I’ve finally thought of a discussion for this week. I apologize that it’s a bit late.
I had a friend ask me what fantasy book she should read if she’s never read fantasy before. I honestly had no idea what to say to her, so I asked Twitter and got some great suggestions I threw her direction. Of course this got my brain pumping, so I thought I’d ask my blog readers the same question to see what you guys thought.
So, what fantasy book would you have someone read who has never read fantasy before.
And, to shake it up a bit – What book would you have someone read who has never read science fiction before?
— In other news, I started a Facebook page for this blog. There isn’t anything there yet (I’m still working on it). If you want to follow me over on Facebook, you can find me here. Eventually I’ll be like the cool kids and have a nifty button on the side of my page you can click on to take you there. For now, the link will have to work. —
That is a really hard question. It's very tempting to suggest a favourite fantasy book. But if you think about it you'll usually come to the conclusion that it is really not a good starting point, because it will probably be a book that you would want at least some familiarity with the concepts of fantasy before tackling.
The same really goes for any series, even a trilogy. I think suggesting three, or more, books to someone who has never read fantasy would be a mistake. It could put them off before they even started.
So, single book then. Still not very easy, fantasy is a big field when you think about it.
For secondary world fantasy I'd have to go with The Hobbit. It's short, compared to most fantasy, and it contains most of the elements of the epic/quest fantasy. It is really a good book, and it is not so complicated that people will have trouble with adjusting to both a unfamiliar world and a way of telling stories.
I'd also suggest Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, for something set in our world. It's a great urban fantasy book, and really a classic within the genre that any fan of SFF should read.
Science Fiction is even harder. I haven't read science fiction as widely, so I have less to choose from. And it's hard to find something that doesn't require quite a lot of suspension of dibelief. Or to put it another way, something that is easilly accessible to someone unfamiliar with the genre.
Same as with fantasy I'd also go with something that is standalone. That part is a bit easier, because there's less trilogies in science fiction, usually the first book in a series can be read by itself.
I just re-read The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, it is a classic and also a good starting point. But I'm not so sure as I was with fantasy and would give them a few more suggestions.
Embedded by Dan Abnett is good if they are interested in the military (,and/or journalism). Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke is also a good classic, dealing with first encounters. For more of a space opera I'd suggest Consider Phlebas, or if they find that long The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks. If they want more of a near future book, I'd go with River of Gods by Ian McDonald.
"The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" are good books to ease into. There are plenty relatable characters, and recognizable places and situations in both. But there are also fantastical elements far beyond this world. Both are easily accessible and have strong followings.
I strongly disagree with the "ease" part unless you recommend to a child or someone who reads childish books; for someone mature who reads quality, you must start at the top and Game of Thrones and The Reality Dysfunction are where I would point, with Perdido Street Station and Use of Weapons as alternates
For Fantasy, it depends on the person, what types of books they read, etc. Here are the usual books I have recommended to someone looking to get into Fantasy.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Storm Front by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
For Science Fiction, I look for good transitional books, books that have elements than non-scifi fans would like.
Replay by Ken Grimwood
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Strangely enough, I posted something similar on my blog this week 🙂 I'm gunning for Pratchett/Gaiman's Good Omens; it's got enough funnies to keep them interested, set in our world for the familiarity, and it'll hopefully make them wander on over to the Discworld 🙂
Science Fiction? Well, that covers quite a wide scope, as there are several different subgenres, such as Military Science Fiction, Space Opera etc. Military Science Fiction would start with either Horus Rising by Dan Abnett or The Founding by Dan Abnett.
I haven't read many science fiction outside the Warhammer 40,000 universe though.
For Fantasy, I would probably recommend something like The Dresden Files, depending on their age Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit.
Weirdmage & Jamie stole my list 🙂
Good Omens & Neverwhere for fantasy (and Un Lun Dun), Player of Games for SF.
BaneofKings has a good idea with Harry Potter and LotR (and GoT) though – odds are those are familiar to your reader already, which makes it a sneaky way in.
I'd probably go with The Name of the Wind and Ender's Game.
But that could easily change depending on the person I'm giving a recommendation to.
We've all read them and perhaps outgrown them but Eddings 5 book Belgariad is a good start. Short, fun, classic fantasty tropes. Two personal favorites of mine are Rose of the Prophet by Weis & Hickman and The Lions of al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. The first a light hearted Arabian Knights story the other Kay pouring on the prose.
Sci fi I would offer up House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds or Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton.
Can't go wrong with Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. In fact, I did the very thing you mention with it: it was my other half's first fantasy, and she loved it. There have been several others since, which makes me a happy man, not to mention inestimably grateful to the author for giving me this pretty little thing to share with her.
As to science fiction, just off the top of my head, I'd say Leviathan Wakes. That book was so much damn fun I can't imagine anyone not wanting more where it came from, immediately please. 🙂
That is really a tough question. I think it would depend on other books they have read before. Do they like the journey reads? Do they like loads of action? Thieves? Deep and heavy? So many different things go into the books. I would definitely suggest The Riyria Revelations to a new Fantasy reader. It has a little bit of everything in it and Epic too. And Brandon Sanderson's books as well. The magic system will keep any reader occupied with the story line. 🙂
It's always hard to suggest books & I get nervous when I do. The fear that the reader will come back and tell me I have crappy suggestions. But everyone is subject to their own thoughts on each book. That's for sure.
Songs of Fire and Ice are one's I have recommend to so many people I work. Excellent choice. From that point on, they seem to be more open to the whole 'fantasy' genre.
As to Scifi, I sometimes recommend Hyperion by Dan Simmon.
Ender's Game is my go-to sci-fi choice, though I'm struggling a bit with fantasy. Unsure what to pick for myself, to be perfectly honest… It's always tough introducing people to new genres, harder still with genres often marginalised for little discernable reason…
I would easily recommend either The Name of the Wind, or Assassin: Apprentice. Great characters and easy-to-follow prose.