Monday, April 5, 2010

Great SF/fantasy/horror novels

Haven't written much about books lately, mayB cos I haven't bn READING much new stuff lately. But I should correct that.
What follows is a quick list of what I feel R really great science-fiction, fantasy & horror novels. I tried 2 stick w/ books that I think R really high-quality, mind-boggling, life-changing events -- Xcellent writing & really great Ntertainment. The blessing 4 a list like this might B that there Rn't really THAT MANY of them.
Some of these I've read multiple times & can vouch 4 their lasting quality. As a reader, I Cm 2 lean toward a mix of action & thot -- enuf action going on so I stay involved, & enuf 2 intrest the mind 2 keep that rolling along 2. Blievable characters & good, solid, gripping, Ntertaining writing above all.
The nominees R:

Gael Baudino: GOSSAMER AXE.
Ray Bradbury: THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES.
John Brunner: STAND ON ZANZIBAR.
Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, CHILDHOOD'S END.
Samuel R. Delany: EMPIRE STAR, THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION.
Stephen R. Donaldson: LORD FOUL'S BANE, THE ILLEARTH WAR, THE POWER THAT PRESERVES, THE WOUNDED LAND (Donaldson can B frustrating, but his big dramatic scenes & epic scale R tough 2 resist).
Diane Duane: THE WOUNDED SKY.
James Ellroy: L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, THE BLACK DAHLIA, THE BIG NOWHERE. (Some would say Ellroy's novels R crime/police-procedurals -- I'd counter that horrible things happen in each of them & the focus is on stopping the horror.)
Thomas Harris: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, RED DRAGON.
Robert A. Heinlein: THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS.
Frank Herbert: DUNE.
Jack Ketchum: HIDE AND SEEK.
Stephen King: IT, THE STAND.
Kathe Koja: SKIN, THE CIPHER.
George R.R. Martin: DYING OF THE LIGHT.
Frederik Pohl: GATEWAY.
Lewis Shiner: GLIMPSES.
Robert Silverberg: DYING INSIDE, THE BOOK OF SKULLS, DOWNWARD TO THE EARTH, THE MAN IN THE MAZE.
George R. Stewart: EARTH ABIDES (Bn YEARS since I read this, but it's 1 of the best after-the-Nd novels, lotsa great nostalgic atmosphere).
Peter Straub: KOKO, THE THROAT.

Near-misses:
Alfred Bester: THE DEMOLISHED MAN.
John Brunner: THE SHEEP LOOK UP (vivid but Dpressing).
Philip K. Dick: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH (a little clunky, but gritty & realistic, & it'll turn yr mind in2 a pretzel).
William Gibson: NEUROMANCER (Characters R weak, but Gibson's visions of cyberspace R amazingly vivid, as in his short stories).
K.W. Jeter: MANTIS (tricky, VERY downbeat & disturbing horror).
Jack Ketchum: THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, SHE WAKES, JOYRIDE, OFF SEASON, THE LOST.
Damon Knight: THE MAN IN THE TREE (1st 1/2 is amazingly good & vivid story about Growing Up Strange in the American Northwest; 2nd 1/2 is disappointing).
Ursula K. LeGuin: THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS (The climactic trip across the ice is Xciting & moving, the rest of the story Cms told from an icy distance).
George R.R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle: WINDHAVEN (last 3rd of the book's pretty 4gettable, rest is brilliant).
David R. Palmer: EMERGENCE.
Joanna Russ: THE TWO OF THEM, WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO.... (1st 1/2).
Neal Stephenson: SNOW CRASH (weak Nding, up til then funny & neon-vivid & involving).
James Tiptree Jr.: BRIGHTNESS FALLS FROM THE AIR (A bit over-cutesy, but vivid, involving, moving).
J.R.R. Tolkien: THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY (long & wordy).
John Varley: STEEL BEACH (weak Nding, up til then involving & funny).
James White: THE DREAM MILLENNIUM (Standard generation-starship setting, but very vivid sections -- WAY better than I Xpected).
Roger Zelazny: CREATURES OF LIGHT AND DARKNESS (Bginning & Nding R weak, middle's vivid, involving, hilarious.)

...I think that's about all, just offa the toppa my head & from checking a couple of my faverite refrences. If I think of NE more I'll add them.
NEbody else out there read NE of these & wanna compare notes, or have others they think R great that they wanna add?
If U knew how many novels I've started & could never get thru, how many I gave up on after 100 pgs (it useta B my faverite trick w/ novels, 4 YEARS), how many I still haven't given up on.... well, this would B a much longer post. In fact, I tried 2 do a list of all the stuff I've given up on awhile back (see "Dumped! Stalled!" back in Aug or Oct, I think....).
I don't read much novel-length fiction NEmore cos I need something that keeps my attn focused, & fiction doesn't always do that 4 me NEmore (it Cms). I have better luck w/ non-fiction these days, w/ my short attn span....

...& I read at the monthly SF-news website Ansible (http://news.ansible.co.uk/, also available thru Locus at http://www.locusmag.com/) that Norman Spinrad -- 2 of who's books I just skimmed thru (SCIENCE FICTION IN THE REAL WORLD & STAYING ALIVE: A WRITER'S GUIDE) -- is undergoing treatment 4 stomach cancer. That sucks. Spinrad's an Xcellent critic & a talented fiction writer, who was always very much on top of the connections Btween SF & The Real World. MayB his best story is the brilliant "Journals of the Plague Years" from the anthology FULL SPECTRUM (1988), & I've bn looking 4 a copy of his SF/Rock&Roll novel LITTLE HEROES so I can give it 1 more try....

2 comments:

rastronomicals said...

For the most part, I don't even TRY to read novels anymore, and I might get through one of any five I might start. What with my blogging projects, my baseball interests, my card collection, and (more than anything else) the quick attention-hogging thrills of the internet, I find it very hard to maintain longterm interest in a novel.

Not that I read many collections either, but because I can pick them up and put them down, I find that I finish more of them, and don't feel as guilty about the ones I don't.

That having been said, I've read a decent amount on your A list.

Donaldson pissed me off, wrote a great trilogy (Saltheart Foamfollower died for your sins . . . ) that concluded satsifyingly, then wrote it all over again. I gave up on the Second Trilogy after The One Tree was a complete waste of time, didn't advance the plot at all, 700 pages of doesn't matter.

Fan of the Thomas Harris books, but couldn't get through Hannibal.

Downward to the Earth and Dying Inside are certainly two of the greatest Silverbergs, but I might go with Lord Valentine's Castle before The Man in The Maze, just for the color and the vastness of its setting.

Though I've never read Dying of the Light, George RR Martin is notable to me for two of the best short stories I've ever read, "Sandkings" and "In the House of the Worm." Have you ever assayed his Song of Ice and Fire series? I can't *really* recommend it, because it's beginning to appear as if Martin will never finish it. But if you have read them so far, it's hard to imagine that DotL is better than any of the first three books in the Ice and Fire series.

And if you are invested in the books, where do you stand on Mr. Martin's tardiness in producing book five? There's an entire internet subculture that's developed dedicated to arguing whether the man is deserving of our patience and sympathy, or of our disdain and ire. . . .

How about Iain M Banks? The Algebraist was this monstrous tome, but I basically flew through it. The prose is more stylized, sometimes even convoluted, but Banks at his best reminded me of Silverberg for the wonder and the colors.

And though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for the A-list here, I was able to get through his Consider Phlebas--which says something all by itself.

tad said...

R: Thanx 4 commenting. Can't get in2 Martin's "Big Fat Fantasy Novels," as he calls them. Tried the 1st 1 & couldn't get hooked, so gave it 2 my daughter cos she'll read just about NE fantasy -- I asked her 2 let me know what she thot (she'd read Martin&Tuttle's "Windhaven") -- & I haven't heard from her since!
I always liked Martin's way w/ characters, setting & mood. A LOT of his early short stories R really great: "This Tower of Ashes," "In the House of the Worm," "The Stone City," "The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr," "Nightflyers," "With Morning Comes Mistfall," "Night Shift," etc. It was "A Song for Lya" that hooked me 1st.
HANNIBAL has everything but a good Nding, even tho the Bad Guy is a total cliche. But when I got 2 the Nd I wanted 2 throw the book across the room....
I've heard of Iain Banks & I know he's very highly thot of, but I've never Cn NE of his stuff at my nearest used bookstore. I will B looking, however....
Donaldson also pissed me off. Agree w/ U completely on at least the last 2/3rd's of his 2nd trilogy -- whole lotta wasted time....
LORD VALENTINE'S CASTLE was good & vivid, but man what a long trip. I useta think LONG books were really great. Now I'm lucky if I can get thru 200 pgs....
I sorta wish the above list was longer. After posting it, I read a couple short-stories from David Hartwell's YEAR'S BEST SF 13 (nothing earthshaking), then started reading my 1st SF novel in awhile, Robert Onopa's THE PLEASURE TUBE (1978). So far, not bad: A bit like Bob Silverberg at his vivid & sensual best, crossed w/ what could B the back-story from Barry Malzberg's BEYOND APOLLO. It's involving & very vivid, but I can sorta C where it's going & it's ... a little Dpressing....
I've got a lotta story-collections around here -- Year's Best-of's, GRRMartin, Zelazny, Tiptree, Delany, Silverberg, Ian McDonald, Bill Gibson, Kathe Koja, Best from ORBIT, etc. -- can always get thru a good short-story. Don't Ncourage me 2 much or U'll C a "Great SF short stories" list posted here -- but it'll B a MUCH longer list....
Thanx again 4 yr support.... -- TAD.