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Postby Deiwos on Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:40 pm

KillerFish wrote:Deiwos: Would have thought you'd suggest the Eddings(s).

*Grins* I decided that people might be getting a bit tired of hearing me recommend him, and *Grins up at the quote* It seems I didn't have to. :P
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Postby Nimelennar on Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:40 pm

VOR wrote:The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay


I agree with the rest of the books on your list, but no, not Fionavar. If you want to read good Guy Gavriel Kay, read The Last Light of the Sun, or A Song for Arbonne, or, my personal favorite, Tigana. Fionavar is every fantasy cliche thrown together, a blatant rip off of The Silmarillion, and no male and female can be in the same room for more than ten minutes without having the hots for each other. Also, everything wraps up way too nicely in the end. His writing style is a bit awkward in Fionavar, too: it really irks me. Can't say exactly why without the books in hand, but it does. Don't get me wrong: it's decent, and I somewhat enjoyed it. However, it was also the first novel that he'd published, and he's improved light-years since then.

If you want better indication of what Kay's capable of, read Tigana. Don't read Fionavar first: it almost turned me off of Kay altogether, and that would have been a great tragedy.

Anyway, my recommendations:
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
The Riftwar books by Raymond E. Fiest
The Elvenbane series, by Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey
The Wiz Biz by Rick Cook (I lost my copy, and I've been despairing about it for years... Lots of good programming jokes)
Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Acorna by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Anne Scarborough
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The Recluse series, by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Everything Orson Scott Card has ever written (start with Ender's Game)
The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny.

That should keep you going for a few years...
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Postby Random_Sage on Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:29 pm

Hmm, most of the good Science fiction and fantasy books I've read have already been mentioned, but I would suggest some of the books by Greg Iles. In particular The Footprints of God and his historical fiction novels, Black Cross and Spandau Phoenix. I also like his other novels, but I do suggest that if you plan on reading his newest book, Turning Angel, that you be prepared for some slightly disturbing stuff.
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Postby Lomgren on Mon Mar 20, 2006 2:57 pm

Nimelennar wrote:
The Wiz Biz by Rick Cook (I lost my copy, and I've been despairing about it for years... Lots of good programming jokes)


I don't know if you can stand ebooks, but Baen books has a free ebook library on their main site, with completely unencrypted formats... with the Wiz Biz as part of it.
http://www.baen.com/library/rcook.htm

And for the rest of the books in the library, just go to the below:
http://www.baen.com/library/
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Postby Kyrio on Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:08 pm

It's probably just easier to quote myself from another forum.

The Dragonriders of Pern :: Anne McCaffrey

Books in the Series:
Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, Dragonsinger, Dragonsong, Dragondrums, The Renegades of Pern, All the Weyrs of Pern, The Dolphins of Pern, Dragonsdawn, The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall, Dragon's Eye, Moreta: Weyrwoman of Pern, Nerilka's Story and more

Synopsis:
Rukbat is a distant star in the Saggitarius Sector. The third planet from this star, named Pern, was colonized by refugees of Earth in the Sol System during an epic war. They came seeking peace and the canibalized their ships to start a new society. However a stray planet had been found its way into an orbit with Rukbat and with it came a volitle fungus-like organism that devoures any organic material in seconds. Every 250 years, this planet is close enough to make a Pass, or period where the planet drops this deadly "Thread" onto Pern and her people. The colonists used an indiginous creature to combat this enemy. They were named Dragons due to their resemblance to the Terran Myth. Thousands of years later, Thread has not fallen for 400 years, but the dragonriders know it's coming. They attempt to prepare the planet for its lifelong enemy, but the Pernese people don't wish to listen.

Personal Evaluation:
This is an amazing series. Anne McCaffrey is an amazing author. The series currently has around 15 books, but mostly it's the same story, just from a different person's point of view. I suggest reading the Dragonrider Trilogy ("Dragonflight", "Dragonquest", and "The White Dragon") then the Harper Hall Trilogy ("Dragonsinger", "Dragonsong", "Dragondrums"). Then the remaining three of the main story ("Refugees of Pern","All the Weyrs of Pern", and "The Dolphins of Pern"). The rest focus on events in past passes, but are still intersting. Overall, the entire series is a must read.

The Dragon Knight Series :: Gordon Dickson

Books in the Series:
The Dragon and the George, The Dragon Knight, The Dragon at War, The Dragon at the Border, The Dragon, The Earl, and the Troll, The Dragon and the Djinn, the Dragon and the Gnarly King, the Dragon in Lyonesse, the Dragon and the Fair Maid of Kent.

Synopsis:
James "Jim" Eckert is a graduate student at Riveroak University. He and his girlfriend Angie, live mediocre lives in the twentieth century. However, due to a lab accident, Angie is transported to another time. Jim follows, but finds he's left his body home! He wakes up in the body of a dragon in the fourteenth century! With the help of Mage Carolinus, he goes trough life in the middle ages as one misfortune after another seem to follow him around. It's almost too much for a man...or a dragon. Even if they're the same person!

Personal Evaluation:
Another amazing series, each book ends without much closure, possibly to make it easier to make another book in the series, unfortunately the author has died before resolving his last cliffhanger. The series is fantastic, and not as complex as my previous suggestion. It's still an interesting read.
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Postby Demonic Duck on Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:22 pm

Discworld novels by Terry Pratchet. The first in the series is called "The Colour of Magic". I find the Discworld novels basically range from fantasy stories with a humorous twist, to hilarious stories with a fantasy theme. But either way, good books to read, whether they leave you rolling on the floor laughing or merely chuckling quietly to yourself.

Other than that... the first four, plus the sixth of the HP novels. Fantastic books, as you seem to have already discovered from the fifth. Not a great deal of depth or meaning to 'em, but good fun all the same ;). And also a great novel I read recently called "The Da Vinci Code", by Dan Brown, which is basically a mystery / thriller. If you enjoy either of those genres, you'll love it.
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Postby stumpster on Mon Mar 20, 2006 3:51 pm

My personal favorites (Not all sci-fi, but most are):

*Anything written by Ray Bradbury. Anything. I just finished Farenheit 451, and it's a fairly short book. The thing is that there is so much...underlying stuff inside his books that you have to read them 4 or 5 times to get everything out of them.

*Harry Potter, as said before. JK Rowling is a genius.

*Brian Jacques, and any of his Redwall series. Sure, they may not be so sci-fi esqe, but they're really great stories. I've read every one that he's written.

*Chronicles of Narnia, as suggested before. A GREAT series, and still defines a great fantasy series in my head.

*The Pendragon series, which no one seems to know about. It's based on a 15-16 year old kid whose life is fine...until his Uncle shows him that he is a Traveler. Someone who can travel between worlds, but that's not just it. Each world has it's own 'turning point', which decides whether or not it will fall into Chaos or not. Pendragon and the rest of the Travelers have to stop their opponent (Saint Dane) before he pushes all the worlds into Chaos. Only two problems though, Saint Dane can't be killed, because he is the incarnation of evil from the hearts of the people (or something along those lines. Simply put, he can't die...symbolistic and such) and he can turn himself into someone else. My explanation is terrible, and it really does touch on an interesting part of the Good vs Evil thing, such as when does a Good person crusading against Evil go over and become what they're fighting?

*Sherlock Holmes is quite a good read, I've got a 900-pager sitting here that's filled with his 'exploits.'
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Postby Grim Atescu on Mon Mar 20, 2006 4:49 pm

Dunno if it's been mentioned here, but Eric Flint's Ring of Fire series is really good. If you're going to read that one, start with 1632.
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Postby Lomgren on Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:07 pm

Indeed it is, and it's actually in that link I posted up above, along with 1633 if I remember right. I love Baen books, and I think they are one of the few book publishers to get ebooks "right."
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Postby HamHam on Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:02 pm

VOR wrote:Anything by Robert A. Heinlein (I've actually heard the beginnings of bad reviews but never the whole THING, because I've always managed to kill or incapacitate the speaker before they finished insulting RAH.)


You shouldn't say things like this, because it tempts me to say things like this:

Heinlein is a hack. Stranger in a Strange Land was perhaps the worst science fiction I have ever read. Worse than Alpha Centauri, which is more porn than it is science fiction but at least it's actual porn rather than the soft core bs that Heinlein writes.

-------------------------

Now, on to my own suggestions:

Neal Stephenson. Probably the best fiction writer of our age. I would suggest starting with either Snow Crash for science fiction or Cryptonomicon for plain fiction. After that you will probably be compelled to read everything he has ever written (which isn't that much... yet).

As for Wheel of Time, I think that no one should buy this without first reading two or three pages. If you can get through those without burning the book in frustration, you will enjoy it a lot. Normal people however, just can't read it.

Ender's Game is probably Tedd's bible. And it should be yours too.

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Postby Sqauto on Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:29 pm

HamHam wrote:
VOR wrote:Anything by Robert A. Heinlein (I've actually heard the beginnings of bad reviews but never the whole THING, because I've always managed to kill or incapacitate the speaker before they finished insulting RAH.)


You shouldn't say things like this, because it tempts me to say things like this:

Heinlein is a hack. Stranger in a Strange Land was perhaps the worst science fiction I have ever read. Worse than Alpha Centauri, which is more porn than it is science fiction but at least it's actual porn rather than the soft core bs that Heinlein writes.


That is your view about it, personally I think it is a good book (at times hard to read). But that is because it is a Heinlein novel. Still, I could only think of EGS as I read it. But read the full version if you find it (they cut up to a 1/3 of the book [forgot real amount]).

AS to more books that you can try to read, I should point out the works of Philip K. Dick (Dr Bloodmoney, The Man In The High Castle, etc), are more then worth the time they take to read them.
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Postby Ambi on Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:07 am

I think most of Philip K. Dick is good, also most by Ursula K. LeGuin and Arkady&Boris Strugatsky(sp?).

I have often read that people were seriously influenced by authors, to the point that they believed most of what views were expressed in the book, only to find out later it was absolutely wrong. The example I remember first is the woman who read a lot of Heinlein as a girl and together with the free thinking she was impressed of she had bought the view that women could not be raped against their will. I don't recall that she wrote she was raped herself, just that she found out she excused one of the worst crimes there is.

There is a book by Norman Spinrad that expresses a warning about getting too much of your views out of books just because the read well. His book "The Iron Dream" pretends to be another book, fallen out of a parallel universe, in which that book had a huge fandom with lots of conventions, which we learn from a comment by a critic (in that alternate universe) printed after the story in that "inner book".

The story of that "inner book" is a fantasy-SF story about a young man who returns to the country his father was banished from and finds it full of evil and corruption. He learns he is the rightful heir of the last king, and proceeds to clean his country and later the world of evil - but if you refuse to be pulled into the story, you'll notice he overthrows a republic, creates death camps and wages war against the rest of the world. The author of that "inner book" is a man who emigrated to the USA in the early 1920's, and proceeded to become a successful SF/Fantasy writer. The name of the "inner book" is "Lord of the Swastika", and the author's name is Adolf Hitler...
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Postby Sqauto on Tue Mar 21, 2006 7:08 am

Ah yes, Alternate History (or Alt-His as it's sometimes called). If you what to read something along those lines, Then you can not go past that works of the king, Harry Turtledove.

His two main series are;

Worldwar/Colonisation- Which is about a WW2 in which aliens arrive to invade Earth in 1942, or the midpoint of the war (i.e. when it could have gone either way). he followed it up with a new series set 20 years later, but I say no more.

The Great War/American Empire/Settling Accouts- One of those "what if's" about the American Civil War. This time he returns 20 years later (forgot the name of the book), which leads to the US fighting in WW1 on American soil, and again the outcome.

More then worth a look, but they are big books (around the 600-700 page mark for the later novels).
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Postby Free Radical on Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:03 am

Demonic Duck wrote:Discworld novels by Terry Pratchet. The first in the series is called "The Colour of Magic". I find the Discworld novels basically range from fantasy stories with a humorous twist, to hilarious stories with a fantasy theme. But either way, good books to read, whether they leave you rolling on the floor laughing or merely chuckling quietly to yourself.

While I love the discworld novels, I wouldn't recommend the first few as a great starting place as I found them much weaker than the later books, which I think are better both in terms of humour and the little bits of social commentary that seem to turn up in his books. I would recommend either Small Gods (which is independent from any of the other books) or the City Watch books (which starts with Guards! Guards!) as a starting point.

I also highly recommend Garth Nix's Old Kingdom series, as well as The Keys to the Kingdom series.
The Old kingdom Series is set in two countries separated by the Wall. To the south of the Wall is Ancelstierre, a country with early twentieth century technology. To the north is the Old Kingdom, where Ancelstierran technology quickly falls apart, magic is common, and the dead can return to prey on the living. The story centres around the Abhorsens, necromancers responsible for banishing the dead to protect the living.
In The Keys to the Kingdom Series, our world (or something like it) is part of the secondary realms. A kind of higher realm - the House - is run by the trustees of the Will of the Architect (the creator of the universe). When the Architect disappeared, instead of carrying out the Will the trustees decided to assume control of the House themselves, dividing the Will into pieces and imprisoning them. Part of the Will escapes and selects Arthur Penhaligon as the Heir. The story follows Arthur's (often unwilling) attempts to depose the usurping trustees.

I would also suggest anything by David Gemmell, particularly the Jon Shannow books, the Knight of the Word books by Terry Brooks, and Trudi Canavan's Black Magician trilogy.
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Postby HamHam on Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:03 am

Sqauto wrote:That is your view about it, personally I think it is a good book (at times hard to read). But that is because it is a Heinlein novel. Still, I could only think of EGS as I read it. But read the full version if you find it (they cut up to a 1/3 of the book [forgot real amount]).


I did read the uncut version, and the cut one is probably better because it might actually put a break on his propensity to spew forth things that amount to little more than hippie propaganda. At some point someone needed to slap him and go "What in the world made you think that a story about a hippie Jesus from Mars was a good idea?".

The naivete in that book reaches such ludicrious proportions that it's like playing Candy Land while on acid and watching My Little Pony. The social criticism is topical and shallow at best, indicative of the authors inability to go beyond "I'm better than all these stupid people!" or actually think about the forces that drive toward the status quo. The conclusion reached is essentially that if we all just close our eyes and think happy thoughts things will become perfect... which they won't.

Finally, the book is insidiously sexist in presenting female characters and gender relations that are unequal but sufficently indirect that you will miss it if you're not careful. To expand on that point, this:

The example I remember first is the woman who read a lot of Heinlein as a girl and together with the free thinking she was impressed of she had bought the view that women could not be raped against their will. I don't recall that she wrote she was raped herself, just that she found out she excused one of the worst crimes there is.


is actually from Stranger in a Strange Land, iirc, because I remember coming across that idea while reading it.

So, not only is Heinlein a hack, he is a chauvenist hack. In fact, from what I've seen he is one of the clearest examples of what geek-dom leads to if one is not careful and it's people like him that make us look bad.
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Postby ravenb on Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:23 am

Ambi wrote:I have often read that people were seriously influenced by authors, to the point that they believed most of what views were expressed in the book, only to find out later it was absolutely wrong. The example I remember first is the woman who read a lot of Heinlein as a girl and together with the free thinking she was impressed of she had bought the view that women could not be raped against their will. I don't recall that she wrote she was raped herself, just that she found out she excused one of the worst crimes there is.


If someone got that out of Heinlein, they must have been starting from a very weird set of presuppositions. Heinlein was deeply respectful of women, revering them far above his own gender. Where he differed from the classic feminist is that he saw sexuality as something that women should embrace as part of their power (though certainly not the whole of it), rather than fearing it. But he never advocated rape or suggested that men should "use" women. And after seeing how his heroine deals with being raped in Friday you certainly couldn't say that it was done with her consent. (True, she pretended to enjoy it, but that was a calculated move to throw off her captors and avoid being tortured any more brutally than she already had been.)

Heinlein was, without doubt, the voice of his times -- a 60s anarcho-libertarian with an interest in alternative social structures beyond the usual monogamous pairings common to our culture. (Calling him a believer in "free love" probably wouldn't be fair, since the characters in his novels who engage in sexual activity are always involved in a deep emotional and social bonding that lasts long after the act of sex itself.) Stranger in a Strange Land is perhaps not his best novel, IMO, but it challenged the cultural assumptions of his day and forced people to really look at their society from the view of an outsider. Heinlein's critique of the hyper-commercialized, sensationalized approach to religion, and his meditations on what it really means to love our neighbor or live in community, were timely and valuable, and they bear thinking about even if we don't come to the same conclusions he did. Stranger may not contain the sort of detailed technology, relentless realism or fantastically-envisioned future that hard sci-fi junkies have come to expect, but it does use science fiction themes to fearlessly explore several key aspects of the human experience. More importantly, it does so with a story that is (to me, at least, and apparently to many others) interesting, engaging and well-written. For this alone, it deserves recognition as one of the more important novels of the 20th century.
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Postby xyzzy_n on Tue Mar 21, 2006 10:28 am

Ambi wrote:Arkady&Boris Strugatsky(sp?).
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Postby HamHam on Tue Mar 21, 2006 11:14 am

ravenb wrote:If someone got that out of Heinlein, they must have been starting from a very weird set of presuppositions.


Five seconds of wiki delving came up with the following:

Jill from Stranger in a Strange Land wrote:"Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's at least partly her own fault,"


Now, one could argue that a character's view point is not necessarily the authors, however considering this is the main heroine that is saying this, nor is it really refuted at any point, it is certainly suggestive.

Heinlein was, without doubt, the voice of his times -- a 60s anarcho-libertarian with an interest in alternative social structures beyond the usual monogamous pairings common to our culture. (Calling him a believer in "free love" probably wouldn't be fair, since the characters in his novels who engage in sexual activity are always involved in a deep emotional and social bonding that lasts long after the act of sex itself.) Stranger in a Strange Land is perhaps not his best novel, IMO, but it challenged the cultural assumptions of his day and forced people to really look at their society from the view of an outsider. Heinlein's critique of the hyper-commercialized, sensationalized approach to religion, and his meditations on what it really means to love our neighbor or live in community, were timely and valuable, and they bear thinking about even if we don't come to the same conclusions he did. Stranger may not contain the sort of detailed technology, relentless realism or fantastically-envisioned future that hard sci-fi junkies have come to expect, but it does use science fiction themes to fearlessly explore several key aspects of the human experience. More importantly, it does so with a story that is (to me, at least, and apparently to many others) interesting, engaging and well-written. For this alone, it deserves recognition as one of the more important novels of the 20th century.


The social and religious issues in Stranger are presented in such a cartoonish manner that they fail to produce any serious impact. The entire novel is so fanciful that the world it presents is not recognizable as our own, but rather a bad parody of it.

Compare that to an actually good book like Snow Crash, which deals with many of the same issues (hyper-commercialism of religion among them). It's realisitc, gritty, darkly ironic style goes beyond it's cyberpunk classification to create a world exremely familiar yet horrendously bizzare; more in the vain of Dostoevsky than the Seussian charicatures employed in Stranger.

The project of viewing society from the outside is fruitless. Any true social commentary, or any true impetious for change, must come from within the human condition. Salvation is not going to be handed down from above, it has to be created by people who have lived the reality.

Heinlein's little paradise is nothing more than a society of children, having no knowledge of good or evil but merely pleasure and pain. Simplistic and ignorant they could not be maintained except by a series of deus ex machinas.
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Postby ravenb on Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:11 pm

HamHam wrote:Five seconds of wiki delving came up with the following:

Jill from Stranger in a Strange Land wrote:"Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's at least partly her own fault,"


Now, one could argue that a character's view point is not necessarily the authors, however considering this is the main heroine that is saying this, nor is it really refuted at any point, it is certainly suggestive.


You're taking the quote out of context, and also neglecting the phrase "nine times out of ten" and the word partly. Jill is not saying that rape is always the woman's fault, nor that it is entirely her fault; she is saying that a woman who is raped has often made bad choices that have put her in a situation where she was more vulnerable than she ought to have been if she had been showing good sense. I find this to be a hard statement to refute. And again, Jill is making this point in order to address an imbalance in the other direction, so the comment cannot be taken as a completely balanced commentary on the issue in and of itself.

HamHam wrote:The social and religious issues in Stranger are presented in such a cartoonish manner that they fail to produce any serious impact. The entire novel is so fanciful that the world it presents is not recognizable as our own, but rather a bad parody of it.


I think you're mistaking intentional satire for poor writing. In several of Heinlein's novels and stories, he addresses social and political problems through reductio ad absurdum: he follows the existing trend to its logical end, which results in a caricature of the real-world situation. Heinlein is far from the only author to use such a technique; Jonathan Swift was infamous for it (c.f. Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal). In Stranger, Heinlein presents a sort of hyper-Pentecostal church as a way of poking fun at exploitative religion; in Friday, he shows an independent California where direct democracy has run amok, voting governors in and out with astonishing speed and multiplying silly laws to ludicrous degrees. Satire of this nature has to be taken in the spirit in which it is intended, as a means of showing the flaws in a system by inflating them to comic degrees. This is a literary technique which I think is not given as much value in our modern culture, given its obsession with the hyper-realistic.

HamHam wrote:Compare that to an actually good book like Snow Crash, which deals with many of the same issues (hyper-commercialism of religion among them). It's realisitc, gritty, darkly ironic style goes beyond it's cyberpunk classification to create a world exremely familiar yet horrendously bizzare; more in the vain of Dostoevsky than the Seussian charicatures employed in Stranger.


See, that's the problem: You're comparing apples and oranges here. If Stranger were attempting to be gritty, dark and ironic, then you could rightly criticize it for failing in that regard. Heinlein, however, was a follower of a more optimistic school of science fiction, and even when he is pointing out the flaws in society he does so with a comic flair and the bright colors of imagination. People were pretty sure by the 1960s that Mars, Jupiter and the rest of the solar system were not near-Earth climates that could be inhabited by sentient alien races, but Heinlein filled his story with such beings anyway. Why? Certainly not because he didn't understand science -- the man was highly skilled and highly educated -- but because he wasn't trying to tell an ultra-realistic story.

Your analogy to Seuss is both more apt and more favorable than you realize. Dr. Seuss is rightly regarded as a genius of children's literature, because he uses the whimsical in order to convey serious messages in a way that they will impact his audience. Seuss addressed the universal value of personhood ("Horton Hears A Who"), environmental abuse ("The Lorax"), and the difference between law and justice ("The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins"), among many other important topics -- all in a way that would best reach the children he was writing to. His work is far from realistic, but that in no way reduces its value.

Similarly, Heinlein wrote in a way that was uplifting, entertaining, and infused with a sense of idealism, even when he addressed serious societal problems. As Mike discovers in Stranger, laughter can help us to bear the unbearable; the comic portrayals of societal ills in Heinlein's stories help to lower our defenses so we can bear to think about the issues he raises. If that does not appeal to you as much as a grim, hard-eyed look at reality, then that is a matter of personal taste -- but it does not reduce the value that the book has for other people.

HamHam wrote:The project of viewing society from the outside is fruitless. Any true social commentary, or any true impetious for change, must come from within the human condition. Salvation is not going to be handed down from above, it has to be created by people who have lived the reality.


The thing is, Mike is human. Over the course of the story, he comes to understand just how fully human he really is. What makes him different is that he was raised with a different set of prejudices from the society that he was later thrust into, so he was better able to identify that society's prejudices for what they were. "The human condition" is not a monolithic structure; all societies do not share the same problems, the same distortions, the same biases in equal measure. Human society must change from within, yes -- and Mike's friends do change society from within -- but often it takes an outsider's eye to challenge "the way things have always been" and to confront us with the prejudices that we take for granted as "natural law". Remember that at one time, in the Southern United States, slavery was considered normal, and blacks were considered naturally inferior to whites both morally and intellectually. In British-ruled India, the native Indians were considered incapable of governing themselves. Today, in many parts of Africa and some parts of Asia, mutilating the genitals of little girls is considered "normal". A person raised within one of these societies cannot see the atrocities for what they are; they are blinded by their cultural training. An outsider's perspective is needed to shake up complacency, to present an alternative way of looking at the world, to allow people to begin to imagine that things could or should be different from the way they are. Heinlein is attempting to do the same thing with Valentine Michael Smith.

HamHam wrote:Heinlein's little paradise is nothing more than a society of children, having no knowledge of good or evil but merely pleasure and pain. Simplistic and ignorant they could not be maintained except by a series of deus ex machinas.


Again, I think you have badly misunderstood the message of the book. Mike's followers are not ignorant children; they are adults who have discovered a level of intimacy, emotionally and spiritually, that humans have largely forgotten how to have. These people support each other, care for each other, and provide for each other's needs in true community, compassion and generosity. They recognize Mike's sacrifice of his own life as a way of allowing the rest of them to escape the mob, and thus as a morally good act; if all they understood was pleasure and pain, they could not have seen the pain that Mike endured on their behalf and accepted it as a good thing for him to do. These people are not ignorant of how the world works; in fact, they have a circus performer's cunning about how to play to crowds, how to use spectacle to weed out those who are seeking only a moment's entertainment from those who want to discover a deeper and more meaningful way of living, how to distinguish the "marks" from those who are "with it."

We may disagree with Heinlein about whether human beings are good enough -- or can become good enough -- to maintain the kind of society that he portrays among Mike's followers. But to denigrate them as childish and foolish is to misunderstand the beauty that such a society would hold if it were possible. Mike's followers do not depend on deus ex machina -- by the end of the book, they are capable of sustaining themselves, and their own generosity and love for each other has grown to the point where they can take responsibility for their future without Mike's further guidance. If human beings are unable to maintain this purity of spirit in the real world -- unable to show charity and compassion and love towards this kind of ever-growing adoptive "family" -- then that is a flaw in us, not a flaw in the society being portrayed. If we can accuse Heinlein of anything in this regard, it is of believing too strongly in humanity's capacity for good ... which, in the end, is not such a bad thing to be found guilty of.
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Postby HamHam on Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:30 pm

ravenb wrote:You're taking the quote out of context, and also neglecting the phrase "nine times out of ten" and the word partly. Jill is not saying that rape is always the woman's fault, nor that it is entirely her fault; she is saying that a woman who is raped has often made bad choices that have put her in a situation where she was more vulnerable than she ought to have been if she had been showing good sense. I find this to be a hard statement to refute. And again, Jill is making this point in order to address an imbalance in the other direction, so the comment cannot be taken as a completely balanced commentary on the issue in and of itself.


The factual accuracy of the statement is not the issue. The textual, subjective message it sends to the reader is.

I remember a poster I saw a while back that had a quote from some official or other saying, and this a fairly accurate quote, "You want to lower the crime rate in this country? Abort every black baby and you'll lower the crime rate." While factually accurate, this is not a statement you can make without creating a racist message.

I think you're mistaking intentional satire for poor writing. In several of Heinlein's novels and stories, he addresses social and political problems through reductio ad absurdum: he follows the existing trend to its logical end, which results in a caricature of the real-world situation. Heinlein is far from the only author to use such a technique; Jonathan Swift was infamous for it (c.f. Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal). In Stranger, Heinlein presents a sort of hyper-Pentecostal church as a way of poking fun at exploitative religion; in Friday, he shows an independent California where direct democracy has run amok, voting governors in and out with astonishing speed and multiplying silly laws to ludicrous degrees. Satire of this nature has to be taken in the spirit in which it is intended, as a means of showing the flaws in a system by inflating them to comic degrees. This is a literary technique which I think is not given as much value in our modern culture, given its obsession with the hyper-realistic.

See, that's the problem: You're comparing apples and oranges here. If Stranger were attempting to be gritty, dark and ironic, then you could rightly criticize it for failing in that regard. Heinlein, however, was a follower of a more optimistic school of science fiction, and even when he is pointing out the flaws in society he does so with a comic flair and the bright colors of imagination. People were pretty sure by the 1960s that Mars, Jupiter and the rest of the solar system were not near-Earth climates that could be inhabited by sentient alien races, but Heinlein filled his story with such beings anyway. Why? Certainly not because he didn't understand science -- the man was highly skilled and highly educated -- but because he wasn't trying to tell an ultra-realistic story.


I am comparing apples to apples or rather books to books. Snow Crash is reductio ad absurdum as well: it has a US dissolved into individual sub-urban nation states, with pollitically independent franchises (as in MacDonalds, Domino, and such), and a protagonist named Hiro Protagonist who just happens to be a master swordsman. However the writting itself is, though cynically witty in parts, objective and straight forward. It presents the world as a reality.

A Modest Proposal hinges on this as well, in that is presented as entirely serious and with a straight face through-out. Stranger fails to do this. The narrative style itself is parodical which undercuts the ability to take the story seriously, which in turns makes the absurdities in the world pass by as just so much humor. In the end, the world that is created by Michael and the rest is just as farcical as what existed before it.

Your analogy to Seuss is both more apt and more favorable than you realize. Dr. Seuss is rightly regarded as a genius of children's literature, because he uses the whimsical in order to convey serious messages in a way that they will impact his audience. Seuss addressed the universal value of personhood ("Horton Hears A Who"), environmental abuse ("The Lorax"), and the difference between law and justice ("The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins"), among many other important topics -- all in a way that would best reach the children he was writing to. His work is far from realistic, but that in no way reduces its value.


Stranger is not children's literature.

Similarly, Heinlein wrote in a way that was uplifting, entertaining, and infused with a sense of idealism, even when he addressed serious societal problems. As Mike discovers in Stranger, laughter can help us to bear the unbearable; the comic portrayals of societal ills in Heinlein's stories help to lower our defenses so we can bear to think about the issues he raises. If that does not appeal to you as much as a grim, hard-eyed look at reality, then that is a matter of personal taste -- but it does not reduce the value that the book has for other people.


It is endemic to it's artisitc value however. Such an approach is inherently limiting because it inevitably leads to a work that is shallower than a more serious piece.

The thing is, Mike is human. Over the course of the story, he comes to understand just how fully human he really is.


I saw nothing in him that was remotely human. In fact, I would say he is distincitly inhuman. Omnipotent and aware of his own immortality, he is more angel, nay, more God than man.

Remember that at one time, in the Southern United States, slavery was considered normal, and blacks were considered naturally inferior to whites both morally and intellectually.


And did someone come from outside to reveal the falcitiy of this? No. Over time, black people asserted their own power. Whites who had overcome their upbringing took steps to end the status quo.

In British-ruled India, the native Indians were considered incapable of governing themselves.


And things changed when they acted to show the British they were wrong and managed to change the opinion of the British public.

Today, in many parts of Africa and some parts of Asia, mutilating the genitals of little girls is considered "normal".


And have decades of people trying to change this succeded? No. And it won't change until the people directly involved choose to change it.

A person raised within one of these societies cannot see the atrocities for what they are; they are blinded by their cultural training. An outsider's perspective is needed to shake up complacency, to present an alternative way of looking at the world, to allow people to begin to imagine that things could or should be different from the way they are. Heinlein is attempting to do the same thing with Valentine Michael Smith.


No historical revolution, much less a majority, has ever been brought about by outsiders. On the contrary, attempts to impose new world views by outsiders have consistently ended in failure and regression.

Again, I think you have badly misunderstood the message of the book. Mike's followers are not ignorant children; they are adults who have discovered a level of intimacy, emotionally and spiritually, that humans have largely forgotten how to have. These people support each other, care for each other, and provide for each other's needs in true community, compassion and generosity.


Which is to say, they have regressed to a natural state of existance. They at least bear the memory of civilization, however their children, much less their children's children will have no concept of suffering. And suffering, loss, are both intimate parts of what it is to be human. It is the bad in life that makes us appreciate the good. It is the prime motivator for human achievement. The only future for Mike's followers is one of agrarian bliss as content cattle.

They recognize Mike's sacrifice of his own life as a way of allowing the rest of them to escape the mob, and thus as a morally good act; if all they understood was pleasure and pain, they could not have seen the pain that Mike endured on their behalf and accepted it as a good thing for him to do.


I would say they were simply ambivalent toward it because they were fully aware of their own immortality.

We may disagree with Heinlein about whether human beings are good enough -- or can become good enough -- to maintain the kind of society that he portrays among Mike's followers. But to denigrate them as childish and foolish is to misunderstand the beauty that such a society would hold if it were possible.


I would never choose to live in a world like that. Devoid of adversity, we cannot fulfill one of our base needs as humans, the overcoming of adversity. Paradise is a goal to strive for and should never be reached, because to reach Paradise is to die in a far more profound way than simple biological termination. It is to cease progressing, to cease improving oneself.

Mike's followers do not depend on deus ex machina -- by the end of the book, they are capable of sustaining themselves, and their own generosity and love for each other has grown to the point where they can take responsibility for their future without Mike's further guidance.


A factual awareness of their own spiritual immortality = deus ex machina
The power to pop things out of existance = deus ex machina

---------------------------------------

Other points that come to mind:

His characters are incredibly shallow and transparent. The writing, though not bad, is no where near the best.

In a general sense, the movement he represents is just a bunch of people who refused to grow up. If you're one of those people than I am certainly not at all surprised that Heinlein speaks to you. However that movement proved itself to be vapid and self-destructive, which pretty much proves the point that it is untenable. Not because humanity cannot achieve it, but rather because having achieved it humanity loses it's humanity.
Last edited by HamHam on Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Nimelennar on Tue Mar 21, 2006 1:38 pm

Lomgren wrote:
Nimelennar wrote:
The Wiz Biz by Rick Cook (I lost my copy, and I've been despairing about it for years... Lots of good programming jokes)


I don't know if you can stand ebooks, but Baen books has a free ebook library on their main site, with completely unencrypted formats... with the Wiz Biz as part of it.
http://www.baen.com/library/rcook.htm

And for the rest of the books in the library, just go to the below:
http://www.baen.com/library/

THANK YOU!!! I'm eternally in your debt! *performs a rare glomp, then runs off with the book*

And now that I come back and see the Heinlein posts, I don't feel so bad about my short negative review about Fionavar...
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Postby Grim Atescu on Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:10 pm

...The recent discourse on Heinlein has left me with the following questions:

ravenb, are you either a Sociologist or Psychologist? The reason I ask is because you seem to be latching onto the social science aspects of the book and arguing that part of it, with emphasis on socialization and the blinders most people have on their culture.

HamHam, I have to ask if you're a realist (in the non-philosophical sense of the word) and/or historian. You just seem to be arguing from that angle; according to history, bringing up practicality and reality, seeming to favor more realistic arguments, etc.

Once again, just curious. I happen to be a Math/CS major, so it's not like I have much experience with either of those branches (though I am taking a Soc. class, I liked my AP Psych class, and I've done some independent study of history; I dislike the real world, though, and would rather read SF/Fantasy (and not hard SF, either)).

As far as the book is concerned, I liked it. It was a fun read.
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Postby Sqauto on Tue Mar 21, 2006 3:48 pm

Grim Atescu wrote:As far as the book is concerned, I liked it. It was a fun read.


What Grim said. Which the point of his books is that you read them. THen work out what you think about them afterwards.
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Postby Lomgren on Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:00 pm

Nimelennar wrote:THANK YOU!!! I'm eternally in your debt! *performs a rare glomp, then runs off with the book*


I'm glad I was able to help you out... I liked reading it myself. :).
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Postby ravenb on Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:01 pm

Grim Atescu wrote:ravenb, are you either a Sociologist or Psychologist? The reason I ask is because you seem to be latching onto the social science aspects of the book and arguing that part of it, with emphasis on socialization and the blinders most people have on their culture.


Actually, I'm a biochemist and a physiologist by training. :D But I've long had an interest in philosophy and religion, and I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about how our society is changing from Modernism to Post-Modernism, and the implications that has on both society in general and religious practice in particular. I'm a fan of speculative, "what-if" fiction of all sorts, because I like to imagine how different kinds of stimuli or different cultural presets might affect the human experience. I'm also something of an idealist, in that I believe humanity is meant to be more than it is at present -- or, perhaps, that we're meant to be more fully human than we have yet become. (The poet will understand what I mean; the pragmatist might not.) I do consider myself sort of a "cynical optimist", in that I don't believe we can fully reach that ideal without divine assistance, but I think that striving for it ought to be our goal -- not just for our own sake, but for the sake of everyone around us.


Grim Atescu wrote:Once again, just curious. I happen to be a Math/CS major, so it's not like I have much experience with either of those branches (though I am taking a Soc. class, I liked my AP Psych class, and I've done some independent study of history; I dislike the real world, though, and would rather read SF/Fantasy (and not hard SF, either)).

As far as the book is concerned, I liked it. It was a fun read.


Yeah, it was. :)

The funny thing is, I enjoy gritty stories, too. This year I read Altered Carbon and Broken Angels, both by Richard K. Morgan, and enjoyed them both greatly. Those books contain a very pessimistic worldview -- centuries down the road, humanity is just as venal and corrupt as it is today, and Big Government and Big Business control most of the human race. The protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, is clearly an antihero and a borderline psychopath, yet at the same time he is utterly engaging as a character -- partly because he's acting out the human drive to remain free in a world of systematic oppression, and partly because he does form bonds of friendship and intimacy with other people in spite of his attempts to remain disconnected.

Come to think of it, HamHam, that's probably a series you'd enjoy a lot. :)
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