Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Reading List

I am totally copying Atomic Nerds here and succumbing to one of those chain blog trend things.  So feel free to skip.  But I can hardly call myself a Science Fiction enthusiast and not comment on NPR's list of of top sci-fi and fantasy reads, the one's I've read, anyway.  The ones I haven't I just removed from the list.

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Here's something embarrassing: I read this purely because the kid I had a crush on in 7th grade was reading it.  But more than that, my best friend at the time and I both had a crush on him, and we were both racing to see who could read it first and make it the most obvious to him that we happened to be reading the same thing that he was reading ooh look how much we clearly had in common.  It was pretty ridiculous, but had the happy result of exposing me to a genre and series of books that I really liked it at the time. (I wasn't really all that new to fantasy, but Tolkien is one of those "gateway" books in the genre.) I didn't like it quite as much when I went back for a re-read (something I do with ALL the books I really, really love), mostly because there are essentially no female characters at all, and because, you know, it is a long and drawn-out epic.

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Always a classic.  I recently actually made it through the series, all the way to So Long and Thanks for All The Fish after stalling out halfway through in high school.  As far as plot goes--there's really not much, so don't expect one--as far as wit and classic British Humor goes, it's great fun.

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

I actually haven't read this, but apparently should be shot for admitting that, so suffice to say it's on my list so I can rant about it or rave about it soon.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

I liked the first one all right, but I got so tired of Look How Glorious Is My Protagonist And How Am I Frank Herbert For Writing Mystical Nonsense That Sounds Oh So Smart that I did, in fact, no joke, throw Children of Dune across the room in disgust.  And that's the last I had anything to do with that.

6. 1984, by George Orwell

High school reading requirement.  A diverting read, worth having done once, but pretty much way more pessimistic about human nature that I'm willing to accept, which is true about pretty much everything I was forced to read in high school.

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

I didnt' finish this.  I didn't dislike it, I just didn't get sufficiently interested in it.  I liked the imagery and mythology a lot, and the main character was an interesting and compelling guy, but I just didn't feel like we was going anywhere.

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan 

I admit to being a fan, as a result of a different 8th grade crush--although by that point it's because he recommended it to me as one fantasy lover to another.  A decade later, and it seems like we might be seeing the last 1000 page installment coming out soon. This really is the Series That Goes On and On and On, and plays the Isn't It So True That Women And Men Are Just Different From Each Other theme really hard, which is a theme I really don't agree with. But he does it in a way that works with the story and isn't meant to be degrading of either women or men in the slightest, and his world and his physics and the intricacies of the plot are oh so cool that what they heck I just think it's great.

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

I read this and even used to own it, but I couldn't tell you a thing about what happened in it and what is was about.  Some kind of heist or something, maybe. Whatever it was, I clearly did not find it very memorable.

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

I did my 10th grade literary paper on this, and I went through a serious Asimov faze.  In general I prefer character driven stories while these more situational, set up to hypothetical ethical questions about the future.  Yet they are intellectually engaging, and I like Asmov's optimism.  If you're up for some short stories they are good and thought-provoking entertainment for short sitings.

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

I really hate books that take the "Lady or the Tiger" approach and don't explicitly tell you how they end.  As a literary artifact, I think that tactic more of a cheap ploy than an actual show of literary skill.  Also, back in my radical feminist days I wanted to write a book like this without knowing one already existed--and I'm glad I'm a lot wiser now than I was then about human nature.  Don't read this if you don't like being depressed.

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

I just read bits and pieces of this when I was really young and don't remember much except that I liked it.  It's probably worth picking up again as an adult.

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

Early in high school I went through a phase with this where I joined some Internet groups that did some fanfiction-esque writing and art following the rules of Anne McCaffrey's Pern.  I stumbled upon that before I had actually read the books, and before I realized she really didn't want her fans to be doing what we were doing because of copyright concerns. The books themselves are pretty good if you your like science fiction and fantasy elements heavily influenced with the plot structures of romance novels--which I did, in high school--although I stopped after about the first four books, because they were getting somewhat similar.  Also a little too heavy with the Female Protagonist Is So Much Smarter and Braver And Stronger Than Other Women and thus Rocks while all other women are Stupid Shallow Flakes meme.  In high school, of course, I was into that, and wanted to be That Woman--but then I grew up and realized that people are, thank goodness, so much more complex than that.

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

This is one of my favorite books, and one of the best science fiction books I have read.  It has complex and interesting characters doing intellectually interesting and morally relevant things that matter to them in ways that make you really care about what happens to them.  To bad it's also a very sad book.

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

These were too weird and too masculine for me. Steriotypical I Am So Awesome and Manly Protagonist (And I'm Not Particularly Nice Either But You're Supposed to Like Me Anyway), engaged in Battles for Royal Throne Succession in a setting that can really only be described as one continous acid trip.  Intrigues among siblings that don't make sense and change on a dime, and women who prety much exist to be ornaments.  No thanks.

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

When I read this I was probably way too young to read a book that had this much sex in it.  Which of course meant I devoured it with no small measure of "people do THAT?" and was all kind of confused as to how this mideval sexuality was supposed to translate into this sexuality thing in the modern world.  That's one of the things that parents would probably rather not know about their kids' fiction.

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I tried, I really tried.  But I didn't get very far.

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White


48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

This is the one by him that I did read all the way through.  It was 'aight, although I don't know what's really remarkable about it.

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

I really liked this, for no particular reasons that I can put my fingers on.  I thought he had good characterization and managed to pull of intellectual depth and the magical cool mystery of the universe and mathematics all that in way that was REAL, not in the Look At Me Not Making Sense And Trying to Pass It Off Like It's Just Too Deep For You to Understand way that intellectually superior authors like to do.  This book is like the perfect antitode to people who really like the univese but hate The Misunderstood Genious meme.  Also props for a female protagonist struggling through the politics of being a minority in physical science.

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind 

Read it and some other pieces of this series, and no.  Just not quite deep enough or interested enough or un-cliche enough.

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

Yeah this was pretty good but this was about the time I was getty really weary of epic fantasy, and it gets pretty epic.  I trudged through the long parts (and I did skip some) just because I really, really wanted to know what had happened to Verity.

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger 

Another book that should come with a warning label for containing generous amounts of sex.  I liked it a lot up until the ending, which I thought was kind of a cop out, not really a satisfactory ending at all.  But I don't really know how you'd end a book like that any other way.

Now, what books weren't mentioned that YOU think should have been on that list?

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