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Postby Ambi on Tue Mar 21, 2006 4:25 pm

It seems my memory of that discussion in which that Heinlein point came up was faulty (that was in a newsgroup about 10 years ago). I also didn't want to say that Heinlein was treating women badly in his books.

What I wanted to say is that it can be dangerous to get your views from books unreflected, whether it is from books that are just easy to read (like the books "The Iron Dream" is mirroring, with the twist that it puts stuff many SF/Fantasy readers usually accept in a fascist context) or are actually meant to confront people with a different worldview (like Heinlein's books).

Whether the author wanted to sneak otherwise unacceptable stuff into your head or whether he just didn't know better than to include the stuff into his story, in the end it is you who have to deal with the problem if you believe and defend the stuff.
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Postby suomynonAyletamitlU on Tue Mar 21, 2006 6:24 pm

Nimelennar wrote:The Recluse series, by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Seconded. I consider Modesitt my favorite author, and am constantly disappointed that I only rarely find people that know of his work. Not that I try.

His heroes tend to be people who do useful things like smith and craft, and they spend a lot of time showing their moral character in everyday life, or recovering from the consequences of their hero work. Slow, perhaps, but it feels more honest to me. In the Recluse series specifically, there is a magic system of "order" and "chaos" wherein it often falls to people who are trying to hold things together, to cause destruction. This conflict manifests itself by temporarily blinding them, making them sick, weak, etc, whenever they kill or witness death. Yet still they go out and fight, when they feel it is necessary. That determination, and not the mere ability to act, is what makes a hero, imo.

He also works a lot of philosophy into his works--many of his general sci-fi books end up lecturing from the future about the follys of earthlings today and what it cost them. In Recluse specifically, there is also the theme of balance as an overriding mechanism (which I agree with).

Anyway, rant aside, you can find info on the Reculse series and the rest of his works with the provided links.
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Postby HamHam on Tue Mar 21, 2006 7:23 pm

Grim Atescu wrote: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.


Not in any particular sense. At heart, I really am an idealist.

Personally I have gone beyond post-modernism, which is an inherently reactive point of view, into shall we say positive humanism?

By which I mean, that post-modernism attempts to re-enchant the world, however it was never enchanted to begin with, and thus it is a futile project. Enchantment is something which exists within us and is a product of our world view, and thus rather than re-enchanting anything you must seek to enchant things through an act of will, a Nietzchian empowerment.

There is no ideal out there to strive for. We create ideals, describe them, to create goals for ourselves. But these are constructive projects: they work from ourselves rather than toward ourselves. That is to say, that the question of an "ideal society" or an "ideal humanity" is answered by creating an answer through a creative act rather than by discovering an answer through a detuctive one.
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Postby GetsLonely on Wed Mar 22, 2006 1:05 am

There was a time I got afraid of the ideas books could be putting into my head. I wondered "what if all of my thoughts and ideals are molded solely by what I read?" and then the even scarier though: "what if I'll believe any principle a book will tell me because the author was clever enough to fit it with an example in the story, and to make it sound reasonable?" But then I read a few more books, and realized I disagreed with an author's views more often than I thought I had, and the scare was over. Kind of an empowering moment. "Hey, I disagree with this! Allright!" ;)
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Postby ravenb on Wed Mar 22, 2006 6:39 am

GetsLonely wrote:There was a time I got afraid of the ideas books could be putting into my head. I wondered "what if all of my thoughts and ideals are molded solely by what I read?" and then the even scarier though: "what if I'll believe any principle a book will tell me because the author was clever enough to fit it with an example in the story, and to make it sound reasonable?" But then I read a few more books, and realized I disagreed with an author's views more often than I thought I had, and the scare was over. Kind of an empowering moment. "Hey, I disagree with this! Allright!" ;)


<grin> I know exactly what you mean. I didn't agree with a lot of things in Stranger, either, but I found that it got the mental gears turning. Ditto for the Kovacs books, the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, and a lot of other things I've read in the last few years. I think it's not always appreciated these days that it is possible to hold an idea in your mind, look at it, consider it, entertain its possibilities, weigh its value, and then decide whether or not you agree with it (and to what extent). Most people seem to want quick, easy, cut-and-dried answers that fit into a pre-set worldview. Critical thinking isn't really something we teach people anymore ... if we ever did.
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Postby VOR on Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:27 pm

Ham Ham? Ravenb? Thank you. One of the rarest things on the internet is being able to say "I never listen to criticisms of RAH," luring out someone who dislikes RAH quite passionately, and having an intelligent debate rather than a flamewar. I must admit to a bit of hypocrisy on my part, I have actually listened to criticicisms of the guy's work, I just don't tend to agree with them. And hey, puttin' out a hook like that can turn out well, sometimes. :wink:

While the debate's centered around Stranger in a Strange Land and his later novels, I recommend his short stories more highly, if you haven't read them. Heinlein underwent a significant change in his writing style, and his earlier works are very different than his later ones. Stranger in a Strange Land was the transition piece, and it's what made him famous in more circles, but he had a career as one of the writers for the good ol' scifi magazines before then, and that's where he did a lot of his best work.

That said, I'll move on from Heinlein. I'm going to second Ravenb's recommendation of the Callahan Chronicals: nothing like a bar full of tall tales, sob stories, agonizingly bad puns, and a bunch o' people who actually CARE about each other. I think, actually, that Callahan's represents a similar ideal to that which Heinlein was presenting in Stranger in a Strange Land, but...you know what? I don't wanna ruin the puns for you by telling you anymore about the story.

Since it was just mentioned, I'll recommend Pullman's trilogy, starting with The Golden Compass, then continuing with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. They're kinda like the Anti-Narnia. Plenty of religious symbolism, and the books do have a subtext to 'em (a subtext which can offend people, sometimes, but one which makes you think), but the story is beatiful and entertaining in and of itself. The characters are well written, and the kids mature as the series progresses.

Back to Zelazny, because I can't harp on the Zelazny enough: Yeah, he wrote the Amber books. Yeah, they're good. But they are not great by any means. They're epic, they're thought-provoking, the characters are good. But Zelazny SHINES in the short story like no other. He can make me cry with thirty pages where other authors would take two hundred. Zelazny's the type of guy who can say "Quick! A world in two hundred words or less!" and then DO it. And that world is as perfectly vivid in the reader's eye as Jordan's (though without all the history, admittedly).

Robert Jordan: His books are popular, and they're still coming out, so I'll say a bit on 'em. They're good books. They're a massive epic, and the world is detailed. The characters are good, the magic is fascinating, and the bad guys are actually BAD (I like my evil to be smart, motivated, non-standard-issue evil). That said, the books are MASSIVE. There are dozens of minor characters who are introduced and who the reader is expected to remember two books later when they pop up again. This makes the books feel much more continuous, but it can also make them overwhelming. I have to be in the right mood to sit down and read them. I worry that Jordan will pull a Herbert on us and die before he can finish the thing...

Speaking of Herbert: Dune. Hasn't been mentioned yet. Dune is a work of art, and it's one of the classics (I like a lot of the classics) that everyone should be familiar with. There's a series, which Herbert died just before finishing, but the books get worse with each passing novel. The first one stands alone, though, and should be taken as a meal by itself. You can get the series if you want. Read 'em once, then use 'em as doorstops. Or Christmas gifts to family members you don't really like.

Snowcrash: I like Diamond Age better. That is all...well, not quite all. YAY ISLANDS BUILT OF NANOBOTS! WOO! And Nueromancer is still the great-grandaddy of all Cyberpunk, and Gibson's never quite recovered from chanelling its greatness.

Vernor Vinge: He wrote A Deepness in the Sky and A Fire Upon the Deep. He's awesome, though the first was better. I like his universe (and his clever way of getting around the lightspeed barrier), and his aliens are actually ALIEN. Well...not the Sigourney Weaver ALIEN, the "woah! That thing is DECIDEDLY unhuman, and it's wierded out by how decidedly un-whatever-it-is I am!"

Good books. I'll be back.
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Postby Ambi on Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:30 pm

raven, could you explain that Orson Scott Card quote that's in your signature? Who says it, and in what context? The way I read it, I disagree. I think what people do and care for matters more than whether they're willing to sacrifice their life for it.

VOR: I've just read Pullman's trilogy, and I think the parts one might find offensive are plainly visible. Or did you mean other parts? The cultural/language part of my education is much weaker than the math/science part I concentrated on back in school, so I'm probably worse in recognizing subtext than others.
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Postby Grim Atescu on Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:35 pm

VOR wrote:I worry that Jordan will pull a Herbert on us and die before he can finish the thing...


Heh... a friend of mine and I had a discussion about this. We both like the series, but we were beginning to wonder how long it'd take. At the time, Winter's Heart (ninth book) was coming out, and there were so many plotlines that were left open that... well, one couldn't help but wonder, "Just how long is this going to take?" We were projecting estimates of 15-18... and then after book 10 is released, he says he's going to only do 12. Here's to hoping that he doesn't die before Book 12... because we were worrying that he'd get to the point where it was twenty books and he died right before the final sequel could be written.
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Postby VOR on Wed Mar 22, 2006 3:36 pm

It's not just sacrificing their life. It's LIVING for it, too. And I'm willin' to argue that the most human thing about humanity is pretty well described there. That's LOVE, right there. How great you are is determined by what you love, whichever character says that contends. I can live with that.
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Postby Ambi on Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:34 pm

VOR wrote:It's not just sacrificing their life. It's LIVING for it, too. And I'm willin' to argue that the most human thing about humanity is pretty well described there. That's LOVE, right there. How great you are is determined by what you love, whichever character says that contends. I can live with that.

Sorry, I didn't ask what people *want* it to mean, I wanted to know in what context it was said in the novel. Depending on context it can mean several things, one that you describe, and another that tells me I'm not a human being, while the terrorist who makes a suicide attack for his cause is one.
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Postby GetsLonely on Wed Mar 22, 2006 4:46 pm

I just want to mention Robin Hobb...

I read her Liveship series, and totally loved it, mainly because of the way she fleshed out every character. Even the evil ones were completely fleshed out, and you could sit in the shoes of any of them, and agree with the conclusions they'd made. Robin Hobb's Books
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Postby prinnyofantioch on Wed Mar 22, 2006 7:36 pm

Too much fiction, eh?
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Postby ravenb on Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:47 am

Ambi wrote:
VOR wrote:It's not just sacrificing their life. It's LIVING for it, too. And I'm willin' to argue that the most human thing about humanity is pretty well described there. That's LOVE, right there. How great you are is determined by what you love, whichever character says that contends. I can live with that.

Sorry, I didn't ask what people *want* it to mean, I wanted to know in what context it was said in the novel. Depending on context it can mean several things, one that you describe, and another that tells me I'm not a human being, while the terrorist who makes a suicide attack for his cause is one.


I had a big, detailed response to this that described the surrounding context of the story, but it got eaten by the gorram message boards. :evil: Suffice to say that VOR has got the gist of it, as Card intended it to be interpreted: a person who lives only for his own pleasure and pain is no better or worse than a common animal, and is living below his potential as a human being. It is when we love something more than we love our own bodies that we start to live out our human potential. A person who devotes her life to a great, good and noble cause, like Mother Teresa or Aung Sang Suu Kyi, is ennobled by the goal or ideal that she struggles for.

Inherent in the idea of "greatness" that Card is talking about here is the idea of goodness: the cause must be a worthy and admirable one for the person to be ennobled by it. (This is going a bit beyond the scope of what Card was addressing in the book, but the overall context allows me to speculate on your question as Card might have answered it.) A radical Islamist who blows himself up to support a system that oppresses women and religious minorities is not a "great" man, by this way of thinking, because the cause that he fights for is evil. True, he has embraced his humanity by valuing something more than his own life -- but by pursuing a cause that is evil, he has made himself into something worse than an animal.

I think that pretty well covers the idea that Card was going for. Any clearer?
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Postby HamHam on Thu Mar 23, 2006 11:36 am

VOR wrote:Since it was just mentioned, I'll recommend Pullman's trilogy, starting with The Golden Compass, then continuing with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. They're kinda like the Anti-Narnia. Plenty of religious symbolism, and the books do have a subtext to 'em (a subtext which can offend people, sometimes, but one which makes you think), but the story is beatiful and entertaining in and of itself. The characters are well written, and the kids mature as the series progresses.


Anti-Narnia... I like that description. The only real fault I had with His Dark Materials was then end seemed really contrived.

Robert Jordan: His books are popular, and they're still coming out, so I'll say a bit on 'em. They're good books. They're a massive epic, and the world is detailed. The characters are good, the magic is fascinating, and the bad guys are actually BAD (I like my evil to be smart, motivated, non-standard-issue evil). That said, the books are MASSIVE. There are dozens of minor characters who are introduced and who the reader is expected to remember two books later when they pop up again. This makes the books feel much more continuous, but it can also make them overwhelming. I have to be in the right mood to sit down and read them. I worry that Jordan will pull a Herbert on us and die before he can finish the thing...


If he really means to finish it in 12 he probably won't die... unless he like spontaniously combusts or something...

And he should, in theory, be able to, the same way Stephenson's book tend to go from climax to end in under the last chapter.

Speaking of Herbert: Dune. Hasn't been mentioned yet. Dune is a work of art, and it's one of the classics (I like a lot of the classics) that everyone should be familiar with. There's a series, which Herbert died just before finishing, but the books get worse with each passing novel. The first one stands alone, though, and should be taken as a meal by itself. You can get the series if you want. Read 'em once, then use 'em as doorstops. Or Christmas gifts to family members you don't really like.


Dune is just too much of an acid trip for me. I read the sequels, and frankly I can't form any clear idea of what the heck actually happened. While the first one is somewhat clearer, it's still very trippy.

Snowcrash: I like Diamond Age better. That is all...well, not quite all. YAY ISLANDS BUILT OF NANOBOTS! WOO!


Diamond Age just had a somewhat unfulfilling ending, and frankly I never quite identified with Nell and company as I did with Hiro and YT. Plus, I think Snow Crash has better writing overall. The opening page of it is brilliant.

Which is strange considering Nell has a lot in common with Ender, one of my favorite characters ever... however I guess I prefer Ender to Nell because he's more human and on the other side of the spectrum Peter is just cooler. Or something.

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

Something else I'll throw out there:

Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn series. Some of the best sci-fi I've read. Interstellar politics, plot depth akin to WoT in only 6 books, intriguing characters, a decent understanding of scientific reality, all in all awesomeness.

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

Edit: Jeez, can't believe I didn't mention these earlier:

Dan Simmons. Hyperion and it's sequals are amazing, interweaving sci-fi with literary history and dealing with time travel in ways I've never seen before. Olympus & Illium actually make me want to go read the Illiad now. This trend in both series, of using history to model science fiction is extremely imaginative.

Otherland series by Tad Williams. Best. VR. Series. Ever. The not-so-distant future Williams creates is both provocative and hillarious. The characters are awesome, even if they do spend a lot of time in comas, and the story is epic.
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Postby ravenb on Thu Mar 23, 2006 12:25 pm

HamHam wrote:
VOR wrote:Since it was just mentioned, I'll recommend Pullman's trilogy, starting with The Golden Compass, then continuing with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. They're kinda like the Anti-Narnia. Plenty of religious symbolism, and the books do have a subtext to 'em (a subtext which can offend people, sometimes, but one which makes you think), but the story is beatiful and entertaining in and of itself. The characters are well written, and the kids mature as the series progresses.


Anti-Narnia... I like that description. The only real fault I had with His Dark Materials was then end seemed really contrived.


To put it mildly, yes. :roll: I found The Amber Spyglass to be very disappointing, after following the first two books with interest. I would say that Pullman let his story be subverted by his ideology; the whole thing becomes annoyingly preachy in Book 3. I felt that he could probably have made his point through metaphor if he had stayed in a fantasy setting; it would have fit the style of story-telling better and probably been far less obnoxious. Unfortunately, when he let the "real" world and the Christian religion become part of the story, his vehement opposition to Christianity caused him to derail the narrative for the sake of attacking what he believes Christianity to be. (I don't want to set off another debate here, so I'll just say that -- as one who knows the religion intimately, and is aware with both its virtues and its flaws -- I found that he had a number of crucial, tragic and fundamental misunderstandings about the essential nature and character of the faith, and these misunderstandings made his ex-nun character utterly unbelievable.)

In essence, I think Pullman was guilty of the same crime as many political and religious novelists: that of sacrificing good fiction on the altar of indoctrination. (I've read some bad Christian fiction that is like this, so I know it goes both ways.) He had a creative and imaginative setting, a very interesting blend of quantum mechanics with fantasy, and a story that would have been enjoyable to a broader audience if he had left it as allegory -- but by letting the subtext become text, he killed much of the artistry that had marked the earlier portions of the novel.

HamHam wrote:Which is strange considering Nell has a lot in common with Ender, one of my favorite characters ever... however I guess I prefer Ender to Nell because he's more human and on the other side of the spectrum Peter is just cooler. Or something.


<grin> There's one thing we can agree on, anyway. The Ender series is one of the best I've ever read, and Speaker for the Dead probably impacted me on a personal level more than any book other than the Bible itself (though The Worthing Saga is a close second).
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Postby HamHam on Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:27 pm

ravenb wrote:To put it mildly, yes. :roll: I found The Amber Spyglass to be very disappointing, after following the first two books with interest. I would say that Pullman let his story be subverted by his ideology; the whole thing becomes annoyingly preachy in Book 3. I felt that he could probably have made his point through metaphor if he had stayed in a fantasy setting; it would have fit the style of story-telling better and probably been far less obnoxious. Unfortunately, when he let the "real" world and the Christian religion become part of the story, his vehement opposition to Christianity caused him to derail the narrative for the sake of attacking what he believes Christianity to be. (I don't want to set off another debate here, so I'll just say that -- as one who knows the religion intimately, and is aware with both its virtues and its flaws -- I found that he had a number of crucial, tragic and fundamental misunderstandings about the essential nature and character of the faith, and these misunderstandings made his ex-nun character utterly unbelievable.)


Actually, I was talking about the resolution of the "romance" side of the stroy. As extremely anti-Christian myself I have no problem with some good Catholic bashing. :wink:

In essence, I think Pullman was guilty of the same crime as many political and religious novelists: that of sacrificing good fiction on the altar of indoctrination. (I've read some bad Christian fiction that is like this, so I know it goes both ways.)


*cough*Out of the Silent Planet*cough*

<grin> There's one thing we can agree on, anyway. The Ender series is one of the best I've ever read, and Speaker for the Dead probably impacted me on a personal level more than any book other than the Bible itself (though The Worthing Saga is a close second).


Personally, I liked Xenocide/Children of the Mind of the most because Peter2 is awesome. I like him beyond even Bean, Ender, or the original Peter.
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Postby Sqauto on Thu Mar 23, 2006 1:46 pm

HamHam wrote:Actually, I was talking about the resolution of the "romance" side of the stroy. As extremely anti-Christian myself I have no problem with some good Catholic bashing. :wink:


Oh, is that so.

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Postby VOR on Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:54 pm

Now, now, Squato. Don't go startin' another war, k? HamHam's shown itself to be a pretty openminded, nonflamy individual, even if he occasionally has controversial views.

In defense of His Dark Materials: I liked the ending. Admittedly the whole "redo Eden" thingy was a bit contrived, but I compare the trilogy to Narnia and it comes out favorably for the trilogy. I have roughly the same complaints about C.S. Lewis that Ravenb brings up about Pullman-namely, his ideology invaded the story enough that I was annoyed by its end, even though the story itself wasn't that bad. I think any story with a strong subtext is gonna have that effect as it reaches the climax of its argument, at least on those who disagree strongly with the subtext. Personally, I tend to agree with Pullman on many aspects of religiosity (though I disagree with generalizing about the religious), and his story was thoroughly enjoyable to me because the subtext was one I was already ok with.

On to Orson Scott Card: I loved Ender's Game and the Ender Saga, and I love the Ender's Shadow series. Other than that, the only works of Card's which I've read are short fiction (good stuff, but not wonderful) and the one where they go back in time and mess with Columbus and the Aztecs to save the world. Can't remember the title. In both of the books set in Ender's universe, though, he starts out really strong and fades. The first book in each series is the strongest, in my opinion, and they weaken as they go on. This could be because Ender loses his killing edge to a certain degree and because I can't STAND his girlfriend for the life of me, and liked Bean a lot better when he was on the streets and in school than after the defeat of the Buggers.
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Postby Sqauto on Thu Mar 23, 2006 3:57 pm

VOR wrote:Now, now, Squato. Don't go startin' another war, k? HamHam's shown itself to be a pretty openminded, nonflamy individual, even if he occasionally has controversial views.


Just playing.

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Postby VOR on Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:10 pm

That reminds me of another Good Book...[/punnery]
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Postby xyzzy_n on Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:22 pm

VOR wrote:That reminds me of another Good Book...[/punnery]
Uh-huh. <code></annoying-sqauto-by-making-indirect-analogies-in-an-otherwise-unrelated-thread></code>
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Postby Grim Atescu on Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:45 pm

...Good Omens? </jokingcluelessness>
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Postby Sqauto on Thu Mar 23, 2006 10:36 pm

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Postby Conina on Sat Mar 25, 2006 9:54 pm

Well, people have already mentioned most of the authors I'd suggest (highly, highly recommend Terry Pratchett to all and sundry, even if you don't tend to like fantasy).

I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned Lynn Flewelling. She's written only five books so far, three in the Nightrunner series (not a trilogy!) and the first two books in the Tamir Triad (third book to be released this year). She has continuity issues, but then, so do a lot of other authors (like Raymond E. Feist for instance), and her stuff is really good. First Nightrunner book is Luck in the shadows, first Tamir book is The bone doll's twin. (Those are fantasy BTW)

Another good fantasy author is Janny Wurts. I personally am not a big fan of her stuff, which I think just proves how good she is when I say that she really is a damn good author.
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Postby Reg DeCurry on Tue Mar 28, 2006 2:28 pm

I'd recommend the Noble Dead series by Barb and JC Hendee for a good fantasy horror fix. Dhampir, Thief of Lives, and Sister of the Dead are all in paperback (and always were, I think), while Traitor to the Blood came out in hardcover a few months ago.

(Just a note: despite the "reviews", the only similarity to Buffy is that there's a female vampire hunter featured; this series far more like the Ravenloft D&D gamebooks and novels.)
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