Aidan at A Dribble of Ink directed me to this largely unremarkable list of jumping-on points for the fantasy genre. I said that this was unimaginative, ironically, for such an imaginative genre. I’m not saying individually the selections are bad (apart from one, and I very much like a couple) but that this smacks of nothing more than wiki research. Fantasy is a vast and diverse genre – but you wouldn’t think so from this.
And as an aside, I didn’t think Goodkind wrote fantasy anyway… 😉
Aidan said: dude, where’s your list? – and here it is. I’ve probably gone on about these books before, so apologies if I’m repeating myself.
The Scar by China Miéville.
Let’s get things clear from the start: this book made me want to write fantasy. Nothing beforehand was inspirational enough. This book clears the deck of everything you knew before, and says: yes, secondary worlds don’t have to be bland, cod-medieval dramas. You can do stuff that’s, quite frankly, bat-shit crazy and make it work. It’s grungy, alive, intense, vivid and varied and dripping in brine. Reading this is a bit like having the best sex of your life; when you’re inhaling on that post-coitus cigarillo, you realise sadly that anything afterwards just won’t hit the spot.
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
A meditation on the nature fantasy itself – set in an ancient English woodland. Fucking brilliant book, digging deep into Celtic mythology, and written with such a gentle grace too. It’s real-world setting also makes it very easy for that first step across…
The Book of the New Sun sequence by Gene Wolfe
Okay, some books are slow reads. And you know what? THAT’S OKAY. Reading books isn’t a race. If you stuff a meal down your gob, you taste nothing. If you take your time, chew slowly, you’ll marvel at the flavours within. This is what this book is: Michelin quality cuisine for the literary palate. Take your time, and be amazed at the depth, the symbolism, the beautiful, heady descriptions.
The Book Of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges
It’s a bestiary, not a fiction book. There are monsters in it. Lots of them. Dear readers, please remind yourself there are more than the usual two or three done-to-death creatures out there for use in fantasy books. You need to know this early on.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Fantasy doesn’t really get more ambitious in scope than this series, and with my workload it could be years before I get around to finishing it off, but hey, it’s vast, complex, engaging, and hugely divisive. Whether you love of hate his writing, he’s a fantasy writer that tries to do things, and do things differently.
The Fortress Of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
Letham is an amazing writer, and has that cool factor. His writing is Miles Davis cool. More than a hint of the DeLillo to the prose, this charming tale of a New York youth covers a vast swathe of pop culture and racial observations. It’s easily accessible fantasy-cool. With a magic ring.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino
If you want to write or read about a fantastic city, you must read this book first. Calvino is a brilliant stylist, and uncovers the psycho-geography of urban spaces like no other writer. This is the starting point.