Wrinkle and Ender and Reading Lists, Oh My!

Well, I’ve got my work cut out for me now. The lovely @Autumnbuck from Geek Six has just given me my summer sci-fi/fantasy reading assignment!

I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, so it’s not like I haven’t read. But I was recently shocked to realize how much I had not read in the sci-fi and fantasy genres which I enjoy so much in most other aspects of my life.

There are exceptions—most Tolkein, both of Douglas Adams’s series, all the Star Wars novels up through Vision of the Future (Hand of Thrawn second book), a little Foundation, some Michael Crichton (unsure if he’s sci-fi or thriller or both), a little Atwood, the first few Pern books, much of Honor Harrington, and some random books like A Thousand Words for Stranger. Also just recently Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I tried Dune and failed but it also wasn’t a good time for me to be reading anything but my assignments.

Looking over that list, which I just pulled out of thin air, I feel a little bit better. I’ve also read a ton of classic literature, mostly from England, the States, and Russia (Russian novel kick when I was 15). And when I was reading classic literature, I didn’t blow off steam between books with sci-fi/fantasy…for some reason I gravitated to romances and mysteries.

I think now that it might have been because I take sci-fi/fantasy more seriously. My favorite Lit class was “Victorian Literature.” I love society novels. I did my senior Lit project on an element in Anthony Trollope’s novels and had to explore the whole worlds he created. I’ve read Middlemarch three or four times.

I love novels that create worlds and pull me into them. Victorian novels were so much more likely to involve a whole society than a single protagonist (or the ones I focused on were) and the main character might dislike others in their society but they weren’t alienated in the same off-putting way American characters were. Russian novels have infinite plot threads (as do Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels) that so many modern readers seem to have trouble sorting out.

A good sci-fi or fantasy novel does the same thing—it establishes a new world and society. We may learn about it through just one character or through a dozen but it’s part of a wonderful exploration. I love that sorting and discovery.

I’ve begun by reading A Wrinkle in Time and Ender’s Game. The former I liked but I didn’t feel especially connected. I think maybe it’s just a little too much “for kids” even though I didn’t feel like it was talking down to me. Maybe I just haven’t yet identified what didn’t feel right about it.

Ender blew my mind. I only finished it last night and I’m still processing the whole thing. I was annoyed with myself for not reading it sooner but also grateful that I read it at a time where I was really able to appreciate it. I don’t think I’m going to continue reading the Ender series right now, but it was fantastic.

Based on Autumn’s recommendation list, the nearly simultaneous recommendation by @nerdsherpa, and Neil Gaiman’s now-famous statement “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch” (which should have really been a clue that his novels were worth reading), I’m going to start on Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series. I’m actually going to read Corey Doctorow’s Makers first, but that’s because I’ve got it right here with me.

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10 Comments

  1. 1

    Ben May 20th, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Martin’s series is primed for reading too because they’re developing it as a series for HBO a la Rome.

    Which looks to be a fantastic thing!
    .-= Ben´s last blog ..Reviews & Ideas: Weather in RPGs =-.

  2. 2

    Black & Bookish May 20th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Make sure you add The Time Machine by H. G. Wells if you haven’t read it already.

    The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin is a great book that explores the psyche of man and a contrary one at that.

    Try some Phillip K. Dick short stories, to me they are just as good as his longer book length work.

    The series evolves but try the first Dune again.

    Try something from the Steampunk subgenre like Soulless by Gail Carriger.

    His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, great first book in the Temerarie series – two words dragons and Napoleon.

    If you like the unexplained try Joplin’s Ghost: A Novel by Tananarive Due.

    My favorite post apocalyptic novels are Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, The New Madrid Run by Michael Reisig and Island in the Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling.
    .-= Black & Bookish´s last blog ..Borders Coupon Duo =-.

  3. 3

    Mackenzie May 20th, 2010 at 10:26 am

    This isn’t sci-fi, but have you ever read much by Robin McKinley? She is one of my favorite fantasy authors of all time (second only to Diana Wynne Jones, I think. Who is second only to my favorite author of all time, Dorothy L Sayers). And I don’t really like the Pern books all that much in general, but I love the Harper Hall trilogy.

    Neuromancer, on the other hand = wake me when we’ve left the 80s.

  4. 4

    Terry May 20th, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I’m a big SF fan and I was lucky to take a SF/Fantasy/Horror class in college. The professor’s office looked like a used bookstore! I’d recommend Sheri S. Tepper based on what you like.
    .-= Terry´s last blog ..Gamer Banter: Gabriel Knight =-.

  5. 5

    Rosalind May 20th, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Good starting choices! Yeah, I read a Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and loved it. I still reference it to talk about folding space like a skirt! I liked Ender’s Game as well, although I’m not interested in the rest of the series. I’m usually about 50/50 with Card, though I adore his short stories.

    I have an additional suggestion, you said you read some Foundation, I believe that you should back up to Asimov’s Robot series, starting with The Naked Sun. They eventually lead back into Foundation, and I adored that entire set.
    .-= Rosalind´s last blog ..Science in Fiction: A Rant =-.

  6. 6

    Ruth May 20th, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    @Ben awesome! :)

    @Black & Bookish thanks for the suggestions! I think I’m going to have to make a booklist with all this titled “Next time I say there’s nothing to read.” Dick is near the top of my mental list but I need an anthology first.

    @teh Kenzie I haven’t read anything by her, no. I’ve shelved a heck of a lot by her, though. Shall add to list. Same on Neuromancer…could.not.get.into.it.

    @Terry our college didn’t have one, though it had a first-year seminar (but I couldn’t take it as I had to take an Honors one and it wasn’t Honors my year I guess). Thanks for the recommendation.

    @Rosalind that reminds me that I’ve read the whole Norby series, back when I was a kid. Loved it. Read a few Robot stories but can’t recall which now.

    There was also a Twitter suggestion for Heinlein. On it. :) I’ve got one that just needs to have the CDs ripped so I can listen to it on my iPod.

  7. 7

    Jovana May 21st, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I know this isn’t specifically a science-fiction book but if you liked Startrek you need to read “I am Spock” by Leonard Nimoy. I literally struggle to put it down. I’m probably going to finish it tomorrow. Tonight is party night. Haha.

    Like Rosalind said – you NEED to finish The Foundation Series. It’s often considered by many one of the best science-fiction series ever =)
    .-= Jovana´s last blog ..Microsoft vs. Apple (Old-School Commercials) =-.

  8. 8

    Ruth May 21st, 2010 at 8:50 am

    @Jovana I read I am Spock though I wish I’d gotten a chance to read I am not Spock to contrast them. Also read George Takei, James Doohan and Nichelle Nichols’s autiobiographies (Doohan’s might’ve been a regular bio, I can’t recall).

    Two Foundation recommendations, then. Ok. :)

  9. 9

    Amy May 22nd, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Excellent idea to read a Song of Ice and Fire. They are epic in scope, and the storylines and details are impressive.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..I’m a Wapsi Girl =-.

  10. 10

    Fandom: Issac Asimov’s Foundation « Girls Are Geeks June 14th, 2010 at 10:53 am

    [...] 14, 2010 A little while back, my friend Ruth talked about creating a summer reading list to help get her caught up on some science fiction that [...]

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