It's the thankful time of year, a time filled with family and friends, and feasting. I want to share some books I'm thankful to have read. All, in one way or another, have influenced me as a writer and, I dare say, impacted my life.
I don't know how old I was when I first read Dune. Sometimes, I say 11, but I might've been older. 12 or 13, perhaps. It doesn't matter. What I do recall with sparkling clarity is after I finished reading Dune, I thought to myself that I might like to try my hand at writing a book one day. Fast forward a few decades, and I have two published novels and a third coming next year. Not too shabby. Not too shabby.
One aspect of Dune that still impresses and fascinates me to this day is how Herbert created such an all-encompassing and engaging science-fiction world in such a slender volume. I swear he did more in less than 500 pages or so than other authors can accomplish in vast series of 800+ page tomes.
I have reread Dune many times over the years. Yes, I know the story quite well, but I still enjoy revisiting it. The yarn has aged well.
I have a distinct memory of begging my mother to buy The Book of Three for me at a Scholastic Book Fair. The cover featured the protagonist, Taran I would later learn, confronting a rider with a skull for a head. It's similar to the cover displayed here but possesses a more old-world painterly feel. That cover impressed the hell out of me at the time.
The book sat on my shelf for months, maybe a year or more, before I finally read it. You see, the cover, with its death's head rider, scared the bejesus out of me.
When I eventually read The Book of Three, I was utterly swept away by Taran's fantastical adventures. It's the first fantasy novel I recall reading and being totally caught up in. I subsequently devoured the entire series. My long-time love for fantasy and speculative fiction in general started with this fantastic adventure story by Mr. Alexander.
What can I say about Mortal Engines other than WOW? When I read this book, as an adult, mind you, I was turned on to how excellent young adult novels can be. The imaginative, whimsical world, the fantastic characters, and the heart-pumping adventure in this novel and, indeed, the entire series left me gobsmacked. At the time, I was still trying to write an adult epic fantasy like George R.R. Martin or Robert Jordan. Mr. Reeve's series made me think perhaps the young adult genre is more my jam.
Before reading Mortal Engines, I had read and enjoyed the Harry Potter series, but those books didn't inspire me to examine the young adult genre. Mortal Engines did just that, and I am very thankful it did.
This is one of the few series I have read as an adult that I truly did not want to end when I finished it. The characters, adventuresome plot, and secondary world were that engrossing.
A Game of Thrones kicks off my favorite fantasy saga of all time. When I first picked up this novel, I felt a bit jaded regarding the fantasy genre. Many fantasy novels I read felt the same: big epic tomes featuring a chosen one battling absolute evil in a Tolkienesque world. I was to the point where I no longer wanted to read fantasies the size of doorstops. Although I loved the characters of Jordan's The Wheel of Time, the glacial pacing of the latter books left me adrift in boredom.
Simply put, I found A Game of Thrones a breath of fresh air. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before, and I knew when a certain character ended up at the headman's block, the plot was totally unpredictable. Paradoxically, best and worst of all, this series is yet to be completed.
Since discovering Martin's brand of grimdark, or at least grimdark adjacent fantasy, I've run across other unique and dark adult fantasy tales. Namely, the works of Joe Abercrombie (some of his books are amazing and others meh) and The Broken Empire Trilogy by Mark Lawrence (Jorg, the antihero, has one of the best character arcs in fantasy).