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Two things I adore: reading and sharing my love of reading with others, usually by way of - well, obviously - recommending whatever it was I was reading that day. Today, I feel the need to share as many books I love with as many people as possible! In fact, I have so many on my mind I have to split this journal into three parts by necessity.

The following is a collection of science fiction, fantasy, and other works of high concept genre fiction. Hopefully, they all run the gamut that at least one or two could pique your interest. 

Here we go...

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51gmnZ6Ta6L by GamemasterFel

Almanac of the Dead (Leslie Marmon Silko): This magic realist/darkly satirical novel covers multiple story arcs occurring simultaneously, all over the American Southwest and Central America, with such colourful protagonists as arms dealers, black market organ dealers, drug kingpins, assassins, revolutionaries, trickster gods and ancient spirits. At first, they all seemingly have nothing to do with one another, until the novel progresses and reveals an interconnecting, intertextual web spanning time, space and culture. That web, incidentally, is the general theme... well, the blurb on the cover spells it out nicely. 

"To read this book is to hear the voices of the ancestors and spirits telling us where we came from, who we are, and where we must go."

Yes, at heart, it's a post-colonial piece. With scathing insight into modern American living from the point of view of First Nation characters and biting wit, Almanac of the Dead takes the collective White Man to task over history and land ownership, and what they're doing to the original tenants of the land. No one is spared, from the gun-toting Republican to the moderate liberal, Almanac of the Dead makes damn sure to get its point across as many targets as possible. 

We need voices like this. Satire should offend, so as to rile, provoke and incite; questioning values and customs we take for granted without sparing a single thought those who suffer for them, thanks in no small part to our want of comfort, ignorance and ease of living. It's what good satire should always strive for, and all the better that this material comes from a woman who damn well knows her shit.

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AmericanGods MassMarketPaperback 1185415388 by GamemasterFel

American Gods (Neil Gaiman): Where the comic book industry is concerned, Neil Gaiman is one of my all time favourite writers. Sandman? Adore to death. I re-read the series - all ten volumes, plus spin offs, new additions to the mythos - once every year, as a small tradition I've set for myself. Thanks to Sandman, I found myself checking out other novels in the man's bibliography, particularly outside of comics. 

Hence, the inclusion of American Gods as a recommendation. I know I've spoken about it at length before in my journals - one of my very first pitches for a Hypothetical Game was an American Gods RPG in the vein of Vampire: The Masquerade, if I remember correctly -, but I find it bears repeating. American Gods speaks to the mythology lover in me, as well as my inner anthropologist and history buff. 

For those who've never heard of it, brief rundown: all gods are real. From Christianity to the Norse, from the Egyptians to the Japanese, all gods, supernatural entities and monsters of every religion, mythology, legend, folktale and what have you live amongst modern man, unseen and unheard by the masses. Why? 

In this new world, many of the gods of old have waned in power. Their existence hinges on belief. When regarded simply as figments of civilizations past, "disproven" by science, the gods have been reduced to shells of their former selves. They live on the fringes of society, working menial jobs just to get by... or they're outright homeless, if they're too weak to live on their own. Given America's rich history of immigration, whenever peoples of this or that culture immigrated to the New World, they'd wind up bringing old beliefs and tales along for the ride... and away from their homeland, these specific incarnations of the gods have lost much of their glory.

Worse yet, they're becoming replaced by newer, modern gods. Gods of the internet, of media, of conspiracy theories and credit cards, of TV's and politics. All the things that modern Americans devote more time, attention and faith to than actual religion. Worse yet, these new gods are on the warpath, purging as many traces of the past as possible... read into this anyway you like. 

It's fascinating, thought-provoking stuff... 

... It's just a shame our main viewpoint character, an ex-con named Shadow... is... well... the blandest everyman character. Sigh. Some flaws one can live with, but a boring main character? Hey, I don't blame you if this milquetoast turns you off from the reading. 

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Elric of Melnibone by GamemasterFel

The Elric Saga, and the Other Works of Michael Moorcock:

All writers put a bit of themselves in their writing. Some more consciously than others. You know it, I know it. It's a writer's unique style, opinion and worldview - for good or ill - that can give their story some flavour (again, for good or ill). Even with that in mind, Michael Moorcock is rather famous (or infamous) for his fervent political views - anarcho-libertarianism -, his stinging indictment of legends in genre fiction (Tolkien, Lewis, Heinlein, Lucas, Herbert, etc) and for spearheading a countercultural genre literary movement called New Weird Fantasy. Even his own colleagues have not shied away from calling him an ideologue, which he more or less agrees to be. 

To say he's opinionated is to undersell the level of passion on which he operates. 

His works are loaded with anti-authoritarian zeal and a take no prisoners approach to conventional fantasy and science fiction tropes - and the cultural/political roots behind them - that we sometimes take for granted, in of itself influencing just about every modern work of dark or subversive fantasy today (A Song of Ice and Fire, Cerebus, Berserk, Dark Souls, etc). 

It's a spicy flavour, one that might upset your tastebuds. But if you can get past the aftertaste? Well... you'll find an author chock fill of a passionate, vibrant, vivid imagination, with a rich fictional cosmology - just look at his concept of The Eternal Champion - and a slew of provocative fantasy challenging all stock preconceptions of epic fantasy or space operas you can care to name. There's a reason they call the man the Anti-Tolkien. 

The best and most famous example of his flavour would be The Elric Saga. Both series and character are a philosophical rebuttal, an antithesis, to Robert E. Howard's Conan series and eponymous barbarian. Unlike Conan, Elric was already a king of his own kingdom... which he abdicated once its own system was eating itself from the inside out. His attempts at social reform ended with an entire civilization left to waste and a sickly king now wondering the multiverse, with an accursed sentient sword eating at his soul his only companion. 

... Worth mentioning, but the guy toured with a few prog-rock and early metal bands in the 70's. He was even a colleague and friend of Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead. 

... You can damn well bet Moorcock's work gets metal as hell.

Again, this might not be for everyone, but he's worth checking out, I guarantee. 

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Jonathan strange and mr norrell cover by GamemasterFel

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke):

Anyone remember The Prestige? One of Nolan's earlier movies? Had Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as duelling magicians in a personal blood feud, ever escalating a war of showmanship resulting in death, misery and loss of humanity? ... David Bowie cameoed as Nikola Tesla? Well, in that movie, there wasn't any real magic. It was all sleight of hand, misdirection, clever theatrics and - spoilers - a fantastical cloning machine developed by Tesla the Goblin King. 

Right, now...

Imagine if The Prestige not only had magic, but was also an insanely well researched, detailed and intricate work of political intrigue? And an even greater tragedy? And an excellent exercise in world building? If it had the trappings of a period-era play, quite a bit as if Jane Austen decided to pepper her work with elves, magic and all manner of demons?

Well, I imagine it'd be quite a bit like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a tragic story about a failed friendship and a doomed rivalry, of class divides and the price of knowledge. 

Bit of a doorstopper, but well worth your time. 

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The Discworld by GamemasterFel

Discworld (Terry Pratchett):

... It really can't be said enough how much I adore this series. God knows how many times I've recommended it to people, but I can't help it. It's a damn amazing series. It means the world to me. 

And, hey, if you're a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide? You'd likely dig Discworld. 

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Good-omens-2 by GamemasterFel

Good Omens (Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman):

Turn The Omen into a rich, character driven comedy with a surprisingly nuanced and damn classy portrait of religion - never going for the cheap shots or even necessarily taking a side for or against -, pepper it with memorable characters, a dash of Sir Terry's wit and Mr. Gaiman's style, and you have yourself a winner. 

Also, imagine if you replaced the hyper "kawaii!" moe-moe energy of Haruhi Suzumiya with dry English wit... in other words, imagine if it were smarter, you'd likely get Good Omens. 

By that same token, if Haruhi Suzumiya were penned by Dan Harmon and replaced fluff with substance and a touch of misanthropy, you'd basically get Community.

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0156 by GamemasterFel

The Gormenghast Series (Mervyn Peake):

You know, not all fantasy is about elves, vampires, fairies, gods and wizards. It doesn't always have to be about epic quests and hero's journeys. It doesn't always have to be set in the same rural medieval England countryside. Sometimes, a fantasy can be a little more... abstract.

This is a series that predicates itself on one bizarre concept. The concept? How to put this in a way that'll make any bit of sense whatsoever... okay, I got it. The entire setting - the driving impetus for all misery and conflict in this book series? The scene, the location? The one distinguished feature of this series' mythos that pegs it as a work of fantasy at all? 

The story - the world, the characters, everything - takes place inside a bottled city, more or less. The eponymous Gormenghast is a sprawling castle built on both nonsensical alien geometries and outlandish customs. Our main characters are the royal family and their court, and other villains and schemers of all stripes. The stories are something akin to Charles Dickens on acid, Franz Kafka writing Game of Thrones fanfiction, or Shakespeare having lost the will to live. Our main character is a depressed Byronic wreck burdened by customs he is forced to maintain, in a claustrophobic and maddeningly alien castle that refuses to obey the laws of physics. 

Compared to Titus Groan, Prospero's isolation on the island was a paid vacation. 

...

All of which, heh... is sort of misdirection in of itself. 

Behind the doom and gloom, the series has the beating heart of an idealist. It just hides that spark astoundingly well. 

This is a series where the only fantasy comes from a Terry Gilliam-esque exaggeration of customs, obligations, values and traditions we cling to without question, how blind adherence to a fearsomely enclosed status quo can drive a person up a wall, and it fucking works beautifully.

There is nothing quite like it, and I enjoy the hell out of it. That said, you know how everyone and their mum complains that Lord of the Rings could have needed some heavy editing? You know how Tolkien had an obsessive love for nature? Peake has something similar, but for architecture. It's the only real flaw to the series, in my mind... a bit of a niggling and jabbing flaw, but, eh, no one's perfect. 

Add a Comment:
 
:iconasdfmovienerd39:
asdfmovienerd39 Featured By Owner May 17, 2015
Good Omens and American Gods sound interesting. 
Reply
:iconfulcon:
Fulcon Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
I've always wanted to read Discworld. Never had the time, though...I guess now is as good a time to start as any...
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
Want to know where to start?
Reply
:iconfulcon:
Fulcon Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
The first book is usually the best spot, right?
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
In this case, not quite. The first book is barely indicative of the rest as a whole, and the setting has been a breeding ground for sprawling story arcs and standalone adventures and thrillers following entirely different casts of characters. 
Reply
:iconfulcon:
Fulcon Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
Alright, then. Where would you recommend I start?
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
Mort, Guards! Guards!, Wyrd Sisters or Small Gods.
Reply
:iconfulcon:
Fulcon Featured By Owner May 8, 2015
Guards, Guards! Sounds like fun.
Reply
:iconscholarly-cimmerian:
Scholarly-Cimmerian Featured By Owner May 6, 2015
I've read the Elric saga, and a ton of Moorcock's other work - Hawkmoon, Corum, I've got a collection of his other stories... great to see him on this list.

My sister has a copy of Good Omens. I'll need to borrow that.
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 6, 2015
What'd you think of the others, they catch your eye?
Reply
:iconscholarly-cimmerian:
Scholarly-Cimmerian Featured By Owner May 6, 2015
Yeah. I've heard about Discworld and American Gods before, so I didn't really feel the need to comment on them. Gormenghast and Jonathon Strange sound really interesting too. :)
Reply
:iconstubbsthewolf:
stubbsthewolf Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
I've read American Gods and Good Omens except it has been awhile since I've read Good Omens but from what I remembered: It was pretty funny and interesting seeing demons and angels trying to blend in society.

American Gods...that is an amazing book. I even felt bad for some of the gods that had to live on the streets. There's also a TV show adaptation that's trying to get made and it if does get made, I hope it doesn't suck but I could be wrong. 
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
I've been keeping my fingers crossed for years. 

What about the other recommendations? Any of them tickle your fancy?
Reply
:iconstubbsthewolf:
stubbsthewolf Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
I am interested in reading the Elric saga, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (A movie was being made for a while but got cancelled but a BBC series adaptation is going to air this month), Gormenghast, Discworld (Don't know where to start since there is a lot of books that spawn other trilogies), and Almanac of the Dead.
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
With Discworld?

I'd recommend starting with a) Mort, b) Guards! Guards!, c) Small Gods or d) Wyrd Sisters. 
Reply
:iconstubbsthewolf:
stubbsthewolf Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
Oh, okay. 

Thanks.

Fun fact: The creators of The Little Mermaid, Princess and the Frog, and Aladdin were trying to make a 2D animated movie adaptation of Mort with Disney producing it but due to having trouble getting the rights to the novel, it was cancelled.
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
I remember. Read it off TVTropes.
Reply
:iconstubbsthewolf:
stubbsthewolf Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
I see.

Seeing how you're a fan of Discworld, how do you think that would have been if Mort was turned into an animated Disney film?
Reply
:icongamemasterfel:
GamemasterFel Featured By Owner May 5, 2015
... Interesting would be a generous way of putting it. In reality, it would have likely cut out Pratchett's sense of humour, Disney-ified it into a more palatable and straightforward romantic fantasy about a plucky "unlikely" hero... and the entire thing would have been derided, were it not for the inevitable casting of Christopher Lee as Death. But that's just speculating on an alternate history. 
Reply
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