Indeed Chris - I'm beginning to think I'm positively parochial in my reading habits in here now.
My reading 'heyday' was whilst I commuted Kent-London for nearly 20 years between 1983-2003 and with a minimum 3 hour overall journey (too often 4+) I read a LOT
. In fact I don't remember a quarter of them but they were mostly fantasy/sci-fi authors and apart from the Prof I had 3 favourites that I read and re-read during that time.
So first and 'easiest' - DAVID EDDINGS
Pure 'classic' fantasy writer and he's very good at dialogue and also at producing 'cute' characters, especially in the 2 main series I read of his - the Belgariad
and then the follow up series the title of which is eluding me at the moment, but it was when 1 of his 3 principal 'Will and Word' characters, Belgarion had grown up and was loosely a 'continuing' journey tale that regurgitated the first lot. Which was a very clever re-cycling device but it got a little too cynical when he did 'biographies' of Polgara & Belgarath (yes you guessed - the other principals) of the history of the world which went over a lot of stuff that was in the preceding volumes... Which is why he's 'easy' of course
The 'Will and the Word' as a concept/formula to 'do' magic is quite well-described in fact and workable along the line of 'if you wish it hard enough it'll happen' style - and being related to Belgarath helps too...
Lot of elitism with this bunch of Sorcerors as well - they look down on wizards and magicians because they don't serve the gods 'properly' - a lot of east-west contention too but to be fair this was before glasnost
and in the second series we found that in fact 'shock horror' the eastern bloc weren't quite as vile as we'd been lead to believe.
So simplistic and the first series certainly was suitable for kids but just about meaty enough for adults but not too hard to absorb. Brain candy really but quite engaging if you didn't get too critical and were in the habit of needing something undemanding for burnt brain reading- which I regularly was.
#2 - STEPHEN DONALDSON
- interesting this guy if very, very intense and I actually read it before I used to commute. I read the 1st trilogy of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
and started the 2nd one but gave up - as I did with his next series of novels that started with Mirror of Her Dreams
. This a crossing of worlds type book but still fantasy and it's sort of 'is it or isn't it a dream'.
It's the everyday story of a mildly successful author who contracts leprosy, gets dumped by his wife and shunned by his community and is basically in bad shape mentally with the toll of all this awfulness that he can't cope and has a series of accidents where he falls into comas and dreams he's gone to another reality where he's seen as legendary hero sent back to free them from this highly loathsome and manipulative spirit/god called Lord Foul. So it's very psychobabbly in places and the basic premise is that it's self-adminstered dream therapy as the hero becomes more and more psychotic and increasing neglectful of his anti-social and highly physically and emotionally destructive RL condition. But the dreams feel too real and the way he behaves in them is really quite a tour de force of how someone on the point of mental disintegration finds his salvation through the dream people believing in him completely. And the more he messes up the more they support him until he can't not stay distanced from them and it ends with him saving their imaginary world. Oh - and his wedding ring whilst he's off in this other world is magic, in that it will heal the world in some mystic way....
The back page blurb says that 'Donaldson wields symbols powerfully' - and he does - by the 2nd trilogy it all gets a little too powerful and I got a bit sick of the main RW characters ranting and railing about how it's so unfair and why does everyone want saving all the time. The first trilogy though I enjoyed and I think its possibly one of the best handling of the real world and a fantasy one colliding that I've read. Narnia it isn't!
And well researched - Donaldson's doctor father worked with sufferers of Hansen's Disease, which is of course a terrible malady, but in this day and age a manageable one, and in fact very rare and hard to contract, despite popular opinion, provided one follows a proper hygiene and observation regime - which is what Donaldson Snr. specialised in and Thomas Covenant couldn't handle at first.
Lastly a lady with a guy's name, JULIAN MAY
(except it's also the name of a famous mystic lady hermit/anchorite in the Middle Ages - so it's Julie Ann I guess).
Now if you looked in my profile, you'll see her name next to Pterry's and Tolkien's, which of course means I really
rate this lady, although I haven't read all of her books and to be honest, some of them aren't outstanding. But that doesn't matter, because she wrote a truly amazing series of 4 books called The Saga of the Exiles
that have become SF&F Classics - simply because they are just that. They're completely masterly, intelligent and intriguing science fiction and fantasy writing that successfully and plausibly deals with time-travel from a future where human beings have joined a federation of alien races with meta-psychic powers. They can literally move mountains with their brainwaves - well some of them - plus other useful stuff like telepathy and the ability to inflict mental and physical torture on others with their minds - or healing if they're benign). Some of mankind has also developed these superpowers which is why they're invited to join the intergalactic club - but some humans cannot hack it in this brave new setup despite being allowed to go off and populate other worlds whether or not they're super-normal.
The time travel factor catch is that you can only go one way - backwards 6 millions years to a time where humans were at the ramapithecine level - slightly more clever than a bonobo chimpanzee in other worlds. What happens in that the human misfits - low-grade criminals and lost souls, start to use the time machine to go back to a simpler existence away from all those horrid aliens who have set off a whole new level of xenophobia in our lovely species. Because the Pleistocene was apparently an idyllic era - allegedly.
They get back there and - it isn't paradise. And it has Aliens too. Nasty and pathologically barbarian ones, who are 'god-like' humanoid, but are 'unfortunately' dying out due to not tolerating our radiation levels. They've been experimenting with the little human-monkeys in vitro
- but with all these homo sapiens now in the mix, it turns out that the time travellers plasm is compatible to theirs. The Aliens are also meta-psychic and so the Exiles are enslaved as sex toys for lady aliens or baby factories for the blokes...
It's a remarkable concept and the fantasy part is partly the metapyschic powers and partly down to these aliens being technically archaic and into killing each other by the tenets of a battle religion. As the story unfolds you also begin to get a creeping feeling that this is 'meant to be'. Because some these folk can body fly and use swords and spears and Venetian glass armour which glows in their meta-psychic guild colours. They are permanently at war with their smaller dimorphic twin race who are gnome-like or like ogres and can do 'magic' as well - and have names like Morigel and Fian & Kuhal (twins) and Opone and if you don't recognise those adaptations, how about Thagdal mispronounced Dagdal or a myth of the One-Handed Warrior and a battle legend something very like the Fimbulvintr and Ragnarok ... yes folks, the shape of western mythology and our fairy tale folk are descended from this little lot of inter-galactic thugs!
It's terrific and although it loses pace here and there it's a truly marvellous achievement and when you finish the first four books, there's another four books that are 'prequels' from the future end of the equation that is also simply mind-boggling though less focussed on the fantasy side of things. I love Julian - she a really intelligent writer and thorough researcher and I cannot believe more people don't know her work. She also wrote the Rampart Worlds
trilogy which a kind of Bond-type take sci-fi, which is also pretty marvellous and I also enjoyed, just not as much as the Exiles.
Highly recommended author.