Friday, January 4, 2008

The Book of Joby - Review

I wanted to start off the new year with a book review, but I never expected that my first review would require me to reassess my previous post listing my favorite stand alone fantasy books. Surprisingly, Mark J. Ferrari's debut novel "The Book of Joby" did just that. I'd read a few glowing reviews of the book when it first came out, but for some reason I just couldn't get motivated to buy the book and start reading. I had a gift card to Barnes & Noble waiting to be used, though, and when I saw the trade paperback version, I broke down. Initially, I was still concerned with the biblical reference/background, as I'd never read the actual Book of Job but had heard that it wasn't a particularly enjoyable read.
A few days of voracious reading later, however, I was stunned. Ferrari takes a concept that I doubted could work and constructs a masterpiece. I haven't decided where on my list of favorites "The Book of Joby" will soon be placed, but it is undoubtedly near the top.
The premise of "The Book of Joby" is simple enough: Lucifer despises mankind and bets God that he can make an ordinary person choose to follow the Devil and exploit God's gift of free will. This same bet has taken place throughout history, and Ferrari does a great job of interjecting commentary on prior bet results. Ferrari's writing is wonderful, and the characters of The Creator and Lucifer are brilliantly drawn. While it would be easy to build these two characters in a simply "good/bad" caricature, Ferrari does his very best storytelling when he breaks down the long history of their relationship and the continuous cycle of "bets" they've made regarding mankind. Many of the supporting characters (especially the archangels and Lucifer's minions) are well-developed individuals who drive a great deal of the story as it develops around the protaganist, a young boy named Joby.
What was most fascinating to me (and most impressive) was Ferrari's blending of the Bible, the legends of Arthur and Camelot, and the modern world. Ferrari packs so much into the 600+ pages, but it all flows brilliantly and concisely. The perils which are brought down upon young Joby, and eventually upon the adult Joby as well, are dark and depressing. Much like the protagonist, I found myself reacting viscerally and emotionally to the tragic events that bombard him throughout the story, at the same time I found myself uplifted and encouraged by Joby's resilience and the character of his friends and others he meets along his way. In the end, "The Book of Joby" was thoroughly different than anything I've ever read, and its originality is only overshadowed by the poetic prose and shockingly well-developed characters created by Mr. Ferrari. I would never expect a book of this quality from any of my favorite authors, much less an author publishing his first book. Just an incredible literary achievement, and a wonderfully enjoyable book.
Rating: 9/10
Personal Ranking: Top 10 for sure, uncertain as to its final position.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My favorite Stand-alone fantasy novels

Seeing that Lord of the Rings and other favorites were not listed on the earlier posting, it was fairly obvious that a separate listing of my favorite stand alone novels was also required. Sure, I'd love to plan out an intricately scored and ranked list combining series and stand alones to determine my overall favorites, but that is just too complicated for me to pull off. If this blog gets any momentum, maybe I'll consider it at a future time. For now, here is the latest:

25 Favorite Standalone Fantasy Novels
1 The Anubis Gates – Tim Powers
2 Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 The Last Coin – James Blaylock
4 American Gods – Neil Gaiman
5 The Terror – Dan Simmons
6 The Drawing of the Dark – Tim Powers
7 Fevre Dream – George R R Martin
8 A Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon
9 The Stand – Stephen King
10 Lions of Al-Rassan – Guy Gavriel Kay
11 Morningstar – David Gemmell
12 The Paper Grail – James Blaylock
13 The Little Country – Charles DeLint
14 Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
15 The Once & Future King – T.H. White
16 Tigana – Guy Gavriel Kay
17 Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert Heinlein
18 The Wooden Sea – Jonathan Carroll
19 Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
20 Faerie Tale – Raymond Feist
21 A Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin
22 Imajica – Clive Barker
23 Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
24 The Last Unicorn – Peter Beagle
25 Ysabel – Guy Gavriel Kay

Friday, December 14, 2007

After Further Review, The Top 50 Fantasy Series

Well, 24 hours is all it took to garner enough feedback to recognize the incomplete nature of my previous list. First, the top of the list was overly redundant due to the presence of multiple books from a few series. Second, due to my haste to post, there were a few mistakes (although The Anubis Gates really was good enough to be listed twice!) After taking far too much time to analyze my list and my other reading experiences, I've reformulated the list to consist of my favorite 50 series of all time. This doesn't include stand-alone novels, which I will cover in a separate post soon - and before you get outraged, I consider Lord of the Rings to be a single its not on this list at all. This post was exceedingly difficult to compile, given the incomplete nature of so many series; and how I felt about a few series with only one or two books released so far. I've included some of them in my list despite the fact that I have only a small sampling - based solely on how I feel the series is likely to continue. Given that, there are a few newer series I've listed at the bottom, that may turn out to be great series as well - but its simply too soon for me to tell. Without further ado, the new and improved list (as always, feel free to tell me why I'm wrong):

Top Fifty Fantasy/Sci-Fi Series
1 A Song of Ice and Fire – George RR Martin
2 Malazan Book of the Fallen – Steven Erikson & Ian Cameron Esslemont
3 The Dark Tower – Stephen King
4 The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone – Greg Keyes
5 Memory, Sorrow and Thorn – Tad Williams
6 The Farseer Trilogy – Robin Hobb
7 Night’s Dawn Trilogy – Peter Hamilton
8 The Hyperion Cantos – Dan Simmons
9 The Monarchies of God – Paul Kearney
10 The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever – Stephen Donaldson
11 The Word and The Void – Terry Brooks
12 The Coldfire Trilogy – CS Freidman
13 Harry Potter – JK Rowling
14 Otherland – Tad Williams
15 Chung Kuo – David Wingrove
16 The Prince of Nothing – R. Scott Bakker
17 Demonwars – RA Salvatore
18 The Chronicles of Amber – Roger Zelazny
19 The Fionavar Tapestry – Guy Gavriel Kay
20 Riddle-Master – Patricia McKillip
21 The Book of the New Sun – Gene Wolfe
22 The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
23 The Black Company – Glen Cook
24 His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
25 The Swan’s War – Sean Russell
26 The Tawny Man – Robin Hobb
27 Ender Series – Orson Scott Card
28 Shannara – Terry Brooks
29 Cygnet – Patricia McKillip
30 Lyonesse – Jack Vance
31 Ilium/Olympos – Dan Simmons
32 The Deathgate Cycle – Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
33 The Gentleman Bastards – Scott Lynch
34 The Kingkiller Chronicles – Patrick Rothfuss
35 The Sword of Shadows – JV Jones
36 Drenai Saga – David Gemmell
37 Chalion – Lois McMaster Bujold
38 Discworld – Terry Pratchett
39 The First Law – Joe Abercrombie
40 Tyrants & Kings – John Marco
41 The Ruins of Ambrai – Melanie Rawn
42 Deryni – Katherine Kurtz
43 The Riftwar Saga – Raymond Feist
44 The Book of Words – JV Jones
45 The Liveship Traders – Robin Hobb
46 The Stones of Power – David Gemmell
47 The Symphony of Ages – Elizabeth Haydon
48 The Litany of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
49 Dune – Frank Herbert (& Brian Herbert & Kevin Anderson)
50 The Earthsea Cycle – Ursula Le Guin

Possible Future Entries on the list:
1 The Long Price Quartet – Daniel Abraham
2 The First Law – Joe Abercrombie
3 Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
4 Acacia – David Anthony Durham
5 The Godless World – Brian Ruckley

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Favorite Books

Okay, here it is....the not very long anticipated list of my top 60 fantasy books of all time. I'm not arrogant enough to consider this all-encompassing, as there are many fine authors I simply have not had the time to read yet. Also, there are many older works that I have not been able to obtain for a lengthy list of reasons - but I will work to eventually read many of these as well, and create a more fleshed out list of favorites. For now, this is what I have. More lists/updates to follow in the coming weeks.

This list has been removed in order to avoid confusion and allow me to rectify some errors. Updated list above and those to follow will be much better.

Start of Something??

Alright, after much deliberation as to whether or not I can handle the responsibility of posting regularly on this site, or posting anything worthwhile for readers, or actually having readers....I am going to give it a go.
My purpose here is to give my own opinions of Fantasy and Sci-Fi literature, with occassional reviews or opinions outside the genre as well. I will post later today or tomorrow with my first real "post" on the blog.....and if anyone reads it, I'm sure they will have opinions about it. I will be posting a list of my favorite series, individual books, characters, stand-alone novels and some other interesting categories. I think anyone who reads this post will disagree with some, if not all, of what I have to say - and that's exactly how I want it. While I look forward to posting book reviews and opinions on new releases, etc.; what I am really hoping to create is a "guide" of some sort to the fantasy and sci-fi fields. No, it won't be an all-encompassing guide, nor will it represent any authority or facts...just my opinions about myriad subjects. Hopefully readers (again, if there are any) will be able to use this simply as a resource when they look for their next book purchase or seek a way to sort through their substantial "to be read" piles taking up space on their bookshelves or floors.
When I first started reading fantasy, I was fortunate enough to find the Terry Brooks forum ( where numerous forum members were kind enough to share their thoughts and opinions on authors and series that were available - and I used this resource every week for four years now. What I hope to provide is a "one stop shop" service similar to this resource for anyone else. I look forward to receiving input, opinions, arguments, and suggestions from anyone out there, and hope to serve fellow genre afficianados through this blog.
I'll be back soon.