Books are better than friends. You can stuff them in a suitcase and drag them on an airplane against their will and no one will cry "kidnapper!" You can ignore them for months, lock them in a dark room on a dusty shelf without food or water, and they will be just as happy to see you when you let them out. You can take a hot bubble bath with them and not worry about the possibility of rumors and lingering awkwardness. And once you are done with them, you can trade them away for something different and receive no angry WTF text messages the next day.
I like books. And I like fantasy/sci-fi. Sure I'm guilty of finding a twelve-inch stick and (after an inconspicuous 360-degree glance to ensure nobody is looking) practicing my swish-and-flick wingardium leviosa technique. And maybe, just maybe, I occasionally extend my hand towards the television remote across the room, pretending it's the butt of a lightsaber and a bloodthirsty wompa is bearing down on me while my feet are frozen in the ice. (Wait, that isn't really from a book now, is it? I digress...) One of these days the Force will prevail and that remote will fly across the room into my surprised fingers.
Books let you experience things you will never experience and be characters you are just too slow, boring and unattractive to be. Fantasy and science fiction let you see worlds that, well, just aren't possible. That's what makes it all so great.
Okay, enough already. I'm sure you get the point. Here are five sci-fi/fantasy series that have tickled into life the writer I hope to become:
The Dark Tower has it all: Love, murder, monsters, Old West gunslinging, Arthurian legend, a fearsome yet legless heroine with split personality disorder, a psychotic supersonic sentient train with a penchant for riddling to the death, an evil witch with a glass ball that allows her to see anywhere at any time, a crimson-eyed wizard king commanding terrible hordes of mutants on a quest to destroy beams holding up the multiple-universe nexus known as the Dark Tower. It goes on and on. There isn't enough to say about The Dark Tower other than there is nothing else like it and never will be.
2. George R.R. Martin- A Song of Fire & Ice
I'm going to say it, call it blasphemy: I like the screen version better than the books. George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire & Ice is good but the books are too fat. In my opinion the show did well at trimming it, making the important characters pop more and letting unimportant ones plummet away like needless pennies. Maybe you disagree? No worries, I still like you. But there is no doubt that Fire & Ice (and its HBO companion Game of Thrones) has influenced a new generation of fantasy lovers. For me personally it revived a long-last interest in the genre and for that I am greatly in-debted to it.
3. Patrick Rothfuss- The Kingkiller Chronicles
As a storyteller, musician, traveler, romantic, and performer, I am an Edema Ruh at heart, and I can't help by empathize with Kvothe, the hero of Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicles. I just wish Rothfuss would get on with finishing Book 3 already. Now the series has been optioned for a television show and a movie deal, tangentially bogging down the forward progress and leaving fans like me wondering how much longer we will have to wait for the story's conclusion.
What person who grew up watching Star Wars every weekend for the first ten years of his life doesn't like a good space opera? Iain M. Banks's Culture series stands on the shoulders of predecessor giants like George Lucas and Frank Herbert and peers further into the possibilities of space and technology than practically anyone before or since. His unrivaled imagination formed such a believable galaxy, it seems quite possible he was an inter-galactic traveler reporting on real places and events rather than a fiction novelist. The only slightly aggravating part is the lack of continuity from book to book. Instead of being a series per se, the Culture novels are more a collection of loosely connected narratives that exist in the same fictional universe. Banks's untimely death in 2013 left a gaping hole in the Sci-Fi canon that will be difficult to impossible to fill.
5. Joe Abercrombie- The First Law
An uncouth northerner with a scarred face and an even more scarred past. A prima donna highborn whose primary lust is for fame and status. A highly selfish (and terribly powerful) wizard who will stop at nothing to achieve his own ends. A former war hero tortured so profoundly that the only skill he now possesses is torturing others in the name of the King. These are a few of the main characters of Joe Abercrombie's First Law series, a dark fantasy saga where people don't always get what they deserve. Grim, violent, thrilling and almost impossible to put down.
I am moist clay and these books pinched, poked, scored and shaped me into the reader and writer I am. Sure I could have included megaclassics like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or Star Wars, but that would have been boring. So there it is....
What books shaped you? Although my reading list is stupidly long, I am always willing to insert, add, copy and paste, delete, underline, boldface, whatever it takes to find and read the best books out there. I want to hear what I'm missing out on.