Best works of fiction?

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Agent of the International's picture
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Jul 23 2013 18:37
Best works of fiction?

So, the title says it all. Particularly sci-fi and fantasy, but not exclusively.

Title and author.

Thanks.

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Jul 23 2013 20:44

Rendevous with Rama
Arthur C. Clarke

And the rest of the series of course. Really great hard sci-fi.

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Jul 23 2013 21:11

I'm currently reading a book called The Good Soldier Svejk, which is about a amicable, alcoholic chancer who get caught up in the clumsy political, police and military bureaucracy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the beginning of WW1. Svejk constantly sabotages everyone in whose net he finds himself, whilst maintaining an outward facade of innocence to his 'superiors'. It reminds me a bit of Kämpa Tillsammans and others when they talk about 'faceless resistance'. More importantly, it is very funny.

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Jul 23 2013 21:19

Fremder by Russell Hoban. It's sci fi but threads into so many aspects of human life - it's his only sci fi book. This guy is my favourite author.

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Jul 23 2013 21:58

Infinite jest - David Foster Wallace is an amazing novel with sci-fi overtones set in a tennis academy in a dystopian America. It's long and quite complex (it has hundreds of footnotes, which you have to read, and many of the footnotes themselves have footnotes), but it's really worth it

On this subject, especially seeing as Iain Banks has just died, anyone have any recommendations for one of his sci-fi books to read first?

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Jul 23 2013 22:24

Vonnegut, all of it

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Jul 24 2013 10:09
jura wrote:
Vonnegut, all of it

this.

Matt
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Jul 24 2013 10:57
Quote:
On this subject, especially seeing as Iain Banks has just died, anyone have any recommendations for one of his sci-fi books to read first?

I'd really recommend The Player of Games. It's the second in the series and one of the best I think.

I really love Stephen Baxter, it's hard SF but really great in terms of story and ideas. The Xeelee sequence in particular and maybe the Manifold trilogy.

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Jul 24 2013 13:06

Thanks Matt. Jim, The Wasp Factory is great, but it's not one of his sci-fi novels, which he writes as Iain M Banks.

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Jul 24 2013 16:19

Perhaps most Western readers won't be familiar with this: Chingiz Aitmatov: The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years. I can't recommend it highly enough. Also, I was wondering if any of the sci-fi fans here know the Strugatsky brothers? (Their Roadside Picnic is the basis for Tarkovsky's film Stalker.)

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Jul 25 2013 02:21

here's a couple speculative fiction / sci-fi novels that depict anarchist societies in action. pretty awesome!

- The Dispossessed (Ursula K. LeGuin)
- Woman on the Edge of Time (Marge Piercy)

I also recently read and LOVED this memoir:
- Something Fierce: Memoir of a Revolutionary Daughter (Carmen Aguirre)

yeah, not fiction, but it's a great story.

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Jul 25 2013 12:11

Infinite Jest was already named and that is a must read but after that I would recommend "Underworld" by Don Delillo. Published in the same year as Infinite Jest, Underworld is quite similar in terms of its non-linear plot (if you can call it a plot), its formidable length, and most of all its examination of boredom and pain in modern America. Whereas Infinite Jest examines the lives of people who are horribly disturbed mentally, Underworld seeks to examine the lives of people who are quite normal but are simply bored.

It is interesting I think that Infinite Jest reads almost like one of the greatest attacks on capitalism and the spectacle ever written but yet its author David Foster Wallace was a complete idiot when it came to writing about politics. What I never understood about DFW was his constant refusal to abandon his respect for academia and liberalism. If you think about it, here was a guy whose mind was being slowly roasted alive by the inhumanity of capitalist relations and all he did with his intellectual life is defend its core values. It's a sort of deranged self-hatred I think. Maybe this is what separates DFW from the likes of Guy Debord. Whereas DFW spent his whole life writing in defense of the system that was killing him, Guy Debord had enough self-respect that he spent his whole life relentlessly criticizing the society which was destroying him. Of course I guess in the end we all know they both killed themselves so I don't know what difference it really makes.

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Jul 25 2013 21:20

Thanks guys! A lot of these titles sound interesting. Especially Infinite Jest (although 1000 pages!) and Underworld which I'll definitely want to look into.

Soapy wrote:
It is interesting I think that Infinite Jest reads almost like one of the greatest attacks on capitalism and the spectacle ever written but yet its author David Foster Wallace was a complete idiot when it came to writing about politics. What I never understood about DFW was his constant refusal to abandon his respect for academia and liberalism. If you think about it, here was a guy whose mind was being slowly roasted alive by the inhumanity of capitalist relations and all he did with his intellectual life is defend its core values. It's a sort of deranged self-hatred I think. Maybe this is what separates DFW from the likes of Guy Debord. Whereas DFW spent his whole life writing in defense of the system that was killing him, Guy Debord had enough self-respect that he spent his whole life relentlessly criticizing the society which was destroying him. Of course I guess in the end we all know they both killed themselves so I don't know what difference it really makes.

Well I don't know the substance of his critique of capitalism, since I haven't read the book yet, but I think its fair to say that one can be outraged by some of the most apparent and absurd aspects of the system and still not be fully against it. Its also possible for one to be against capitalism while not having much of a critique against it. Like Adbusters for example, which pretty much conflates capitalism with consumerism.

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Jul 27 2013 06:21

The Dispossessed rules! I want to check out the day lasts more than a hundred years also.

in terms of the 1997 stuff i.e. DFW and Underworld, yeah I can understand that liberals often criticize the more absurd aspects of capitalism without a structural critique but reading Infinite Jest one gets the feeling that there really is no hope at all under capitalism. For instance the Leonard family is materially very well off but its members each are inhabitants of their own special hell. I don't see any middle ground offered in Infinite Jest.

I mean for christ sake the book is set in a tennis academy whose students are in an endless competition with one another. Of course the competition makes friendship very difficult. There is no escape from misery for these students. The students who work hard and are successful are just as miserable as the failures who are in constant danger of being kicked out of the camp.

Even though both of these books describe misery, pain, depression etc... in all of their horror, these books are written so beautifully that it just makes you want to cry, or my heart wants to implode or something.

I don't understand how anyone can read these books and still insist that everything is just fine

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Jul 27 2013 12:28

Bad Wisdom by Bill Drummond and Mark Manning is 2 accounts of a real journey to the North Pole, one of them being a 'true' account and the other being a kind of wild fantasy horror.
It is both thought provoking and completely hilarious. It is also one of the most (faux?) misoginistic and egotistical things you will ever see in your life but none the worse for it.
The follow up 'Wild Highway', about their trip to the Congo is even more fascinating.

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Jul 27 2013 12:43

Not entirely all fiction, in fact mostly not, though there are at least 2 chapters interwoven into the book, Primo Levi The Periodic Table does it for me.

Harrison
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Jul 27 2013 15:08
agent wrote:
Best works of fiction?
So, the title says it all. Particularly sci-fi and fantasy, but not exclusively.

Title and author.

Thanks.

any p k dick, generally gets love on libcom, flaneur knows his catalog better than me, but you can't go wrong by reading the book blade runner is based on, 'do androids dream of electric sheep'. ursula le guin is almost the inverse of p k dick, and is also very good. try 'a wizard of earthsea' or one of her space ones

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Jul 27 2013 15:40
Soapy wrote:
Infinite Jest was already named and that is a must read but after that I would recommend "Underworld" by Don Delillo. Published in the same year as Infinite Jest, Underworld is quite similar in terms of its non-linear plot (if you can call it a plot), its formidable length, and most of all its examination of boredom and pain in modern America.

I recently finished Underworld, having read it with high hopes, although unfortunately I found reading it quite a boring and painful experience, which I guess possibly was the intention!

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Jul 27 2013 17:17
Quote:
any p k dick, generally gets love on libcom, flaneur knows his catalog better than me, but you can't go wrong by reading the book blade runner is based on, 'do androids dream of electric sheep'. ursula le guin is almost the inverse of p k dick, and is also very good. try 'a wizard of earthsea' or one of her space ones

Also 'The Man Who's Teeth Were All Exactly Alike'. What a great title for a book!

Mike S.
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Jul 28 2013 09:02

I like Journey Into The End Of The Night although the author was a fascist. I suppose it's the same way I could appreciate Heidegger's work without liking the man. I've been battling pessimism and nihilism lately so Celine's novel struck a cord. I read it years back at University and picked it up again a few months back. This time around I found it hilarious.

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Jul 28 2013 09:17

I enjoyed Alastair Gray's 'Lanark - A Life In Four Books' the first time I read it. Worth a go.

Fleur
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Jul 28 2013 18:03

I've realised that I haven't read any fiction by anyone who's actually still alive for ages and maybe I ought to rectify that, but have you read the grandmother of the genre, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein? It's a fantastic book.
I'm reading The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, at the moment, which is turning out to be excellent.

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Jul 28 2013 18:11

Sorry fleurnoire-et-rouge, I struggled with Master and Margarita, too many characters for me. Though it is one of my partners favourite books. I absolutely loved Heart of a Dog though, laughed me head.

Fleur
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Jul 28 2013 18:29

plasmatelly - it's probably that aspect I'm enjoying about it, I've been a bit under the weather for a while and my memory's been shot, so it's nice to follow something that's a bit more complicated than the trail of post-it notes I've been leaving for myself.

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Jul 28 2013 18:49

Guignol's Band by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Death on the Installment Plan by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
The Fall Revolution series by Ken MacLeod
Red Mars trilogy by Ken Stanley Robinson
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
The Busconductor Hines by James Kelman
Q by Luther Blissett
1982, Janine (Canongate Classics) by Alasdair Gray
I, Lars Hård by Jan Fridegård
The Vulture and the Nigger Factory by Gil Scott-Heron
One Eye Red by Jonas Hassen Khemiri
The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway
Astrotruckers by Mikael Niemi
Popular music from Vittula : a novel by Mikael Niemi
Wetlands by Charlotte Roche

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Jul 28 2013 20:01

For Science Fiction, anything by Iain M banks is ace. His non-genre fiction (without the 'M') is a bit hit and miss, in my opinion, but contains some gems like Whit and The Bridge... and I always thought The Wasp Factory was overrated, although it does have the shock factor.

Altemark mentions Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy which is brilliant. Robinson's Antarctica book is also excellent, as is pretty much everything else he's done. Same goes for Ken MacLeod's stuff. Yes, the Fall Revolution books are great, as is Cosmonaut Keep and its sequels. Most of Philip K Dick's stuff is good as well, personal fave is Man in the High Castle. Now I know he's a Swerp but some of China Mieville's work is top stuff too, especially the Bas-Lag series and The City and the City.

Often overlooked, Adam Roberts is pretty good. His novel Salt is set in an individualistic anarchoid colony on a salt desert planet. His Yellow Blue Tibia is also excellent, as is Gradisil, On and pretty much all his science fiction. Interestingly, Roberts is the same guy who does spoof fiction like Bored of the Rings and The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo, which I've no interest in and never read, but I have to say, his SF is dead good.

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Jul 28 2013 23:32

Just about anything by Graeme Greene. The Comedians stands out but it all about context and where you are that can make a hell of a lot of stuff special. Read The Sea The Sea by Iriis Murdoch recently and it blew me away,...

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Jul 29 2013 01:29
Steven. wrote:
Soapy wrote:
Infinite Jest was already named and that is a must read but after that I would recommend "Underworld" by Don Delillo. Published in the same year as Infinite Jest, Underworld is quite similar in terms of its non-linear plot (if you can call it a plot), its formidable length, and most of all its examination of boredom and pain in modern America.

I recently finished Underworld, having read it with high hopes, although unfortunately I found reading it quite a boring and painful experience, which I guess possibly was the intention!

well maybe you are just not as intelligent and creative as me tongue

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Jul 29 2013 06:42

George Perec's W or The Memory of Childhood is the best book I've read in a while. I was pretty blown away by it. It alternates, chapter by chapter, his memoirs of a childhood he can't remember (grew up during WW2, lost both parents, a Jewish family living in France) with a fictional story about an absurd fascist island civilisation based on the rules of sport. He ties both of these together brilliantly at the end using a quote from David Rousett's Univers Concentrationnaire.

A brilliant and moving book, albeit quite depressing.

Also been reading quite a bit of Italo Calvino recently, and have just started Rainer Maria Rilke's The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge. Only a couple of chapters in, but it seems pretty profound and very well written and translated.

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Jul 29 2013 16:28

Btw, is China Mieville any good? I suppose some of you have read his stuff.

isawamouse
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Jul 29 2013 16:52

Also agree with Auld Bod on Lanark. Read that, and 1982 Janine earlier this year. Got another couple of his books sitting that I haven't got round to yet.