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David Eddings or J.R.R Tolkien

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David Eddings or J.R.R Tolkien

Postby brent.bennett » Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:18 pm

I've finished reading Robert Jordans, The Wheel of Time; Terry Goodkinds, The Sword of Truth; J.K Rowlings, Harry Potter; and I'm almost done reading Terry Brooks, Shannara series. So What next? I was thinking either David Eddings or J.R.R Tolkien. What to do what to do.... Will someone help me?
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Tolkien, definitely...

Postby RHFay » Thu Aug 02, 2007 4:21 pm

You read all those, and haven't read anything by Tolkien yet? He was one of the authors responsible for the modern sword and sorcery fantasy. Many authors that came after followed in his footsteps.

Of course, if you wanted to be a bit different, you could always read some stuff by the authors that influenced Tolkien, like George MacDonald. If you were in the mood for surreal stories with poetic language, you could read stuff by Lord Dunsany. Don't limit yourself to just stuff written in the past fifty years, discover some of the older classics as well.

Still, even if you know the story, read The Lord of the Rings. There's a lot more in the books than there was in Peter Jackson's movies. If you want something a bit lighter, read The Hobbit.

Yes, I am an unabashed Tolkien fan. I think he was concerned with the art of writing, not just the mechanics of it.
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Postby Ariel » Thu Aug 02, 2007 4:26 pm

Tolkien!!!!! You must read Tolkien! :D
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Postby Bmat » Thu Aug 02, 2007 5:12 pm

Another vote for Tolkien. and I also suggest The Hobbit, first.
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Postby brent.bennett » Thu Aug 02, 2007 6:57 pm

Ok. In Tolkien's respect, I realize that there's a whole lot more then just the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. There is also 12 or so History of Middle-earth books, and The Silmarillion, and a whole bunch of Books in the Lord of the Rings World that I dont even know about. Is there a suggested order of reading for it all?
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Postby The Master » Thu Aug 02, 2007 8:31 pm

You read all those, and haven't read anything by Tolkien yet? He was one of the authors responsible for the modern sword and sorcery fantasy.

Gonna nit pick a little because Tolkien isn't Sword and Sorcery. Sword and Sorcery focuses on adventure and romance centered around one particular hero. If it were a movie it would be an action flick. Howard's Conan the Barbarian works are the perfect example and are often cited as the progenitor of the sub-genre. Michael Moorcock's Elric series (also excellent) is another great example of S&S. Most fantasy video games tend to be heavily S&S influenced at their core because of the excitement factor S&S embraces.

While High Fantasy often has one main hero, or a small band of heroes, it has a much broader scope and focuses on world changing events instead of fast paced action. A Sword and Sorcery hero might simply be in it for wealth or fame, a HF hero usually has some greater purpose with a concept of Good vs. Evil playing some central role in their actions. A well constructed invented world, or sometimes parallel universe but that starts to push into Science Fiction, is usually considered a required element for High Fantasy. While not technically required, many high fantasy stories play out through a series of books. Tolkien's work demonstrates how HF can be one self contained book (The Hobbit) or a series that tells one complete tale (the LoTR). CS Lewis' Narnia books show how it can also do both at the same time, with each book being self-contained stories that all play out in the same invented world more properly as sequels rather than one long story. High Fantasy is what most people think of when you say Fantasy, with Tolkien's prominence in pop culture being a big reason for that.

Since I am on the subject, the Harry Potter books are probably best categorized as Low Fantasy. Instead of a carefully created alternate world Harry lives in our own world. Magic is a key element for Potter to be sure, but the only real fantasy elements beyond that is related to myths and legends (Unicorns, Dragons, etc.) instead of the more typical dwarves, elves, etc. of High Fantasy. The stories lack the slam bang action of S&S, but also lack the world scope of HF. Instead of these elements Low Fantasy tends to rely on dramatic elements with more realism than you find in other types of Fantasy. Finally, things are usually less cut and dried "good and evil" in Low Fantasy. Shades of gray color morality, making the hero and characters more realistic.

Dark Fantasy is sort of a "politically correct" term for horror. More precisely its supernatural horror. Dracula is Dark Fantasy. A totally human serial killer is just plain old horror. Frankenstein is straight up Science Fiction, people just often mistake it for horror. Deciding if something is Dark Fantasy can sometimes be difficult because High Fantasy often has such a strong element of good vs. evil as a central theme. Typically Dark Fantasy will lack the world scope of High Fantasy, will be set in the real world instead of a new world (it might use a historical setting for ambiance, but is rarely set in alternate universes), and will often center on the evil characters as anti-heroes instead of those fighting against them that you would expect in High Fantasy. Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire is a perfect example of this kind of modern Dark Fantasy.

OK...I'm way off on a geek ramble so that's enough of that ;)

To get back to your question Brent I would suggest The Hobbit, then The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Silmarillion is set in the same world, but its a very different book. Many people find it dry and difficult to read because of its complexity and lack of an easily followed, cohesive centralized tale, so it has never been anywhere near as popular as the others. I haven't read the history books, but as I recall they were largely unfinished works that Tolkien's son published after his father's death. It is my understanding that they can also be quite complex and difficult to read if you aren't already a dedicated fan of the specific world lore envisioned by Tolkien. In other words, they aren't recommended for casual fans of the genre.

I enjoyed Eddings books tremendously, but its been quite a while since I read them. I like his writing style and pacing, and find his characters lively and interesting. If you enjoyed Terry Brooks you should be thrilled by David Eddings. Fortunately, both the Belgariad and Mallorean series are fully satisfying reads.

For a little different angle on High Fantasy I highly suggest the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson (its two trilogy sets with the second three being a true sequel to the first epic). What I love about Donaldson's books is his focus on an anti-hero instead of the typical archetypes, as well as a fresh spin on the epic journey idea common in post-Tolkien fantasy.
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Postby aldan » Thu Aug 02, 2007 10:26 pm

Also, if you like Eddings, he created a completely different world, in which he placed his Elenium and Tamuli trilogies. They, too, are very good reads, with really entertaining characters. One big difference between those and his Belgariad and Malloreon series is that the latter are a little more written for younger readers, while the former are a little more adult-oriented (though not much, really).

Another writer that has written some really entertaining fantasy is David Weber. Most of his work is Science fiction, but his War God series (I can't think of the actual series name, but one of the novels is called "The War God's Own") is great. It concentrates a lot on racial perspectives, cultural differences, along with reasons that drive people to act the way they do, even though it's definitely fantasy writing, with Dwarves, various human races, mages and halflings. I love that series! F. U. N. to read!
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Postby RHFay » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:16 am

The Master wrote:Gonna nit pick a little because Tolkien isn't Sword and Sorcery. Sword and Sorcery focuses on adventure and romance centered around one particular hero.


I have found all of these genre definitions to be very fluid and open to interpretation. And often times they overlap to a degree. I think we've some times categorized these genres to death, and have overlooked the big picture.

It's very hard as an author/poet to determine what exactly a publication will take nowadays because of this splitting of the genres into several different sub-genres. They say things like "dark fantasy is okay, but horror is not". Okay, that's fine and dandy, but where do they draw the line? Do they feel my poem with ghosts that might be real, or might just be a figment of the narrator's imagination, is dark fantasy/supernatural horror, or is it merely psychological horror, or just plain horror? Ultimately, it's up to the individual's interpretation of the genre, and their own personal taste.

Tolkien is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern fantasy involving elves, dragons, goblins (or orcs), and medieval-influenced kingdoms (they fight with swords, lances, bows and arrows, and other "medieval" weapons). Whatever category you put Tolkien's works in, he was the influence for many, many of these later writers, whether consciously or subconsciously.

I definitely agree with The Master and others regarding the order in which you should read Tolkien's works; start with The Hobbit (it is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, after all), then go on to The Lord of the Rings, then tackle some of the books about the earlier history of Middle Earth. One suggestion; The Children of Hurin involves one particular story thread in these earlier times, and is less dry than The Silmarillion. Its worth reading if you haven't already read the tales before (versions of it appear in other books, like Unfinished Tales).
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Postby brent.bennett » Fri Aug 03, 2007 1:33 pm

This is all very enlightening. I had no idea there was such debth in subcatagorizing the genra of fantasy. I realize I've never read a dark fantasy novel now. What does S&S mean? As most of you know Terry Brooks has bridged the Word and Void series to the Shannara series with the Genesis of Shannara subseries. It seems Brooks wants to portray the whole epic as the future of our own world. What category is Shannary in, then, because the epic is, what it seems, based on future events of our world? It seems a good question to me, but I think I'm getting to nit picky myself.
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Postby RHFay » Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:39 pm

brent.bennett wrote:This is all very enlightening. I had no idea there was such debth in subcatagorizing the genra of fantasy. I realize I've never read a dark fantasy novel now.


Have you ever read Dracula? I highly recommend that as a classic of supernatural horror, possibly "dark fantasy" depending upon your definition (I've seen dark fantasy defined as "supernatural horror" or "fantasy with strong horror elements".)
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Postby brent.bennett » Fri Aug 03, 2007 4:42 pm

No, but I've read Frankenstein
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Postby RHFay » Fri Aug 03, 2007 8:14 pm

brent.bennett wrote:No, but I've read Frankenstein


I personally found Dracula to be more entertaining. I never could get through Frankenstein. And that's very unusual for me.
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