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text 2017-02-17 15:27
7 Great Fantasy/Urban Fantasy Series
Storm Front - Jim Butcher
Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green
The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly
The Rook - Daniel O'Malley
Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett
The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

At this point, it is no surprise to anyone that I am a fantasy fan, specifically urban fantasy. I like magic, monsters, adventures, etc. I also like revisiting characters and worlds, which means I'm definitely a series guy. I like a good standalone, mind you, but they are rarely as immersive as a long-running series.These are a few of my faves, and why. I am excluding the ones I discovered last year, as I've already discussed them elsewhere.

 

1. Storm Front - Jim Butcher  The Dresden Files - Jim Butcher

 

First Book: Storm Front (2000), ongoing

 

One of my all-time favorites, this series follows Harry Dresden, a professional wizard based in Chicago. It starts out as basically a PI series with magic, but dives much deeper into the lore starting with book 3, Grave Peril. Fast, funny, and exciting, this is the big daddy of modern UF, hitting #1 on the NY Times list a few times. There are 15 books in the series thus far, plus various shorts, novellas, and comics.

 

2. Something from the Nightside - Simon R. Green   The Nightside series - Simon R. Green

 

First book: Something From The Nightside (2003), completed

 

This series takes place in the titular Nightside and follows John Taylor, PI, ne'er-do-well

and prophesied heir to the Nightside, as he solves crimes, learns about his birthright, and challenges the Powers That Be. The writing can be a bit repetitive, and there are a couple lesser books among the twelve (thirteen including a collection, which is fun but inessential), but some of the characters are just flat awesome, especially Walker and "Shotgun" Suzie Shooter. Can get a bit gruesome, but the humor is always spot on.

 

3. The Gates (Samuel Johnson, #1) - John Connolly  Samuel Johnson series - John Connolly

 

First book: The Gates (2009), completed.

 

A very funny combination of demonology and theoretical physics, intended for YA readers. A great trilogy about a young boy whose town is frequently treatened with demonic takeover. I'm not usually a YA guy, but this just flat rocks.

 

4. The Rook - Daniel O'Malley  Checquy series - Daniel O'Malley

 

First book: The Rook (2012), ongoing.

 

Another fun UF series, this one told, thus far, from exclusively female perspectives. There are many people in the world born with strange abilities and, in the UK, it is up to the Checquy to handle them. Very funny, often gory, and occasionally thought-provoking. As the second book, Stiletto, mostly abandons the lead from the first book in favor of two new characters, it will be interesting to see what happens in book 3.

 

5. Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett  Discworld - Terry Pratchett

 

First book: Color of Magic (1983), completed.

 

Confession time: I've only read six or so of these books and feel no pressig need to complete the series. I will read more of them, and happily, but am in npo rush, nor do I feel any need to read them in any particular order. There are about forty books in various subseries, plus various addenda, and, while there is continuity, flitting around has worked fine for me thus far.

 

6. The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) - Patrick Rothfuss  Kingkiller Chronicles - Patrick Rothfuss

 

First book: The Name of The Wind (2007), ongoing.

 

An epic fantasy in the traditional vein, with great characters, beautiful writing, and interesting magic systems. This series follows Kvothe first as a student, then on various adventures. Stories within stories, an unreliable narrator, a school story, this is as interesting structurally as narratively. Am desperately anxious for book three.

 

7. On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony  Incarnations of Immortality - Piers Anthony

 

First book: On a Pale Horse (1983), completed.

 

Both the worst-written and most structurally ambitious of all these series. this deals with mere mortals who, in various ways, become incarnations of various concepts, such as Death, Time, War, etc. Originally intended as a quintet, then extended to eight books. I never bothered with the last three books because the first five tell a complete story. Said story is not told sequentially, as the books take place at around the same times. Instead, we get the same occurrences from different perspectives, slowly deepening context, and a growing sense of the underlying conflict. The writing isn't particularly strong, but the ambition is laudable.

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review 2015-12-19 00:19
On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1)
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

Like many others, I first read this book in high school and loved it. Now, I read this in my thirties, and find that while it is very dated in its treatment of women, it also still makes me think just as much as I did back then.

What really gets me about this book is that it challenges traditional ideas about the facets of Christianity. It makes you consider that the roles of Good and Evil are just jobs that are held more so than all powerful beings that don't care about the mortals they are trying to win to their respective camps.

Zane was a very easy to relate to character, and I liked his moments of crisis. Luna also was an interesting character to see in action, especially when she began to see beyond Zane's exterior. I also really liked the descriptiveness of the world building that was done.

All in all, it was an enjoyable return to a slice of my teenage years, and I'll likely continue the series at some point!

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review 2015-07-29 00:00
On a Pale Horse
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony An absolutely hysterical and morbid take on Death! This book honestly delighted me, and bemoan the fact that current and modern writing isn't this quality. I can't wait to read the next book.
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review 2015-07-14 18:53
On a Pale Horse / Piers Anthony
On a Pale Horse - Piers Anthony

When Zane shoots Death, he has to take the job, speeding over the world riding Mortis, his pale horse/limo, measuring souls for the exact balance of Good and Evil, sending each to Heaven or Hell instead of Purgatory. The new Thanatos is superbly competent, ends pain when he ends lives. But Satan is forging a trap for Luna, the woman Death loves.

 

I can see where I would have been really into this series if I’d read it as a teenager. I was just busy reading at that point in my life and not very much into evaluating what I was taking in. It is a very male-oriented story, with women being mostly objects that they compete for and fight over. The male characters evaluate women by their age and attractiveness, although Zane/Death comes to grudgingly admire Luna’s strength, intelligence, and morality. If I had children, I wouldn’t encourage them to read this series, but if they did, we would need to talk about the role of women in it and why it shouldn’t be used as a model for relationships. The female characters often say some very chauvinistic things, as if Anthony believed it was acceptable to be prejudiced as long as the female characters voice those thoughts (e.g. that as women get old, they just bag & sag and lose all their attractiveness, implying that without youthful attractiveness they really aren’t worth anything anymore).

 

The writing is acceptable; the morality is extremely black-and-white. Having characters like God and Satan included in the list of characters plunges the reader very much into a Christian universe and there is no escaping that uni-religion slant. Since I attended Sunday School as a child, I was conversant with the details of that worldview, but I wonder how many modern young people would be? It might be interesting for non-Christian readers, although I would hate for them to get their Christian theology from Anthony, or it might be off-putting.

 

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the horse/car Mortis and the idea that a new person in the Incarnation of Death could shake up the job quite a bit.

 

I’ve read these books out of order (it doesn’t affect their understanding all that much since they’re fairly simplistic), so I’ve only got a couple to go. I’ve abandoned Anthony’s Xanth series because it bores and annoys me, but I haven’t made any hard-and-fast decisions about this one. Not my favourite author, although I can understand what others may see in his work.

 

Book number 181 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.

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review 2014-06-02 09:03
The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
The Silent Land - Graham Joyce

youngish married couple go on a ski trip. avalanche! when they extricate themselves from the snow they find that everyone at their ski village has disappeared and that time now moves differently. what the hell?

fortunately, guessing the (entirely predictable) twists that come at the halfway and end points should not ruin the experience of reading this lovely and affecting book. unless you are the sort of reader whose experience rises and falls on the twists and turns and purely narrative pleasures of a book. if so, stay away. if not, then there is a lot to enjoy in The Silent Land - a minor note but very thoughtful, very sweet (but not saccharine) experience.


it is a chamber piece, of sorts: two primary characters; one POV - a wife contemplating her feelings about her husband and their future together. I say of sorts because, surprisingly, the married couple are not particularly well-developed or given the sort of rich, deep characterization that you'd expect to find in a novel with such a small cast and such intimate concerns. they are real people, certainly, but the context behind their actions and the lifetimes behind them that helped make them who they are... not so much of that, not really. there is a dog that gives some context (context that actually made me tear up a little bit, but I'm a sucker for sentimental stuff around animals)... and there are two wonderful chapters that are concerned with the impact that death has had on each of their fathers. those two chapters were insightful and the fathers are depicted with both clarity and warmth. very, very moving chapters - but they are anomalies in the novel. what is mainly present are the thought processes of the wife and husband, how they think, what they think, how and what they think about each other. the book is very Here & Now & What Comes Next. I thought this was a really interesting and atypical approach, and helped an already dreamlike (sometimes even nightmarish) landscape become even more dreamy.

the prose is also quite dreamy. rather spare, rather elegant, subtle, careful, with the occasional dash of idiosyncrasy to spice things up now and again. the atmosphere moves between eerie and ominous and even strangely enchanting... again, dreamlike.

naturally there is a lot of sex. I assume that most couples stranded by themselves in fairly luxurious quarters, who don't have much to do and who are still deeply attracted to each other on both an emotional and a physical level... yeah, there will probably be a lot of fucking going on. and hey, some making love too. all mixed up together.

anyway, the book is about love. how we live with it, how it is a magical thing yet also an everyday sort of thing, how it exists beyond the here and now, how it can stay with us and all the myriad ways it can take shape.

it also has a Christmas tree that is adorned with memories rather than ornaments. awesome idea!<!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]--><!--["br"]-->
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