I have a long weekend so hopefully I’ll be able to get some reading done and get some more posts up here. I’m currently reading Going Postal by Pratchett. Not sure what I’ll read after that, although I’m considering reading Patrick Rothfuss’s debut The Name of the Wind.

In the meantime, I wanted to add some books I wouldn’t recommend. A lot of people would probably disagree with some of these, but these are books I didn’t find worth reading. They’re not even horrible books (thank you Amazon for helping me to steer clear of a lot of crap) – just ones that I’d skip because there’s a lot of better stuff out there.

Deborah Chester’s The Sword, the Ring, and the Chalice trilogy

The first book was extremely boring and I didn’t think I’d pick up the next one and then the very end was interesting enough to make me decide to finish the trilogy (particularly since I’m cursed with the need to know what happens once I start a series – along with the curse that makes me almost always finish a book once I start it no matter how much I’m not enjoying it). It did pick up after the first book, but it was still just ok. I also found it annoying that she had this almost elvish race – they seem like elves, the name is almost elf (eldin), just call them elves already since that’s obviously what they are.

Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time

Yeah, I know. These are much loved by many, and I have read all the books currently out other than the prequel, which is sitting on one of my bookshelves along with the rest of the series. They aren’t bad books, and they can be entertaining, and I can even see why a lot of people love them… but I don’t think they’re good enough to be worth the time it takes to slog through them. There’s too much detail and toward the end they get slow, and some of the characters are really annoying. Jordan does not write women very well at all. They’re all too bitchy too constantly. And I really didn’t find it to be particularly original – he mixed in a lot of mythology, which I generally like, but he wasn’t subtle enough about it for my taste but instead hits the reader over the head with very obvious comparisons. I didn’t start reading these until there were 10 books already, so I may have just gotten into fantasy too late to see the magic in them – especially since I had already read series like A Song of Ice and Fire, Robin Hobb’s Assassins/Liveship Traders/Tawny Man books, and Lord of the Rings. As I said, I did read through these, and I enjoyed some of them, but I’m not so sure they’re worth the trouble of reading, and the more books I read, the more I’m finding there’s a whole lot I like a lot better than this series.

That’s all I can think of at the moment that I’ve read in its entirety that I really wouldn’t recommend (in the speculative fiction category anyway). Then there are the books I haven’t read completely that I wouldn’t recommend based on what I have read.

If you didn’t already want to throw things at me for including Wheel of Time, you might for this one…

Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash

I heard so much about this book from so many people that I expected it to be spectacular. One of these people let me borrow the book, and I just couldn’t get into it at all. It may just be that it was so hyped for so long that there was no way it could live up to my expectations, but I found it really boring. My friend wanted her book back so she could lend it to another friend, and it was taking me forever to read it, so I gave it back to her before I could finish it and haven’t been inspired to pick it up again since then. I feel like I should give Stephenson another chance, maybe with another book, since I’ve heard a lot of good things about him. Maybe someday.

Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series

I have not read a single book in this series, so it may not be completely fair of me to put this on the anti-recommendation list. However, I have read excerpts from various books in the series and descriptions of the plot and it just looks really bad. The samples of writing I’ve seen includes things I remember being told to avoid when learning about writing in elementary school. It may be fun to read for the entertainment value (in a Mystery Science Theater 3000 kind of way), if you don’t mind reading a bunch of doorstopper books to get to that point. I have Wizard’s First Rule from when I didn’t know much about what was out there for fantasy (then I heard things that put it on the bottom of my list of reading priorities) and considered reading it for the pure entertainment value and read the first page or so. Then I decided I didn’t want to go through hundreds of pages of drivel just for a few entertaining moments. I have attempted to read through some of the main character’s speeches I’ve come across and I couldn’t do it. Way too long and dull. Maybe I’ll give it a try if I run out of books to read, but that will never happen.

Then there are the books I refuse to read based on the awful things I have heard about them:

The Symphony of Ages series by Elizabeth Haydon (From what I hear, the main character Rhapsody is the worst Mary Sue character ever)

The Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini (supposed to be cliched)

Chronicles of Blood and Stone by Robert Newcomb (supposed to be generally horrible)

I just saw a trailer for this movie (based on the first book in the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman) and it looks really good!

Golden Compass Movie Trailer

It’s supposed to be coming to theaters on December 7th of this year. I’ve had the books for a couple of years but haven’t read them yet – I’d better read them fairly soon.

At one point, I posted my 5 favorite series (which are subject to change based on mood and new books I’ve read, although I know Song of Ice and Fire or the Robin Hobb books will never be off the list based on my mood). I’m in a writing mood so I’m now going to post other sci fi and fantasy books worth reading, in no particular order.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – Yes, it’s a comic book series. It’s also still got some of the greatest characters and stories I’ve ever read (and is one of those series that would be in my top 5 at times). There was a bit of an upset when one of these stories won a World Fantasy Award for short story since it was a comic book, and I might have been enough of a snob before reading them that I would have agreed. Now I think it is completely deserved. They’re great deep tales that tie in all kinds of mythology.

Books:
1. Preludes and Nocturnes
2. The Doll’s House
3. Dream Country
4. Season of Mists
5. A Game of You
6. Fables and Reflections
7. Brief Lives
8. World’s End
9. The Kindly Ones
10. The Wake

(Stand alone more or less)
The Dream Hunters
Endless Nights

Death comics (related):
Death: The High Cost of Living
Death: The Time of Your Life

Asimov’s Robot mysteries – The first one Caves of Steel was just ok. Because of this, it was a while before I picked up the rest of the books in the series, but once I had, I was glad I did. Each book got progressively better and the last two were written after Asimov had started to actually get better at writing style. I liked the sympathetic view of R. Daneel a lot and liked these better than Asimov’s more famous Foundation novels.

Books:
1. The Caves of Steel
2. The Naked Sun
3. The Robots of Dawn
4. Robots and Empire

Asimov’s Foundation novels – Yes, I liked the Robot mysteries better, but these were still interesting and worth reading. The first book in the series, Foundation, is also the weakest of the bunch since it jumps between characters a lot. Psychohistory is an interesting concept, though.

Original trilogy:
1. Foundation
2. Foundation and Empire
3. Second Foundation

Prequels:
1. Prelude to Foundation
2. Forward the Foundation

Later sequels to the original trilogy:
1. Foundation’s Edge
2. Foundation and Earth

Note: These were not written in chronological order. If you wanted to read them in actual order, you would want to read the two prequels, then the original trilogy, then Foundation’s Edge, followed by Foundation and Earth. I read the original trilogy, then the prequels, then the last two.

Greg Keyes’s Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone – Some of the characters are stereotypical, but some like the composer are different. It’s a fun story and it’s got some nice humor sometimes. I think the comparisons to Martin are unwarranted since it’s not at that level of story or characterization, but it’s still a good series. I’m looking forward to the next book, The Born Queen, which I’ve heard is supposed to come out in November of this year (but I just looked it up on Amazon and that says January 2008, so who knows).

Books:
1. The Briar King
2. The Blood Knight
3. The Charnel Prince

Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle – Another Arthurian myth series. The first three books are really good and the two after that aren’t as good as the first three.

Books:
1. Taliesin
2. Merlin
3. Arthur
4. Pendragon
5. Grail

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (of course) – Beautiful story, although a bit slow at times, and of course everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows about them.

Books:
1. The Fellowship of the Ring
2. The Two Towers
3. Return of the King

(And of course, don’t miss The Hobbit, which I’d recommend reading first.)

Nancy Kress’s Beggars trilogy – Lots of ideas are packed into this science fiction trilogy, especially the first book. I loved Beggars in Spain, the first book, but found the second book in the trilogy a little hard to trudge through. The last book was much better, although not as good as the first one.

Books:
1. Beggars in Spain
2. Beggars and Choosers
3. Beggars Ride

Carol Berg’s Rai-kirah trilogy – Very underrated series, in my opinion. A lot of people haven’t heard of it but it is wonderful. The first book in this trilogy, Transformation, has made it into my top 10 favorites. The character development and story were amazing and I loved reading about the friendship between Seyonne and Aleksander. The next two books were a lot deeper and I found the concepts of truth and reality very intriguing, but I still just loved the story in the first book the most.

Books:
1. Transformation
2. Revelation
3. Restoration

Note: The first book in Carol Berg’s new series just came out. It’s called Flesh and Spirit and it looks really good – I added it to my wishlist! She keeps a plog on amazon that is interesting to read. She seems really nice and down to earth and actually interested in conversing with her fans.

Carol Berg’s Song of the Beast – This stand alone book was not as good as the Rai-Kirah trilogy, but it was still pretty good. The ending was a bit abrupt and disappointing, but other than that, it was a good book.

Morgan Llywelyn’s Red Branch – Morgan Llywelyn writes fiction with Celtic themes and this retelling of the myth of Cuchulain was very enjoyable.

Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn – Another classic of fantasy. Beautiful bittersweet tale.

R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books – I’d only recommend these if you enjoy playing D&D. They’re not deep, they’re not amazing or original other than the idea of a “good” drow elf, but they are fun, quick, adventurous reads.

Books (in chronological order, not the order in which they were written):

Dark Elf trilogy
1. Homeland
2. Exile
3. Sojourn

Icewind Dale trilogy
1. The Crystal Shard
2. Streams of Silver
3. The Halfling’s Gem

Legacy of the Drow tetralogy:
1. The Legacy
2. Starless Night
3. Siege of Darkness
4. Passage to Dawn

Paths of Darkness tetralogy:
1. The Silent Blade
2. The Spine of the World
3. Servant of the Shard
4. Sea of Swords

Hunter’s Blades trilogy:
1. The Thousand Orcs
2. The Lone Drow
3. The Two Swords

The Sellswords trilogy:
1. Servant of the Shard
Note: This is the same book as the third book in the Paths of Darkness set. It’s about Jarlaxle and Entreri and the next two books in this trilogy are sequels to it.
2. Promise of the Witch-King
3. Road of the Patriarch

Orson Scott Card’s Ender/Shadow books – Some of these were really good, while others were not very good. Ender’s Game is, of course, a modern sci fi classic. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, is my favorite Orson Scott Card novel – it was very thought-provoking and sympathetic to other cultures and I really like books about understanding others and why they do the things they do. The next two Ender books were good, but not as good as the first two. Next Card wrote some books about Ender’s friend Bean who appeared in Ender’s Game. Ender’s Shadow was also really good and still was very different from Ender’s Game even though it was kind of the same story from Bean’s perspective instead of Ender’s. The Shadow of the Hegemony wasn’t very good and Shadow Puppets was way, way too preachy. I haven’t read the last book yet, although I’ve heard it’s an improvement on the last couple of books.

Ender Books:
1. Ender’s Game
2. Speaker for the Dead
3. Xenocide
4. Children of the Mind

Shadow Books:
1. Ender’s Shadow
2. Shadow of the Hegemony
3. Shadow Puppets
4. Shadow of the Giant

David Farland’s The Runelords – The writing in the first book is horrible, but it does get better (although it’s still not wonderful after that). This is one of those series where the world and ideas are better than the writing and the story, but there’s enough interesting and unique concepts in it to make it a decent series. Plus a lot of the ethical questions that come up are rather thought-provoking. It seems fresh for the first three books, after that they start getting a bit old. The end of the fourth book is abrupt. The fifth book is actually about the main character Gaborn’s son and is the start of a new series.

Books:
1. The Sum of All Men
2. Brotherhood of the Wolf
3. Wizardborn
4. Lair of Bones
5. Sons of the Oak

Robin McKinley’s Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast – This is actually a young adult novel I read when I was about 9 or 10 years old, but I loved it so much then that I always remembered it and looked for it again a few years ago. I reread it then and I still love it as much as I did then. I love retold fairy tales. I’ve also read McKinley’s Spindle’s End and Rose Daughter about Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast again, respectively, and liked them as well, but Beauty is still my favorite. The Hero and the Crown is another fun young adult novel by her. They should really appeal to girls since she writes nice female-centered fantasy.

Of course, I’d also recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, but I have a whole review on that book.

May
20
2007

Fans of signed speculative fiction books may want to check out The Signed Page, which has signed copies of Richard K. Morgan’s Thirteen and Black Man and Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Justice available for pre-order. There are also signed copies of Martin’s A Feast for Crows currently in stock (I wish I’d known about this page when Storm of Swords came out – how I would love a signed first edition copy of that.) It’s a page worth checking out once in a while anyway if you’re into signed books. I got my fiance to pre-order me a personalized copy of Midnight Tides by Erikson, which I can’t wait to get!

They’re also going to have copies of Robin Hobb’s Renegade’s Magic available for pre-order soon. I might get that one, too, since I have a signed copy of Forest Mage (and Golden Fool, for that matter).

May
20
2007

I had been looking forward to reading Altered Carbon, the debut by Scottish author Richard K. Morgan and the first book in his Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, for some time since I had read stellar reviews of it. I loved the Robot mysteries by Asimov (at least the last three, the first one was all right but not nearly as good as the later ones) and the way he intertwined science fiction with detective stories, so I had high hopes for this book which also was a sci fi detective story.

Takeshi Kovacs, a former Envoy from Harlan’s World, is sent to Earth by a powerful man named Laurens Bancroft to solve the mystery of Bancroft’s death. Yes, you read that right – death is not usually permanent at this time (about 500 years in the future) since a person’s memories and consciousness are stored in a cortical stack which could be downloaded to a new body. If the stack is destroyed, this would result in R.D. – real death. Bancroft’s memory of events leading up to his death did not get downloaded with him and he cannot believe he would kill himself, especially when he knows such an act would not accomplish anything since it was not permanent. Takeshi does not have much choice in the matter and gets caught up in a lot of skirmishes and intrigue in the process of discovering what happened.

The world in the story was fascinating to me. The results of living in a world where people could be around for hundreds of years in specialized bodies was interesting to me. I loved the little things in the story that told of the difficulty of meeting somebody you knew yet did not know when they were resleeved (the process of being downloaded into a new body – the bodies were called sleeves) – or when somebody new was sleeved into the body belonging to someone you used to know.

Unfortunately, I found the world Morgan created to be far more interesting than the actual story he was telling. It was a very action-packed story, but too action-packed for my taste since it was mostly action without much in the way of character development. It was very “male” – lots of sex, violence, and swearing. I wouldn’t recommend reading it if you’re offended by any of those since it wasn’t glossed over, but was quite graphic at times.

I might read the next two books in the series, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, since I’m curious about what happens, and Woken Furies is supposed to be about the part of the story I’d be more interested in – Kovacs’s past on Harlan’s World. I won’t be in any hurry to read them, though. I would probably give Altered Carbon a 5/10 for the story, but since I found the world really interesting, I’ll rate it a little higher…

6/10

It kind of reminded me of the David Farland’s Runelords series in that the story and writing weren’t particularly wonderful, but the world made it worth reading, although I liked the Runelords books better (even though the writing was worse).

Woken Furies has been out in the UK for some time, but according to Amazon, it won’t be out in the U.S. until the end of this month (May 29). That seems kind of odd since Morgan’s new book, Thirteen, is coming out in the U.S. on June 27th. (Thirteen is the U.S. title – it’s called Black Man in the U.K., but I guess that wasn’t a politically correct enough title for the U.S.) I’ve heard mixed reviews of Thirteen/Black Man – some people say it’s one of the scifi books of 2007, but I’ve also heard it’s too preachy for some people.

I finally got around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora after hearing a lot of good things about this debut novel by Scott Lynch. At first, I was afraid it wasn’t going to live up to all the good things I had heard about it since I found it a little hard to get into in the beginning, but I ended up absolutely loving this book.

This is definitely not a book to read if you are looking to read something thought-provoking and insightful. However, it is something to read if you are looking for something entertaining. It’s a very dialogue heavy book, and a lot of the dialogue is clever and witty. Toward the beginning of the book, I thought it seemed like the dialogue was a bit forced and the author was trying too hard to make it seem clever, but it got better as the book went on.

One thing that some may find annoying is that the entire book switches back and forth between the past and the present. It isn’t confusing since the past parts are referred to as interludes (with the exception of the prologue, which goes between the past and further past without as much warning as to when it’s changed times). After the prologue, it smoothed out and I ended up enjoying the brief looks into the past.

The characters are wonderful. If you’re tired of goody-two-shoes characters who can do no wrong, this might be the book for you. The main character Locke Lamora is a priest of the Benefactor, a god of thievery, and a master of disguise. He and his friends in the priesthood are con men who make schemes to take some money of the hands of the rich noblemen in the city of Camorr, which seems to be modeled after an Italian city. Locke isn’t really an evil character, but he’s certainly not good either. If you’re familiar with D&D alignments, I’d call him some sort of neutral (but definitely not lawful neutral). Also, he’s actually a fantasy book main character who is not good at fighting at all – he’s much better at using his brain. (And, just to be clear, he’s not a mage of any sort either – just a clever rogue.)

I could not put this book down, and I thought it was a fairly unique fantasy book. It did have it’s flaws early on and it’s not what I’d call a masterpiece of literature, but I had so much fun with it and found it different enough from normal fantasy literature that I have to give it a pretty good score. It was the most entertaining book I’d read in quite a while.

9.5/10

The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first book in The Gentleman Bastards series (but don’t worry, there is no cliffhanger ending and the book is a complete story by itself). The next book in the series Red Seas Under Red Skies will be available on July 31 of this year. I can’t wait – it’s on my Amazon wish list already!