Fantasy Overdose...

epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#1
I think I've gone and overdosed on fantasy this year, having read practically nothing but that, going so far as to read only 6 non-fiction books alongside the fiction. I suspected an overdose when I read Abraham's Long Price Quartet and didn't enjoy reading the first book nearly as much as I should have despite the fact that intellectually I recognized it as a great book.

So, I've got two more fantasy books I've started, so will complete, this year and then I've already got Jared Diamond's two latest works in the pipeline for the first of next year. After that, I'll be looking for some new fiction to read in 2014 - you folks got any non-fantasy suggestions? I'm not really looking for any specific genre, so feel free to suggest anything, though I do plan on at least a few science fiction (I'll likely get these from bestsciencefictionbooks.com) and historical novels (any good site for these?).

FYI, I tend to prefer the following, though there are exceptions, of course, use or ignore my preferences in your recommendations as you like:
prefer adult books
prefer plot-driven/plot-heavy books
prefer massive/epic books
prefer 3rd-person POV's
prefer authors that don't whitewash important social issues
prefer authors not turn their books into a course on philosophy
prefer complex/challenging reads
prefer authors that take a heavy dose of "realism" pills
 

João Ribeiro

Journeyed there and back again
#2
I think I've gone and overdosed on fantasy this year, having read practically nothing but that, going so far as to read only 6 non-fiction books alongside the fiction. I suspected an overdose when I read Abraham's Long Price Quartet and didn't enjoy reading the first book nearly as much as I should have despite the fact that intellectually I recognized it as a great book.
Well you may be facing two separate situations here:

Fantasy burnout - This happens to me almost once a year. To fend it off I usually take a month completely off reading and turn to TV Shows or a bit of gaming. It usually helps and then I can come back to reading with a vengeance.
Not liking the Long Price - I find this can be due to it... well... not being enjoyable, at least from my point of view. I quit halfway through the first book!
 

Alucard

In the name of the Pizza Lord. Charge!
Staff member
#4
FYI, I tend to prefer the following, though there are exceptions, of course, use or ignore my preferences in your recommendations as you like:
prefer adult books
prefer plot-driven/plot-heavy books
prefer massive/epic books

prefer 3rd-person POV's
prefer authors that don't whitewash important social issues
prefer authors not turn their books into a course on philosophy
prefer complex/challenging reads
prefer authors that take a heavy dose of "realism" pills
IMO, all of those are a bad idea when you're overdosed on reading. Any reading, and especially fantasy. I suggest reading a short sci-fi or humorous books. Something that doesn't take itself too seriously.
I suggest these three

 

epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#5
I've never suffered from burnout before, having read virtually every single day since I learned to read, but then again, I haven't read much fiction since my early teens, so perhaps that is the problem - just plain ol' fiction burnout, not just fantasy burnout. Either way, I'll be taking some time off of fantasy reading with the two Diamond books I mentioned, as well as a few other things that got added to my non-fiction tbr pile this year. That should take me through January and perhaps a week or two into February. I'm still looking for suggestions for non-fantasy works that fit my criteria for after that.
 

blitzburns4

Owns a Ring of Power
#6
Do what I do. If you feel reading burnout- turn to writing! :p

On a serious note- nonfiction is so radically different than fiction that it honestly helps to switch between the two when you get burnt out of one. If you want to get yourself back into reading- that's what I highly recommend doing.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#7
Pretty soon I'm going to start reading Peter F. Hamilton books. He seems to fit quite a bit of your criteria from what I understand. I know it's presumptuous of me to recommend an author I haven't even read yet..... but what the hell.
 

Boreas

Journeyed there and back again
Staff member
#8
Here are two historical novels you can try to take a break from fantasy:

"Musashi" by Eiji Yoshikawa (translated by Charles S. Terry)

Superlative novel about the life and times (fictionalised) of Miyamoto Musashi, author of "The Book of Five Rings" on martial arts and developer of the two-handed sword technique style of swordsmanship. This novel presents Japanese society from a grass roots level as Musashi travels to various places to train and become 'invincible under the sun'. Set during the time of the first Shogunate established by Ieyasu Tokugawa after his critical win at the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Absolutely loved this book. I knew I shouldn't have, but I started his book during final exam week. I actually spent one whole night reading this novel and went for the exam in the morning absolutely knackered. I could barely think about the equations in front of me, yet images of Musashi wielding his katana kept coming unbidden to my mind. I fucked up the exam, naturally.

"Measuring the World" by Daniel Kehlmann (translated by Carol Brown Janeway)

Set during the late 1700s. A fictionalised account of two scientists - Alexander von Humboldt (in whose honour Humboldt University is named in Berlin) and Carl Friedrich Gauss (often called the Prince of Mathematicians for his unbelievably large and important contributions to the field of mathematics, both pure and related to astronomy) - who wish to measure the world. Humboldt travels the world and accrues knowledge through all his adventures and Gauss stays in Germany and uses the power of his mind to explore mathematical realms which points him to the revolutionary idea that space is curved. In fact, non-Euclidean geometry was first 'officially' discovered/published in the 1830s by a Hungarian mathematician who sent his papers to Gauss for critique before publishing. Gauss told him that he'd already thought about all of this and the Hungarian guy thought that Gauss was trying to take his credit. Now, it's well accepted that Gauss had already discovered/thought about non-Euclidean geometry much before anybody else, even though someone else was the first to publish. Historians have found communication between Gauss and others where he was hinting towards this topic. It's believed that Gauss was scared to publish since it was too revolutionary an idea and he was afraid of the consequences. If it weren't for the mathematical discovery of curved space, Einstein would have had a much harder time formulating his General Relativity principle. Gauss was a frickin' genius.

Plus:

"Waiting for the Barbarians" by J. M. Coetzee
"Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follet

Also, a non-fiction work:

"Virus of the Mind" by Richard Brodie (I haven't actually read this yet - it's been recommended to me quite a few times over the years. I'll get to it sometime in 2014)

Edit: Incidentally, I believe that the historical figure of Musashi (often labelled a 'sword-saint') had achieved his initial goal of becoming 'invincible under the sun' as he never lost a duel in his life (and in those days duels between Samurai were a serious matter that ended in the death of, at least, one of the participants).
 
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epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#9
Finally got around to reading this one:
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler - it's extremely short, but it has a weird jigsaw plot.
...and much like this one:
House of Leaves - Unlike the appelation constantly attributed to Malazan that I think was silly, I found this book to be legitimately hard to read. It's not that the language is impenetrable or anything, like a James Joyce novel (who will not be appearing on this list, because fuck that guy), but because it constantly made me want to skip shit. The narrative stutters and changes direction a lot, like the guy relaying it is constantly second-guessing himself. This is something I would ACTUALLY call complex.
...it's the sort of book that literary critics like to get all excited about and hand out awards to, got a unique sort of premise going for it (got them all salivating, I'm sure), but such gimmicks make it the sort of crap I have zero interest in reading.

I can't say I'd agree this particular one is complex, based on what I did read, but It's certainly both annoying and boring as hell, so I called it quits about a third of the way through. Thanks again for the recommendation, but, did you seriously enjoy reading that (I assume you finished it)?
 

Derk of Derkholm

Journeyed there and back again
#10
I would add two radically different books.

"The book thief" by Marcus Zuszak
"West with the night" by Beryl Markham

The first is a rather new fiction book, very powerful and well written, set in Nazi Germany about a young girl in a family giving shelter to a jewish refugee.

The second is the memoirs of Beryl Markham, who was, among other things, the first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic from East to west, the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Kenya, and a few other interesting things. Above all, a very well written book.

So ... Not exactly what you are asking for, but two great books that are not fantasy :)

Best regards,
Andy
 

Sneaky Burrito

Crazy Cat Lady
Staff member
#11

Antoxx

Journeyed there and back again
#12
This one is a movie now, too.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816442/

Haven't read or seen it, though. They were really doing a push with the TV advertising awhile back.
Have read the book and seen the movie. The book, as you would normally expect, has much more depth and nuances. It is very well written and I would recommend it to anyone. I thought the movie was also very good. It hasn't rated as well as i would've thought though and not too sure why. Must profess to tearing up a few times.
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
#13
Finally got around to reading this one:

...and much like this one:

...it's the sort of book that literary critics like to get all excited about and hand out awards to, got a unique sort of premise going for it (got them all salivating, I'm sure), but such gimmicks make it the sort of crap I have zero interest in reading.

I can't say I'd agree this particular one is complex, based on what I did read, but It's certainly both annoying and boring as hell, so I called it quits about a third of the way through. Thanks again for the recommendation, but, did you seriously enjoy reading that (I assume you finished it)?
To be honest, I didn't like it all that much until I was mostly done with it. I stuck with it because it was short. By the end, I thought it was kind of cool, but it is possible my standards for endings at the time were a little shot (I read it right after House of Chains). It wouldn't go on my Best Books Ever list. I mostly recommended it because it fit the criteria. You didn't clarify until after I had made that post that your criteria for 'complex' was basically 'lots and lots of characters.'

I DID enjoy House of Leaves. I had no trouble reading that book, and I went into it expecting it to be lit-crit bukkake (I found it, of all places, on a page suggesting such on TV Tropes). If anything, I feel like the book is a mockery of that kind of behavior. I tried to read a couple other books by the same guy though, and didn't make it very far.

I don't buy or read books because they're critically acclaimed, or popular among the pseudo- (or non pseudo-) intellectual circle-jerk communities. Malazan was the only exception I've made to that, and that had as much to do with all the alleged original and creative things Erikson was doing as it did with the volume of recommendations it got here and in other places. I pick up books because I think they sound interesting. We all obviously have different back-of-the-book descriptions that are going to intrigue us though. If it doesn't grab you, and the first few pages don't make you want to read more, I would just pass on it. I wouldn't simply pass on it because of its reputation, without at least a cursory look, however. But I'm not going to judge you either way. I think judging people based on their reading preferences (particularly when you have only a small window into what they read) is conceited anyway.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#14
For those who don't know Ben recently created a besthorrorbooks website and on that site he recommended House of Leaves at number 2. Apparently its one of his favorite books and he makes it sound pretty damn compelling.

You didn't clarify until after I had made that post that your criteria for 'complex' was basically 'lots and lots of characters.'
If you had said that to me you would have seriously pissed me off.
 

epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#15
To be honest, I didn't like it all that much until I was mostly done with it. I stuck with it because it was short. By the end, I thought it was kind of cool, but it is possible my standards for endings at the time were a little shot (I read it right after House of Chains). It wouldn't go on my Best Books Ever list. I mostly recommended it because it fit the criteria. You didn't clarify until after I had made that post that your criteria for 'complex' was basically 'lots and lots of characters.'
Yea, after the first paragraph, I'd already decided I hated the book, but I read as fast as I could and pushed as far as I could stand, hoping I'd find some kind of gem in there, but that never happened. So, I'll just blame that horrible experience directly on you from now on then. ;)

As for 'complex' - I know I've been guilty of using the word in the past - mostly just me being lazy and trying to sum it all up into a single word description, but what I really mean by a 'complex read' is an 'intellectually stimulating read' - something that makes the reader do some thinking and puzzling things out while reading, certainly not just lots of characters, and certainly not fancy formatting (which from the wiki description was all I got House of Leaves had going for it). Having loads of characters (which was just one of the criteria I listed, btw) and factions, loads of plot lines, and just generally "more" certainly helps to increase the complexity of the read, but more important are the other factors Erikson uses - starting mid-tale, lack of handholding, everything's a mystery writing style*, etc. I mean, Jordan has tons of characters, but I'd have to laugh at anyone calling WoT a 'complex' read, because it's incredibly simple and straightforward, and if you want to talk about a writer that puts in useless minutia, Jordan is the undisputed king. Pick up a Neil Gaimen novel too, and it may be a great story, a 'ripping yarn' if you will, but complex it is not. It is very simple and straightforward just like WoT - just like 99.99% of all novels ever written.

Now, there's no doubt you've done more fiction reading than me, so maybe you'd encountered all of that crammed into a single work before Malazan (and if you have, please tell me about those), but I hadn't and it's largely what brought me back to reading fiction in great quantity after giving up on that 20 years ago because I was so sick of reading the simple straightforward stories over and over. I can read a few of those a year, but more than that and it starts to bore the crap out of me. Hell, I started this thread because after a year of reading almost nothing but simple books in 2013, and many of which were also just not ripping yarns as well, I was about ready to walk away again. So yea, I have little desire to read anything simple and straightforward, and more than anything else, it's the 'complexity' :p I love about Malazan.

*I'm not sure if there's a more common term for this, but what I mean is the 'delayed gratification' you've mentioned before as a feature of Erikson's writing, like the entire series being written such that to make complete sense of the first part of the series, you need to read the second part which puts things into a new, more complete perspective. Each individual book in the series being written the same way, where you need the information in the second half of the book to paint the complete picture of the first half. Hell, even most scenes are written that way. Erikson has written virtually everything in Malazan in such a way as to force the reader to solve his mysteries, great and small - and when I say small, I mean really fucking small - the example I tend to give here being the scene where Kalam gets his Otataral knife in which the entire scene Erikson only finally identifies Kalam in the final paragraph (or third to last really, I think), but the scene stretches for 3 pages, Kalam has been a character in the series since page 1, what fucking good does it do to not identify Kalam until the end of the scene: None, other than to add one more tiny mystery for the reader to solve.
 

epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#16
For those who don't know Ben recently created a besthorrorbooks website and on that site he recommended House of Leaves at number 2. Apparently its one of his favorite books and he makes it sound pretty damn compelling.
I read the quick description on wikipedia and other than the plot summary, which I didn't read that part because I didn't want the spoilers, all that was said about the book was it's absurd formatting: A single word on this page, footnotes with footnotes, etc. I'm sure the only thing making that book 'complex' to read is the formatting itself, which I've got little interest in. It may still be a good story though.
If you had said that to me you would have seriously pissed me off.
Hey now, let's not go picking fights. Let's leave the bitching to the Malazan threads eh? :D
 

Amaryllis

Journeyed there and back again
#17
As for 'complex' - I know I've been guilty of using the word in the past - mostly just me being lazy and trying to sum it all up into a single word description, but what I really mean by a 'complex read' is an 'intellectually stimulating read' - something that makes the reader do some thinking and puzzling things out while reading, certainly not just lots of characters, and certainly not fancy formatting (which from the wiki description was all I got House of Leaves had going for it). Having loads of characters (which was just one of the criteria I listed, btw) and factions, loads of plot lines, and just generally "more" certainly helps to increase the complexity of the read, but more important are the other factors Erikson uses - starting mid-tale, lack of handholding, everything's a mystery writing style*, etc. I mean, Jordan has tons of characters, but I'd have to laugh at anyone calling WoT a 'complex' read, because it's incredibly simple and straightforward, and if you want to talk about a writer that puts in useless minutia, Jordan is the undisputed king. Pick up a Neil Gaimen novel too, and it may be a great story, a 'ripping yarn' if you will, but complex it is not. It is very simple and straightforward just like WoT - just like 99.99% of all novels ever written.
I wasn't trying to marginalize what you thought of as complex, and I apologize if that's how it came off. I figured most of those things were at least partially implicit in a story with 'lots and lots of characters.' RJ might be the only author I know in any genre who seems to dedicate 4000 characters to only like two or three plotlines. Maybe I oversimplified it; I just didn't want to bog an already long post down with endless qualifiers (never been good at that).

If you had said that to me you would have seriously pissed me off.
It's your choice to take out of that statement what you want, but I'd say not to waste time looking for offense where there isn't any meant.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#18
It's your choice to take out of that statement what you want, but I'd say not to waste time looking for offense where there isn't any meant.
I'm not sayin there was any offense meant but you were making an untrue assumption. @epicfantasyfreak is the biggest hater of the Wheel of Time we've encountered after all.
 

moonspawn

Journeyed there and back again
#19
Yea, after the first paragraph, I'd already decided I hated the book, but I read as fast as I could and pushed as far as I could stand, hoping I'd find some kind of gem in there, but that never happened. So, I'll just blame that horrible experience directly on you from now on then.
Are you talking about House of Leaves or If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. I haven't read the former but I attempted reading the latter recently and I didn't get past page 24. If I had actually seeked the novel out on my own instead of just attempting out of obligation because someone unfortunately had the nerve to loan it to me then I would have stopped after the first chapter. Somehow it has a 4 star rating on goodreads. When I read that first chapter I thought.... Oh my god! How can anyone stand such pretentious writing? After I finished the second chapter I quickly looked through the rest of the book to see if his style had changed at all and from what I read I couldn't tell that it had. Now I fully understand why no one writes in the second person. Because addressing the reader directly totally disengages the reader from the narrative and makes them pause for a moment..... wait...... I didn't do any of those things the writer just said I did. I don't know if Calvino thought writing in this style would make the reader feel more like they were a part of the story but such deceptions certainly didn't work for me. Writers who write truly engaging work have the ability to actually make the reader care about the characters and what is happening over the coarse of a story and don't need to resort to such gimmicks whose purpose seems to be to only appeal to intellectual elitists. Now I know to avoid Italian authors. Recently I read Name of the Rose and like Calvino, that author was also very pretentious in his style but at least Umberto Echo is a very talented prose writer and parts of the Name of the Rose were very engaging. I also thought Name of the Rose was much more complex too. I also don't care if the format for If on a Winter's Night a Traveler was supposed to be based on some mathematical formula. If on a Winter's Night a Traveler clearly isn't as complex as Malazan. There aren't enough characters. :p

We seem to have similar tastes not only in terms of the books we like in but in what qualifies a book to appeal to us. I also like epic and intellectually stimulating reads so if I like a book you might want to give it a try.
 

epicfantasyfreak

Journeyed there and back again
#20
I was referring to If On a Winter's Night a Traveler. :yuck:

And, yep, we do seem to have similar tastes - maybe we should compare notes on the things we've read in greater detail. I'll send you something in a PM.

I generally hate to categorize exactly what it is I like (which is why I only given out snippets here and there), because then I'll go and find something that is totally not that and end up liking it. :D But, generally speaking, I like "dark" and "gritty" stuff in literature as what others call "dark" I call "more realistic" - utterly sick of all the "cutesy" fantasy out there - so, yea, I like the gritty, gritty.

I don't like reading simple, straight-forward tales, as I'd prefer to watch such tales as a movie or tv series, rather than read them - it's generally quicker that way, or at most, takes an equal amount of time. I'm utterly sick of reading, "Character A goes to Location B, feels Emotion C, while performing Action D - The End" stretched out over a few hundred pages - which encompasses many, if not most, novels - I want something more than that. I want a book that keeps my brain churning from the first page to the last. I don't want to know exactly what's going to happen in book 1, then get detoured through a dozen pointless plot threads, which get stretched out to absurdity, only to finally read exactly what I knew was going to happen all along 10+ books later... :hilarious:

In fantasy, specifically, I prefer alternate world (a wholly different setting than Earth) or cross-world fantasy (going from Earth to a wholly different setting) - none of that "it's Earth, but magic and monsters are real" stuff, as having a thoroughly detailed setting to learn helps keep the gray matter moving. I'm also sick of "classic" or what I call "Tolkien" fantasy:
Dark Lord that wants to inexplicably destroy the world? CHECK
But has no discernible plan to actually achieve that, just meandering around the novel going "Grrr, I attack you now, hero"? CHECK
Farmboy who turns out to be the greatest hero of the age? CHECK
Elves, dwarves or Orcs, even if only mildly reskinned? CHECK
...etc...
I don't care how many twists you put on your Tolkien-fantasy tale, authors, I don't want any part of it - keep that shit to yourself. Ditto for Faeries, Arthurian Legend, Vampires, Werewolves and all the other crap that's been overdone.

And Plot Immunity - screw that. If your tale is so wound up around a specific character that if that character were to die your tale would effectively be over, you can keep that shit to yourself as well, authors, I don't want any part of it as you've almost certainly got the very definition of a "simple, straight-forward tale" on your hands. There's a class of reader out there that likes to yell, all crotchety and shaking their fists, "it's all about character" out there, and well, I'll take the "opposite" stance - it's all about plot. I can mentally insert characterization into a novel that has a great plot - I can't insert a plot where one doesn't exist, and the last thing I want to do is spend 20+ pages swimming around in your character's head while you try to get the point across that they're very sad about their friend dying without actually saying that, when you could have just said - the character is very sad about their friend dying and got on with it...