The other science fiction franchise. Or the science fiction franchise, if we christen Star Wars science fantasy. Where George Lucas took Campbell’s ideas and put the eternal myths into a space adventure story, Gene Roddenberry envisioned a better future for spacefaring humankind. He created a vision of an utopia, in which more enterprising, unruly individuals join the Starfleet in order to find adventure, because in the post-scarcity Earth society there’s not much of that. In Starfleet, they travel across the universe, to meet exciting new people and… not shoot them, unless absolutely necessary.
Piotrek: I’ve always been more of a Babylon 5 guy, but I appreciate Star Trek more and more. As a kid, I’ve seen a random selection of mainly The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine episodes, and there was not enough large-scale conflict for my taste. I generally liked it, but John Sheridan was my space captain. So, my introduction into the world of Star Trek was pretty chaotic… but I always liked the idea of trekking through galaxies in a big spaceship, and in time I came to also appreciate stories about (relatively) peaceful exploration.
Ola: My own acquaintance with Star Trek was no less chaotic, I must admit. I watched nearly all episodes of The Next Generation as a pre-teen kid, and for years Picard was the only true captain of the Enterprise 😉 I waited with bated breath for each episode, and while some of them were rather convoluted for a six- to eight-year-old, it was still a great adventure. Fantasy worlds, various races with distinct cultures, drama on the ship, imminent danger… What I liked about Star Trek then and value even more now was the nearly non-violent approach, so rare in modern pop-culture. Differences were abundant, conflicting interests as well, but more often than not a peaceful resolution could have been – and heroically was – achieved. Exploration and understanding were the key values of the Star Trek universe, and inspired countless SF visions since. As for the liberal vision of future military, with its weirdly relaxed and convoluted structure, the red- and mustard-colored uniforms and the variety of ranks coupled with a nearly total lack of discipline, back then I didn’t even bat an eye 😉
Sometimes we go a bit outside genre, and it’s not always politics 😉 This occasion, however, definitely merits this little jaunt beyond our usual hunting grounds.
Piotrek: Well, it is election day in Poland, and the stakes are high, but it’s against the law here to discuss politics on election weekend. Lets just say, I’m depressed and did not prepare any champagne for the evening. Looks like four more years of catho-national populism.
Good things do happen, though, and last Thursday a very distinguished Polish writer got a Nobel for 2018. Who is she? A dreadlocked feminist winner the Nobel needed, claims Guardian, and I very much agree. I’m not always happy with Swedish Academy’s choices, but this time I am, and not because she’s Polish (who cares) and only partially because of her political views (which tend to be pretty close mine, the regime hates her 😉 ). I see her books as both insightful, very up to date – but rooted in the troubled history of our region – and extremely readable.
There are many great stand-alones in fantasy, but, arguably, the genre is built on series. I guess, when you create an entire new world, just to place your story there, you’re tempted to re-use it 😉 And it pays better, and readers expect it. So, while Tolkien started with trilogy (that he is quoted to think about LotR as one book), his successors published longer and longer series or various length, renown and quality. For me, Belgariad and Dragonlance were gateways into post-tolkienian fantasy, and, after ca. 25 years of reading fantasy, there are still more huge – and reportedly great – series on my TBR.
Recently, I found myself on an extended business trip abroad, with only one book in my luggage (a 900-page one, but still 😉 ) and I visited an excellent second-hand bookshop that offered a pretty complete collection of one of the longest-going fantasy sagas, L.E. Modesitt’s Saga of Recluce. While not featured in most of the top tens, it’s often mentioned as an interesting series of novels, with carefully thought-through magic system and an innovative approach to the issue of chaos/order balance. I’ve always been interested by this last issue, as a huge fan of Zelazny‘s Amber. I bought the first four volumes, and now, after reading the first two, I reached a preliminary verdict.
I had a discussion recently about the “book was better” trope. It usually is, I believe. But, as a contrarian, I like to find exceptions to every rule, even one I believe in.
Long before Netflix ordered the American version of “House of Cards”, I believed HoC to be such an example, contradicting this particular rule. British HoC is listed among my favourite shows of all time, while I just couldn’t bring myself to love the novels, even if the first one predates its tv adaptation.
So – I decided to re-post my thoughts on the topic. I still haven’t seen the last season of the Netflix show, and I don’t think I ever will. Regardless of the crimes of Kevin Spacey, it was too long and nowhere near as god as the original version. I want to remember how good it began and not spoil my impressions by seeing its progressing deterioration. I’d rather re-watch Sir Ian Richardson’s Shakespearean prime minister.
In a time of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Urquhart is perhaps an unattainable dream 😉
No, not that:Although I’m very happy that I could binge-watch it now, in Poland, on the day of release, on Netflix, like a normal human being, not one episode a week on… what was it called, television?
Although I believe it’s a superior product. Kevin Spacey is excellent, but Ian Richardson is great. Shakespearean villain, veteran of political system even more ruthless than the one we know from the American version, Francis Urquhart would outmanoeuvre Frank Underwood before breakfast. And then Underwood would remind him that UK is a pygmy next to the world’s biggest superpower. Realpolitik is a tough business.
Actually I’d love to see a series where Urquhart/Underwood had to cooperate, sort of evil version of Roosevelt/Churchill duo. Magnificent bastards both of them…
Buoyed by the success of our Deadly Bookish Sins tag we decided to even out the playfield – and created a corresponding Bookish Heavenly Virtues tag 😉 We had a lot of fun writing the questions and answering them, and now we hope you’ll enjoy reading them – and, if you do, we invite you to participate in the tag as well :).
CHASTITY: Which author/book/series you wish you had never read?
Ola: Aaand we start with a bang 😉 The two that most easily come to mind are Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind (DNFed around the junkie dragon mark and I only wish I threw it down sooner) and Justin Cronin trilogy (DNFed within first 100 pages of the third installment – what a waste of time). I’m usually pretty lenient when it comes to books, as they are in fact someone’s years of hard work and dreams. But I absolutely abhor waste of time on things I dislike, as the theory of alternative costs plays in my mind different scenarios of what I could have done with that precious resource, and the two examples above represent exactly that.
Piotrek: It’s a hard one. I usually only go for books I can be sure to enjoy at least a bit, and some of the really terrible ones I revenge-reviewed, so it was not a waste of time, was it?
One case where I could have saved the time and read something else, even at a cost of not having a vitriolic review to write, was the Iron Druid Chronicles. Details – in the linked review 😉 but I have to say, the more time passes, the more I’m convinced it’s a case of urban fantasy tropes tortured inhumanely for no good reason.
We do not do tags often, and when we do, it’s usually so late everybody’s forgotten about them 😉 but we did like this one, one explored by severalfriends of Re-E, and now we’re ready to post 🙂 Seven deadly sins, but for readers!
What is the most expensive book you own? Which is the least expensive?
Ola: Huh, the book that springs to mind most quickly is my Folio Society’s edition of The Once and Future King, because I paid for the pristine, mint condition book personally 😉 But I do have a few signed books, or rare first editions, that may be worth more. Never really considered it though, and besides, I left them all back in Poland, for now – with a promise I made to myself, that I will bring them home one day, wherever it will ultimately be.
Least expensive? Old used books bought on Amazon Marketplace. I’m not counting the gifts, because those that I received as a gift were definitely expensive, to the giver 🙂
Piotrek: Well…I paid £75 for a Folio Society Edition of Dune, but some of the XIX-century volumes I own might be actually more expensive, I’d have to have them evaluated. They are family heirlooms, so I’m not going to sell them anyway.
Least expensive… I have dozens of volumes bought from Amazon Marketplace at £0.01 + postage and packing, great value for money, although recently the postage got more expensive, and less reliant – I blame notoriously unreliable Polish Post Office.
It’s been some time since I’ve read a really new genre book… Now, I finally did, but, despite it being from one of my favourite young writers, I’m not very happy about it.
Brian McClellan is one of our favourite new authors, his Powder Mage universe – one we greatly appreciate. Great ideas, great characters, constantly improving writing. I’m yet to read his second Powder Mage trilogy, but it’s only because I’m certain I’ll like it and I’m saving it for later.
When I read in his newsletter he wrote a short urban fantasy novel, I was intrigued and immediately bought an epub (pdf and mobi included in the package). I read the first chapter that very day, two further ones during the next couple of weeks, and finished this very short thing only recently, during a flight. Why? Well…