Contrarius

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About Contrarius

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  1. Fantasy and SF Recommendations: Series

    I never see anyone talk much about urban fantasy on this board, and I've been reading a lot of that lately, so here's a few recommendations in that subgenre. I've been reading male POV series, so I'll restrict my recs to those for now: The Joe Pitt series by Charlie Huston -- I like this series in a big way. Gripping series by an accomplished writer of noir/pulp fiction. The style is a combination of Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, and Quentin Tarantino. Do NOT read these if you can't stand grim grimy-ness, fatalism, and gore. The main character is a vampire in NYC, in a vampire-sort-of-mob-underculture. Vivid side characters, most of them also vampires. No fairies, no werewolves, no unicorns or sparkly anything. The series is already completed, so you never have to worry about waiting for the next book to come out. I really enjoyed the narration on these by Scott Brick, so consider the audio version. The Felix Castor series by Mike Carey -- Right now this may be my second favorite UF series next to the Dresden files. Takes place in and around London. Can also be grim and grimy, but at least two tones lighter than the Joe Pitt series. Darker than the Dresden Files, though. Interestingly, both Charlie Huston and Mike Carey (not to mention Jim Butcher and his graphic novels) have been involved with comic books. The main character is an "exorcist", but not in the sense that we usually think of that term. In fact, he's an atheist. We might think of him more as a medium, with the added power of banishing the spirits when necessary. Interestingly, he uses a tin whistle when summoning or banishing. Good sidekicks here, including a data retrieval specialist who happens to be a zombie, a femme fatale who happens to be a succubus, and a best friend who happens to be possessed by a powerful demon. Some good British humor, but not generally funny books. No fairies, no vampires (one minor background character claims to be a vampire, but nobody believes him), no sparkly anything. The Rivers of London aka the Peter Grant series, by Ben Aaronovitch. This is his first strictly UF book, but he has written Dr. Who and I think Blake's 7 novels in the past. Sillier in tone than the two series above, lots of British humor in these, but not over-the-top like Pratchett or Adams. This is a new series, with only two in print so far. The main character is a young constable of mixed race (I mention this because the constable himself mentions it many times) on the London police force, who gets roped into the paranormal crimes unit (which consists of one detective/wizard) as the wizard's apprentice after said wizard discovers that the constable has interviewed a ghost who witnessed a crime. Some icky things happen in the books, but the overall tone is *relatively* light. Interesting characters, muddy plotting IMHO. It will be interesting to see how the series progresses. The Twenty Palaces series by Harry Connolly. Not exactly "urban" fantasy, because they take place mostly in or around small towns in Washington state. The monsters here are Lovecraftian, not the generic vampire/werewolf/fairy types. The main character is a low level operative in the "Twenty Palace" society, which is an organization of magic users who go around killing magic users. Yes, hypocrites to the bone, but it makes a little more sense in the context of the books. The magic system/systems here are quite interesting, and the monsters are certainly different than average. Pretty grim overall. Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. I thought the first book in this series, Hounded, read pretty much like a first novel -- which it was. Because of that I really tried to not like the second novel, Hexed, but it was so much fun I finally had to give in and enjoy it. I have good hopes for the third novel, Hammered, which I have not yet read. The main character, Atticus O'Sullivan, is a 2100 year old Druid. Supposedly the last of the druids. The stories are populated by gods of various pantheons, especially Celtic and Norse with some Native American thrown in. Also less "urban" than some series, as they take place so far in Arizona. Lighter in tone than any of the above. Has a dog who can communicate telepathically with Atticus, which I generally find a distasteful idea in books, but there is some fun to be had with it. Vampire and werewolf lawyers and doctors, squishable fairies (not Tinkerbells), witches, and of course the gods. Good humor scattered throughout, especially in the second book where Hearne seemed to relax more. These books are being pushed hard by the publisher. Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. 'Nuff said. Only three more weeks til Ghost Story is released! Anti-recommendations: The Remy Chandler series by Tom (?) Sniegoski. I think these are popular with some folks, but I found the first book deadly dull boring. I liked the idea -- an angel who has renounced most of his powers to live like a human -- but I just couldn't wade through the first book of the series. Also has a telepathically-talking dog (yeck). The President's Vampire series by Christopher Farnsworth. Interesting premise -- a vampire is blood sworn to serve the president and his duly appointed representatives. Unfortunately the caricaturish and stereotyped characters and the dumb plotting ruined it for me, and I couldn't get through the first book. Enough for now!
  2. Fantasy and SF Recommendations: Series

    I've only read the first book in the trilogy, so I can't speak for the whole series. IMHO it had good ideas, mostly interesting characters, and even some good plotting -- but mediocre execution. I really thought it was kinda a waste, because it seemed to me that somebody with better writing skills could have made a really good book out of it. I do plan to read the rest of the trilogy eventually, so maybe I'll like the other books better!