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These are mostly for smillaraaq. Somewhere deep in the guts of the Meta Thread from Heck (f-locked, I am afraid), which started out innocently as a notice of a fic posting on my other account and now exceeds 300 posts, she mentioned that she had not read much (or did not recall much) Cherryh, and as CJC is about my favorite SF writer, I felt this needed to be remedied. And when I said so, she said she'd also appreciate recs for DWJ - who is one of my favorite fantasy authors. So, without further ado ... .

Diana Wynne Jones

  • Apropos of some of the themes showing up in "Cupidity", I have to rec Fire and Hemlock, which is probably her most complex book. Curiously enough, rushthatspeaks has just written a marvelous essay on this book, but you should on no account read the essay until you are finished with the book.
     
  • As smilla is a dog lover, I must rec Dogsbody - and hope that it will not break her heart.
     
  • For something much lighter, and very cleverly silly, I recommend Archer's Goon.
     
  • Because smilla is something of a gamer, because it has one of DWJ's best (albeit saddest) endings, and because it is a less-well-known book than it deserves, I recommend The Homeward Bounders.
     
  • And because it is my favorite aside from those I have recommended, and because it involves a science fiction convention, the Lyke Wake Dirge, centaurs, and Babylon, I recommend Deep Secret

C.J. Cherryh

  • As a standalone, as a cool book about martial arts in a fantasy oriental setting, and as CJC's best fantasy, I recommend The Paladin.
     
  • As a tough, no-nonsense short series about what it's like to be a cog in the future industrial and military complexes, I recommend Heavy Time and its sequel Hellburner. This will also introduce the Company Wars, the subject of several additional novels.
     
  • As either a standalone, or as an introduction to her Compact Space books, I recommend The Pride of Chanur, which is a good example of one of CJC's most famous and durable themes, the human being as the alien. It is also pretty much a space opera, and fun. And if you like it, there are 4 more books in the series. (And Pyanfar Chanur is one of my most enduring POV characters! Gods be feathered, I am that long-suffering Hani ship's captain ... !)
     
  • And because smilla likes dark themes about the evils that people do, I recommend Cyteen, with the caveat that the introductory section can be slghtly sticky going as CJC sets up the political situation from the opposite POV of the Company Wars books. These are the Bad Guys of those books, and the book covers themes of identity, what it is to be human, what makes a person him or herself, and what it is like to be brilliant in a world of lesser minds, against a setting where cloning - ranging from production of custom children for the wealthy to supplying slave labor for a developing world (and including the production of attractive "companions" for those who can afford them) - is common. Unsettling and involving.

Enjoy!

Comments

( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
smillaraaq
Nov. 21st, 2007 07:52 am (UTC)
Just how traumatic are we talking in Dogsbody? Bear in mind that I still get weepy over Beaumont, or the end of Gary Paulsen's Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers, or Eight Below, and I wept inconsolably for HOURS after the anime version of A Dog of Flanders, in spite of already knowing how the story ended before I watched it!

As for the CJC -- I have read some of the Chanur books and liked them, although don't ask me to swear as to which ones! Space opera and aliens that are convincingly ALIEN, not just funny-looking humans, are pluses. (I think TPOC *might* have been one of that lot, though -- did the paperback cover have a sort of scruffy-bearded-blondish human almost totally surrounded by the press of feline-looking aliens? (Yeah, I don't really remember squat about the plot or the characters, but I still can picture the cover art remarkably clearly...I wasn't kidding when I said my memory is intensely visual.)

Other than that, all I can recall reading for sure are one of the...Morgaine...books? Fantasy, white-haired magical warrior heroine? Gate of Ivrel or something like that? And Downbelow Station which I don't remember anything about other than (1) it was long and (2) it was pretty good; and Rusalka, which I rather enjoyed as the Russian setting was a far cry from the usual vague fantasy cliches. I'm sure there were more but these are the only ones I can even dredge up any sort of specific memory of right now...
chomiji
Nov. 22nd, 2007 05:30 am (UTC)

-MASSIVE- Spoilers for Dogsbody:

Main POV character has his consciousness transferred into a puppy. Puppies put into a sack to drown, experienced from pup's viewpoint (most - maybe all - are rescued from the river); day-to-day misery of life among incomprehensible humans from a dog's viewpoint: sadness includes being unable to protect abused and exploited young human mistress (not sexual exploitation, though); from girl's viewpoint, her dog has died at end of story, although his consciousness actually goes back where it belongs; his realization that they can no longer be together, because now he is a frighteningly powerful superhuman being and not her dog.

You'll have to decide for yourself, smilla ... . It's a pretty good book.

Yeah, Morgaine - I found those pretty lame. They're early. I like her early SF (Hunter of Worlds for example) better. Downbelow Station was the first of the Company Wars books to be written, although it's not first in terms of internal chronology. It introduces Signy Mallory, jump-carrier captain, the first (IMO) of CJC's truly successful tough older female characters; she shows up as a minor character (rather like Vimes in Monstrous Regiment) in a couple of other books.

And plainly the Chanur books didn't make the same sort of impression on you that they did on me! For me, the scene in Chanur's Homecoming where Py and Jik (the mahe spyship captain - not Goldtooth, but his partner) have a tense heart-to-heart, and she says "I love you like kin, Mahe, but I'd shoot you with my own hand ... " if he posed a threat to her species, and a few moments later, he comes back with "I love you like kin. Same. Got to tell you, you going to bleed. Same you win, same you lose, " because they're going to have to make some hard, hard choices, both of them - argh, the angst, the hard-won cross-species friendship up against preservation of one's own species ... .

smillaraaq
Nov. 22nd, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
Oh, hrm, that sounds a bit like the sort of angst I was playing with for that Nobilis campaign. Perhaps I can manage that...

And really, considering this is a book that I think I read once maybe, oh, 25 years ago, at a point when I was just devouring damn near ANYTHING in the library, it had to have made a fair impression for me to even remember reading and liking it, even if the specific details are lost to me now!
chomiji
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)

Yes, it is rather like your Nobilis character - Sirius is definitely a Power.

:-)   Pyanfar and Jik make an interesting friendship. And in fact Py is still very much married and devoted to her husband, Khym Manh, so it really is a virtual-sibling female-male type friendship, of the sort that is all too rare in fiction. And I'm just busting your chops about remembering the book, but it is one of those very, very important books to me.

smillaraaq
Nov. 30th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Hee, did you actually wade through that game-archaeology? I do wish I could figure out a way to recycle Rosa for something, she was such an interesting character to play with.

(And if you've ever read Lives of the Monster Dogs, any perceived similarity between that cover photo and the portrait of the previous Power of Dogs hanging in Neuhundstein's great hall is purely intentional.)
chomiji
Dec. 2nd, 2007 05:25 am (UTC)

I did read it through, but quickly. I really need to run a game again. The last big campaign I ran had a super-powerful creature in disguise as part of the party, and it worked out OK ... I put severe limits on how he could use his powers early on.

smillaraaq
Dec. 2nd, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Hee...it wasn't something I'd thought out deliberately in character creation, but never having played Nobilis before, it wound up working very, very well for me having a character who'd only been a Power for a matter of days or weeks at most before the start of the campaign; if I felt like I was floundering and unsure of just what she could do, well, Rosa didn't have much idea of what she was capable of either! ;)
chomiji
Dec. 5th, 2007 03:07 am (UTC)

Well, it could certainly be fun, fitting her in. I'll have to think about it. Maybe once the radiation & crud are over with, I'll be able to focus on it. Tell you what, you have my full permission to remind me from time to time that you're interested.

smillaraaq
Dec. 5th, 2007 06:10 am (UTC)
Oh goodness, I was just bellyaching about thinking of using her in writing (which is hard since my muse never seems to extend to actual PLOTS...); for the chance to play Nobilis again I'd be just as ecstatically happy to do something new from the ground up to fit whatever setting you've got in mind, although if you'd want me to dust off the feral little Power of Dogs it would not require much arm-twisting!
chomiji
Dec. 6th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)

It might not be Nobilis; it might just be whatever version of my game I can come up with, possibly using the Hero system.

smillaraaq
Dec. 6th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)
I don't know that one at all -- the only things I've ever played were a friend's random homebrew mostly based on D&D mechanics, Nobilis and an abortive Witchcraft campaign with a really cool Australian setting.
chomiji
Dec. 10th, 2007 01:37 pm (UTC)

I can promise that the system won't matter. I've run games in tournaments at conventions where no one knew the system I was using. You just need to know the general concept of how roleplaying games work.

smillaraaq
Dec. 11th, 2007 01:50 am (UTC)
Oh, that's good. I get kind of nervous when there's too much focus on the mechanical side of things -- it starts feeling math-like, and I get twitchy for fear that I'm somehow Not Doing It Right; I like the dicelessness of Nobilis for that as it winds up feeling somewhere more between improv theater and collaborative storytelling and just pure make-believe.

(Halfway through The Witches of Karres, btw, much fun! It seems vaguely familiar although at the same time I could swear I'm not recognizing any of the characters or plot points; it may just be my brain picking up on stylistic resemblance to other late-50s/early 60s SF, which I read a great deal of at one point...)
chomiji
Dec. 11th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)

Naaah, we've always had some players that were not too system-savvy. Usually we'd have a couple of sessions helping people put their characters together before we started the campaign, and then during play, if you wanted to do something, you just say "OK - I want to search that closet. What do I do?" and we'd tell you what dice to roll and what on your sheet to add to it (or whatever the mechanics were).

chomiji
Dec. 11th, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)

And I can't believe I'm forking the thread again, but ... yes, Witches of Karres is wonderful fluffy fun. But note how even through the filter of the social mores of the 1950s/1960s, Schmitz respects his female characters. Yeah, they have some ditsiness, but so do all the male characters. He was an unusual chap.

And for a really silly crossover among our various interests, check this:

That, my friend, is an illustration for the book by Hayao Miyazaki!!!

smillaraaq
Dec. 12th, 2007 06:27 am (UTC)
Heee, Goth and the Captain? Somehow I'm not too surprised -- this seems like just the sort of thing that could be a Miyazaki movie waiting to happen. :)
chomiji
Dec. 12th, 2007 09:37 pm (UTC)

Exactly right, Goth and Pausert. Goth was one of my childhood heroines, if you recall. If I ever figure out the animated .gif thing, I should do a rotating exhibit of my tough little role models. (I wish I could find a larger version of the Miyazaki pic, because most of the cover pix of Goth are unsatisfactory in the extreme, especially considering that there's quite a pithy description of her.)

smillaraaq
Dec. 13th, 2007 03:55 am (UTC)
I can do simpler animations, if you have all the source images anywhere handy...
chomiji
Dec. 14th, 2007 06:41 pm (UTC)

I'll need to dig out copies of the books and do some scanning. But thanks for the offer!

bad_mushroom
Nov. 21st, 2007 05:42 pm (UTC)
Ah, The Homeward Bounders. I still cry over that one. And I still think Jamie/Helen is my didn't-quite-happen DWJ OTP.
chomiji
Nov. 23rd, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)

Homeward Bounders is the only really good book that came out of several attempts by various authors in the late 1970s/early 1980s to write something that had the feel of what it would be like to be a real person trapped in a roleplaying game (Quag Keep, anyone? ... >shudder< ).

I really appreciate that DWJ didn't attempt to push the boy/girl aspect of things in that - which she could have, because Jamie and Helen and Joris and Adam all seem to be about 13 years old. But yes, I think that Helen and Jamie could have grown into a real relationship, because there is a certain amount of spark there and a lot of mutual respect, and Jamie was even showing signs of being able to understand her early traumas and to give her space when she needed it, without getting all mushy about it.

(And redbrunja, if you're reading this, and can find and read this book, I'd be interested in your take on this relationship in reference to the buddies vs. lovers conversations we've been having. Jamie calls Helen his "friendly neighborhood enemy" ... . Of course, they are both quite young.)

smillaraaq
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
*howling*

I *loved* Quag Keep! Although in my defense, I had no real-world gaming experience, and I was only nine years old at the time and much less critical a reader...

*continues dissolving into giggles*
chomiji
Nov. 27th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)

Heh ... I liked Andre Norton quite a lot as a kid, but I was already a moderately sophisticated gamer when it came out ... a disaster was the only way I could describe it!

smillaraaq
Nov. 27th, 2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
The library I haunted as a child had a huge range of the old Nortons, so I absolutely devoured those -- her stuff, the early pulpy Moorcock fantasies and time-travel SF, and McCaffrey were pretty much my first genre reading (not counting Tolkien, because I came to that so young I really had no conception of that being a particular type of book that I could seek out...) I never could manage to get into any of the classic Heinlein juveniles, but I snapped up every Norton and the earlier pulpy Moorcock fantasies I could get my hands on.
chomiji
Nov. 27th, 2007 08:55 pm (UTC)

LotR was my first grown-up fantasy, but The Witches of Karres was my first grown-up SF. I may have read Norton after that, but I'm not sure. Oddly enough, the only Nortons I can remember very much are Catseye and The Stars Are Ours, even though I think I read everything she ever wrote through 1970 or so.

(I also remember learning (partway through college) that she was very squicked out by the brother incest in Elizabeth Lynn's The Dancers of Arun ... . Poor woman - luckily she never discovered manga!)

smillaraaq
Nov. 28th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
I never read TWOK somehow, although I know I saw the title cropping up a lot in catalogs and such! The Nortons, OTOH, I just absolutely devoured like popcorn, although I'd be hard-pressed to remember much specific about most of them now. Well, I remember the RPG aspect of Quag Keep and could probably sketch out the cover of the DAW paperback from memory, and I remember liking Voortrekker a lot at the time, the library had a lovely oversized illustrated paperback -- but other than a strong visual image of a sort of sea-monster-thingummy, don't ask me anything about the plot or characters! Other than that, hmmm. I vaguely recall liking the space-archaeology aspect of the Forerunner books, and the shapeshifting of The Jargoon Pard and, um, wasn't there a sequel to that? And I dimly, dimly remember the first couple of Witch World books, and the simple refreshing novelty of the existence of a title like The Sioux Spaceman. But beyond those little glimmers, all that stuff is mostly lost to my memory, although I can guarantee that I read much, much more than those few.

(Who was squicked by the Lynn, Norton? And I don't think I know that title or author, is that another rec?)
smillaraaq
Nov. 28th, 2007 05:09 am (UTC)
...And I just found a copy of TWOK up for grabs on BookMooch, huzzah!
chomiji
Nov. 28th, 2007 11:01 pm (UTC)

Yes, Norton was squicked.

Elizabeth Lynn wrote a trilogy that consists of Watchtower, The Dancers of Arun, and The Northern Girl. The books are widely separated from each other by their internal timelines, and you don't need to read any of them to appreciate the others ... however, the only one I really like is The Northern Girl. (And I like that one enough to have worn out my first paperback of it.)

bad_mushroom
Nov. 23rd, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm still young and overly romantic so I kind of wish she had explored that aspect of the whole thing. I feel like the bits about Jamie understanding her issues and knowing when to give her space showed the depth of the relationship, and I'm always a sucker for the traveling-companions-turned-lovers thing. Plus, the dynamic between Jamie and Joris definitely suggested some jealousy-related tension over Helen.
chomiji
Nov. 27th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)

:-)

I think 13 or 14 is young for much boy/girl stuff! You're a chunk older than that - at this stage, those few years make a big difference, especially for the boys. I don't think that Joris was thinking about Helen much except as a member of the upper class, from his viewpoint - you remember he kept saying that Helen looked like a Khan.

I'm also a sucker for friends or companions becoming lovers, whether straight or not. But although Jamie was definitely forming some early thoughts along those lines, I can't really see it in Joris. But they say the parents are always the last to know!

bad_mushroom
Nov. 27th, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
Hey, I was fourteen not too long ago! DWJ also tends to write her characters as being more emotionally mature than their age, don't you think. Besides, Jamie is what, hundreds of years old by now?

But yeah...Joris...I dunno about him. He's such an interesting character! I mean, it was also pretty clear that he was in love with that Khan girl, and I kind of saw his insistence that Helen looked like a Khan an indication that he was a bit attracted to her. Gosh, I need to read it again.
chomiji
Nov. 27th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)

Hmmm, yeah, but Jamie's heart hasn't aged (to get mushy and metaphysical on you) - he's still a 13-year-old boy, more or less, in matters of the heart. I mean, he's got more perspective on how much it should matter, and on being compassionate and non-judgmental, but the circumstances under which he's likely to find himself smitten are probably the same.

Yes, Joris had a crush on Elsie Khan, it seemed. At least, he got all pink when Konstam brought her up. And there, of course, is the real target of Joris' devotion: he hasn't got much room for an emotional attachment to a crush when he's so totally obsessed with his teacher/master! But I don't think he was transferring his crush to Helen. (Good memory, you! I had forgotten all about Elsie - presumably named for her impressive grandmother Elsa, the leader of the Khans.)

bad_mushroom
Nov. 27th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Really? I thought he was awfully mature as a character and a narrator. I don't really see how his heart is different from his sense of compassion/etc. Elaborate?

Hahaha, God I love Joris. His obsession with Konstam is GENIUS.
chomiji
Nov. 28th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC)

Hmmm, let's see ... Jamie's been working so hard at surviving as he wanders the Bounds that he hasn't had much time for social interactions outside what's necessary to survive, and probably relatively little interaction with peers. Remember that the other Homeward Bounders he met rather looked down on him because he was just a kid. He's had to learn compassion etc. from the inside out, by experiencing being on the receiving end, but because of his apparent age, no one's going to play at romance with him. You'll notice that he never mentions any female person's looks until he runs into Vanessa (Adam's older sister), and that's when he finally has something of a peer group, and can relax a little - he's got the leisure to notice something like that and the social atmosphere to make it seem worth noticing.

Yes, the Great God Konstam!!! Poor Joris, he's such a mess emotionally ... .

bad_mushroom
Nov. 28th, 2007 03:22 am (UTC)
I see what you mean intellectually...but I still feel like the character is really quite emotionally mature. You're right, he doesn't seem to have time for romance, but that doesn't mean he couldn't've had romantic feelings for Helen...

MUST. RE-READ. I'll get back to you once I do.
chomiji
Nov. 28th, 2007 10:57 pm (UTC)

Oh, I was never arguing that he didn't! I think he truly did, although I don't think that he himself fully realized it until the very end, when he's talking about what he now has to do to keep Them from regaining power.

Any excuse will do, for re-reading a good book!

:-D

bad_mushroom
Nov. 28th, 2007 11:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, okay, heh, you had me confused.

Indeed!
chomiji
Nov. 29th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)

Oooh, sorry!

Yes, romance is a complicated topic (I'm sure Jamie thinks so, too ... .)

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