Sol's Books

Once there was a thief, and the thief was God.
The Exodus Bible

I'm one of those people who can never find enough bookshelves, and always tries to have a book near, just in case. Here's a bit about my favorite authors, in more-or-less chronological order.

My all time favorite is Mark Twain. I've been snatching up facsimiles of his original editions for years now, and have a lot of rather obscure fiction. (How many people can say they've read Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc and all three versions of The Mysterious Stranger?) Remarkably enough, Huckleberry Finn really is as good as good as they say.

In college I discovered I like George Bernard Shaw. Don't think I much agree with his politics, but I love his plays. Pygmalion was the source of the greatest musical ever, and that cut out most of the really good lines. Man and Superman, The Devil's Disciple... Ah. I haven't had much luck finding Shaw links, but here's a Shakespeare one. And Shaw was a buddy of G.K. Chesterton's.

T.H. White is responsible for the Once and Future King, which probably means he was a wise and silly man. Does anyone know where I can get a stand-alone copy of The Ill-Made Knight?

In a similar vein, Lloyd Alexander deserves a mention. It's nice when a beloved childhood author stands up to re-reading as a (admittedly not-so-mature) adult. But the fourth book of his Prydain chronicles did better than that: it was actually much better the second time through. I should probably read it again -- it might be just what I need at the moment.

Next comes Roger Zelazny. I've already mentioned Amber on this page, so let me stress that it is among the low-end of his output. Lord of Light, now there's a book.

William Goldman is surprisingly absent from the web. Of course, everyone knows the classic Princess Bride. But he has a number of other excellent books, including Heat, Control, and the second S. Morgenstern book, The Silent Gondoliers. He hasn't had a novel published in years, but his screenplays and books on the movie industry are still well worth reading.

At this point I've worked my way up to my favorite current science fiction authors. Leading the pack is Kim Stanley Robinson. His "The Part of Us That Loves" is my all-time favorite short story. The Mars trilogy may have won him a bunch of awards, but Gold Coast and Pacific Edge are the best of his novels.

A close second is Daniel Keys Moran. If The AI War would ever come out, he might well sneak into first. With Charles Clark's essential help, I run the Continuing Time mailing list dedicated to his works.

Turning to fantasy, I got sick of Tolkien rip-offs years ago. The need for the fantastic in my reading intake is now mostly satisfied by urban fantasy, of which Charles de Lint is one of the most prolific and best authors. He manages to catch that sense of justice that exists in a lot of children's novels, but his works are well-suited to adult sensibilities.

On the other end of the non-epic fantasy scale is Steven Brust. Everyone knows about his Taltos books, but The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars and the Khaavren Romances (the Dumas homages) are my favorites by far.

I'd be remiss if I left off Connie Willis. Her funny stuff is as funny as it gets: check out "Blued Moon", "Ado", or Bellwether. And "The Last of the Winnebagoes" made me cry. Her latest, To Say Nothing of the Dog might be her best, a grand time-travelling romantic comedy.

I suppose I really should also mention Michael Moorcock, Tim Powers, Cliff Simak, Fritz Lieber, and S.P. Somtow in the category of those I've liked and read a lot of. On the other hand, there's those I've only read a few things by, but I loved those: John Brunner (Traveller in Black, The Crucible of Time), R.A. MacAvoy (Tea with the Black Dragon), Ellen Kushner (Thomas the Rhymer and Swordspoint), Barry Hughart (Bridge of Birds etc.), and Caroline Stevermer (College of Magics).

Of course, there are great reference sites, too. I read Locus whenever it shows up on the local Barnes and Noble or Borders' shelves. If you need to look up an author's works, the Internet Speculative Fiction DataBase is invaluable. And Tor not only publishes half of my favorites, they also make many forthcoming books' opening chapters available on-line.

Doh! I like too many things. How else could I have forgotten to stick Patrick O'Brian up here until now? And then there's the authors whose books I split the cost of with my father, namely Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. If he were still alive, Ian Fleming would be in that category, too.

Only two poets have every really seriously caught my attention. It's great that Kipling's works are openly available on the net. The same used to be true of T. S. Eliot, but the copyright police got to the site.

Sol's Comics

What do you squares say to being the
deadest, outest, gonest cats in the land
and puttin' the screws to all the punks
that gave us the needle!?

I started reading Marvel comics back in the mid-seventies, and continued through the heyday of the X-men (in terms of quality, not in terms of number of related books being published). I branched out into a bunch of other stuff when the X-men started going downhill, stabilized briefly on Keith Giffin's work for DC, wandered into Sandman and have now settled into a bunch of obscure comics. My list has a high degree of overlap with Kris's Comics Pages, so if you like what you see here, you probably should check over there as well.

Probably the most mainstream thing I really like anymore is Matt Wagner's work. His Mage is the best urban fantasy book I've ever seen, and his Hunter Rose Grendel is great. Now Mage: The Hero Defined is almost over, and once again it is one of the comics highlights of its decade. But please tell me we won't wait ten more years for The Hero Denied...

The other top choice on my list these days is Mark Oakley's excellent Thieves & Kings, a delightful and different fantasy title. Mixing illustrated pages of text in with the normal comic style, this book has an epic storyline, interesting characters, and the occasional brilliant line or drawing. And it comes out in a timely fashion. Check out my review on Folk Tales.

At the moment, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a very hot limited series. I haven't seen a webpage for it yet, but it is annotated off this annotations page.

I was a late comer to the Astro City bandwagon, but I've got to admit that Kurt Busiek seems to be firing on all cylinders. He even had me reading childhood favorite Iron Man again, but now it seems he's only "co-plotter" on that book. Boo.

Charles Vess's work in Sandman led me to become a fan. I might have made it anyway, because his current project, The Book of Ballads and Sagas, not only ties in with my love of traditional music, but also has had writing credits from a bunch of famous fantasy writers, including Charles de Lint. Vess is now collaborating with Jeff Smith, creator of Bone. And here's an interesting Vess fan page

Scott McCloud is creator of Zot!, Understanding Comics, and The New Adventures of Abraham Lincoln.

I first saw Zander Cannon's work in the Tick spinoff Chainsaw Vigilante. Even then his art was weird and his writing quirky and surprising. Now he brings the same elements to Replacement God, only his stuff has gotten even wackier. Who wouldn't dig the Dread Expatriate Visigoth Death Horde and Fire Brigade (Local 848)? Unfortunately, this book comes out slowly, and the contents always seem a little light when it does come out.

Tara Jenkins's Galaxion is shaping up to be a wonderful space opera. Her characterizations are so good that you're left wanting more, even when entire issues are little more than character establishing. And while her plot appears to be standard science fiction fare, she doesn't present it that way at all.

Of everything I read, probably the hardest thing to track down is Rachel Hartman's Amy Unbounded. I've never seen it in a comic book store; I got my first issue at a con, and the rest by ordering straight from Rachel. In ashcan form, it's the story of a young medieval girl with an over-active imagination. The art (vaguely reminiscent of the great Cartoon History of the Universe) is sketchy but expressive and full of life; the stories are funny and just a bit touching. Great stuff.

Last and perhaps least is my guilty pleasure, Gold Digger. Yes, it's silly; yes, the females of all races have enormous tracts of land; yes, all the monsters come straight from the Monster Manual. But seeing a super inventor and were-cheetah save the universe while wearing too few clothes and cool hats is just too fun. Besides, Gold Digger minus 18 is the best!

Other comics sites of interesting include A.M. Works (Athena), Clockwork Angels, Leave It To Chance, Rich's Ramblings, and Barry Windsor-Smith.

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