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Topic: 2011 Fantasy Challenge: APRIL DISCUSSION THREAD

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Subject: 2011 Fantasy Challenge: APRIL DISCUSSION THREAD
Date Posted: 4/1/2011 1:54 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Previous, related posts:

2011 Fantasy Challenge -- LISTS ONLY THREAD

2010/2011 Fantasy Challenge -- DECEMBER DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 Fantasy Challenge -- JANUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 Fantasy Challenge: FEBRUARY DISCUSSION THREAD

2011 Fantasy Challenge: MARCH DISCUSSION THREAD

 

Welcome to Month #4 in the Challenge! Twenty-five percent of the way through the year, are you rethinking the version of the challenge you're aiming for?

Date Posted: 4/1/2011 1:55 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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I might decide to downgrade to the light version. . . I can't seem to stop myself from going on Georgette Heyer binges, which tends to cut into my SF/F reading time. . . ;D

Date Posted: 4/2/2011 2:57 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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I'm a bit less than half done, I think, so no plans of doing less than expanded super.  I'm trying to spread out books for the challenge a bit more so I don't finish in June again.

P.S. - After a week of reading nothing but House of Leaves, I'm almost done.  (Almost meaning another couple days of reading and at least another week to absorb what I've read.)  It's amazing but all that odd formatting actually makes sense when you're reading the book. 

Date Posted: 4/3/2011 10:37 PM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2010
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Just finished Soulless by Gail Carriger... Pretty sure it doesn't fit for the challenge. I think I saw it listed as steampunk somewhere but I can't remember. I'm going to try and finish Infinity Bridge by George Mann this week. We'll see how that goes. 

Date Posted: 4/4/2011 2:42 AM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Yeah, it's definitely steampunk. It should also fit Fantasy Mystery and Fantasy Romance. . .

Amy
Date Posted: 4/4/2011 10:08 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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New Amsterdam is good, but I'm kind of annoyed at the DCI character Abby Irene. Even her name is annoying. And she has three men vying for her at once? Mkay.

Sebastien is my favorite, even though he can be annoying, as well.

Date Posted: 4/4/2011 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 4/5/2010
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Awesome! I'm listing as steampunk for now. 

Date Posted: 4/5/2011 8:57 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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City of Glass by Cassandra Clare.   While this book is not scheduled for my reading challenge this is a series that kept me reading and reading.  Have truly enjoyed each and every one and there is another book coming called City of Fallen Angels.  Many of the mysteries raised in earlier volumes were solved in this one.  And, I discovered that I was beginning to understand the author's writing style and train of thought.  I found myself guessing some of the outcomes.  Cass and Jace are intriguing heroes.  And, Cass's mother is an outstanding role model. Luke's gentle, caring personality adds so much to the story.  Simon has become a vampire who is developing a mature personality and becoming comfortable with himself.  A new villain has appeared in this volume who is certain to reappear in the next book.  To say much more would give away much of the joy of reading this book.  Don't miss it.

Read a novel with a non-heterosexual main character:   Firethorn by Sarah Micklem was a very good read but didn't qualify for this read so I moved it to YA and am going to read Blood and Iron by Elizabeth Bear, a novel of the Promethean Age, instead.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss:  What can I say?  This is a great story and I have so many pages to go.  It's hard to put it down.  

Finished Beyond the Farthest Star by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I love these old science fiction/fantasy books.  They are so much fun to read.  In this one a pilot who is shot down by the Germans finds himself on a strange planet where he is obviously an alien.  His dark skin and hair and inability to understand to the language identify him as not being from the new world.      

 



Last Edited on: 4/30/11 8:53 AM ET - Total times edited: 9
Date Posted: 4/5/2011 2:57 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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I recently finished Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass for the Banned Books category. I'm having a little trouble suspending my disbelief over elementary sin particles, but I'll let it go long enough to finish out the series. Lyra's parents have me hooked.

Date Posted: 4/7/2011 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 12/29/2008
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REK, I love Cassandra Clare.  I can't wait to get her new book, but the WL is very long.

I finally read The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters which I used in the gothic category.  I had heard it reviewed on the radio when it first came out and finally got it on my WL and read it on vacation.  It could also be in the category of middle-class characters, since the main character is a very middle-class doctor whose mother worked as a servant in a local "mansion" in England, so he grew up always admiring the house - he's come up in the world because he's a doctor, but his practice is struggling because he's not as upper class like some of his local competitors.  It takes place after WWII, maybe (mostly) in the 50s?  It is beautifully written and the characters are so well-developed - and, as the category might suggest, it's super creepy in a pretty realistic way.  My favorite part is that the house really ends up being a key character for the story.  Also, while none of the characters were particularly likeable to me, they do grow on you (like a fungus?) and they are complex and intriguing.  I'm terrible about doing reviews because I'm always nervous about giving too much away - so I'll just say if you are looking for a gothic, this is a good one to consider.

I'm doing the light challenge, and probably will continue with either that or the medium challenge.  I've got 6 books read in Part A, and I think my toughest category is Part C.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm doing the paranormal challenge as well, and there is not very much overlap.  And there's too much other good stuff to read that doesn't fit anywhere, LOL.



Last Edited on: 4/7/11 10:54 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/11/2011 10:04 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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So, last month I read House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski.  This is the book with the crazy, messed up formatting I mentioned last month. This image gives you a slight idea of what reading it is like and might refresh your memory.


There's three stories here.
The first story is that of Will Navidson, a photojournalist who agrees to stay home from work for awhile in order to try to save his marriage.  Of course, being a photojournalist, he sets up video cameras in every room of a new home so that he can make a documentary of the process of moving.  Over the next couple of months, he begins to realize the home is slightly bigger inside than outside.  Then doors and hallways begin to appear where they weren't before and where it's impossible for them to be.  One door leads into a dark labyrinth, where you can travel for days without finding an end.  At that point, the documentary changes focus to the exploration of the hallway.

Will Navidson's story is told by Zampano, an academic who's spent years analyzing the documentary, any interviews he can find of anyone who set foot in the home, etc.  Everything is analyzed, right down to the camera angles, lighting and length of the shots.  Zampano dies before publishing his work - and his notes are found by Johnny Truant.

Johnny, after finding the notes, begins to read through them, adding his own notes and growing more incoherent and irrational as the book progresses.  Most of his notes are of the type "This reminds me of the time that ..." etc.


Zampano's part is rather dry.  It's almost a satire of academia, with hundreds of footnotes, and copious citations of the (fake) resources he obtained info from.  Some of the footnotes drag on for pages and are incredibly boring.  Others are interesting.  But it seemed like just when I was about to give up and skip some part of a footnote - he'd come up with something that made it worth it. (Except for the lists -- I'll admit to just skimming those!)

Will Navidson's story was rather creepy - definitely a Gothic horror story.  However, just when I started getting drawn into the horror part of the story, Zampano would take a long digression into some trivial bit of academia.  I liked the book as a whole, but I think Navidson's story might have been better served if Zampano's and Johnny Truant's bits of the story weren't in there, or maybe a bit less obtrusive.

Part of the point behind this story is just reading about the house - even if you've never been there to be directly affected by it's evil - negatively affects you.

I think what makes the book work (at least for me) is that it's an analysis of something that was originally in a visual medium.  Some of the strange formatting mimics what you'd see if you were watching it in a television screen - things that move further down the page as the action gets closer to the camera or scenes where there's only a word or a couple of letters per page when a movie would be showing things in slow motion.  Also, both editors being absolutely crazy helps explain away the weird formatting.

In my opinion (and opinions are going to differ wildly on this book!) it's totally worth reading.  However, I NEVER, EVER, EVER want to read anything remotely similar again.  Once was enough.  It was good, but exhausting to read, both physically and mentally.

This could fit under:
Gothic
Meta-Fantasy (meta in 4 or 5 different ways!)
Middle Class characters
Tie-in with a different medium (Poe's CD Haunted)
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list



Last Edited on: 4/11/11 10:06 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/12/2011 11:04 AM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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Ugh. Nothing like an upper respiratory infection to clear your schedule for some back to back reading. I've finished 4-5 novels in at least as many days.

First came the porntastic A Companion to Wolves. I can really only blame myself for this one, because I knew what I was getting into, but really, Sarah! The whole first half? (Yes, I know who to blame for those scenes, she could have pulled them straight out of Virtu!) If anyone is interested in this one, I can at least assure you that a story does happen eventually, and the killing of trolls does earn more than a passing phrase or two. Half of it was action-at-a-distance though, and I think I would have enjoyed the whole thing much more if Isolfr wasn't eternally 14. At this point I'd like to read some fiction where the characters are just homosexual and that's that, instead of it either being the crisis or plot distraction of the hour. Here's hoping I show some better judgment in my Lamda award pick.  

Then I moved onto The New Wierd. This is a mix of literary articles and short stories attempting to quantify the New Wierd. It pretty much solidified my opinon that certain someones were trying too hard to create a genre for themselves. It doesn't help that at least twice it was mentioned that New Wierd authors (by said authors themselves) were having a hard time getting their work published without creating a label for themselves. Most of the articles were horribly pretentious, treating the New Wierd like it was a literary movement as important as the New Wave...um. No. Lets go back to that "having a hard time getting published" part. Writing fantasy that doesn't include elves doesn't automatically make one an author of "literary fantasy". I nearly threw the book in the toilet after one author tried to claim Toni Morrison as New Wierd. As for the short stories, the better ones were found in the "stimulus" section. These are older stories the New Wierd supposedly drew inspiration from, and accounted for half of the material. It's not surprising these were the better ones, as they drew from the best of the New Wave and horror genres. The fiction portion of the book was further padded by stories that couldn't by any stretch of the imagination be considered Wierd, and most of those that were honestly Wierd were just revisitations to already published Wierd worlds. I wanted to be fair and read at least one more Wierd novel for this year's challenge, but after this I've about all the Wierd I can take. This anthology thoroughly beats a dead horse. If anyone finds a  "literary wierd", let me know...but I won't hold my breath.

Having earned my extra credit, I moved onto Carnivores of Light and Darkness. Alan Dean Foster has a talent for creating fresh fairy tales without once writing about fairies...or elves, or orcs, or even garuda and vodyanoi. :P There's plenty of talking animals, but the way he spins it, the fantastical element is the human that actually knows how to listen. I only regret that the first novel ended nowhere near the final conclusion, and I'm probably going to have to wander with Ehomba through an entire trilogy. 

I'm patiently waiting for my turn at House of Leaves here on PBS. I'm something like #211 out of 308.:D

 

Date Posted: 4/12/2011 12:02 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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Awww, "porntastic" seems a little rough on A Companion to Wolves. . . it kind of had to be to deconstruct all the companion animal fantasy tropes, y'know? All of Anne McCaffrey's innuendo and tasteful cut-aways. . . :D

There are books about homosexuals where homosexuality isn't a major plot point. . . but it's true, they're sadly rare. For the Lambda Award section you could read Nicola Griffith's Slow River. . . it's about lesbians, not gay men, but their lesbian-ness isn't an issue. And it's not a major issue in Elizabeth Bear's Carnival, which does feature a gay male couple as protagonists -- it's a plot point, because they wouldn't have gotten the job if they weren't gay, but they don't feel any angst about their sexuality. (Their reltationship, there's angst over. But they're both totally at home in their identities.)

Date Posted: 4/12/2011 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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Jasmine,

You may be waiting awhile.  Reasonably priced used copies are very hard to come by (in most cases, it's as cheap to buy it new) and with the strange formatting, it'll never be released in trade pb, let alone in mass market.  It's just not possible.  House of Leaves is going to be a keeper for me.  Even if I hated the book, it'd almost be worth it to keep it as a coffee table book since it's so interesting to look at.  Plus, on a more financial note, it's heavy- 3 to 4 pounds for the paperback - so people might be reluctant to post it due to shipping costs.

I've never had as many people ask me to borrow a book than I had when I was carting it around.  Even a guy who has admittedly only read a single book in his entire life wants to borrow it.  Now I have to decide whether or not to loan it out when I'm 100% certain it'll get ruined.  I may end up getting a separate copy to loan out, just to keep the peace.

As far as New Weird goes, I haven't really figured out what that means, but I like the older style of weird, which to me is sort of a mix between Horror and Magic Realism, in style at least.  That may be where they try to pull Toni Morrison into it, since some of her books could be called Magic Realism.  I definitely don't agree though.  She's by no means a Weird author.   I really like Kelly Link, and I've seen her classified as one of the Weird authors, though she doesn't claim to be one.  If you want to try her out without comitting, you can get an electronic copy of her first two anthologies for free on her website.  I also like Lord Dunsany.  Some of his short stories are definitly the old style of weird (50 Tales is weirder than Book of Wonder which is closer to traditional fantasy).  You can get those off numerous sources since they're public domain.  Not sure I'd call either author "literary" though. 

I think, in some respects, both "Weird" and "Magic Realism" are labels that get stuck on books/stories so that they have a different umbrella to rest under than just the generic "fantasy" term.  Both labels get used/misused for so many types of authors that it's difficult to come to a consensus on what exactly they mean.  I can tell you what I think the characteristics are, from what I've read, but if you ask someone else, you're very likely to get a completely different answer.  "Literary" is another term that often gets mis-applied.  Non-genre contemporary fiction isn't necessarily "literary," though I think a lot of authors like to pretend it is.

I swear, one of these days I'll finish the Carnivore's of Light and Darkness trilogy.  The second book doesn't have any more of a conclusion than the first, from what I can remember, so yes, count on reading all 3 books.

What about the Ellen Kushner's Riverside series for characters that just happen to be gay?  Bi-sexual would probably be a better term, though.  I don't think they even labeled sexual orientation there.  It just happened naturally.

PhoenixFalls, good to know about Companion to Wolves. It is on my long long list of things I'll get around to reading someday in the future.  I prefer tasteful cutaways to showing every little detail.

Amy
Date Posted: 4/13/2011 11:38 AM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 1,716
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I finished New Amsterdam a couple of days ago. I still am about a quarter of the way through The Battle of Evernight, but I just can't bring myself to pick it up since I put it down earlier in March.

Date Posted: 4/13/2011 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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Pheonix - I could have called it "porntrocious", but Wraeththu earned the title first, and Companion wasn't nearly as bad. ;-) The deconstruction is the reason I chose that particular book. Those two aren't the only ones to wonder what happens during a green dragon's mating flight. I just didn't think they'd be so heavy handed with it, at least there in the first half. And as much I as I wanted to slap the angsty fellas and tell them to let in some warrior women if they're so uncomfortable about their *ahem* duties, I know Bear and Monette were ribbing on McCaffery's sexism, too. It's too bad they didn't write it as a satire, really. 

Mel - Have you read any M. John Harrison? You could call his stuff Wierd in the horror sense, but evidently he doesn't like labels. (The good ones usually don't, I say. :P)  He predates the New Weird and it seems he took exception to their attempts to adopt him. His was the only short story that really stood out in the collection. His writing was very disturbing and surreal. It reminded me quite a bit (in feel) of a dream I had once about eggs that put me off eating them for two years. Now eggs aren't that scary, but your subconscious can make an awful nightmare about them all the same. In this case the nightmare was about lambs and paintings.  I shuffled Perdido over to the steampunk section just so I had an excuse to read more of his stuff. I'm pretty excited to find out there's a graphic novel made out of that nightmare, too. To be honest, I think what irks me the most about the New Wierd is the claim on the "sense of unease". It's what I love about wierd fiction, but I have yet to read any New Wierd that manages to pull it that off. Maybe I'm just not that disturbed by bugs? 

I'll have to look into Kelly Llnk. They dropped her name a few times but didn't include any examples of her work.

Date Posted: 4/13/2011 6:56 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
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Hehe, I picked up a copy of Wraeththu at a used bookstore about a month back. . . might have to pick it up sooner rather than later just on the strength of that comment. ;D

I take it you won't be picking up book #2 when it comes out this fall? I believe there's more with the dwarf-like creatures. . . (I will not attempt that unpronouncable name that race was given. . . I seem to recall it started with an "sv" but simply cannot get beyond that. . . unless it was an "sr". . .

M. John Harrison is a pretty impressive writer though. His stuff always makes for good discussion fodder, even if I don't particularly enjoy some of it.

Date Posted: 4/13/2011 9:21 PM ET
Member Since: 12/14/2005
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Wraeththu broke my heart! It could have been great. It started strong, and then the rare parts where they actually...came up for air...were decent. But that revolution? Already happened. There's no real struggle, no conflict. It's two books of boinking each other and wondering what to do next, and then by the third they kinda figure something out and boink each other some more to accomplish it. Seriously. They say even hello by boinking each other! It was truly original, though. I'll give it that.

Is book #2 about Isolfr's daughter? He wanted to send her to the svartalfar to learn to be a smith. (Yeah, a background in German helps with those words...) If that's the case, I might read it. At least I won't be grinding my teeth over the sexism. Although Isolfr's realization that even the trolls were more advanced in that respect than humans was priceless. :D

Amy
Date Posted: 4/13/2011 9:36 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
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Ugh, what can I say about Wraeththu?

Such a weird and unattractive premise, to me.

It's probably because I like stories that focus mainly on women, with men kind of intertwined. :)

Date Posted: 4/14/2011 1:41 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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I've never heard of M. John Harrison before, but he sounds promising.  I'll have to see if I can find a book or two of his.

Date Posted: 4/14/2011 3:14 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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@Jasmine: I don't know for sure -- haven't seen any summaries yet -- but when Bear was working on it (I follow her LJ) there seemed to be quite a few mentions of the smith. . . I think her name was Tin? And yeah, that moment when Isolfr is forced to confront the fact that his society ain't all that is wonderful.

@Amy: LOL!

Date Posted: 4/14/2011 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
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I started reading One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemison yesterday and I am almost finished. This is such a good book so far. Even though I haven't finished it yet I have to say if you can go and pick it up. As a rule I shy away from the whole romance thing but I can not shy away from a good story. I can't remember the last time a bok was so all encompassing like this one.

Date Posted: 4/15/2011 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2009
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Michael, 

I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it as well.  The way they handled the gods really grabbed my attention.



Last Edited on: 4/15/11 12:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 4/15/2011 9:14 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
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Her handling of the gods is really interesting. I don't know about you but when I read a first time author I am always looking to compare them to somone who is already established. Jemison's voice is reminiscent of Octavia Butler's and I read in an interview somewhere that she considers Butler one of her literary heros. Have you read the second book in the trilogy yet?

Date Posted: 4/15/2011 11:56 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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*butting in, 'cause I can*

I didn't enjoy the second of Jemisin's books quite as much as I enjoyed 100K Kingdoms. . . but it was definitely still fun and expanded the world of the gods quite a bit. The main reason I didn't enjoy it quite as much was that I was distracted because the protagonist is blind, but Jemisin didn't quite remove all the unconsciously sighted stuff from the narrative. . . but YMMV with that because other people I know who read the book thought she handled the blind protag wonderfully. :)

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