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Unusual book themes - recommendations?

oncelingonceling Registered User regular
edited January 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Folks you seem to know a lot of great reading material. You've certainly been the cause of a few hundred bucks I've spent on Amazon in the last year or so.

Anyway, there are a few 'themes' that I would like to read a broader range of books about. I'm open to any/all suggestions from young adult novels through serious 'adult' fiction.

Here's the themes:

1. Fantasy books where a sub-set of the population has different telepathic abilities like speaking with animals or each other. I'm aware of Tamora Pierce who I enjoyed 10 years ago, and the Australian Obernewtyn series. Both are young adult. I've read Zimmer-Bradley Darkover stuff but it wasn't really what I was looking for. The Chrysalids was right on track but unfortunately brief. Are there others?

2. Books about 'magic schools' (like Harry Potter and the Worst Witch series).

3. Are there any books out there dealing with the idea of a 'private police force' where rich people with the $$ could pay for above-average police investigation.

4. I am very interested in non-fiction books about unusual cultural situations/events. For example I haven't read but have ordered the book Shutting Out the Sun about "hikikomori" in Japan. Doesn't have to be Japanese, I am pretty interested in genetic abnormalities, psychological (like The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) and cultural topics as long as it's quite conversational and not too full of facts and studies.


So these are pretty weird but I'm hoping people out there have a few suggestions for me. Thanks :)

onceling on

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    Shark_MegaByteShark_MegaByte Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    1. Diana Pharoah Francis' "Path" series (beginning with "Path of Fate") fits the description. It's not great fantasy... I'd rate it around 2-2.5 out of 5 stars... (it's enough to hold your attention, but the author seemed to still have a lot to improve before she can be called consistently good. She introduces words and titles without sufficient clues for the reader to figure them out quickly, and she also introduces a major character from an alternate world, the rendering of which seemed very one-dimensional to me. And the romantic subplot has one of the most "WTF?! What was the point of THAT?!" scenes I've ever encountered). Anyway, it's something to read that falls within that niche.

    4. I found Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink (the power of thinking without thinking)" very interesting. Try sampling a section and see if it's balanced enough between facts and talkativeness for you.

    Shark_MegaByte on
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    noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    If you're interested in "magic school" theme, I can't recommend In the Name of the Wind enough. It's a really good, more grown up version of the cliche "boy finds he has a knack for magic and goes to magic school". Plus the writer is a fan of Penny Arcade, so there's that.

    noir_blood on
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    You guys are awesome.

    Name of the Wind has been recommended before, I don't know why I haven't picked it up yet.

    Blink looks right up my alley.

    And the Path series I've never heard of but the synopsis sounds spot on. I'm interested in both the good and bad of the 'telepathy' genre.

    Thanks again, if anyone has others I buy a ton of books so please feel free to keep posting.

    onceling on
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    contrabandcontraband Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    'Magic for Beginners' by Shelly Link? It's a compilation of otherworldly short-stories.

    contraband on
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    IriahIriah Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    3. Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. It's not entirely what you're looking for but I don't think it'll matter that much. It's really good.

    Iriah on
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    JHunzJHunz Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    1) Hell's Gate (David Weber and Linda Evans) might fit the bill here. Two civilizations expanding through parallel universes through gates collide..one of them is based on technology and a variety of telepathic gifts, while the other is based on magic. I'm really looking forward to the next in the series.

    JHunz on
    bunny.gif Gamertag: JHunz. R.I.P. Mygamercard.net bunny.gif
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    ZsetrekZsetrek Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    onceling wrote: »
    1. Fantasy books where a sub-set of the population has different telepathic abilities like speaking with animals or each other. I'm aware of Tamora Pierce who I enjoyed 10 years ago, and the Australian Obernewtyn series. Both are young adult. I've read Zimmer-Bradley Darkover stuff but it wasn't really what I was looking for. The Chrysalids was right on track but unfortunately brief. Are there others?

    Robin Hobb's Assassin books are about this - specifically the animals thing.

    I'm curious; any reason for the specific requests, or a you just a man who knows what he likes?

    Zsetrek on
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    noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Iriah wrote: »
    3. Altered Carbon, by Richard Morgan. It's not entirely what you're looking for but I don't think it'll matter that much. It's really good.

    Ha, I thought about recommending that one too. It's not the police state you're looking for, but it does show how people with money(and other perks) can get away with things. Good book

    noir_blood on
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Zsetrek wrote: »

    Robin Hobb's Assassin books are about this - specifically the animals thing.

    I'm curious; any reason for the specific requests, or a you just a man who knows what he likes?

    I'm very fond of the Robin Hobb books, pretty much without exception. Great recommendation. I haven't read the new series though, just beacuse I'd like for them all to be released before I start.

    (I'm a girl), but you're partially right, I just know what I like. But it's not just that. I read a lot of different stuff and amongst all the 'things you *should* read' and 'things people lent you to read' and 'things you want to have an opinion on' sometimes I really just want to read about subjects that interest me. I also write some unoriginal short stories and so enjoy reading books about the same themes to do my best and be a little more unique. I've tried out a lot of fantasy and sci fi and I've enjoyed these subjects most even when not as well written, as there are often some unique gems of ideas that I haven't considered before.

    The private police force is just something that has come up in conversations with friends recently as a dangerous but somewhat interesting possibility - given the lack of justice I see in today's society and the fact that most people get away with crimes. I found it impossible to believe that my idea was unique and was interested in reading some about it (most likely in fiction).

    I mentioned #4 because there's so many books out there that are just complete garbage these days. It's very hard to cut through the crap and find good books on interesting topics. Not really sure why I find culture and psychology so interesting. I moved across the world once and I think the culture shock (to this day) has permanently fascinated me.

    onceling on
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    IriahIriah Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Incidentally her new series is utter trash, shite, and codswallop. Do not touch it and expect to keep the hand. I will elaborate if you want but I will need some mouthwash first.

    Iriah on
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    JHunzJHunz Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Iriah wrote: »
    Incidentally her new series is utter trash, shite, and codswallop. Do not touch it and expect to keep the hand. I will elaborate if you want but I will need some mouthwash first.
    Yeah, I was also pretty disappointed with the first book of it. Consider this unrecommendation seconded.

    JHunz on
    bunny.gif Gamertag: JHunz. R.I.P. Mygamercard.net bunny.gif
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Iriah wrote: »
    Incidentally her new series is utter trash, shite, and codswallop. Do not touch it and expect to keep the hand. I will elaborate if you want but I will need some mouthwash first.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330200675607

    Toxic cleaning strength. Do elaborate.

    onceling on
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    IriahIriah Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    Hobb tried to make this book as boring as possible. I'm not even kidding. Nevare is like Fitz, only without anything interesting ever happening to him. Nevare never acts once in the entire book - it's all reactionary. He's self-righteous, stuffy, slow, set in his ways, and never says anything challenging or worth reading at all. You know how other books, when their main character might see slavery, or torture, or killing, and get all worked up about it because y'know he's a hero and it's wrong? Well, Nevare will sit there and say, "Oh, slavery? You're a slave? Fascinating! Did you know I'm a cadet and being a cadet there's lots of things in my..." blah blah blah fucking blah. By the end of it I hated the guy. And then apparently in the next books he becomes fat because he is magic, and that's supposed to be character development. Oh, and did I mention that in the original novel he's responsible for the deaths of thousands of people because he didn't do shit about carrying the plague?

    I don't honestly know what Hobb was thinking when she wrote this. Perhaps someone praised the dull parts of Assassin's Quest for being moving and incredible or something, but she's fucking wrong if she thinks anyone could read this and say, "Yes, this was a decent, well-paced, concise novel that didn't bore me too much," without their head promptly exploding from so big a lie packed in to such a small sentence. This novel is awful.

    Edit: It's a brick, too. 533 pages of torturous, slow-moving, pretentious dud.

    Edit2: Her prose style is like eating rusty knives coating in semen. Here is one of Nevare's many thought trains copied verbatim:
    I had made myself uncomfortable with the discussion. All knew that a man's career was determined by his birth order. To question it was to question the will of the good god himself. All knew the tales of what came of trying to quarrel with your fate. A son must be what he was born to be. My family was strict in the matter. It was true that some of the other noble families were less observant of the law. In one notorious case, when the House Offeri heir son died, Lord Offeri had moved each of his sons up a notch, so that the soldier became the heir, the priest the soldier, and so on. All were failures in their careers. The new 'heir' was too militant with the estates serfs, and many of them fled the land, leaving crops to rot in the fieldsblahblahblaAAAAAAAAH

    That was half of the through process. Then it is interrupted by a line of dialogue, and continues again for twice as long.

    He's already had this same line of thinking at least twice so far.

    Iriah on
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    SolandraSolandra Registered User regular
    edited January 2008
    for #1 and a smattering of #2, Mercedes Lackey's Arrows of the Queen trilogy is good stuff (I believe Arrows of the Queen is the name of the first book, not the trilogy). It's older, but it meets the criteria on several fronts, appealed to me as a female type person, is good "coming of age" light fiction that deals with some fairly adult ideas - so it's coming-of-age, but not something I'd give to my ten year old daughter or neice.

    Another resource for #1 is Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, both the Dragonriders of Pern (Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon), and The Harper Hall of Pern (Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums). Also older, but she continued to write and the series stayed remarkably intact as the author aged (not something that always happens), and one of her sons has continued the series very successfully. Both are appropriate to anyone who can read well enough to understand them, though some of the themes in Dragonriders of Pern are less obvious to younger readers - it was a funny sort of Ah-Hah! moment for me when I was in college and I realized that a male dragonrider with a female dragon might have a quandry when she went into heat... I'd been reading it since my early teens and completely missed that...

    Solandra on
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