Friday, November 14, 2008

I Need Suggestions...

A little help here, please. Yesterday my father in law asked me for a recommendation of a good sci-fi or fantasy book. He's heading to New Zealand for Christmas (to enjoy the summering sun with his other daughter's family) and he fancies reading a big book, something to get lost in. No, I can't recommend anything of mine, cause he's read all of them. (I'd like to think, actually, that Acacia sort of planted the seed for this query.)

Some context first. My father is Scottish, a Shetlander who lives in that lovely wee cottage I've posted photos of so often. This one...

Yes, it's bloody isolated, but it's isolated in a good way. Inside, it's filled with books and art and letters and photos from his far-flung family. He reads really widely, and is looking for something to rival Dune... See my dilemma? How do you rival Dune? I can't point him toward an OK book. It can't be light on substance. It's got to be a gem.

The weird thing is that as enthusiastic a proponent of the genre(s) as I am, I'm having a hard time settling on a book. I keep thinking of ones I love, but then there's always something that makes me think twice about it. Hence, this call for suggestions.

So, on my shortlist so far are...

Kindred, by Octavia Butler

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

A Game of Thrones
, by GRRM

The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson

Is it one of these I should go with, or something else I'm not thinking of right now?...

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Blogger Bower said...

Diamond Age off that list. Very interesting, somewhat odd ending though. If you want Stevenson, why not go all the way with Anathem or Cryptonomicon?

3:58 PM  
Blogger The Real Deal said...

SciFi recommendation: Hyperion by Dan Simmons (I know you like that author)
Fantasy/Epic: Coming of the King by Nikolai Tolstoy (grandson of Leo, and celtic scholar) - epic novel of the life of Merlin

4:21 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Good question. Simple answer: I haven't read either. I own them both, but haven't tucked into them yet. Soon...

Real Deal,

You know, the last book rec he got from me was The Terror. He wasn't a big fan of it, so I think I have to choose something other than another Simmons.

I don't know much about Nikolai Tolstoy's work. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows a few problems in terms of his politics - "right wing of the Conservative Party". Might be a great book, but I'd definitely have to love it before suggesting it to my rather left-leaning father in law. ;)

4:39 PM  
Blogger Bower said...

Fair enough. Diamond Age had a great story and explores some very interesting themes. I'm 150 pages or so from end of Anathem and would recommend starting it soon. Wins for both 'big' and 'getting lost in'.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love to get lost in series...

Two suggestions... Sword of Truth (Wizards First Rule, Book 1) and Wheel of Time (Eye of the World, Book 1) they are distinctly similar if you make it through all the books in each series, but... gotta love 'em.

Oh yes, ignore the new Seeker (SoT) TV show... nonsense...

5:21 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


Good to hear you like Anathem. I think I'll crack it the next few... well, next few months.


See, this a tricky recommendation. Two very popular series you suggest. I don't imagine my father in law would like Goodkind. I think he'd quickly sense he was being lectured to, which isn't his thing. The Jordan... I'm hesitant on that because it's the start of such a long series. I don't that he wants to get THAT lost...

Thanks for the suggestions, though. Keep em coming.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Ahimsa said...

Your list is already pretty great, though I would lean towards Martin as probably his best bet (though AGOT does start off slow.)

Rothfuss and/or Lynch make for great airplane reading, however. They are both so hard to put down.

Finally, they're not epic tomes and maybe arguably not even fantasy, but the Nightwatch series by Sergei Lukyanenko are some of the most gripping I've ever read.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he wants something Dune like what about R Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing trilogy?

Otherwise Game of Throne definitely sounds like a solid choice to me. Don't know many people who dislike it.

6:01 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I'm not one who thinks that AGOT starts off slow. It may not be action right from the start, but I loved the quality of the writing and feeling of authenticity to it. I was hooked pretty fast. Might work...

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second "Hyperion"/"Fall of Hyperion". I haven't read "The Terror" (yet) but "Hyperion" is a great book.

Other suggestions on top of my head: Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Dispossessed", Susanna Clarke's "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell".

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second The Dispossessed. I also really liked The Wreck of the River of Stars by that guy whose name I'm spacing out on right now.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm back with the name: Michael Flynn. Also, I feel compelled to suggest my all-time favorite sf series, Daughters of the Sunstone, beginning with Darkchild, by Sydney Joyce Van Scyoc. It may be geared more toward YA females, but still ... excellent excellent excellent.

11:01 PM  
Blogger Dirk said...

Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer. If he likes that there is a lot more to follow up with. If he doesn't want to get into a series like that, Wolfe's new book, Pirate Freedom was pretty good too.

China Mieville's Perdido Street Station is pretty good.

Tim Power's Anubis Gates (or several others of his)

I wouldn't recommend a Game of Thrones just because of it's unfinished nature. I love the series but it would be cruel to get another person waiting on that hook :)

For something super dense he could try Delany's Dhalgren, but that isn't exactly a summer beach read.

12:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David, here are my thoughts:

Dune Rival: Arthur C Clarke's Rama series, or Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy.

R. Scott Bakker's series may also be a good choice in terms of sheer being-lost-in-a-book; both Herbert and Bakker created awesome worlds! :-)

1:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I might recommend Steven Erikson's The Gardens of the Moon, but then you're entering one of those massivle and unending series. My best bet would be Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay. He's great, he's a bit more literary and historically oriented than most fantasy writers (similarities with you, there), and he has some big stand alone novels. My favourite of them is Tigana, hence the recommendation, but The Lions of Al-Rassan and A Song for Arbonne are extremely worthy. That Last Light of the Sun deals with certain ideas about the history of the British Isles, which might be interesting for your father-in-law... but I didn't like it as much as the others. His Sarantine Mosaic duology was pretty good, but a little slower. Anyway, I'd vote for Tigana. Complex story and characters to get lost in.

Hope it helps,
Bryan Russell

11:10 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

I absolutely agree that AGOT is a worthy read for anyone. Amazing.

Stephen Lawhead has some great series as well: The Pendragon Cycle, The Song of Albion, and, now, his nice twist on the Robin Hood mythology.

If he's looking for sci-fi, Ender's Game is phenomenal, as are the sequels and 'parallel' novels. Orson Scott Card knows what he's doing.

11:37 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Lots of good suggestions here. I'm particularly happy to see all the Hyperion mentions. Also Gene Wolfe and China Mieville and Guy Gavriel Kay are very likely choices.

I certainly like Steven Erikson (personally as well as as an author) but that's too long a series to suggest in this case. I don't know if he's tried the Susanna Clarke. I enjoyed it, but I'm not convinced he'd be won over by it. I'm reading Peter F Hamilton right now - The Dreaming Void - and really liking it. He's a new author for me, though.


You wouldn't suggest an "unfinished" series? Dude, I've just begun an unfinished series! Unfinished series need readers too! (Although George is safe from financial worries in this life...)

And you've given me some new names to check out. Cool. I'm still undecided, though...

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,

How about The Briar King by Greg Keyes or the Furies of Caulderon by Jim Butcher?


1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lots of good suggestions...
Here are mine:

R. Scott Bakker - Prince of Nothing
Daniel Abraham - The Long Price Quartet
Patrick Rothfuss - The Name of the Wind
Stephen Donaldson - The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbelieve or the GAP cycle

Does it have to be fantasy/sf?
If not, how about Dorothy Dunnett or Carlos Ruiz Zafón?

2:08 PM  
Blogger Dirk said...

Yes, I know your series is unfinished but it seems to be moving along pretty good. And you only have one book in the series out so far so I don't have to reread as much when the next one comes out.

I think I've reached the not really caring point with regards to A Song of Fire and Ice. I really loved reading them and one day if the series if finished I look forward to reading all 7 again but I don't think I'm even going to read the next one when it comes out because it's been so long since the last one that I've lost my connection with the story and the characters. I'd have to go back and read the first 4 again to get back into the swing of the narrative and I'm not sure I want to do that. Then again, they are really good books, so who knows. But there are lots of other good books out there that I haven't read yet.

And just for the record, I'm in no way upset at G.R.R.M. for his writing pace. Whatever he needs is fine by me. I'm not one of those fans that get pissed when he writes that he spent Sunday watching football. WTF people? The man has a life beyond writing books.

And I'd pick Snow Crash over Diamond Age. Snow Crash is the bomb! I love that book.

And it's not fantasy, but McMurtry's Lonesome Dove is a great book to get lost in.

3:00 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


I'm quite interested in the Furies of Caulderon, but I haven't read it yet. Butcher's a fun writer, though, and I bet it's good.


Good suggestions. Stephen Donaldson was an important author for me. My first "adult" fantasy. Must have read it when I was fourteen or so. Quite memorable. I met Mr. D at World Fantasy a couple of weeks ago. Never got to say fan stuff, though. Somehow he preferred talking about... oh, traffic or something like that.


I liked Snow Crash, but I read it after Diamond Age and wasn't as won over by it.

And I know it's off topic, but Lonesome Dove is an awesome suggestion for a big book in general! That might be the one I wrap up and send down under. (Not as the sc/f rec - just as a present.)

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he hasn't read the GAP cycle, I'd recommend that.

Gollanz (UK) just rereleased the books, if I recall that right.


6:59 PM  
Blogger Ashe Hunt said...

I loved Diamond Age. That is a very good one. If your considering a series though, I'd suggest Richard K. Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs novels, the first of which is Altered Carbon. Personally, this story changed the sci-fi game. The other two books, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, are just as good if not better than the first. He also wrote a stand alone novel called Thirteen, the UK version is titled Black Man, which is phenomenally excellent.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Ashe Hunt said...

Oh yeah, as far as fantasy I think Simon R. Green's Deathstalker series would be great.

11:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many good ideas for me to work on too. Thanks all!

I loved C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series...I think she's on #8 or #9 now. Fabulous characters.

Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio and sequel Darwin's Children were great, esp if you like a little real science sprinkled in there.

9:47 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Ashe Hunt,

Ah, the first mention of Richard Morgan! Good. I was tempted to include Black Man on my list. Wait, no, I'm in the US. I was tempted to include THIRTEEN on my shortlist. It was one of my favorites from last year. Slightly oversexed, though, which may be why I shied away from it for this particular recommendation...

I don't know a thing about Simon R Green. Thanks for mentioning him.

Hey Sengei Tawn,

Nice to see you stopping in here!


8:30 PM  
Blogger BHer said...

Had to jump in - if a little late. I just finished reading the 4 Hyperion books and they are massive in scope and breadth of ideas. They each (aside from the first) stray a little in parts, but are overall extremely impressive in what he is trying to accomplish.

Diamond Age rules.

Anathem was FANTASTIC. I loved Cryptomicon but felt that this was more accessible and had a more satisfying ending for most. Plus, it didn't require QUITE as much of an investment as Cryptomicon did. (Loved it, BTW.)

If you are going to go with the "grandmommy" of them all - Octavia Butler - it HAS to be The Parable duology. (And it pains me to know she had plans for a 3rd and the world will never see it...) Kindred was OK, but you can see it was the least polished of all of her work and suffered from a lack of reworking by her.

Greg Keyes is brilliant and the Briar King series was, overall, very satisfying and a nice change of pace for the genre. kept me guessing, was intelligently written, and respected the reader. Plus, he writes women extremely well.

I love The Gentleman Bastard Sequence - kind of Italian Job meets fantasy - but it is far from finished. Fun romps though. And Patrick Rothfuss's "The Name of the Wind" is a great start to what looks like a great series...

Those are some of my thoughts...

Congrats on the royalties and looking forward to the next book!!

6:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Scifi - This Immortal or Lord of Light by Zelazny
Historical fiction - Alamut by Vladimir Bartol
all good books with a lot to tell.

4:06 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Yes, yes, I hear you. Good suggestions. Maybe I won't so much suggest one book; I'll give him a shortlist... (Not that I won't still cogitate over that.)

2:57 PM  
Blogger BHer said...

Would love to see the list when it is complied!!

5:13 PM  
Blogger Graeme Flory said...

Hi David,

Looking at the photo had me thinking of Brian Ruckley's 'Winterbirth' and 'Bloodheir' straight away. I don't know if they will rival 'Dune' but they're great to get lost in, have a Scottish vibe that your father in law might like, and there's only one more book to go after these.

Greg Keyes' 'Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone' series might be another good one to check out as well :o)

7:55 AM  

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