mjj (flemmings) wrote,
mjj
flemmings

50 Fantasy Books Meme

In which I continue to spam my own journal and be shamelessly opinionated

1. George MacDonald, Phantastes, 1858

Always comes in a double volume with Lilith. I know I've read Phantastes, though I remember nothing of it, and believe I haven't read Lilith, though I remember passages from it.

2. William Morris, The Well at the World’s End, 1896

I suppose we could do with an historical note here. All these early fantasy titles were reissued in the mid to late 60's following on the huge success of LotR. The books were beautiful, the cover art haunting and suggestive (caveat- for people who hadn't seen anything like it before, OK? No Alphonse Mucha calendars, no Beardsley-by-reflex illustrations in those days) and the contents invariably disappointing. Except when they weren't, but in this case they were.

OTOH it must be said that when the Boomers did retro, it was pre-Raphaelite, which puts us way ahead of people whose retro was the 1930's, 1950's, 1970's, or (dear god) 1980's. My generation was blessed far beyond its deserts.

3. E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros, 1922

Beautiful book. Bought it at 17 in Boston along with Stormbringer, a dizzying find. (TO bookstores still carried only British books so no Ace fantasy series.) I read one of those books in a night and loved it. Guess which.

4. H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu, 1928

For those of us who read MR James at a tender age and suffered hysterics thereafter, Lovecraft's unspeakable rites and abominable whatevers (anybody's UR&AW actually) are a source of mirth. The really unspeakable and abominable stuff doesn't need that kind of overinflated adjective, when 'hopping' will do twelve times better. Aaaaghhh- 'hopping'! (mewls in terror.)

5. Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan, 1946

I was kind of emmm about this until Steerpike showed up. Then I fell into the book and emerged a few days later feeling vile. Still think Titus is a twit (authorial insert of the Poor Gifted Misunderstood Me variety) and Steerpike badly done by, cause I! Am! Canadian! and a socialist at heart. Peake OTOH was one of those puzzling Brits who really does seem to think the aristocracy is cool simply by virtue of being aristocratic.

6. Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian, 1950

I've read one Conan story in a collection somewhere. Seem to recall he calls the queen 'lass', my first encounter with the enduring American male notion that ignoring social conventions is admirable manly independence, not disgusting boorish ignorance.

7. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 1950s

For the completist in me. I found it- and the LotR appendices for that matter- daunting, in the sense of a mass of information not easily digested, and haunting, in the sense of a strange, impossibly distant, impossibly ancient and imperfectly apprehended history. 'So long ago it would make you dizzy' as the Japanese say. We don't have that in RL. Go back 12,000 years and we were in caves.

8. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, 1950

Well of course Lewis, though the first was never a favourite. For once, a kid's book I actually read when I was a kid.

9. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954

Well of course Tolkien. My first experience of a complete and detailed other world. Exhilarating.

10. T.H. White, The Once & Future King, 1958

Love it. Intensely readable, which puts it above any other Arthurian work including but not confined to the Morte d'Arthur and the French romances. But its section on fairies also gave me some of that itchy sense the LotR appendices did- a feeling that there was a vast body of history and literature behind the passages, of which I knew nothing. In the case of TOaFK the feeling was true.

11. Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time, 1962

Yes, and well enough but. The Christian aspect of Lewis never bothered me that much- it was smack dab obvious to a convent educated Catholic and never influenced the author's values, if you understand me- the Redemption was a simple fact of history where I came from so of course Aslan dies and rises again, why not? (The dogmatic problem of the Calormenes' god and The Last Battle bothered me a lot more.) But L'Engle's covert Christianity got up my nose, even more in successive books. The good so good and the bad so bad: it's all Last Battle under its skin.

12. Michael Moorcock, Stormbringer 1965

Probably not as good now as then, as I say, but then it was another dizzyingly Long Ago and Far Away and Completely Different world. Loved it.

13. Lloyd Alexander, The Black Cauldron, 1965

I'm in a minority in not liking Alexander that much. I think there are better things you can do with Welsh mythology, like throwing it into your story undigested and unexplained as Garner did in The Weirdstone and The Moon of Gomrath. And the last book operated on the principle that killing half your cast in a couple of chapters makes for a satisfying dramatic ending.

14. Alan Garner, Elidor, 1965

I appreciate it now, but then what I wanted was more Weirdstone stuff and I didn't get it. At least it's not Red Shift.

15. Ursula K. Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968

See other list. It did have the most respectable dragons until Spirited Away.

16. Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn, 1968

Never read or never finished, can't remember which. Don't know why but I think the word 'whimsy' comes in somewhere.

17. Fritz Leiber, Ill Met in Lankhmar, 1970

A favourite, along with Moorcock. The more so because Leiber struck me then as the better stylist while Moorcock does go High Style Bloated on occasion.

18. Roger Zelazny, Nine Princes in Amber, 1970

A rattling good read for the young. Rereading now... well, Corwin is such an Admirable American Male one does want to smack some sense and manners into him.

19. Richard Adams, Watership Down, 1972

Nope, never read.

20. Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising, 1973

And if L'Engle's values make me scream, you should see what Cooper's do to me. Many many years later comes the suggestion that maybe she intended us to read the Light as a bunch of idiots always screwing up because they ignored the human aspect of humanity so completely. But that's not how it looked to me in 1973.

21. William Goldman, The Princess Bride, 1973

Mh-hm. But only after the movie made half this book a bedrock part of popular American culture.

22. Patricia McKillip, The Riddle-Master of Hed, 1976

Ohh yes. Though The Forgotten Beasts of Eld was the real eye-opener. But the Riddle-Master not only has one of my favourite undefined erotic tropes in it, back in '76 there was no sequel. We end with black betrayal and no explanations, and I assure you the next eighteen months were hell because of that.

23. Anne McCaffrey, Dragonsong, 1976
24. Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara, 1977
25. Steven Donaldson, The (First) Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, 1977


No, thank god x 3.

26. Piers Anthony, A Spell for Chameleon, 1977

Read it, remember nothing. Pleasant and forgettable.

27. Walter Wangerin, The Book of the Dun Cow, 1978

Nope. Forget why not because the reviews raved when it came out and I know I had a copy. In hardback even.

28. Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun, 1980
29. John Crowley, Little, Big, 1981
30. Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon, 1982


Dealt with these on the other list. If you have Bradley on the list you really should make it Darkover, because I still recall that with fondness even though I've come to consider MZB a self-important twit. Good books written by unlikable people is a problem of mine so I'm glad I knew nothing about her back in the day.

31. David Eddings, The Belgariad, 1982

He reads pleasantly enough for the first few volumes. Then, as kickinpants said, you realize that it's same old same old forever after.

32. Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic, 1983

Just not my man.

33. Robert Holdstock, Mythago Wood, 1984

No, but should.

34. Margarert Weis & Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, 1984

No, for which I'm also glad. Weis and Hickman, like only too many fantasy writers, have no style to speak of. Pedestrian plod in need of some inspiration and an editor.

35. Orson Scott Card, Seventh Son, 1987

I've read *a* Card but this wasn't it.

36. Ellen Kushner, Swordspoint, 1987

Yes, and still don't see what the fuss is about.

37. Mercedes Lackey, The Last Herald-Mage, 1990

For my sins. I was in Japan and English reading material was in short supply. I do recall that at the time I disagreed with the friend who said Vanyel was a wailing wimp. I must have been on drugs.

38. Guy Gavriel Kay, Tigana, 1990

Yes, and will never read another Kay because of it.

39. Tad Williams, Stone of Farewell, 1990
40. Robert Jordan, The Eye of the World, 1990


Know neither of these, but I hear no good of Robert Jordan.

41. Stephen King, The Waste Lands, 1991
42. Neil Gaiman, The Season of Mists, 1991


Neither of these is my man.

43. C.S. Friedman, Black Sun Rising, 1991

I'm afraid to read it in case the style turns out to be as utterly uninspired as, oh, Hobb's and Flewellen's and Lackey's and Patton's and...

44. Tim Powers, Last Call, 1992

Who?

45. Philip Pullman, Northern Lights/The Golden Compass, 1995

Can NOT read the man. Two chapters in and I already disliked him intensely, for no reason I could put my finger on. I do not love thee, Dr. Fell, pure and simple.

46. George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, 1996

Yeah, and I hear no good of Martin either.

47. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, 1997

Really, truly, I read the first three books for work. And the rest of them because everyone else was. I am a sad sad sheep.

48. Sean Stewart, Mockingbird, 1998

Mock- yeah! Ing- yeah! Bird- yea-- uhh no, I haven't.

49. China Mieville, Perdido Street Station, 2000

We're now into the decade when I read no English at all without I had a *very* good reason, like 'everyone else is' and there were never enough good reasons to read Mieville.

50. Susannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, 2004

Or, you know, 'the author writes like Dickens and Thackery only female and weird.' Yes, I'll read Clarke for her style alone; also the megrimish stuff that lurks out the corner of my eye when I read her. Truly, in my mind there's a certain kind of genteel horror (in the culture, not the literature) that didn't start until the 19th century, born probably from the rotting corpse of Romanticism, but that grows and grows like one of those black smoke-shapes in Ima Ichiko until it swallows the whole of the 1830s. Clarke knows it's there and that's why her fairies give me the fantods. You couldn't do that brand of fantoddy unhuman and chilling in an 18th century setting, or not so chillingly, because the 18th century was actually closer to the savage irrationality of Clarke's fairydom than the civilized 19th. (In the 17th century I'm convinced there *was* no difference: humans and youkai lived at peace because both were bloody and mad.)
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