Friday, February 10, 2006


Gavin says it's not enough to produce a reading list. Instead, it's important to choose, to tell people which books I like.

Later, I may go back in time, but for now, I'll list some contemporary writers I enjoy.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman wrote, with Terry Pratchett, "Good Omens" which is based around "The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch". While Pratchett is popular with many people whose opinions I value, I'm not a fan at all. I am, however, a fan of Gaiman. In comics, he wrote The Sandman series, which is fine and dandy, a great achievement etc. In literature though, he wrote Neverwhere, about another world parallel to the London Underground. Best of all though, he wrote the magnificent, "American Gods".

Iain Banks

Sometimes Banks comes with an M (Iain M Banks being, sort of, the pseudonym he uses for Science Fiction). I rate him both with and without. With, my favourite is The Use of Weapons (one of many novels set in The Culture). Without the M, his first novel, The Wasp Factory remains a splendid achievement, but my favourite is Complicity (because I could not help but be complicit in the plans of the villain.

Orson Scott Card

Card is a Mormon from Utah. He is also one of the most humanistic science fiction writers I know of. He has written many varied peieces including the Alvin Maker stories, set in an alternative North America where the continent is divided between a Royalist and republican section. His greatest achievement though is the book, "Ender's Game" about children trained for an act of xenocide (albeit in self-defence). This was followed by Speaker for the Dead, in which Ender Wiggin, who killed an alien race called the Hive, then wrote the book that brought the human race to shame for what it had done.

Gregory Maguire

Maguire rewrites fairy-tales and other stories from popular culture. Wicked is the Wizard of Oz, told from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is Cinderella. Mirror, Mirror is Sleeping Beauty with Lucretia Borgia as the wicked queen. Angela Carter is dead but Maguire writes well enough to be a worthy successor.

Neal Stephenson

The Baroque cycle is over 3000 pages long and tells the story of how the renaissance became the industrial age. It sounds dull when you put it like that but it is a marvellously ornate fantasy that's every bit as compelling as, say Lord of the Rings. Stephenson also wrote The Cryptonomicon which is another fine fantasy set in and after the second world war.

Stephen Baxter

I'm not that big a fan of hard science fiction and generally find Baxter's work too dry. I make an exception though for his Destiny's Children trilogy... "Coalescent", "Exultant" and "Transcendence". Well worth checking out.

Adam Roberts

He writes works that are heavy on ideas, On for example, where the world is a wall and gravity is sideways. My favourite works by Roberts are Salt (a novel about an attempt to colonise another planet failing not because of problems on the planet but because the colonists were too alien to each other before they ever left Earth) and Snow (which is an end of the world story).

Richard Morgan

Lionel Hutz/Takeshi Kovacs knows this work. It's absolutely splendid (Takeshi Kovacs is a central character in three of Morgan's four books (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies - the exception being Market Forces).

Jacqueline Carey

I originally bought this because a central character in Kushiel's Dart was called Alcuin. There are three books in her trilogy, Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar (Alcuin dies in the first book I'm afraid but by then I was extremely interested in the life of the main character, Phaedra no Delaunay). The books are very sexy, epic fantasy with huge scope and a heroine who is a masochist and a prostitute. An extremely brave work and one that works very very well.


Blogger Span Ows said...

Oh dear, are they obscure or am I 'out of it'...not only have I not read any of those I'm also pretty sure I've never heard of any of them!!!...:-/

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

No some of them are obscure. But sad fucker that I am I looked up Takeshi Kovacs when Lionel started using it as a screen name. Can't say I've read it thou.

Span, surely Iain Banks?

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

Though (typo not a quaint see Quaint Lady Chatterly quote).

Saturday, 11 February, 2006  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Nope...if any Gregory Maguire and Neal Stephenson ring a bell but that's it.

Sunday, 12 February, 2006  
Blogger Gavin Corder said...

In my case it's a "know of" not a genuine "have read"! I just never really fancied it. I suppose I should make an effort but there's so much background to what I'm working on I can't really...

Sunday, 12 February, 2006  
Blogger Alcuin said...

I have to say, I don't think it's worth reading a book because I ought to. I prefer to read things simply because I want to.

Tuesday, 14 February, 2006  
Blogger Six Years Late said...

Well, I'm going against everyone's advice and I've started reading stuff that I think will help my knowledge.

I'm reading a Short History of the World by HG Wells at the moment. It's surprisingly enlightened considering it was written in 1922. I largely skip read the first 12 chapters covering everything up to the Sumarians which I kind of assumed would be an area that would have been vastly expanded over the last 80 years an assumption made after he made no mention of the existence of Pluto.

Having said that I'm not assuming that the rest is cast iron up to date, it's just an interesting read to tell you the truth.

I am also nearing the end of Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami as recommended by my father. For someone who doesn't really like the process of reading, it should be a challenge. If I'm not hooked by a narrative immediately then i tend to give up. However this has got me hooked by writing alone - maybe I'm changing. It's worth a look.

Wednesday, 15 February, 2006  
Blogger Alcuin said...

Well no 6, H G Wells didn't mention Pluto in 1922 because it hadn't been discovered. That said, H P Lovecraft, also writing in the 1920s referred to the Solar System's ninth planet (which he called Yuggoth) home of an evil race of intelligent flying fungi known as the Mygo.

As for Murukami, I agree he's a magnificent writer and I tend to get hooked on his work, starting with Sputnik Sweetheart.

The only one of his works I couldn't get into was Underground, which is non fiction and which was too disturbing because I read mostly on the tube. (It's about the Tokyo subway sarin attack).

Wednesday, 15 February, 2006  
Blogger Alcuin said...

So Gentlemen, are these still obscure. Surely Wicked, at the very least, is the opposite of obscure now that it has made it to the West End Stage?

Saturday, 24 December, 2011  

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