Spec fic

Sorry I haven’t been around these parts.  One of my aunts, to whom I was not very close, has killed herself.  The selfish bint.  I realise that is not the correct reaction, but, really!  Anyway, while I am not personally particularly devastated, there have been the family events and of course it’s consumed much of my thinking cycles, leaving not too many for blogging.  Funeral is tomorrow.  Will let you know how it goes.

Anyway.  To the point!

Occasionally I’ll have a chat conversation with Bek about books we like.  I don’t really do much reading, anymore, which makes me sad.  This is partly because working full time drains the brain, but also, I’ve realised, because I have so much trouble finding good, readable books that aren’t rubbish.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground between Mills & Boon and heavy duty Smart Books.  Both of which I enjoy, but there is a time and a place for both, and it isn’t on weeknights.  And I can’t just keep reading Kerry Greenwood books over and over – she does churn them out, but there aren’t that many!  Plus, they do get a bit irritating if you read too many in one gulp.

Oh, dear, I don’t appear to be able to keep from rambling.

When Bek and I chat, it’s often about books we liked as kids.  I personally rousingly endorse anything that Tamora Pierce has written (I’m currently voraciously reading the first Beka Cooper books again) because of their strong female characters, strong male characters, excellent themes and, heaven above, PLOTS!  And in these chats I realised that I really miss speculative fiction.

For those not in the know, Spec Fic (or sf, depending on if you want a fight with the SciFi-ers) is anything encompassing Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, as well as some horror, apocalyptic fiction, distopias and utopias and possibly anything else that is just a bit weird.  The description’s in the name, really, but the wiki article is pretty good if you’re confused.    Spec fic used to be my genre.  If it had a unicorn or a spaceship on the cover, I’d read it.  The trouble is, there is so much truly truly terrible spec fic out there.  Kings with big swords and troubled loners with the urge to discover unknown frontiers and conquer some spacebabes.  Gimme a break.  So I’d sort of stopped picking up anything with a flying horse or an alien on the cover, because the odds were it would be rubbish.

But Bek recommended the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones (criminally, I had never previously read any of her books), and I bought the first two in one book.  And I read it in a day and a half.  And it was lovely.  Not only did I enjoy the book tremendously, I enjoyed reading it tremendously.  I had sort of forgotten what a rush it is to sit and be absorbed by another world.  To think about the book while you weren’t reading it.  To rush to the end, only to be sad it is over.  I have bought the next books in the series (from Better World Books, natch, where books are cheap and second hand and the service is beyond compare), and am waiting impatiently for them to wing their way to me accross the sea.

But then an idea occured to me.  Not a very novel one (ha!  A pun!) but still.  People keep seeing the Chrestomanci book in my bag and recommending other things.  And I was wondering if I could collect some of your recommendations.  And then I would collect them and put them up on the internet somewhere and maybe review (in a very amateurish way)some of them as I get to them, along with some of my favourites.  Who wants to play?  I would particularly like to emphasise children/young adult books because I feel that there are many more engaging stories in kids’ books, and it’s hard to keep selling the same tripe to kids over and over.  Whereas grownups will read a whole series that is essentially the same plot with the names changed.  But I want it to be something you have actually read as a grownup (or almost) since the point is for me to read them, and sometimes what is good for kids is not good for adults, unfortunately.  Luckily, there is some crossover. 

I also want to hear your general spec fic recommendations (there doesn’t have to be a crystal sword or anything, just something that’s about a world a bit different to our, or our world, but a bit different too).  I want to know specific books rather than authors – for instance, if you tell me you like David Eddings, I might have a panic attack because there are fifty kajillion of them, and some of the series are excellent for the first three books, and then the next ten books in the series why would you do that are a bit ordinary.  I am thinking I might do a review of some authors whose works I know pretty well, eg, Anne McCaffrey, and detail some of the series’.  So if you want to do that too, that would be ace. 

When I get a chance I will find the list I have started from my real world friends, and take it from the back of a crumpled reciept and put it onto the immortal internets.  Maybe I’ll reactivate my Goodreads account and keep a list there.  It depends on you, gentle readers, and on how much reading momentum I can gather.  I know I could look on somewhere like goodreads for recommendations, but that feels the same as reading amazon reviews.  You, on the other hand, are people I know and whose opinions I value.  So let ‘er rip!  If you find you are typing a mile-long comment, and you don’t already have my email, it’s kaviare [at] gmail.com.

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7 thoughts on “Spec fic

  1. Well, I’m not super well versed in the genre, but Marge Piercey’s woman on the edge of time is a book I enjoyed enormously, that has stayed with me for a very long time and that has provoked much thought without being hard.

  2. I’ve read a few of the Chrestomanci books to the kids, I liked them too. Have you read The Dark Is Rising series? You could also try Garth Nix and the Sabriel books.

    The situation with your aunt’s suicide must be very stressful and horrid and so hope you are coping okay. Cx

  3. I liked the first two of the Sabriel books, but the third one was a bit of a let down.

    The Dark is Rising series is win, though.

    Also in the more adult sf area, Robin Hobb, and Robin McKinley (who also has a blog – http://robinmckinleysblog.com/) and of course I’m assuming everything Isobel Carmody has ever written is on the list already?

    I’ll have to check out woman on the edge of time… I’m enjoying this exercise already!

  4. How about Iain M Banks? I couldn’t name many of his books now but some of his Culture novels are good and Player of Games is a good introduction to his work I think. Plus he wrote a few books without the M in a non sci fi genre but still very odd. The Wasp Factory was pretty fucked up but well worth a read.

  5. How serendipitous! I love spec fic, I read the first book in the Chrestomanci series for the first time less than a month ago, and I’ve been trying to find Tamora Pierce’s books at my library.

    I read Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones recently, which is more for adults, and it was good fun.

    YA rec: Peeps by Scott Westerfeld. It’s a vampire story, but don’t let that put you off, it’s more of a sciency take on vampires.

    Adult rec: Please, please, please, if you haven’t read anything by Lois McMaster Bujold, I highly recommend her work. Fun, entertaining but not shallow. Don’t be put off by the horrible covers. I’ve had great success recommending her to people who think spec fic is a waste of time. If you prefer fantasy, try Curse of Chalion, sf try Cordelia’s Honor

    I would love to get more recommendations, YA or otherwise. Going to check out Kerry Greenwood and Better World Books!

  6. Sorry to hear about your aunt. Horrible news indeed.

    Onto the books

    I love, love, loved the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley – perhaps we talked about her in the car?

    The Gate to Women’s Country and Grass by Sherri S Tepper are pretty ace too. I have read some of her other books and would recommend her as pretty readable if you see one in an opshop. Loved Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach and for some reason have been thinking about it and wanting to read it again.

    Also Joanna Russ – The Female Man and Magaret Attwood the Handmaiden’s Tale – totally up there as favourites along with Marge Piercy’s Women on the Edge of Time – a world I visited myself in the dark days of post natal psychosis – must read that again. Oh and Ursula Le Guin – The Left Hand of Darkness. Trying to think, there must be more, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head. Used to have quite a collection of womyn’s sc fi once.

  7. Gah! Horrible aunt. A pox!

    Books: obvs Phillip Pullman, if I even have to say. I also love Guy Gavriel Kay, particularly the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy. Tad Williams: I am currently re-reading the Otherworld series set within the Internet (srsly) although my original favourite was the Memory Sorrow Thorn trilogy. These last two are LONG – Tad Williams can’t shut up to save his life. A lot like Diana Gabaldon in that way. And, um, me in this comment.

Whadya reckon?

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