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Re: Recommendation

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:06 pm
by kewms
John Dodds wrote:

CITY by Clifford Simak

Strongly second the Leibowitz recommendation. It's on my desert island list: if I could only keep ten books, it would be one of them. It's a few years old now, but by no means dated. (Unfortunately.)


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 5:54 pm
by KB
It has everything a Sci-Fi fan would love. Space battles, aliens, Advanced Armor Systems, Epic battle and action scenes.

Lol - another example of the massive variety within the genre and of the tastes of its - and all - readers. I consider myself a fan of science fiction but I don't really like any of these things! I don't mind them in some films or TV - I loved Star Wars as a kid (who doesn't? I have a theory that most men in their thirties internally think of themselves as either a Han or a Luke...) and love the new Battlestar Galactica.* But generally, even there I prefer the more Earth-bound sci-fi. Donnie Darko and Primer are two of my favourite SF films of the past few years. The Matrix is a good example, too. Heroes was excellent as well. I suppose I must be a fan of what Geoff Ryman calls "Mundane SF", though I hate that title...


* But one of the reasons the new BSG it is so much better than the original is that there are no aliens in it and it is more about politics and what human beings will do to survice. I watched Razor last night - the protagonist murders the families of civilian scientists and other workers who are needed to help in the survival effort to prevent the scientists refusing to come and abandon their families. Whilst in this case the protagonist sort of gets her come-uppance, more often this isn't the case: Roslin, Adama, Tigh and Tyrrol have all done some horrible things and are utterly unlikeable.

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:03 pm
by rhacer
Wock wrote:(3) For Sci-Fi I would recommend one that many may feel is odd.

HALO - The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund ... 1323&itm=5

Now this is another series BUT once again you don't need to read the full series. This first book is truly a great piece of work. It has everything a Sci-Fi fan would love. Space battles, aliens, Advanced Armor Systems, Epic battle and action scenes.

This is an excellent travel book (airplane, train, trip). And truly an epic adventure. You will come to love the main character "The Master Chief" because he is one who really "kicks ass". He makes Rambo look like a spice girl and yet he seems realistic. This story goes back to when he was a child and how he became the "Master Chief". This story is the precedes the actual game. The game follows the Second Book in the series (The Flood) so it feels a little limited and more like a game story narrative. The first book though has none of those limitations so it is rich in story and detail.

There was supposed to be a movie on this but Microsoft pulled the plug.

(A little history here. Halo is a continuation of a video game story. The forefather of Halo was a Video Game called Marathon. Which was a MAC only game. When the company Bungie started working on Halo it was supposed to be a Mac only video game. Microsoft loved the story and the game so much that they went out and bought into Bungie and in turn made Halo the game for XBox when it first released. The marathon story and the original Halo epic story was that good. The Mac Community was furious at this since it was announced first that Halo would be on the Mac then it became a PC game only reaching Mac at a much later time.)

Now Bungie has left Microsoft but Microsoft still retains the rights to Halo which is sad because the original story line is such a good Sci-Fi one that it could really be expanded upon for epic tales.

I just finished this. I mentioned earlier I was reading Halo books at my son's request (I'm currently part way through The Flood). I found this The Fall of Reach to be much better than I expected, a very fun and fairly quick read. The Master Chief is, indeed, a wonderful protagonist, especially given the back story presented in this book. On the other hand, I don't believe it was particularly well written, and I really wished that Nylund had investigated the ethics of the Spartan project a little more deeply than he did.

I recommend the book as a fun read, and a great story, but not necesarily an example of great writing.

A question for everyone.

"Why do you write fiction?"


I've always wanted to create, to be an artist. In my early years that itch was scratched through writing software (I'm in the software is art not science camp). However, as I got older I was finding myself wanting to do more, to tell stories that others would find compelling, a couple of years ago I started writing some erotica. The few people who I actually allowed to read it said "This is good, I want more, and why aren't you writing things for publication?" So last summer I set myself the goal of writing a mainstream novel.

My writing is hampered by two things, fairly severe ADD, and a pernicious desire to edit before I have finished the story. I just got past a month long bout of writer's block. Allowing my ADD to have some control and still write, I keep two or three different manuscripts open in Scriv at all times now, so if I get distracted from one story line I can move to another.

[Keith, Scriv has helped me dramatically in this area by allowing me to write several sections of one story at once and still keep things straight! Thank you!]

On the editing front, I just repeat the mantra every time I get the urge to go back and "clean up a bit" Write first edit later. When that doesn't seem to help I have a couple of close friends who will get the most recent draft and then will tell me to keep writing and forget the editing for the moment.

Lyra forever!

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:23 pm
by AmberV
Oh, oh, big second vote on His Dark Materials. I know, I know, YetAnotherTrilogy, but really worth it. It was written for a YA audience, so even though there are a lot of pages, they go fast. So fast you'll find yourself superficially wishing it were ten times longer---simply for the world of it. Pullman did a superb job of writing a story though. This isn't a story for the sake of showing off a world (Tolkien). And for that, it is perfectly written to length. It almost seems like he started writing with one intention, and ended up writing something else entirely by the end, but this might be an intentional device showing the maturation of the principle characters over time. As they become less like children, they see more of the world around them in relational terms.

It is probably the only yarn I have ever read that has put me into a state of literal sobbing, every time I read it! I tear up just thinking about it, ha.

And I suppose it should go without saying that this is another one where the original material should not be judged by the lacklustre attempts to convert it to film. :)

Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 6:56 pm
by KB
Yep, the film The Golden Compass was... bleh. Pointless. The girl who played Lyra was good, and it all looked beautiful and pretty much as I imagined it (though Miss Coulter should have had dark hair and a red coat... Hmm, minor thing, I actually quite liked Nicole Kidman in it and I don't usually like her). But, given that it looked just as I imagined it but tore out all of the philosophical and thoughtful underpinnings... it was empty. (Even though HDM is a young adult series, it is some of the most thoughtful literature I've read, setting up some amazing modern mythology to explore themes of morality, life, death, god - or a lack of - and so on.) Pretentious git that I am, as I walked out of the cinema, I said to my partner, "Hmm, it seems the book underwent an intercision to get to film..."

Also, did they really have to give the film the American title, even in the UK? Pullman's title for the book was Northern Lights (mind you, they didn't even show the northern lights in the film! And they play a big part in the book...). In an interview recently, Pullman said that the film was called The Golden Compass for reasons too long and boring to go into. Hmm, I wonder. Please understand that I do not mean this as a slur against Americans in any way whatsoever, but I do seriously think that there must be some PTB (powers-that-be) inside the US who do not credit American people in general with enough intelligence (honestly, I think we're treated like idiots in the UK - "Milk - warning: contains dairy products" - but you guys in America get it a lot worse). The alethiometer is described as looking like a golden compass in the book (I think once, the first time Lyra sees it) - it is not actually a golden compass nor has it ever been known as such. It is a bloody alethiometer; that is its name. So the film and US book title is just stupid; and it's even worse in the film, where every time they mention the alethiometer, they absolutely have to follow it with, "otherwise known as the Golden Compass". Honestly, they may as well have had the actors turn to the screen to say that bit, sotto voce: "It's okay, we know it's a long word and that you've never heard of it, but just think of it as a golden compass, okay? Better now? Don't worry, there's a talking polar bear coming up...". It's the same sort of unintelligent thinking that had Spielberg change the name of Schindler's Ark ("Great metaphor, Tom, but will the average Joe schmuck get it?") to Schindler's List ("It's literal! I like it!") and The Madness of King George III to The Madness of King George (in case American audiences thought it was a sequel to two films they'd never heard of... Um, really? Would anyone interested in a film like that really be confused by the "III"?).

</end rant>


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 7:04 pm
by PJS
Agree: the movie "Golden Compass" disappoints, if you have read the book. Still, it's orders of magnitude better than the horrific treatment given to "Wizard of Earth-Sea" -- enough to scare any sane writer away from movie contracts.

I'm waiting to see if the other segments of "His Darker Materials" are filmed. GC down-played some of the touchier elements, but how will the critics -- particularly the self-appointed ones -- respond to gay angels and a senile God?


Posted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:25 pm
by AmberV
Thank you for clearing up that titling issue! I actually had no idea the title of the first book was supposed to be Northern Lights. I like that much better. We are subjected to some truly awful titling here. One need only browse through movie titles at IMDB to see just how dumbed down U.S. titling is.

KB wrote:But they have a tough choice with the others, especially the Amber Spyglass: either they completely butcher the book or they end up provoking the extreme Christian right into all-out war (which might be quite apt, come to think of it... :) )

That would be amusingly poetic. Actually, casting your book/movie/comic strip/whatever as anti-Christian is turning out to be a *phenomenally* successful marketing strategy in the United States. Getting your work titled as "evil" is pretty much a free ticket to millions in revenue. The extremists send frothing chain letters to everyone in their address book (naturally, the entire church and several hundred relatives), which in short order blankets the entire nation in a swarm of grass-roots marketing that no company could ever dream of conjuring intentionally. Just take a look at the HDM product review pages and discussion boards on Amazon. There is a flood of people who are now reading the trilogy, and enjoying it mightily, for no reason other than the fact that some Christian told them not to!

Oh, and we have packages of peanuts with dire warnings written, confirming our suspicions that yes in fact this product was assembled in a factory that handles peanuts. The list of scary products is getting rather long, these days. It is not uncommon to see:

Warning, this product manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, other nuts, soybeans, diary products, mango oil, gluten, kuzu starch, saffron oil, meat, and little round sugar jellies.

You start to wonder. If trace amounts of all that is getting into my food, just how often do they actually clean their equipment!

Posted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 6:10 pm
by KB
I've split the SF thread into several different threads seeing as it was getting long and very eclectic. I hope no one takes offence at this - the thread was interesting and I went just as off-topic as everyone else (hmm, I may have even started the off-topicness :oops: ) so please don't take this as over-zealous moderating. I'm just trying to tidy it up so that newcomers can find relevant information in the appropriate forums, and also make it so that we can all continue the various strands of discussion without having to worry about going off-topic.

If you feel I've placed any of your posts in the wrong topic (it was difficult deciding what should go where so I just went for a best-fit), let me know and I'll move it to where you think it belongs.

(I am aware that this makes AmberV's last comment about peanuts sound slightly odd as it is now utterly out of context. I quite like that, though...)

All the best,

Posted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:36 pm
by PJS
A review by Michael Dirda, in the current issue of American Scholar, gives high praise to Crowley's Little, Big -- and to Crowley.

With Little, Big, Crowley established himself as America’s greatest living writer of fantasy. Aegypt confirms that he is one of our finest living writers, period.

The whole piece is at


SF and Fantasy recommendations

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:44 am
by getyourenglishon
I also recommend A Cantacle for Leibowitz, and I have to keep replacing my copy when they wind up in someone else's library.

Neil Gaiman is a great author whose writings I recently discovered (Anansi Boys, and Stardust have been reviewed by me on -- and I can't believe I didn't review my favorite, American Gods).

Terry Pratchett was one of the best recommendations I ever received. Read his first five books in order, then after that, read the characters you like the best.

Gaiman and Pratchett wrote one of the funniest books I've read, Good Omens. Go get it right now and enjoy.

Re: SF and Fantasy recommendations

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:26 am
by matt
getyourenglishon wrote:I also recommend A Cantacle for Leibowitz, and I have to keep replacing my copy when they wind up in someone else's library.

Yeah, this one keeps popping up, so it is one I will try once I can track down a copy (none of the bookshops I have visited have it).

getyourenglishon wrote:Neil Gaiman is a great author whose writings I recently discovered (Anansi Boys, and Stardust have been reviewed by me on -- and I can't believe I didn't review my favorite, American Gods).

I sincerely hope the book is better than the movie. The movie had some of the worst dialogue and lines I have ever heard in a film ("a star can't shine with a broken heart" **shudder**).

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:39 pm
by Matthew Graybosch
KB wrote:Please understand that I do not mean this as a slur against Americans in any way whatsoever, but I do seriously think that there must be some PTB (powers-that-be) inside the US who do not credit American people in general with enough intelligence (honestly, I think we're treated like idiots in the UK - "Milk - warning: contains dairy products" - but you guys in America get it a lot worse)

Oh, we get it worse all right. Ever hear of H.L. Mencken? Among other things, he wrote: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." He was telling the truth in his time, and it's still true today. Why do you think Scholastic changed the title of the first Harry Potter book from "Philosopher's Stone" to "Sorcerer's Stone"?

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 2:51 pm
by Matthew Graybosch
Wock wrote:"Why do you write fiction?"

I do it because I feel that I have to. The sort of story I want to see in print has not yet been written. Rather than wait, I decided to write it myself.

Re: SF and Fantasy recommendations

Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 3:03 pm
by antony
@Matt: I haven't seen the movie, but STARDUST is a great book - however, it's worth remembering that Gaiman's core area is fantasy, mythology and fairy tales, so the occasional line like that is inevitable. They read much better than when they're spoken aloud...

(And if we're getting into non-trad fantasy territory, Gaiman's SANDMAN comic series - which is where he first made his name - is excellent, and well worth reading.)


Posted: Fri Jan 25, 2008 4:41 pm
by John Dodds
I love Gaiman, too. If you want a sample, here's an excellent podcast of Gaiman reading his own story, HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS AT PARTIES. As a bonus, you get the text of the story, too, and lovely illustrations to accompany it. Click on the "Cool stuff and things", then "Stories" link and you will find it on:

I couldn't make the full hyperlink for the story work here - the path must have been too long or something.