1.17.2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Science Fiction and Fantasy for Those Who Prefer the Familiar

The topic for today: Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Someone Who Doesn't Read X, where x equals a genre of the blogger's choice. Fantasy is my first love, but I'm including science fiction, mostly for my own convenience and the indulgence of a little hero-worship.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Here are my top recommendations for people who have a hard time getting into magic, myth, futurism and life among the stars. Most of these are for young readers, but I've seen them all go over fantastically with adults:

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, if you haven't already read it. It's mystery, schoolboy adventure, humor and heroism packed into a splendid tale with just a hint of romance. Magic is merely the backdrop, and it's mostly comic.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. Every English-speaking reader should at least get through The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at some point in his or her life. Adventure, beautiful prose, fun and a little poignancy, and besides, it's short.

3. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card. They're psychological, intellectual, and powerful, as Card takes an intense and deeply empathetic look at humanity through the eyes of a child genius. Not to be missed.

4. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. A short and beautifully told adventure, magical but ecumenical. My book club doesn't do much fantasy, but everyone in our group loved it.

5. The Goose Girl or Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. Girls, you want a little pure-hearted young romance? No one does it better than Shannon, who also pulls off humor, artistic prose, self-discovery and magic so clearly described that it feels real. Also, you'll never have to sit through long expositions on ancient weaponry.

6. Beauty by Robin McKinley. It's a short and exquisitely written read, a lovely introduction to the world of fairy tale retellings.

7. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. The entire Space Trilogy is good, but this third installment stands well enough alone and features two basically normal protagonists. Science fiction and fantasy elements blend in a character-driven, relational drama. More character-driven and relational than Out of the Silent Planet or Perelandra, by the way, which is the short explanation of why I've always loved it more.

8. The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Didn't like Twilight? It doesn't matter. Don't like science fiction? That probably won't matter either. What you have in this story is two women with strong, differing feelings sharing the same body, dealing with both adventure and romance in that awkward state. The fact that Wanda is an alien doesn't particularly detract from her relatability. Highly recommended.

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Classic Gothic romance all the way, but that entire story balances right on the verge of the supernatural—and at one point, it steps all the way in. If you bought all that, you're ready for a true foray into faerie.

10. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Everyone believes in otherworldly things a little bit around Christmas, right? This tale is so moving and expressive that it would take a reader quite hardened against the supernatural to get entirely hung up on the ghosts.

What books would you recommend to friends who don't usually go for science fiction or fantasy?

4 comments:

  1. Dune. It's amazing..I don't usually go for science fiction, but Dune is killer. I'd read it over and over if it wasn't one of my new year's resolutions not to read books over and over.

    The Martian Chronicles. There's a bit of something for everyone. The style chances, the time changes, the story changes, each chapter is it's own little story. And they're all good.

    The Hounds of the Morrigan. Because it's so cute and so fun, and so very full of Irish myths.

    ..I know there's more, I just can't think of them.

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  2. This is off-topic, but when you wrote that "That Hideous Strength" stands well alone, do you mean that one could skip the previous two and not have any problem understanding it? Mostly I want to read it because I've heard so many good things about it and because the title has captured my imagination. Of course if I loved it then I would regret not having read the first and second in order before it. But I'm not usually much for science fiction or fantasy and I wouldn't want to get discouraged if I couldn't make it through the first or second book.

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    Replies
    1. Maria, I'm going to go backwards to the rest of the world and say yes, That Hideous Strength is fantastic and totally worth starting with. You might be confused by a couple of things, but just know that by the time the story begins, the 'Director', Ransom, has already been to Mars (in Out of the Silent Planet) and Venus (Perelandra).

      Nearly everyone will tell you that Perelandra is the best; it's very theological and colorful, and shorter too. :) You have a few holdouts for Out of the Silent Planet, where the Oyarsa (angel-guardians of each planet) are more clearly explained. Some people have trouble making it through That Hideous Strength, but I was engrossed from word one, and it's conceivable that OotSP could block you on the series. I've only read that one once, but Perelandra twice and THS many times. :)

      Consecutive reading would be more important for the first two; you have more of a continuity of characters with Ransom as the protagonist and Weston and friends as antagonist. In THS, you have Jane and Mark as the primary protagonists and Ransom more in a mystic wise old mentor role, and the antagonists are new. It's a very different story from the other two in a lot of ways. Of course, there's no way to guarantee which will work best for you until you try--but don't not read THS just because you're not an SFF fan! It's much more--shall we say, down to earth--than the first two. Literally. :D

      Hope that long-winded response helps! And hope I don't lead you astray. If you start reading get too confused by something I've forgotten, email me and I'll brief you on the back story. :)

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  3. Grand! Thanks, Jenna! Yes, it helps immensely.

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