After Holly’s recent post about 5 books she has not read but feels like she should, I thought I would do a similar sort of post – but while I have been working on trying to get through many of the stand-alone classics of science fiction, or at least a book or two by the big name authors, something still stops me.
The Big Series.
A couple of them I have read, not realizing quite what I was getting into when I started. Like Game of Thrones, and the Dark Tower. I shied away from anime in high school, and really should probably be more careful of comics now, because I can get so easily sucked into series. And read the entirety of them, often at the expense of other things.
So here I give a list of ten daunting book series, in no particular order, which I have read various amounts of – and much of which I, too, have sitting on my shelves waiting for me to consider and start. I will also talk about where one might start with these series.
Okay, I’ve read almost all of Dune. And I own all them. However, the recent additions, living variously between the different titles, I have not read. There was always an interesting mystique to these in-between periods, the longest of which was 3500 years when Frank Herbert was writing – and longer, with the Butlerian Jihad novels being written by his son. But slowly, the gaps are being closed.
So, what do I suggest to the new reader of Dune? There is much to be said for starting with Dune itself, but many of the best characters… well, they’re pretty well developed in the House books. So maybe start there if you’re considering Dune.
The Dragonriders of Pern
I read a good chunk of these when I was younger. The first three (Dragon Flight, Dragon Quest, and The White Dragon) were a good place to start. And I read a couple others from the same era of the world, then things kind of wrapped up in All the Weyrs of Pern.
So I walked away from the series. But there are so many other books! Other characters, parallel worlds, now being continued by her family… I still think those first three books are the right place to start, but where to go from there? I still don’t know. I loved The Masterharper of Pern – and even have a copy signed by Anne McCaffrey!
We were turned onto this series just a couple of years ago, and, new to our Kindles, picked up the jumbo, three-in-one, giant paperback version. Then, when contemplating reading it, we realized that a Kindle version of this mondo book would probably be much more manageable.
Then we found out there’s at least another trilogy of these, and the combined weight of books and history and dragons set against us is mighty! Neither Holly nor I have started reading Temeraire, but someday we will. Possibly after we re-buy it on Kindle.
I have at least read something by Terry Pratchett. Well, somewhat by Terry Pratchett. Good Omens. Oh, haven’t read Good Omens? Go read Good Omens.
Where to begin with this? People who try to talk me into reading it point out that there is not an overarching plot, more like a series of various character plots when combined are the world. I was even gifted Eric, a book somewhere randomly in the series but which is apparently a good starting place for Discworld. But the completionist in me would want to start with The Colour of Magic and work my way from there. Holly took a more practical approach and started with a stand-alone story, Small Gods. So maybe I’ll start there.
I’ve read Ender’s Game, like the good science fiction fan I am. But where to go from there? There are two different series which branch off directly from Ender’s Game, both of which intrigue me. And I’m worried about spoilers from one to the other. And now there’s an immediately afterwards book, which maybe I should read that first?
I was gifted Ender’s Shadow, so that’s as likely a place to start as any. Or, there’s Speaker for the Dead, except I don’t think I can read Holly’s copy, which is signed by Orson Scott Card.
Also, if they continue going with movies after the Ender’s Game movie: what plot-line do you follow for the next movie? If that happens, it might lead my planning on what to read.
Malazan Book of the Fallen
So here’s a series with a lot of big long books to it. There are some that seem to be numbered in an order, and others that seem to stand alone as tales within the world. Where to start? Probably with book one, I suppose: Gardens of the Moon.
This series was recommended to me as “better than Game of Thrones,” in terms of the author having more complicated plots, things like that… and writing the books much more quickly! This is the big problem with Game of Thrones, of course: waiting for the next book.
Tales of the Black Company
I have to admit, I don’t know too much about this series. It wasn’t recommended to me, I haven’t read any of it… it just seemed interesting at the store, and I bought it. Well, the three book combo pack of it. I mean, no, we never do that… Dark fantasy tales can be fun, and it seems like it could be good.
There’s at least another trilogy that I saw about the Black Company, and I stopped myself buying the second three-book set, at least. So that’s something. But yet another one that would have a lot of reading ahead for me – at least it seems to be a direct, chronological series!
I have read just about all of R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms books, and love the Forgotten Realms both from this and from games like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. However, I have not read the other main Forgotten Realms books: the Elminster books, by Ed Greenwood.
Are we sure that’s a real name? Seems well suited to writing D&D fantasy books, is all.
I think these books are chronological, and looking at them, they even seemed to have moved on to tales about Elminster’s daughter. Oh, wait, those might overlap some of the other books… darn it. Also, I haven’t really seen any good combo sets… though really, I ought to be smart and look for those on Kindle.
The Wheel of Time
So, my dad loves these and recommends them to me… kind of. I remember him telling me about reading them, and how the plot started to meander as the books got popular… until eventually, he wrote a prequel. So, my dad said, reading the series, he would hit this point, and then loop back to book one after reading the prequel. And just keep looping.
Then Robert Jordan died.
Now his family is continuing it, and I feel like I have enough of that with reading the Dune books by Brian Herbert. So I don’t know if I ever will read these… But I have heard such good things, I feel like I ought to.
The Sword of Shannara
Here is the underlying basis, really, of this post. I wanted to get into this series, and I got The Sword of Shannara, and read it, and it was pretty good. There were some mysterious things in it, many of which played out and were answered within the book, and many others of which seemed like a solid basis for there being other books.
Then I read the prequel, First King of Shannara. And all of the things that were mysterious in Sword of Shannara are taken as basic knowledge in the prequel. They are explained, by characters who know what all the answers are. Some cool things happen, but if I had read them in the other order, I would have been spoiled, and Sword of Shannara would have been really boring.
So I kind of recommend starting any series by reading the prime, main, first book. Even if you then go back and read prequels, and parallel stories, and the other things that pop up around that original story. But read the original, with all the mystery and newness intact. Then explore from there.
But the daunting thing is, where to go from there? Often a hard question. For instance, I was gifted a novel that is the start of the Shannara world, but it feels like spoilers, and I wonder if I should read the original Shannara trilogy first, or what.
Big Discworld fan, so I can chime in there.
You’ll definitely want to start with Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic — those are the first two books and Terry works on a much broader travelogue scale there than in the later books, which tend to narrow focus on one specific area. There are several major characters / concepts that get introduced in those two that end up popping up all through the others. He does a great job making each book very accessible to a new reader, and allowing you to read them in any order, but he also gets a lot of mileage out of in-jokes that carry over from book to book, so the more you’ve read the more you’ll get out of them.
Pratchett also tends to write trilogies focusing on some of the more popular characters, and a good way to approach it is to subdivide them into groups based on that, as they tend to have particular satire on a certain genre within the larger Discworld setting: for instance, the Watch books about Sam Grimes and the Anhk-Morpork City Watch are parodies of hard boiled crime and police prodcedurals, while still being broader satires of fantasy on top of that.
I would go Color and Light Fantastic, and then Equal Rites, which is a hilarious take on gender issues when a young girl is mistakenly bequeathed the power of a dying wizard (who doesn’t realize the infant is a girl). The problem is, in Discworld, girls are witches and boys are wizards and those age-old lines never get crossed. Color and Light deal heavily with how magic works in the setting and Rites expands on that even further (and those three are also fairly short, by series standards, fast and quick reads).
Can’t recommend Discworld — or Pratchett — highly enough.
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