Authors and series of books I enjoy.. the ones that feature prominently in my mind now

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danlock

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Sep 30, 2020
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I really enjoy well-written hard science fiction. Sometimes, though, there are authors whose books are captivating and enthralling, no matter how many times I go back and read them again! Even if the bulk of the stories in the volumes containing multiple books in a series might seem more like fantasy...

One reason I can go back and re-read books I've read before is my TBI (traumatic brain injury), which causes my memory to fade much more quickly than it did before and my mind to function much more slowly than it did previously, back when reading again things I'd previously read was tedious because I already knew all the details. ...which didn't prevent me from reading the usual famous books by Tolkien and H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury, etc., multiple times as a kid (it made writing book reports on Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in English classes even easier since I knew the source well), but the TBI changed all that. Books I hadn't previously read became almost like new again after reading them and some time had passed... and although I tend to remember them a lot better now than I did in the beginning, they're still great.

Here's are some books/series I tend to return to time and again:

Author: Gene Wolfe​

This particular series I read and re-read, never growing tired of them (unless I've just finished them).

Brilliant works from a man who said he tried to write good literature.


“My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.”
― Gene Wolfe



I can't say enough good about these books!

The Gene Wolfe books I especially love take place
  • A million years (or was it hundreds of millions of years?) in the future of our home planet, at which time it is known as Urth, the sun is a fading red giant, enormous in the sky and a dim red color, and the Moon is green from all the trees on its surface. Aliens (not called ETs or aliens) live among humans and wear masks to avoid frightening humans. Some wear many layers of masks. Twists and turns aplenty occur in these volumes!​

It begins in a future so distant our civilization is no longer even a memory, and the remnants of science seem like magical forces. ...the sun is dying, and legend speaks of the return of the Conciliator, who will bring about the birth of the New Sun. In the great Citadel (a rocket ship not used for spacefaring but instead repurposed as the ancient home of the guild of the torturers, formally named the Order of the Seekers for Truth and Penitence), young Severian, an orphan–as all are who are taken in by the guild–is an apprentice whose ascension to the next rank is finally approaching. Around the time of the ascension,, though, he is banished for the sin of mercy. He is assigned to act at a post in a distant city, Thrax. An instructor at the guild bestows upon him a gift. He won't arrive there until many events occur on his way through the ancient city of Nessus, which is so old the oldest parts are mostly abandoned, being swallowed by the sea, then many journeys across Urth. There are many mysteries and monsters and odd omens, as a miraculous and mysterious gem falls into his hands. The gem's powers (if the gem has powers, and if what he possesses is what he thinks he possesses) move him to a grander destiny, one he dares not to refuse.​
Together known as The Book of the New Sun, these four books (tetralogy) were called "a masterpiece" by Ursula K. Le Guin, "a lodestone landmark" by Harlan Ellison, and "one of the true classics" by Gregory Benford. My copy, 950 pages long, contains all four and indicates it's the "First SFBC Science Fiction Printing: June 1998". I took some of the above description from the front and back flaps.

1. The Shadow of the Torturer, ©1980 by Gene Wolfe (won the 1981 World Fantasy award)​
2. The Claw of the Conciliator, ©1981 by Gene Wolfe (won the 1982 Nebula award)​
3. The Sword of the Lictor, ©1981 by Gene Wolfe​
4. The Citadel of the Autarch, ©1982 by Gene Wolfe​
  • The Urth of the New Sun, ©1987 GW, is a single-volume followup to The Book of the New Sun which ties up loose ends from the tetralogy and continues the story, telling a grand tale about the coming of the New Sun and traversal of many timelines in a huge ship, with millions of masts and spars and (solar) sails. It is an amazing, awesome, incredible volume, published only in paperback (AFAIK). Its final page is page 372, but boy, those words are tiny and closely-crammed onto the pages.​

Together known as The Book of the Long Sun, this tetralogy comprises:
1. Nightside the Long Sun, ©1993 by Gene Wolfe​
2. Lake of the Long Sun, ©1994 by Gene Wolfe​
(books 1 and 2 combined for SFBC in one volume, Litany of the Long Sun.)
3. Caldé of the Long Sun, ©1994 by Gene Wolfe​
4. Exodus From the Long Sun, ©1996 by Gene Wolfe​
(books 3 and 4 combined for SFBC in one volume, Epiphany of the Long Sun)
  • The books comprising The Book of the Long Sun, enumerated above. In the past (?) of the New Sun tetralogy, inside a giant cylindrical hollowed-out asteroid colony ship people call the Long Sun Whorl, launched ages in the past of the New Sun's primary timeline, there are people, chems (androids and robots who are dwindling in number due to a higher failure rate than "birth" rate), ETs disguised as people who live there (you don't necessarily learn about just who THEY are until the next series), very small and light people known as "flyers" who are actually crewmembers who use mechanical wings to fly near the central column, also known as the Long Sun, and maintain the weather machines and other things, and more. When it's nighttime, you can look up and see the skylights, which are just the street lamps/etc. of primitive cities on the other side. Used as currency are cards and divisions thereof called cardbits, which are computer components from the landers meant for use when the Short Sun Whorl reaches its destination... uh oh!
Together known as The Book of the Short Sun, the final trilogy comprises:
1. On Blue's Waters, ©1999 by Gene Wolfe​
2. In Green's Jungles, ©2000 by Gene Wolfe​
3. Return To the Whorl, ©2001 by Gene Wolfe​
  • The books comprising The Book of the Short Sun, also known as The Book of Horn, written by Horn, just a boy when he lived the story he later narrated and wrote as what became the Book of the Long Sun, co-written and edited by his wife (who was just a girl during the Long Sun days). Decades after The Book of the Long Sun and around 300 years after the Whorl left Urth and had arrived at its destination star system, after many of the colonists have landed (both living and some newly-awakened from those of the hibernation units that are still-operational), some on a planet named Green and others on a planet named Blue. Those are books that take place in Short Sun whorls. Blue is predominantly ocean. Green is covered in trees so tall the tops cannot be seen, with great lianas (vines) hanging from them and many frightening creatures and remnants of civilizations past (although frightening creatures live on Blue too)! Green and Blue are in orbits such that the Long Sun Whorl can be seen at night sometimes (it's now a part of that star system), and so that they come fairly close to each other every (specific number of years... I forgot), during which a great number of Inhumi crosses the gap from Green to Blue, the individuals of which disguise themselves as humans & drink humans' blood. I can't say more without spoilers.​
I have the three volume set known as The Book of the Short Sun in one large (literally; it's 6 inches wide and 9.5 inches tall and 752 pages long, making it over 1.5" (4cm) deep) SFBC-printed volume from March 2001.




ALL the Sun books were merely "translated" by Gene Wolfe and where no English word sufficed to convey the meaning, an approximation was used at his discretion.





(I finished the below Saberhagen info first because that's fresh in my mind; I'm reading through the series now.) (Edit: I'm done now)

Author: Fred Saberhagen (these are more accessible for those with smaller vocabularies than Gene Wolfe's, usually, but can be very immersive nonetheless.)​


Swords books (this link is a good resource for these and other Saberhagen works, as part of his official site.) I suggest you read the Song of Swords (it's the first thing in The First Book of Swords and pretty well explains them free of spoilers. Yay! Song of Swords included in below message after the remainder of this message!

(possible spoiler warning for OTHER text linked to under the red text "ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THE SWORDS" !)

That link also displays his other stuff! His Dracula books aren't my first choice when deciding on a book to read, and I admit to having read none of them. The Berserkers® Saga is more my style than Dracula. They're stories of humans and aliens and war in space, apparently with life-destroying machines.)

What are Berserkers? Aha:

Continued below with the above line "What are Berserkers? Aha:", followed by the remainder of the text!
 
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MacNala

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Sep 18, 2020
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Shame you exceeded the character limit. Have you published a blog on this subject, I for one would like to read it.
 
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danlock

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
160
53
USA
Shame you exceeded the character limit. Have you published a blog on this subject, I for one would like to read it.
I have not published a blog on the subject.

I thought posting it here was relevant, though, because @Steve often discusses with Leo books and video series he enjoys during episodes of Security Now! and was talking about having just finished his third reading of Book 10 of the Frontiers Saga, on the most-recent episode (SN #821) ....and I'm not sure they've ever talked about either of the two book series I've discussed here. These two are just the series that came to mind at the time, but Gene Wolfe, though now having passed on, is really something special, and the possibilities the 12 Swords imagined by Fred Saberhagen, enable are intriguing. Saberhagen also passed relatively recently.

Because I had already finished the Fred Saberhagen segment of the message before I started on the Gene Wolfe section, it's already written, as I mentioned: "(I finished the Saberhagen info first because that's fresh in my mind; I'm reading through the series now.)"

I'll post a new reply with the remainder of the message, which I saved before cutting it off.

I'm not sure it saved all the formatting when I copied and pasted it into a LibreOffice .odt document. I'll open it and copypasta the remaining text back into the forum's editor.

Edit: I'm pretty sure that most of the formatting was preserved. I merely had to change the font size on the carry-over question and remove extra vertical spacing between paragraphs.

I can think of a few other series, now, potentially... but I won't consider them until I've finished talking about the books I referenced by Gene Wolfe.
 
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danlock

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
160
53
USA
(remainder of original post)

What are Berzerkers? Aha:
Automatons loosed in some forgotten war, the machines moved as raiders through the galaxy, destroying whatever life they could find and overcome.


now: The Fred Saberhagen Book series I read from time to time, which I own in Omnibus form thanks to the SFBC, multiple books per hardback volume:

  • The Book of Swords (comprising The First, Second, and Third books)
  • The Lost Swords: The First Triad, The Lost Swords: The Second Triad, The Lost Swords: Endgame. The first two contain three novels each; Endgame contains two. Each of these eight novels focuses on one Sword. They essentially also continue the story started in the 3-volume Book of Swords. Others of the novels might read more like mysteries or other genres (a welcome style change in the same universe!).
    • The mystery is told in The Third Book of Lost Swords: Stonecutter's Story, which doesn't continue the foregoing story much.
  • An Armory of Swords: Eight Tales of Swordsby various authors, exploring some mysteries of the Swords.
I wonder if Ardneh's Sword, the one I haven't read, published by Tor/2006, contains might contain any insight on the items left vague in the other 12 books.

Information on Earth in the Swords books. I didn't spoil anything not already clearly explained while establishing the world, AFAICT, and a lot more specifics can be learned by reading the books' dust covers/backs; also, the site above has many samples from the books.

Interestingly, most factions/political affiliations on the (40-50K years hence) Earth can be discerned or distinguished by a frequently two-toned badge worn on the clothing or carried as a flag or on a riding beast (not quite a horse, but close... with articulated? footpads) or a warbeast (feline, three times the size of a man, very muscular) or loadbeast (like an ox? also different, often pulls covered wagons), or by plain-colored robes worn. Traveling pilgrims wear gray and if carrying a weapon, it is not prominent.

WHY ARE THESE BOOKS INTRIGUING?


Many possibilities arise on a future Earth where magic exists and twelve Swords with varying abilities were forged by the limping god Vulcan so the gods could play a game: to see how humans would react to having the meter-long, razor-sharp, black-hilted 12 Swords in their world. Vulcan is one of many giant and proud gods of mythical ancient Roman and Greek origin. These gods existed merely because humanity created them in some fashion by believing in them, before an inevitable shift occurred in the collective mind of humanity at the end of the first trilogy and the gods faded, leaving behind the almost-invincible magic Swords, along with magic, demons, dragons, etc.

Dragons, whose scales are impervious to mundane blades, as you might expect, experience several distinct stages during their life cycles, if they live long enough, causing them to be categorized by the stage of their lives, something dictated by their mass: swimmers, walkers, flyers, landwalkers, VERY RARE great worms.

Demons are localized undefined anomalies, malevolent intelligences without souls, that cause nearby humans to feel nausea, confusion, and a general malaise. They devour the life from living things, leaving behind empty husks. When they speak, Demons' voices are indefinite but are sometimes compared to wind blowing dead leaves across dry bones. They DO have souls, though, and can be killed by ending the life of the soul, wherever it is hidden (a jar, an amulet, a leather pouch?)

In this world absent of technology*, rapid communication occurs via flying animals such as birds, some intelligent enough to deliver messages vocally, others who carry rolled scrolls tied to their legs, or other flying creatures like reptiles or monkbirds, a genetic cross between a monkey and a bird (with bird feet that are more like monkey feet, including opposing thumbs) that use a rudimentary language, known usually by trained beastmasters. A monkbird or other flying animal(s) traveling with a party can be sent on ahead, flying past obstacles or over hills, etc., then return to explain what lies ahead to one who understands.

Other things live on Saberhagen's future Earth, such as mysterious, ancient beings, creatures of fairytale and story such as mermaids, and many humans, from kings/queens/barons/dukes in castles to medieval-type commoners who work as bakers, farmers, millers, smiths, and the like.

*TECHNOLOGY: Also present are "cold, unflickering white lights" and other strong city-encircling walls and items which remain as mysterious relics of the Old World, powerful, ?black? 'magic' called technology.

Each god-forged Sword has specific traits, purposes, strengths, and weaknesses, and all Swords are more powerful than any lesser magics in the world. What of opposing Swords? Considering the possibilities tickles the brain when the aspects of the swords are known!

Temples (organizations, religions) on Earth at this future time when no technology exists except the ancient remnants:
  1. the Red Temple, where attendees pay to obtain pleasure (of all sorts: sexual, drug-induced, gambling, all manner of addictions, including many strange things and creatures unknown to 21st Century Earth), revolting-sounding things that waste away the addicts on the lowest levels of the temple, which grows more decrepit and foul-smelling the lower one descends. The Red Temple keeps some things of relative importance, too, which are sought by...
  2. the Blue Temple, devoted to attainment of and hiding away of possessions and wealth (no matter the purpose or greater good something might do, if it has any value, the Blue Temple stashes it in a secret, hidden underground vault with multiple layers of security: white-skinned humans with huge eyes and huge hands, evolved underground to categorize (or at least place in rooms or piles) the Blue Temple's hoard, magical security (illusory, alarming, necromancy/suspended animation?), technological/mechanical, and other protections).​
  3. Temples of healing, where the white-robed devotees of the dead god Ardneh live. They are basically distant future-Earth's doctors. As such, they are seen in a positive light by both most people. Ardneh might have sacrificed his/her/its own extensive life to cause the great change after the previous, nuclear and age when evils were prevalent in humanity and externally, some 40K? years before the books (iirc).​
Draffut, the giant-sized hairy mortal creature which takes special care not to hurt humans and heals all he/she/it touches was alive those many years ago when the world shifted. Incorrectly worshiped as a god by some people, Draffut is something like a large, genetically-enhanced intelligent dog which walks on hind legs like a man, speaks (FAR less than spoken to), and has faintly luminescent fur which makes most things it touches seem moving, alive, or thriving while the contact persists. Humans, especially, are rapidly healed by Draffut's touch.

Ardneh, a computer on the Moon, is dead.
It's smart to launch equipment beyond Earth with redundancy present; there is an inactive backup, Ardneh 2.



THE SONG OF SWORDS
©Fred Saberhagen

Who holds Coinspinner knows good odds
Whichever move he make
But the Sword of Chance, to please the gods
Slips from him like a snake.

The Sword of Justice balances the pans
Of right and wrong, and foul and fair.
Eye for an eye, Doomgiver scans
The fate of all folk everywhere.

Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, how d'you slay?
Reaching for the heart in behind the scales.
Dragonslicer, Dragonslicer, where do you stay?
In the belly of the giant that my blade impales.

Farslayer howls across the world
For thy heart, for thy heart, who hast wronged me!
Vengeance is his who casts the blade
Yet he will in the end no triumph see.

Whose flesh the Sword of Mercy hurts has drawn no breath;
Whose soul it heals has wandered in the night,
Has paid the summing of all debts in death
Has turned to see returning light.

The Mindsword spun in the dawn's gray light
And men and demons knelt down before.
The Mindsword flashed in the midday bright
Gods joined the dance, and the march to war.
It spun in the twilight dim as well
And gods and men marched off to hell.

I shatter Swords and splinter spears;
None stands to Shieldbreaker.
My point's the fount of orphans' tears
My edge the widowmaker.

The Sword of Stealth is given to
One lonely and despised.
Sightblinder's gifts: his eyes are keen
His nature is disguised.

The Tyrant's Blade no blood hath spilled
But doth the spirit carve
Soulcutter hath no body killed
But many left to starve.

The Sword of Siege struck a hammer's blow
With a crash, and a smash, and a tumbled wall.
Stonecutter laid a castle low
With a groan, and a roar, and a tower's fall.

Long roads the Sword of Fury makes
Hard walls it builds around the soft
The fighter who Townsaver takes
Can bid farewell to home and croft.

Who holds Wayfinder finds good roads
Its master's step is brisk.
The Sword of Wisdom lightens loads
But adds unto their risk.

 
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danlock

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
160
53
USA

(PLACEHOLDER MESSAGE)​
(I've just completed: edits and clarifications and fixes to the text in the above message. And now for something a little different)
---

Some other books by Gene Wolfe I used to read more frequently than I do now concern a soldier in the ancient world named Latro. This soldier has an injury which causes him to forget everything that has happened within hours unless he writes it on a scroll before the memory fades. I once related to those stories more than I do now, when my TBI was relatively recent, because I felt very similar to the soldier at the time, as far as my memory was concerned.

Something interesting: Severian, the protagonist in The Book of the New Sun (first tetralogy discussed in this thread), remembers even the smallest details of everything that occurs to him and what he thinks (but not quite, though he insists it's the case, as one who reads carefully will notice—Wolfe seems to frequently employ the storytelling device known as The Unreliable Narrator) and the Soldier books explore, more or less, the opposite of that.

How strange my life has been; prior to my TBI, I felt much as Severian feels, as if I remembered nearly everything (but not as much as Severian), and afterward I am much more like Latro, who forgets most things (but not to the extent that Latro does)!

MORE TO COME! Edit: Maybe...

In case you find you have a desire to read them before I find my way back here to expand this page, those Soldier books by Gene Wolfe are entitled Soldier of the Mist (1986), Soldier of Arete (?), and another which had not been published/written (er, "translated from a scroll") by the time my mental focus had shifted toward other things, such as obtaining a university education while reading the later books in the Sun Saga and the works of Saberhagen (also discussed above). For whatever reason, I never learned of the third Soldier book, so I never read it.

Before the Foreword of Soldier of the Mist, which describes the (fictional) discovery of the scrolls and how they were determined to contain etchings/writing after being auctioned by Sotheby's, is written: "Although this book is fiction, it is based on actual events of 479 B.C."





  • Another book (series of books) I enjoy is RINGWORLD by Larry Niven and the books he wrote later to elaborate upon the lore and story of the Ringworld...
 
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