Thursday, April 22, 2004

There's Specfic in Your Eye

Since I'm in a list-making mood, here are my top three books in the field of speculative fiction. Though I've read tons of these books, these were ones that blew my mind:

1. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. In the aftermath of the Lord of the Rings, most fantasy books dealt with quests for magical swords or rings. Tigana was the first book I read that dealt with a quest-- the struggle-- to recover a name. In particular, the name of the nation. This is basically a story of revenge against a foe who has tried to destroy your legacy.

Ironically, when Kay was going around Poland and Croatia for book signings, the single most common recurring question asked him was, ‘Were you writing about us?’

When I toured for Tigana, which is about oppression and the eradication of a culture, the importance of naming and language to identity, they stood up in Zagreb, Warsaw, and Cracow, and asked me, ‘Were you writing about us?’ I was deeply moved and touched, because I was and I wasn’t. I was writing about all such scenarios.

It was this idea-- the use of fantasy to look into ideas and concepts that we encounter in the real world in stories without being limited by reality as mainstream literature or literary fiction is-- that knocked me for a loop.

2. Imajica by Clive Barker. From the author/ creator of 'HellRaiser' and 'Nightbreed' (yes, they were short stories/ novelletes made into movies). How do I describe this one? From Kirkus Reviews:

An astonishing feat of the imagination, immensely engrossing despite its demanding--at times indulgent--length, running riot with ideas, fantastical inventions, graphic sex and violence, soul- terrors, and emotional and intellectual resonances.

Barker's horror has almost always veered into the fantastical and the very, very weird. That is why I like this-- how do I say this-- first-rate metaphysical fantasy: it shows the boundaries of horror and fantasy as being quite thin in places.

3. Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Simmons, a prolific writer of different genres, won the Hugo-Award in 1990 for this (his first outright, I think) science fiction novel. This is a space opera framed in a 'Canterbury Tales' set-up, with tales ranging from the epic, to military fiction, to religious, to a detective tale complete in tone and style. With a lot of literary allusions to Geofrey Chaucer and John Keats, too.

Hey, what more can you ask for?

Of course, this recommendation is the only one among the three that can't be read alone (its finale being Fall of Hyperion and the story later taken up in Endymion and Rise of Endymion). Still, if you want to see where science-fiction is going, this is a good place to start.

All in all, good representations from the field of speculative fiction.

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