Baz's book recommendations
Posted by Baz (1st Dec 2003, 14:01)
Originally published in Wyrmtongue December 2003.
Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
The Master of future history, Olaf Stapledon has written what is probably the most far-reaching and unexpectedly plausible future history out there. Although the early details will seem odd (seeing as it was written before World War II, the second half of the twentieth century which he describes varies in the specifics from that which actually happened) the grand scope and vision of his future, which spans many millenia and many different human species (why afterall, must Homo Sapiens be the pinnacle of evolution?) including the first prediction of many concepts which would later form the basis for many science fiction books.
Also worth reading is Last Men in London which is a critical view of mid-twentieth century London from the perspective of one of the Last Men from the earlier book. And so is Star Maker which forms a starnge work of philosophy and theology based upon purely scientific precepts.
Space, Time, and Nathaniel by Brian Aldiss
A series of short stories by Brian Aldiss, who in my opinion was one of the greatest science fiction authors of the 1960s (he's still writing, and much of his more recnt stuff is very good too, although of a very different character).
Since it is a collection of short-stories it makes good reading material for anyone who doesn't feel that they have a lot of time to read. The story supercity is truly excellent, and I'd advise anyone who likes a good laugh to read it - don't be put off by the title though, it isn't quite what it sounds like.
Duncton Wood by William Horwood
Overall this is a book about moles. Yes the small furry animals which live underground and eat worms. They also (or so Mr. Horwood would have us believe) live, love and most importantly worship just the same as humans do. In fact they suffer, and hate, and persecute each other just as much also. The basic plot revolves around the last follower of the ancient religion of Stone Worship (worship of the standing stones that sit upon the top of Duncton Hill) as he runs from the persecution of the powerful welsh mole Mandrake who has seized control of the mole system beneath Duncton Wood, whilst courting the affections of Mandrake's favourite daughter, Rebecca.
It has a number of sequels (five actually), which form two trilogies, The Duncton Chronicles which deals with three generations of moles in their struggle to bring Stone Worship back to the hearts of moles, and The Book of Silence which takes place at least another generation after the end of The Duncton Chronicles, and covers a period of Religious schism within moledom.
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back,
What very well may be the greatest (not to mention the darkest) work of children's fantasy ever written in the english language deals with the final battle between the ancient forces of The Dark and The Light. Set in a backdrop of English countryside, Welsh mountains, and Cornish villages the sequence of books (starting with Over Sea under Stone) gets progressively darker as each book follows from the last, until its culmination at the end of Silver on the Tree, which simply must be read to be believed.
The library has all five books in one volume, but my advice is always to start with The Dark is Rising, which is book two of the sequence, since the first book is a little Enid Blyton-like if read by itself.
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