I mentioned in the last post that I was re-reading Pride and Prejudice. While it was my first time re-reading that one, there are several books that I re-read with some regularity.

I'll probably come back to this one in more detail, another time, but Judith Tarr's Hound and the Falcon trilogy was what first got me into historical fiction. Her related Alamut is even better; I'm not sure whether it was the characters or the milieu that drew me in more. But the story of the Assassin(s) never fails to grab, and hold, my attention. Its sequel, The Dagger and the Cross, was also good, but fell well short of the original. Nevertheless, I'd be very happy if she would return to this alternate Earth, whether starring Aidan and Morgiana, or Alfred and Thea, or someone else who hasn't been yet introduced. But given how long it's been since TDATC (around 15 years, IIRC), it seems unlikely. Most unfortunate.

Joel's Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series would not surprise anyone who knew that I've been playing RPGs (mostly only table-based ones) for decades. And I discovered this book shortly after starting to play D&D. But I still read it something like once a year. Sometimes only The Sleeping Dragon, and sometimes the first four books of the series (despite my great enjoyment of the series, particularly the characters of Karl and Walter, I never got the fifth. Especially odd, since I do have the sixth. One of these days, I guess, I'll find it in a used book store).

Another series I regularly enjoy is Tad Williams' deconstruction of "epic" (or "quest", if you prefer) fantasy, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. I'm really not sure what it is about this series that I enjoy so much, but it does make for a very pleasant, if very long, read. As a side note, Tailchaser's Song and Caliban's Hour are both very good, as well. For unknown reasons, though, I've been unable to get into any of his other books.

Every few years I also take a look back at David Eddings' Belgariad. Eddings might not be all that great at plot (look at how repetetive his series are), but his characters are memorable and entertaining. I wish I had taken notes in my last read, as I noticed several things that hadn't occurred to me before. The two that I remember are finally finding evidence that the series is named after Belgarath (I'd wondered for years whether it was supposed to be Belgarath or Belgarion, as a good case could be made for either), and I was amazed at the lack of knowledge of boats displayed (yes, I realize that much of that could have been plot simplification, so perhaps that is why, for instance, river boats and ocean ships are used interchangably).

I would go back and re-read The Lord of the Rings, but it has actually been several years since I could get any enjoyment out of that. I first read it a bit more than twenty years ago, and enjoyed it so much that I read it a half-dozen times in the space of a year or two. Pretty much every time I've tried to read it since then, I've found myself anticipating lines, and that completely destroyed enjoyment of it. There wasn't any wonder left. And that's a hell of a failing in a fantasy. (And I might get into this in more detail in the future, but I'd like to note that the movies were not good. Visually, and perhaps technically, spectacular, but not good. Alas.)

I will occasionally peruse The Silmarillion, though; I still enjoy the First Age stories, in particular. Narn i hîn Húrin and the Lay of Leithian are my favorites. I'm not sure what it signifies that those are the names by which I remember them, though I should point out that I have no interest in reading them as poetry. The former was recently released as a standalone novel, though, so I really should get that and read it.

Another favorite is Feist's excellent Magician books (the first two of the Riftwar). I love both Pug and Tomas, so most of those two books are very enjoyable. But I never really got into (the far more popular, from what I can tell) Arutha, so the rest of the series didn't do much for me. It didn't help that what was there of the other two left me pretty flat. I guess they became too powerful to be interesting. I'm not sure that I'll keep reading these, however; nothing I can put my finger on, but after most recently finishing, I just had a feeling that there was nothing more to be gleaned. (As an unrelated side note, I read Talon of the Silver Hawk fairly recently, and that was terrible. I just never felt like I had any reason to care about the main character. It just felt like, "Ho hum, he's mastered another skill". No emotional involvement, I guess.)

Finally, I should mention Herbert's meisterwerk, Dune. This is the only 500-page book I've ever read that I really felt needed to be that large. Really, it would be hard to cut five pages out of it without it detracting. It deals with so many levels of issues (politics, military, crime & punishment, personal, education, technology, etc) that it's difficult to describe with any degree of precision. I suspect that's a significant part of why the two movie adaptations both failed pretty seriously. The first one was just entirely too short. On my first viewing, I thought it wasn't too bad, but that was largely due to having someone there to fill in the gaps. My biggest problems with the second were largely in casting. William Hurt is a fine actor, but he doesn't have anywhere near the presence and authority described of Leto Atreides (frankly, the only two actors I can think of with that kind of screen presence are Cary Grant and Peter O'Toole). Mr Newman also was unconvincing as Paul. The only plus, I thought, was Julie Cox as Princess Irulan. But really, there's no need for that role to be more than a bit part (which I guess means that they liked her quite a bit, because she was there a whole lot more than necessary).

One other book that I enjoyed a great deal, but strangely do not read with any regularity is Lawrence Watt-Evans' Misenchanted Sword. I ran into this one in college, and loved it. It was a very interesting story about magic gone somewhat wrong, and had a heck of a punchline. And yet, I've still only read it twice. And now that I think about it, several of LW-E's other books I've greatly enjoyed in a first read, but not gone back to. Not sure what it is about them.

I really need to find more new authors, though. Or maybe just spend more time going through the shelves at bookstores. I used to spend a lot more time at that. Of course, I think there also used to be more variety. The amount of space taken up by Star Wars, Star Trek, and various other tie-in novels is quite absurd. And it really cuts into the creativity of the whole section.

One thing that I did find interesting, the last time I really spend some time digging through the section. It seemed like most of the newer authors were women, far more so than in the past. I don't know what that means, but it was quite a surprise for me.

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