December 22, 2002

Game Wish 26 Ginger's Wish

Game Wish 26

Ginger's Wish this week:
What three fantasy books/series would you recommend to other gamers? Why? What particularly makes them suitable for gamers to read? Would they be particularly good for novices or better for experienced gamers?

Lots and lots of possibilities and choices. I will exclude the obvious ones, Ginger already noted them anyway (although, Ginger, I don't think The Black Company is obvious, I only came across them a couple of years ago myself, but then the balance of my fictional reading skews more toward SF than Fantasy than many of our coterie (that in itself could be a blog entry for me to talk about)). I will also restrict myself to ones in print, stuff that you, the readers can pick up in a store today, or grab on amazon right now.

1. The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance
Before the Lord of the Rings, nearly before The Hobbit, certainly before fantasy was cool, there was Jack Vance. One of the first F/SF books to be published in hardcover, it has become a seminal work of the genre, and only in the last couple of years been in print again, so newer readers disinclined to the library might not have read it and might not have a copy.
Get it as soon as you can. If not for The Dying Earth, there might not be fantasy gaming, or at least not as we know it, Gary Gygax took much from Vance in his creation of D&D. The magic system, especially, but colorful characters, quests, adventures, Vance was as much an influence on Dungeons and Dragons as Tolkien was. Gamers will find ideas for spells, personalities for characters, and the belief that their creations can reach for lofty goals. The characters in the Dying Earth range in power levels, something reflected in the new Dying Earth RPG, and thus it shows that characters need not be static, and can grow and evolve in ability. For GMs, the Dying Earth is a baroque, ornate universe that they can mine for ideas for their own.

2.The Vlad Taltos Novels by Steven Brust
If a nonsensical and impossible statement as "The Heir to Zelazny" can be made, Steven Brust might be that Heir (although Steve better look at his rear view mirror, Gaiman's been doing great work in Zelazny's vein too lately). Draegera started its life as a role playing universe, so with that in mind, gamers especially fall in love with Brust's universe and characters. Mobsters! Poisonous Jhereg! Sorcerers and Swashbucklers! Between the 17 Great Houses, the Easterners and others, Brust shows how a myriad templates of characters can get along and exist together, and work together, and scheme against each other. Gms can mine ideas for byzantine plots and twists and turns, too. There isn't an official RPG per se, but there are Mushes and PBEMS based on this work, and rightly so. And the writing is just damn entertaining.

3.Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
Sorry Jordan fans, but the best Epic fantasy series being done today, in my opinion, is George R.R. Martin's series, now up to its third volume with the fourth due in April. Loosely based on a world reminiscent of the Wars of the Roses, the series revolves around that chestnut of many Amber games, a Throne War. Several scheming families and individuals try and take advantage of the power vacumn, with pyrotechnic results. There are even villains that, if you don't actually like, you can sort of root for, their motivations and internal thoughts give them sympathy and character. (Tyrion Lannister, to name just one). And that is perhaps the greatest strength, and what gamers should look for--characters to care about. The idea that a "villain is a hero in his own mind" comes true here, everyone has shades of grey, and the villains themselves do things with the best of (their) intentions. There is not much magic about, by the standards of the genre anyway, and I even with disgust read a review which scolded Martin for using a fantasy universe rather than the "real thing". Ignore that, and enjoy some of the best writing in the genre today. (The third book in the series was nominated for a Hugo, considering how rarely fantasy novels are nominated for the award, that is high praise indeed from the fans). Posted by Jvstin at December 22, 2002 4:51 PM