On these pages you will find the best in speculative fiction books, with brief reviews. The reviews are all positive: if I don't like it, I don't promote it. I have also included pages with research resources, which others with like interests may explore.

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Contemporary Classics Non-genre Medieval Resources Movies

Timeless speculative fiction. Lyrical, thought provoking, books that every well-read fan should read at least twice.

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House

A spare, chilling story. Written in the days before publishers demanded 300 page minimums, Jackson makes every word count as she carries you deep into the mind of an emotionally broken woman--or else a vulnerable woman slipping into possession.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

The great epic. With every reading new layers open up. A tale of profound faith, so complex that many of its virtues are not seen on first or second or even third readings. Tolkien set out to create a mythology of England, equal in majesty and scope to the great Icelandic sagas. It appears to me he succeeded.

More by & about Tolkien.

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion

Not a novel, but the mythic origins of Middle Earth. This was Tolkien's masterwork, which he began decades before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and continued to refine until his death.

More by & about Tolkien.

Ursula LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness

Easily her best work. One of the most compelling takes on gender issues, provoking and thoughtful for men and women both. Everyone is a potential mother. There is no fundamental dualism in the world. There is no question of dominance of one group over another in sexuality. This is the world in which a lone Earth man works to welcome the people of Gethen into the interstellar community, becomes a pawn, a prisoner, and falls in love--and then there's the arctic trek.

Ursula LeGuin's Always Coming Home

A very different future, Le Guin creates a people with a different "cultural metaphor," in which the divine is understood not as king or even benevolent father but as a dance. While the book contains an extended narrative of one disaffected daughter's coming into adulthood, it is more a full study of the People of the Valley of the Na, including "historical documents" ("The War with the Pig People"), stories written by the People, explanations of grammar and syntax, and even recipes (the fried eggplant is pretty good!).

Some call this work a neo-pagan eutopia, yet I, who am not neo-pagan and was bored to tears by The Mists of Avalon, found myself longing for the Na.

Patricia McKillip's The Quest of the Riddlemaster

One of the few other high fantasies that approaches the Grand Master in terms of depth and majesty. Where it may fall short (as everyone must in such a comparisom) it compensates by being eminently more readable.

James Tiptree Jr.'s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever

A breathless anthology about men, women, and humanity. Includes many of her best stories: "The Women Men Don't See," "Your Faces, O My Sisters, Your Faces Filled of Light," "The Green Hills of Earth," and "The Screwfly Solution."  

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five 

Vonnegut tells you upfront what the story is about, and yet still people argue about it endlessly. It is about his experience surviving the fire-bombing of Dresden as a POW during WWII. Despite all the sarcasm, time-travelling, and alien investigation of humanity, this remains loud in my mind: it is about a man seeking to come to terms with a humanitarian horror greater, in terms of lost life, than the bombing of Hiroshima.

This is also one of very few books I have read that uses well the emotionally-disconnected, sarcastic voice that is so popular today. I would say it is because that is the only voice he could use to talk about things this real.

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451--the temperature at which books burn:

More prophetic than 1984, Bradbury creates a world in which the media have numbed people into insensitivity. Written in the 1950's, he foresaw a world that looks strikingly like our own collection of MTV and televisions in subway stations. All that America lacks to make this dystopia real is the book burners--"a very small step." This delivered with Bradbury's incomparable poetic skill.

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