) than the kind of "Big SF" done by Arthur C. Clarke or Greg Bear (who mostly just do "Hey, look! I'm describing something really fucking big!").

  • I loved 'Everything's is Illuminated' but didn't read anything else by him apart from the email thread the Natalie Portman, which was illuminating...

  • I’d second the opinion about all Proulx fiction being worth reading, although Barkskins went a bit shit at the death sadly. Her short stories are gems. I’d recommend Tim Gautreaux if you enjoy Proulx and Cormac McCarthy too. Difficult to go wrong with either.

  • Cheers for all the suggestions, lots I’ve not read that I’ve added to my wishlist. I’ve read the new Abercrombie ones (and the YA ones) which was part of what has me looking for new stuff. I really liked Magican, although the various other ones in the same world were a bit random in quality.

    Not read any Patrick Rothfuss, even though it appears I added it to my wishlist many years ago. Will have to actually give one a read. Same with NK Jemisin and a couple of the others that I’d entirely forgotten about.

    I think I read the first Earthsea one about 30 years ago and wasn’t a huge fan, same with Gormenghast. Should probably give them another try.

    I have the Malazan Book of the Fallen on my Kindle but have never summoned up the will to read it, it seems pretty long.

    Plenty of stuff to keep me going for a while now. Thanks everyone.

  • moonminvalley in november

    such a sad, strange book

  • Im now going to see about adding something from your list of authors to my 'to read' pile. As I agree most fantasy is terribly written, so always looking out for recommendations.

    I'd probably prioritise them in the same order in which I listed them

  • I also think it's worth reading all the Conan stories, but maybe I'm in the minority there.

    I enjoyed the Conan books*. They're not clichés, they're the original material that others made into cliché.

    • The ones he entirely wrote himself, not the ones posthumously "finished" by various people.
  • On a different note if anyone's interested, I've started reading a book called Invisible Women, it's about gender imbalance in data and how that effects daily life.

    Incredibly interesting and opened my eyes to quite a lot of things so far.

  • +2 goodbook

    Just received this in the post to restore my faith in the world....

  • re: fantasy books I always recommend Sergei Lukyanenko's "Watch" series
    (Night Watch, Day-, Twilight-, Last-, New-, Sixth- is the reading order)

    Wizards locked in a centuries old battle have formed a truce and police each other through the Watches (Night Watch are the "good" guys, Day Watch are the "bad" folk)
    (witches, wizards, shapeshifter, vampires, etc. all exist in the world and are answerable to the Watches, these are all set in Moscow)

    I have read them all multiple times and think they are great
    (there was an OK Russian movie based on part of the 1st book, released in the early 2000s and a fairly poor sequel not entirely based on the books, don't let them sway your opinion on the books!)

  • I paid a few quid extra to get what I thought was a nicer looking edition of Solaris and this turned up instead, far worse than any of the covers I was trying to avoid, ha ha. The perils of eBay book buying.


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  • I remembered another one, "16 Ways to Defend a Walled City" by KJ Parker. Nice clever standalone story that's not your usual elves and wizards stuff

  • I read this not so long ago. Thought it was OK but wasn't a huge fan (can't quite remember why). Was surprised to discover afterwards that it's a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

  • Yes, I know nothing about Tom Holt so that meant nothing to me when I found out

  • Let us know what you make of it. I just added it to my audible wish list because the blurb sounded interesting but don’t never heard of the author.

  • @AlexD - Semiosis was really good. Worth reading the 2nd one too?

    If so will add it to my list. Got some Bill Bufords and the Aldiss, but will try Climbers next I think.

  • Glad you enjoyed it - yeah I enjoyed the second book as much as the first one.

  • Combining two of my interests. Super interesting as you would expect, cycle touring in such an area. Written by a political scientist and a man who oncee broke the round the world record, so he knows what he's on about. If I had to nitpick, its almost over the top in setting the scene in a descriptive sense. A bit flowery perhaps.

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Books - What are you reading?

Posted by Avatar for chris_crash @chris_crash

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