Fantasy... not really fantasy?

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Orodaran
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Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#1 Post by Orodaran » 25 May 2011 20:35

Since I'm on the lookout for something new to read... is there any book that can be classified as fantasy, but at the same time totally strays from your usual elves / dragons / swords / quests / wizards / orcs / wand type of thing??

When it comes to fantasy, I guess I've always been a Tolkien fan before, on more general terms, a fantasy fan. When a couple of years ago I got as a present The Children of Hurin, reading the book it dawned on me with a smile "ah... yes.... this is why I loved the other Tolkien books as a teenager". But I never really felt the need to go and read other stories that would serve Rhapsody some ideas, nor I was ever attracted to this or that fantasy saga.

So, do you have any suggestions for books that are fantasy, but do not involve warriors, elves, magical artifacts, wizards and dragons? something maybe like the books of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, American gods, Mirrormask which was a movie and that is, to me, a great example of a fantasy story not being dungeonish/dragonish), that while having fantastic elements totally stay clear of elves and wizards (Harry Potter turned out to be nice and entertaining, but enough wands and spells for me)?
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#2 Post by Desert_Storm » 25 May 2011 21:41

Well what springs to mind are apparent ones... I guess you have read the Otherland books by Ted Williams, or the Dark Tower by King, that would be the ones I'd start with or that I recommend to people who ask for non-cliche fantasy.
Then there are other books who aren't fantasy at all but give a similar feeling (to me). If the typical fantasy setting is "medieval time plus magic and stuff" you can sometimes remove that "magic and stuff" part and still get a similar reading experience (if you don't fill it with historical accuracy ;) ), A good example for that would be "The Physician" by Noah Gordon, wonderful epic story but I guess everybody knows that too, the same goes for the pillars of the earth, although it offers the fantasy feeling only to a much lesser extent.
Another type of fantasy books are such that play in a more or less normal environment but have "fantastic" elements in them, weird stuff that doesn't happen in normal life and that is somehow supernatural or whatever. I immediately think of Der Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, translated under the same title, really very great book. Speaking of which I'm just reading "The Shadow of the Wind" by Zafon, a book that I borrowed from a friend when I forgot to pack what the Feynman that I'm reading ATM, I'm not sure that I like the writing style and translation (yet, only 200 pages in), but it's certainly fun and compelling and contains some fantastic elements that would make it fall in the same category like the Hesse one when it comes to non-fantasy-books-with-fantastic-elements, though Hesse is a whole other class certainly.
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By the way, I envy you :wink: My list of books that I should/have to/want to/ etc. read grows exponential to my bookshelf, who know how long it's gonna be until I finish a book and not know what to read next ;)
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#3 Post by Gandalf de Grijze » 25 May 2011 21:58

i truely second the The Dark Tower books if you haven't read them already... it is fantasy, but as far from cliche as possible, no elves, no dwarves, no true magic, no dragons or weird/unexplainable animals
there are mutant animals though.. but that isn't cliched..
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#4 Post by Cerbere » 25 May 2011 23:26

I don't remember if you've read a Song of Ice and Fire yet, but that might qualify as what your asking for. It is fantasy, but has very little magic (no spell casters) and no fantastic races. It does have dragons, however.

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#5 Post by Led Guardian » 26 May 2011 07:34

Orodaran wrote:Since I'm on the lookout for something new to read... is there any book that can be classified as fantasy, but at the same time totally strays from your usual elves / dragons / swords / quests / wizards / orcs / wand type of thing??

When it comes to fantasy, I guess I've always been a Tolkien fan before, on more general terms, a fantasy fan. When a couple of years ago I got as a present The Children of Hurin, reading the book it dawned on me with a smile "ah... yes.... this is why I loved the other Tolkien books as a teenager". But I never really felt the need to go and read other stories that would serve Rhapsody some ideas, nor I was ever attracted to this or that fantasy saga.

So, do you have any suggestions for books that are fantasy, but do not involve warriors, elves, magical artifacts, wizards and dragons? something maybe like the books of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, American gods, Mirrormask which was a movie and that is, to me, a great example of a fantasy story not being dungeonish/dragonish), that while having fantastic elements totally stay clear of elves and wizards (Harry Potter turned out to be nice and entertaining, but enough wands and spells for me)?
The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. They're not completely devoid of all those things, but I must recommend them anyway. The only thing it's got in the way of standard fantasy races is Fae, which are like the mythological Sidhe. Most of the magic is actually explained as more of a science then true magic, and there are no wands. They're told mostly in a framed narrative as an autobiographical account, and are beautifully written. It's just the story of a man (naturally a particularly interesting one), so it's much more character driven than story driven. Not at all like most fantasy novels you read. And if anyone has noticed a trend, yes, I will pimp this series at every opportunity.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#6 Post by t.a.j. » 26 May 2011 08:27

Try China Mieville. The guy is amazing and so far off kilter, the straight line tried to divorce him.
Looking for fantasy, I can recommend the three New Crobuzon books: Perdito Street Station, The Scar and Iron Council. All are set in a weird world full of strange and imaginative creatures (not elves and dwarves here) locked during an age of arcano-industrial revolution. Mieville writes in a very artsy style, which tends to make me compare him to William Gibson and has a very keen sense for social structures and the people in them. Highly recommended.
Something slightly different, but still worth reading is The City And The City. It's a crime novel set in two cities which occupy the same physical space.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#7 Post by Orodaran » 26 May 2011 20:15

Ok, thanks a lot for all the input so far, I'm gonna check all those title out and then let my instict guide me, so far in matters of books it failed me only once or twice :wink:
Desert_Storm wrote:By the way, I envy you :wink: My list of books that I should/have to/want to/ etc. read grows exponential to my bookshelf, who know how long it's gonna be until I finish a book and not know what to read next ;)
Well, I've spent the last couple of years with a 6 months backlog of books... the books I was buying in May I was starting to read them in November :P but eventually the list got thin... this is the first time since quite a lot that I have not any book ready to read after the one I'm currently reading.
"There's a time when a man needs to fight and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny's lost, the ship has sailed and that only a fool will continue. The truth is I've always been a fool"
~~~~~~~~~~~~
A slight call afar is tempting me, like a whisper sweet or an awful scream; I cannot ignore what I've always been, I'm leaving again - one last time? in my little kingdom I can be what I really wanted to be... The wanderer

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#8 Post by Desert_Storm » 26 May 2011 20:39

Cerbere wrote:I don't remember if you've read a Song of Ice and Fire yet, but that might qualify as what your asking for. It is fantasy, but has very little magic (no spell casters) and no fantastic races. It does have dragons, however.
Well of course, this really would be the best one to start with IMHO, since it's the best fantasy book I know plus non-chliché fantasy (deep characters, no black-and-white painting, no people being "evil" without having their completely human reason to act how they do, etc.).
The thing about the tower is that it gets very absurd sometimes (those who read it probably know what I mean), but the development of the story and the very intense atmosphere of the series make up for that. Also, the fourth volume is just great.

Anyway, I figure that you've read both series already anyway, just because they are very popular and were generally received very well by audience and critics (especially asoiaf).

Oh yeah, and since you mentioned Neil Gaiman and the enjoyment of Harry Potter, I feel that I should at least mentioned The Books Of Magic, despite your comment about wands and wizards ;) I think it's worth reading it, assuming that you're not afraid of graphic novels. And since we're here, Sandman by the same author is excellent too.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#9 Post by Orodaran » 26 May 2011 20:45

Yeah, I know about the Sandman, stumbled upon The Endless Nights through a mutual friend. Graphic novels aren't really my kind of thing, but for that I may make an exception :wink:
"There's a time when a man needs to fight and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny's lost, the ship has sailed and that only a fool will continue. The truth is I've always been a fool"
~~~~~~~~~~~~
A slight call afar is tempting me, like a whisper sweet or an awful scream; I cannot ignore what I've always been, I'm leaving again - one last time? in my little kingdom I can be what I really wanted to be... The wanderer

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#10 Post by Gandalf de Grijze » 27 May 2011 11:33

I might also suggest the Rose Of The Prophet trilogy from weis & hickmann, though they generally write very clichéd fantasy stuff, this trilogy is not so strongly clichéd, it is more about religious fanaticism in a fantasylike setting.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#11 Post by somnia » 01 Jun 2011 19:57

Dune.

I know, not particularly fantasy, but it actually is. It's much less bullshit than the default sci-fi of today, much more fantasy and epicness. Plus it's basically the LotR of the science fiction fantasy genre.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#12 Post by Gasha » 20 Aug 2011 18:27

Have you read "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell", by Susanna Clarke? I never got into it myself, but it seems kinda' like what you're looking for. A bit Gaimanesque.

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#13 Post by Orodaran » 24 Aug 2011 21:09

Never heard it, it looks like 98% love it and 2% hate it..... I will check into it as well, thanks!
"There's a time when a man needs to fight and a time when he needs to accept that his destiny's lost, the ship has sailed and that only a fool will continue. The truth is I've always been a fool"
~~~~~~~~~~~~
A slight call afar is tempting me, like a whisper sweet or an awful scream; I cannot ignore what I've always been, I'm leaving again - one last time? in my little kingdom I can be what I really wanted to be... The wanderer

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#14 Post by Metal Fan » 06 Sep 2011 03:56

Orodaran wrote:Since I'm on the lookout for something new to read... is there any book that can be classified as fantasy, but at the same time totally strays from your usual elves / dragons / swords / quests / wizards / orcs / wand type of thing??

When it comes to fantasy, I guess I've always been a Tolkien fan before, on more general terms, a fantasy fan. When a couple of years ago I got as a present The Children of Hurin, reading the book it dawned on me with a smile "ah... yes.... this is why I loved the other Tolkien books as a teenager". But I never really felt the need to go and read other stories that would serve Rhapsody some ideas, nor I was ever attracted to this or that fantasy saga.

So, do you have any suggestions for books that are fantasy, but do not involve warriors, elves, magical artifacts, wizards and dragons? something maybe like the books of Neil Gaiman (Neverwhere, American gods, Mirrormask which was a movie and that is, to me, a great example of a fantasy story not being dungeonish/dragonish), that while having fantastic elements totally stay clear of elves and wizards (Harry Potter turned out to be nice and entertaining, but enough wands and spells for me)?

How about Across The Universe by Beth Revis? It's Sci-Fi but completely fantasy, has nothing magical/dragonish/elvish/impossible in it.
Maybe also The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. There is some magic, but only from the Gods (kind of like norse myth.). Also no dragons, etc. There is some fighting, but it's not like Troy or LOTR just slight duel that lasts a page or so. Hamiathes's Gift is thought to be magical but no one ever tests it before they destroy it so it's more like a stone then anything. Nothing strange happens when you hold it, no flight, no invisibility. And when you are done with that, read the other three.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#15 Post by Dragon Guardian » 21 Sep 2011 09:05

I strongly recommend Steven Erikson's the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, a 10 part epic. The story takes place on a vast scale and there are a ton of characters and locations. it completely avoids most of the fantasy cliches. The story doesn't follow the traditional thing of good vs evil and most characters are quite gray. There are many races (unique ones) and gods interfering with mortals although it avoids the traditional stereotypes.

People often compare it to ASOIAF, although i wouldn't know as I haven't read it. Although this one has a ton of magic, the system is very unique.

Be warned though, its a very demanding series as the author deliberately keeps explanations to a minimum, so it will take a while to fully grasp what is going on, but the reader is highly rewarded for reading on. You are thrown right in the middle of a conflict and slowly put the pieces together. There are also lots of POV's and the other frequently skips between characters.

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#16 Post by t.a.j. » 21 Sep 2011 09:07

I read about 200 pages of Deadhouse Gates, the second Malazan book, I think, and found myself very bored. Mostly I found the characters bland and cardboardy. I did like the world, though. It seems very interesting. Interesting enough that I got myself a Malazan book by that other author. See if he bores me any less.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#17 Post by Sarah » 21 Sep 2011 12:17

I'd say Dune too. Maybe i'll read them again soon, but i'm a bit scared i'll find more of the ones written after Herbert's death by his son and whathisname than the original series.

I can't believe i'm almost done with the Pratchett books though. Thankfully, Snuff is getting released soon.

So, by the way, anything Pratchett, if you haven't read them yet. There are dragons and witches and stuff, but it's different. I can't stand heroic fantasy anymore but this i love
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#18 Post by Dragon Guardian » 22 Sep 2011 06:03

t.a.j. wrote:I read about 200 pages of Deadhouse Gates, the second Malazan book, I think, and found myself very bored. Mostly I found the characters bland and cardboardy. I did like the world, though. It seems very interesting. Interesting enough that I got myself a Malazan book by that other author. See if he bores me any less.
I haven't read any of Ian C Esselmont's books yet, although people say his style is quite different from Erikson's.

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#19 Post by wade-newb » 22 Sep 2011 06:54

t.a.j. wrote:I read about 200 pages of Deadhouse Gates, the second Malazan book, I think, and found myself very bored. Mostly I found the characters bland and cardboardy. I did like the world, though. It seems very interesting. Interesting enough that I got myself a Malazan book by that other author. See if he bores me any less.
You're kidding about the flat characters right?!
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#20 Post by t.a.j. » 22 Sep 2011 08:01

Not at all. There's even a princess. And the big, noble savage monster and the mysterious stranger and the tough as nails army veteran with his crew and the girl who used to have super powers because she was possessed by the ninja god of assassins.
It all sounded like the derailed imagination of a 1980ties DnD dungeonmaster who took his homebrew campaign a tad bit to serious.

Also, the prose was not very engaging.
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They say that there's a broken light for every heart on Broadway.
They say that life's a game, then they take the board away.
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret...


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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#21 Post by wade-newb » 22 Sep 2011 08:44

t.a.j. wrote:Not at all. There's even a princess. And the big, noble savage monster and the mysterious stranger and the tough as nails army veteran with his crew and the girl who used to have super powers because she was possessed by the ninja god of assassins.
It all sounded like the derailed imagination of a 1980ties DnD dungeonmaster who took his homebrew campaign a tad bit to serious.

Also, the prose was not very engaging.
That is by far the strangest crit I've ever seen for this book. Even so, Erikson's books always do start off slowly, and climax at the very end. Deadhouse Gates' ending was outstanding, so even if you dislike his characterisations and style, you should complete the book.
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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#22 Post by t.a.j. » 22 Sep 2011 08:47

It was a crit of 200 pages. Don't know about the rest of the book. And I don't think I'll finish it. If it bored my so much so early on and I don'T find the writing enjoyable to read... why bother? There are many other great books out there, I haven't read.
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They say that there's a broken light for every heart on Broadway.
They say that life's a game, then they take the board away.
They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story
Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret...


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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#23 Post by Dragon Guardian » 23 Sep 2011 17:04

Well the Malazan series started off as a dnd campaign between Erikson and Esselmont. The thing with Malazan is that is that the books are rather slow paced and many things that seem random are actually tackled on later. The following book Memories of Ice will finally give an overview of what the main story is about. If you have interest in the story I suggest to keep on persevering as the book rewards you for going on, but if you're bored after DG I suggest to stop as the series won't change its style.

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Re: Fantasy... not really fantasy?

#24 Post by ra me nivar » 11 Oct 2011 11:09

Thomas Fucking Pynchon!

It's impossible, from the fantasy side, to call "Fantasy" to what he writes. It's impossible, from the other side, to call it otherwise.

Also I'm kind of hunting a book series called Worldward, by someone named Harry Turtledove: picture the world in the middle of World War II, and then what happens? An alien invasion! I must have that on my hands (though I can't speak for its quality and I wouldn't bet on it, but that's because I'm a pesimistic).

And also if you hadn't read Neal Stephenson, you sould give Cryptonomicon and The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer a try. It's post-cyberpunk, but in that book nanotech could rank in the fantasy level.

And well, there is a spaniard called Rafael Reig which had written a couple of novels of alternative history, where Spanish Civil War was won by the commies and Spain was invaded by the USA in 1982, and everybody wears Fedoras and Madrid is filled with channels a la Venecia, but I don't know if it's translated to any foreign language...

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