Favorite Books

There’s this thing going around Facebook over the past couple weeks that finally reached me. No, not the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’m talking about a list of your top ten books.

Someone posts on their timeline and tags you in it. The copy and pasted section of the status reads:

“In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books or great books of literature, just ones that affected you in some way. Tag 10(ish) friends including me so I can see your list.”

I got tagged by my sister and here is my list:

Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Game of Thrones – George Martin
Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkein
Shade’s Children – Garth Nix
1984 – George Orwell
Dark Prince – Russell Moon
The Iron Ring – Lloyd Alexander
Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Obviously there are a lot of great books that I can think of that I didn’t include on here. Dune and Harry Potter for example.

I felt the list was supposed to be composed somewhat impulsively, so I stuck with what I first thought of.

So why did I pick these?

Hyperion is possibly one of the best space opera novels ever written. Dan Simmons is an excellent writer in nearly every genre. The story follows seven travelers in a space ship on a pilgrimage to the fictional Hyperion planet where a great monster, the Shrike, awaits them. The Shrike will grant a wish to one of the travelers and kill the other six. The travelers spend their voyage telling stories like in The Canterbury Tales (every story where characters sit around and tell stories now officially based off of Canterbury Tales). The stories focus on the travelers’ past lives and why they are going to get a wish. I put Hyperion on this list because it was the first book that made me realize I love fragmented stories. Like in TV shows where there’s an A plot and a B plot. I love that in books as well. Hyperion has three sequels that I’ve read as well, Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and Rise of Endymion.

Game of Thrones is the latest craze. I got into the series right before book 5 came out and consumed them at a rate of about one book per month. They’re good, they’re sexy, and they’re one of my favorite genres, medieval fantasy. Plus, it has a fragmented story line! Perfect!

Lord of the Rings is also a great book. My dad spent years reading me bits and pieces as bedtime stories. We started with The Hobbit when I was six and didn’t finish until I was eleven. The Lord of the Rings also inspired my favorite hobby, Dungeons and Dragons. So this one’s got too amazing things going for it. AND FRAGMENTED ACTION  ONCE AGAIN!

Shade’s Children was my first dystopia book. It’s fairly awful as far as complex themes go. Some robots from an alternate dimension invade Earth and start hunting humans for sport. The humans hide underground, but their society is kept alive by the robots or something? Sounds like a Matrix ripoff. Still, I loved it. Also, I was eight around the time I read it and there is the barest hint of sex in the book. I’m pretty sure it was my first exposure to sex, so it is significant for that reason as well.

1984 is the quintessential dystopian novel. Also, its by Orwell who is an amazing author. I loved this book and I still love it. I love the genre. Putting Shade’s Children on my list reminded me of 1984 so I put it on as well. Like I said, I didn’t think much about the list.

Dark Prince is probably one of the weirder ones on this list. It is the last book in a trilogy. The first book is called Witch Boy. The author, Russell Moon, has only written one other book. I’m not sure why he stopped writing because his stuff is quite good (or at least I remember it being good). The book tells the story of a teenage boy who suddenly discovers he is a witch and accidentally kills his girlfriend with his newfound magical powers. He then discovers that she was part of some weird witch cult which plans to use him in a plot to take over the world or something. My memory of the book is hazy, but I do remember loving it at the time.

The Iron Ring is a story that imitates Indian fairy tales. My dad read Grimm’s Fairy Tales to me when I was a kid and I loved them.  This was a continuation of that, but in an entirely different way. The stories were vaguely familiar because they used the same themes, plot devices, and stock characters, but they were also very different due to the setting for the story. Rajas instead of kings. Rakshasas instead of the Devil. It was really cool!

Nine Princes in Amber is amazing and everyone should read it. The book is the first in a series of ten books split into two halves of five books. The series details a titanic struggle between order and chaos across all dimensions. The center of order is called Amber. The series is extremely well written. One of my favorite parts is how Zelazny handles sexual or crude stuff in the books. He always alludes, but never mentions stuff explicitly. A character curses instead of “He exclaimed, ‘Shit!'” It’s very well done and I’d recommend it to everyone as long as you don’t require female characters. There aren’t very many of them…

Gates of Fire is a historical novel about the Greek defense of the Hot Gates of Thermopylae from the Persians. The story is stunningly realistic. The Spartans fight until their swords, spears, and shields are broken. All that’s left is their hands and they fight on against the Persians. I’ve always loved reading and learning more about the ancient Greeks and Romans. This novel gave me a means to do that in a more mature way.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy always makes me laugh. I loved the books and they are one of the few novels that I have read more than once. A few of the others on this list are also in that exalted category. The book is absurdist humor in a space opera setting, both of which appeal to me greatly. The Hitchhiker’s Guide was originally a radio show which I own a recording of and listen to occasionally in the car. If you like absurdist humor you should check it out!

Let me know what your ten would be in the comments!

-Mister Ed

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Game of Thrones Spoilers

One of my friends hasn’t read the latest Game of Thrones books yet.

So whenever we try and talk about the books he’ll shout out, “No spoilers!” and then cover his ears.

I’ve heard about this sort of thing happening more and more since the TV show became popular.

People watch the show, but don’t read the books.

So you could be talking with someone about Game of Thrones stuff and then casually mention something from Dance with Dragons. The book came out three years ago right? You can’t say spoilers in response to a three year old plot twist can you?

Apparently you can.

I guess I’m a little surprised by that.

When I was reading Harry Potter this sort of thing didn’t happen.

If you were interested in talking about the series it was assumed that you’d read all of the books that were published.

The movies came out afterwards, but from my own experience very few people watched the movies that didn’t also read the books.

Why is Game of Thrones different?

At first I thought maybe book size, but both Harry Potter and Game of Thrones books are massive.

Adult content might be it, but why?

The TV show has more sexual content and violence than the book. That’s also the main reason why I don’t watch the show.

I already know what’s going to happen, so there’s no plot mystery.

But the added sexual content just makes me uncomfortable.

My opinion on sex in TV shows and movies comes from an early filmmaker named Ernst Lubitsch.

Sex couldn’t be shown on screen and you couldn’t show someone in their underwear either.

Lubitsch represented sex by holding the camera on a closed door.

That was all.

And it worked! People knew exactly what was happening on the other side of the door, but you didn’t need to show it.

Game of Thrones goes way too far on this for my taste. Many of the scenes seem like they’d fit in a porn movie better than a high fantasy TV show.

But maybe that’s what’s attracting people to the show, but not the books.

The show has more sex scenes and they’re obviously more visual than those in the book ever will be.

So maybe more people watch the Game of Thrones show than read the books because its a guilt free way to get some softcore porn.

Or maybe its some other reason, but I’ve run out of space.

-Mister Ed

Current Library Book

The collection of fantasy short stories I got from the library.
The collection of fantasy short stories I got from the library.

Since my wife and I moved in together in Davis we’ve been going to the library a lot more.

I used to go to the library all the time when I was a kid.

I stopped going when my family moved.

Getting a library card in the new city was silently frustrating for me.

I think I got a new library card in my new hometown three different times.

Each time I’d get it, rent one thing, return it, then forget about the library for several years.

When I went back my card had expired, so I’d need to get a new one. And the process repeated itself.

My wife goes a lot more because she wants  specific children’s book for one of her lessons or a movie to watch or something like that.

I’ve been going with her and renting out one thing at a time to read or listen to (I like audiobooks).

I have Legends II rented out right now.

It’s a collection of short stories by notable fantasy authors put together by Robert Silverberg.

I liked most of the stories in this book and the previous one, Legends.

The only exception is strangely Robert Silverberg himself. I don’t like his writing style.

I originally got the book because it contains a short story by George R.R. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones series.

Martin has a short story series set in the same fictional world as Game of Thrones, but taking place one hundred years before the events of his novels.

The short story series is called The Adventures of Dunk and Egg.

Dunk is a seven foot tall knight and Egg is his squire with a shaved head.

I read the Dunk and Egg story first in Legends and in Legends II.

The other stories are also really great. Legends II has some ghost stories I’ve really enjoyed along with an Alvin Maker story.

Alvin Maker is the main character in a series of the same name written by Orson Scott Card, the same man who wrote the Ender’s Game series.

Alvin Maker is a traveling wizard in the pre-Civil War period of the USA.

The dialogue, setting, and topics in the Alvin Maker books are a lot like Mark Twain’s books. I’ve probably enjoyed the Alvin Maker stories the most out of all the short stories in the two Legends books.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed