16 May 2008 @ 08:33 pm
and now for something much lighter  
Prompted by a couple of discussions, one on the RomSF mailing list, and the other on someone's blog (sorry, can't remember who).

Fair warning: I am going to make a comparison that may make some of you shudder.

I've been looking for a new series to read for quite some time now. My favorite series, which will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me, is the Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. But I'm not looking for the standard SF "if you like this, you'll like that," because what I like about the Bujold books doesn't really have anything to do with their genre.

So. Here goes.

The closest I've come in what I'm looking for when I say readalikes for the Vorkosigan books are -- prepare to have your mind boggled -- the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters, which are historical mysteries set in Edwardian-era Egypt. Let me list the similarities:

Larger than life characters in an exotic setting, an unreliable narrator, romance, a hero (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the series) to ooh over, mystery, characters who grow up and older and change over the course of the series, adventure that emerges from the characters' personalities and flaws, and more romance .

What I'm really looking for is more books that have these things in common. It really doesn't matter where I find them. Or in what genre.

I'm not saying I don't like the SFnal aspects of Bujold -- I do, very much. But I look on uterine replicators and wormhole travel and butterbugs and all that sort of thing the same way I view the archaelogical background of the Peabody books. They're part of what makes each series unique and interesting, but they're not what I read the books for.

Anybody have any suggestions?

ETA: Prompted by a couple of comments, something else that probably needs to be taken into consideration. Both the Peabody books and the Vorkosigan books have very strong familial connections and threads. They're actually both much more alike in that aspect than in any other way -- the Great Man, his strong-willed, intelligent wife, and their son who is trying so hard to Be Someone on his own rather than just his parents' child. I know that's way too specific when I'm looking for readalikes. But I do think a strong familial aspect is probably important.

And I may have been giving less credit to the exotic setting than I should be. Not any particular exotic setting, mind you, but one that's interesting and well-rounded and makes the reader wonder what else is going on there besides what we get to see in the books.

Yeah, I'm not asking for much. But I can't help believing that there's got to be more out there like this than just these two series.
 
 
Current Mood: curiouscurious
 
 
 
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Raye: La Gothicawindtear on May 17th, 2008 08:34 am (UTC)
Talk about tall orders!

I'd recommend the Dresden Files - larger than life characters, unreliable narrator, long series with character growth, romance - but the setting of modern Chicago is only exotic in context.

Naomi Novak's Temeraire series is a good read too, probably best described as 'Horatio Hornblower gets a dragon'. Set in a Napoleonic War where dragons are a domesticated species, it has the larger than life characters, character growth, romantic overtones and exotic locales you ask for but the lead character makes an active effort to be as honest with himself as possible (he has reasons).

Terry Pratchett's Discworld is VERY much an individual taste. If you like them they're everything you want and then some. If you don't, well, you simply won't enjoy them at all.
mmegaera: readingmmegaera on May 17th, 2008 05:54 pm (UTC)
I've read and liked the Discworld books -- somehow, though, they're not the kind of book I can sit down and read one after the other, like potato chips. I can read one, but then I have to go read other books for a while before I can read another one. I don't know why that is. Peters and Bujold I can and do reread one after the other, usually in some kind of organized fashion every year or so.

I've read the first Dresden (and seen all of the series) and the first Temeraire and liked both, but haven't really had the urge to read more of either beyond buying the second Dresden a couple of months ago. It's been languishing in my TBR pile ever since. I may have to give both a try again.

I'm wondering -- well, I may make what I'm wondering an ETA on the original post instead of here. Hmmm...
Speschul and interesting in equal parts: readingqueenortart on May 17th, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
I'd agree on the Vor/Peabody comparison, although I think Lois's writing is much tighter, both have the capacity to make me laugh and cry, and are very erm, comfortable, not quite the right word, Memory for example makes me cring, but it's what I turn to when I need to feel cossetted. Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman feels a bit like it. I'd like very much to have an ongoing series by Gaiman, that would do it!
mmegaerammegaera on May 17th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
I have some quibbles with characterization with Peters that I don't have with Bujold, too. For instance, Nefret really needed her agent to fight for her more [g] -- the Nefret of The Last Camel Died at Noon would never have run off and married Geoffrey like that. Or told Percy anything, either, for that matter. She really got jerked around for the sake of the plot. I can't think of any Bujoldian characters I could say that about.

I liked Good Omens, but wasn't overly impressed by it.
bright_lilimbright_lilim on May 17th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
"a hero (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the series)"

So, you don't consider Amelia to be a hero? Do you have to have a male hero?

A series is actually pretty hard to jugde when you're a fan. I was going to suggest Steven Brust's Vlad Taltos series (as a reflex like the fan I am ;)) but then I started to think: do the characters really change? I'm forced to admit that the only characters which change during the long series are Vlad and his wife. And since we see everything through Vlad's eyes we don't even see Cawti when she's changing. But it does have: wonderful characters, unrelible narrator, mystery, a flawed hero, an exotic (high-magic) setting. Not so much romance, though the series starts with Vlad married so what romance there is, is right at the start. But no courtship-romance much at all.

Discworld is a good suggestion and I'll have to start reading Butcher one of these days.

I might also suggest Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel trilogy (there's a second trilogy out but the books haven't made it here...). It's a Renaissance-era alternate history with some magic and angels thrown in. There's lots of mystery, adventure, romance, and sex and the characters do change but within a much shorter timespan than in the Vor/Peabody books. It has an unreliable narrator even though she's a woman. However, it does have explisit BDSM scenes so it's not to everyone's tastes.
mmegaera: readingmmegaera on May 17th, 2008 06:03 pm (UTC)
So, you don't consider Amelia to be a hero? Do you have to have a male hero?

You quoted me out of context [g]. The part you cut off, "to ooh over," sort of presupposes a male in the role for this straight female. I have no issue with female heroes, and I like both Amelia and Cordelia -- with reservations because of their approaches to motherhood, but that's just a personal hot button -- but I don't drool over them. Miles and Ramses are my two most longstanding literary crushes.

I tried Brust a few years ago, and he's not my cup of tea. I've heard a fair amount about Carey, most of which kind of squicked me out, so I suspect she isn't, either, although I may give her a try one of these days. I can always stop if she gets too icky for me [g].
bright_lilimbright_lilim on May 19th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
"The part you cut off, "to ooh over," sort of presupposes a male in the role for this straight female."

Oh, I see. However, for me a male doesn't have to be the lead. In fact I often enjoy male supporting characters more than the leads. Aral is my literary crush. :)

"I tried Brust a few years ago, and he's not my cup of tea."

Ok, that can definitely be the case.

"I've heard a fair amount about Carey, most of which kind of squicked me out, so I suspect she isn't,"

You're likely to be right, then.

I suspect that writers (or publishers) don't want to let their characters get older and change because they are afraid of losing readers. In many, many series the characters don't change either at all or change only a little.
mmegaerammegaera on May 19th, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
I often enjoy male supporting characters more than the leads. Aral is my literary crush. :)

I'm rather fond of Ivan, but not in a crushly way. I pretty much feel about him the way the Koudelka girls do. And David Todros. Aral is a bit too, er, fatherly for me to have a crush on him, as is Emerson.

I suspect that writers (or publishers) don't want to let their characters get older and change because they are afraid of losing readers. In many, many series the characters don't change either at all or change only a little.

I suspect you're right. I know MPM (how her mailing list refers to the author of the Peabody books, since Peters is a pseudonym) had some serious issues with making the WWI history mesh with her characters' ages. But when an author meets that challenge, the books are so much more interesting.
bright_lilimbright_lilim on May 25th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
"Aral is a bit too, er, fatherly for me to have a crush on him,"

Even in Shards of Honor?

To me Ramses is a very obnoxious little boy. I find it difficult to believe that he would grow up to be a "dashing hero". :)

That family part is also something which tend to be missing in the books (that I read?).
mmegaerammegaera on May 25th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
Even in Shards of Honor?

Yes. Even though I started reading the books when I was forty, which would have made Aral in Shards about the right age for me [g]. Mentally I'm not a day over 25, though, and I've read the later books in the series more than I have the earlier ones, so I don't think of him as the hero. I think of him as the hero's father (the fact that Aral undergoes heart surgery in the later books -- just like my father did IRL -- reinforces the fatherly thing for me, too).

As for Ramses, one of the joys of that series for me is how well MPM grows him up. I find his transformation extremely believable, and he is so very dashing when he does grow up...
coalboycoalboy on May 18th, 2008 05:02 am (UTC)
I can't remember whether you & I have talked about Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, or whether you have read & don't like. Her books are certainly "meatier eggs," especially Gaudy Night. The series isn't familial, but the characters grow.
mmegaerammegaera on May 18th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Lord Peter is kind of funny for me. I like the video versions (although I'm more a Petherbridge gal than a Carmichael one), but there's something about Sayers' density of writing that really discourages me. I don't recognize most of her quotes, so I lose that layer, too. I guess I'm spoiled or something, but she reminds me too much of the books I had to read for college, not something I'd read for entertainment. I have the same problem with Dunnett. Great characters drowning in -- sorry -- overblown prose. I'd really like to get to know them, but as Benedick once said in Much Ado About Nothing, "I have tried." [eg]
coalboycoalboy on May 18th, 2008 09:06 pm (UTC)
bother.
mmegaerammegaera on May 18th, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
Precisely. I have read them all, though. Once. I probably won't repeat the experience.
coalboycoalboy on May 19th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC)
OK, I'll drop it.
mmegaerammegaera on May 19th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Nah. I love the characters. Sayers does have the knack for writing Real People [tm]. Which is definitely something.
Eglantine Brandybuck: Sphinxcarbonelle on May 27th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Off the top of my head.
Are you kidding? That's not boggling or distasteful, it's just the kind of data-point that makes Reader's Advisory possible: v. helpful!

You'd probably like all the Liaden books by Steve Miller & Sharon Lee.

Also entertaining: The Vicky Bliss novels by the same author.

And again, by Ms. Peter's friend, Sharyn McCrumb the funny novels - start with Highland Laddy Gone.

Kate Ross' mysteries are also fabu, but will end with lingering sadness--the final book in the series does not resolve all the plot threads; because that brill young author died young
mmegaerammegaera on May 27th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Off the top of my head.
You'd be amazed. The couple of times I've posted to Fiction-L looking for Vorkosigan readalikes, I've gotten repeated iterations of "there's nobody like Miles" and absolutely no suggestions. Not even from Diana Tixier Herald herself. And when one asks for Peabody readalikes, one gets lists of "theme" mysteries. Not the same thing At All. Admittedly, I haven't made this particular comparative post to Fiction-L, but I dropped off that list when I quit working for Pierce County.

As for Liaden, if I had a nickel for every time someone's suggested them to me, we could go out to a very nice lunch. The problem is, from my POV, they're nothing like the Vorkosigan/Peabody books. I've tried to like them. I've tried very hard. But they're just not what I'm looking for. The multiple POVs, the world that doesn't feel real [tm] to me, the fact that I can't seem to care about the characters...

Vicky Bliss is okay, but nothing to write home about (I am looking forward to the new one, but mainly for its purported Peabody connection [g]).

I've only read one Sharyn McCrumb -- it was one of the serious Appalachian books. I'll put Highland Laddy Gone on hold and see what I think.

And I haven't tried Kate Ross yet, either, but I will.

Thanks!
Eglantine Brandybuck: Sphinxcarbonelle on May 28th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
Re: Off the top of my head.
Larger than life characters in an exotic setting, an unreliable narrator, romance, a hero (Miles, of course, and in the Peabody books, Amelia's son Ramses later in the series) to ooh over, mystery, characters who grow up and older and change over the course of the series, adventure that emerges from the characters' personalities and flaws, and more romance

Well.. except for the unreliable narrator, the Liad books DO have all of the above.

Unfortunately "characters who are to my taste" can be tricky to match up--but that comment--"and I don't care for multiple P.O.V. narration" is very helpful. We just discussed it today at Pizza & Pages--and the group was evenly divided between those who loved it, and those for whom it was an annoying distraction.
mmegaerammegaera on May 28th, 2008 02:25 am (UTC)
Re: Off the top of my head.
Well.. except for the unreliable narrator, the Liad books DO have all of the above.

Well, no, actually, they don't. If you really look at it. I may not have phrased myself well, but the Liad books, so far as I can tell, span generations and each book that I've read (the three in Partners in Necessity) has entirely different protagonists and settings from all the rest. They're in the same universe, but they're not a series the way the Vorkosigan and Peabody books are.

Unless I'm missing something drastically important here. Is there a run of books in the series that has the same protagonists growing and changing over a period of time less than generations? From child to adult, say, or young adult to old?

Yeah, "characters who are to my taste" was very vague. My bad. But what I meant by that was the consistency of characters from book to book. Somewhere in between, say, Liad and oh, Stephanie Plum (who ages about as much as Nancy Drew)[g].
bright_lilimbright_lilim on August 30th, 2008 08:21 am (UTC)
I just thought of two comic book series which you might like: the Sandman and Elfquest.

The main characters are not human but they do grow and change. Elfquest particularly has tight families in them and the whole Wolfrieder clan is like a big, tightly-knit family.
mmegaera: Beatricemmegaera on August 30th, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
Hmm. I haven't read comics since I was a kid. I know they've grown and changed a lot in the last forty years. I'll see if the library has them. Where would be a good place to start? Is there a title for the first book in each series I should be looking for?
bright_lilimbright_lilim on August 30th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
With ElfQuest it depends on what edition it is because DC has recently reprinted them. Lets see:

If it's the DC reprint I recommend starting with ElfQuest: the Grand Quest 1 and then continuing onward. For some reason DC decided to publish first Wolfrider 1 and 2 which are tales from the elves' lives before the main storyline. I firmly believe that they are best read after you're familiar with the characters. DC also has two editions: hardcovers for colored comics and the awful grey toned "black and white" small soft covers.
If it's the WARP graphics trades, then Fire and Flight is the first one.

Actually, here are some of the first, and best, of them on-line:
http://www.elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics3.html
Here it's the Original Quest first, then Siege at Blue Mountain.
The artwork is very "cute" but I think the story and characters are well worth trying more than a couple of issues.

The first Sandman comic is "Preludes and Noctures" which is, alas, also the worst because Gaiman was still just getting used to the comic format. Then it's "Doll's House" which really shows that this is a horror comic although not the splatter kind, and then "Dream Country", "Season of Mists", "A Game of You", "Fables and Reflections", "Brief lives", "World's End", "The Kindly ones", and "The Wake".

The quality of the artwork really went up and down, and I even loathed some of the artists but the story and the characters kept me hooked.
mmegaera: Beatricemmegaera on August 30th, 2008 11:08 pm (UTC)
[makes notes and adds this comment to memories]

Thanks. I'll have to take a look at these when I get the chance.
BlueRosethebluerose on March 17th, 2010 04:56 am (UTC)
I am not sure how 'epic' you want to get in your quest, and given that the Vorkosigan books are into double figures now, thats reasonably epic tho as individuals they are not quite so fat.

I dont know if you have tried any of the below, but here are my potential suggestions (apologies if they have already been made)

The Vlad Taltos books by Steven Brust - these have family, exotic settings, unreliable narrator, romance, a certain biting wit and cleverness of humor, growth and learning in the characters. And magic. They skip around chronology wise. My favorite one is where at the beginning of each chapter is a laundry list like

- remove red wine stain from white shirt
- remove blood from grey pants and mend cut in fabric

And then in the chapter you find out how those things happened.

Temerarire series - a little less potentially appealing, main character is a little straight laced but as more characters come on board it gets more entertaining and there are several exotic locations, the next one is based in Australia at the time of settlement

Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher - this is his fantasy series and its excellent. A lot of Miles parallels - young boy who is crippled in his society learns and grows and attempts to make good with what he has. Romance, clever humour, LOTS of family ties, unique and reasonably believable magic, worthy enemies, interesting plot twists and a jolly good read. 6 books in the series covering from Tavi as a young teenager to adulthood and all the adventures in between - strongly recommended you give the first one Furies of Calderon a try

The Sun Sword series by Michelle West. This is very very epic - this is one story arc over I think 8 books but there are currently two supporting arcs, one duology and another series into book 2. Lots of family, lots of intertwining story lines. Very involving and improves on reread, once you have the initial story under your belt, you begin to delve into the nuances and subtlety in her writing. Can take a bit of effort to get into but I recommend it.

Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts - very similar description to the Michelle West books - my second fave books ever (Bujold is third FYI)

Guy Gavriel Kay - his early work - Tigana is an excellent standalone. The Fionavar Tapestryis his first work, its a trilogy with a lot of Tolkein influence but its a genre I particuarly like, where 5 people from our world and time are transported to Fionavar, a fantasy kingdom and they become intwined in the events and involved in what is happening. GGK is a lovely writer and he is my fave author and #1 read. Lions of Al-Rassan is delightful and never fails to bring floods of tears even tho I know what happens but his writing is just so poignant. And Ysabel which is a recent work is an almost sequel to the Fionavar books, and quite lovely. I didnt like the rest of his stuff so much tho.

Mara of the Acoma series by Janny Wurts and Raymond Feist - an older option but one of my faves, a trilogy and its all about family and honour and being clever and outsmarting your enemies, and yet saving face. And romance and worthy enemies and cleverness. A lot of Miles paralles. One I have reread many times and another recommended read.

Oooh a lot of typing! But one last suggestion

The Kencyrath Chronicles and series by PC Hodgell. This would be my fave author #4. The original books were written 20 years ago and she wrote nothing for about 10 years or so but is back into the saddle now, and the last book was a VERY Miles feeling book. Lots of family, very unique world building, quite different feel to anything else, a bit challenging but very worth it.
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