Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mike Lee's Desert Island List of Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 9:02 AM

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Back when we were throwing ideas around for the Scene's annual People Issue, I was quick to nominate Mike and Janet Lee — partly because I wanted an excuse to hang out with them and ask questions, but also because they have some of the most impressively nerdy resumes ever.

Mike writes genre novels, is a seasoned LARPer, and he's on the crew of The History Channel's Full Metal Jousting — a reality show that is just what it sounds like. Needless to say, he's a sci-fi/fantasy expert. And what's the use of being an expert in something if you can't make lists of stuff you think is cool? Think of this as Mike's literary mixtape to you, Country Life's burgeoning sci-fi readers.

1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
OK, I’m cheating here just a bit, but the story was originally written as one, big book, so … Tolkien’s use of myth and language (both real and imagined) defined modern epic fantasy.

2. Dune by Frank Herbert
A powerful, sophisticated space opera that combines political and quasi-religious intrigue with thoughts on human society and evolution. There are mixed opinions about the sequels, but the original is a classic.

3. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Both an essay on citizenship and a war story set in the far future, Starship Troopers is a thought-provoking and gripping read. Probably Heinlein’s best work.

4. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
A classic story by one of the greats of science fiction and fantasy. Anyone who’s ever wanted a telepathic dragon for a pet will love this book and its sequels.

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5. The Black Company by Glen Cook
This is a gritty, dark fantasy story that undermines all the tropes of the fantasy genre and focuses on the struggles of a group of hard-bitten mercenaries caught in a war between rival dark lords. A classic written by one of the best and least-appreciated writers of the genre.

6. Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber
This is the first volume in a series of rollicking, dark fantasy stories about a barbarian swordsman and a charming thief in a wondrous city called Lankhmar. Leiber’s use of language and his inventive storytelling are a treat to read.

7. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Again, the first book in a series of pulp science-fiction novels, A Princess of Mars follows the story of John Carter, a Virginian in the late 1800s, who finds himself mysteriously transported to the exotic, dying world of Barsoom.

8. The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
This is a fantasy story loosely based on the Spanish Reconquista and the legend of El Cid. Kay’s writing is gorgeous and lyrical, and the story is full of adventure, romance — and tragedy.

9. The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
An sci-fi classic about a future humanity’s first contact with an alien race. Pournelle and Niven (both acknowledged masters of the genre) collaborated on a number of stories, but this one is their best.

10. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Another of science fiction’s great visionaries, Asimov wrote a thinking person’s space opera, with grand ideas about human civilization and a scope that spans thousands of years.

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