A [Blank] that never was...
May 30, 2006 6:34 PM   Subscribe

We've talked about him before. I was introduced to him in an earlier question. I've bought and read all three books the man has written. But he's given up and won't write anymore.

Now I need your help, oh great Internet Oracle.
I'm trying to find something with the same feel, and learn to accept that I will never discover the ultimate fate of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. Help me find another world to lose myself in!

It doesn't have to be set in China, or the past, or anything really. I'm just looking for that quick, inventive, funny, occasionally heart-breaking whatever.
Other things I've read that are close to what I'm looking for:
Discworld, His Dark Materials, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Winter's Tale, LIttle Big.
Please, tell me of some obscure, hidden treasure that I'd never find on my own.
posted by Eddie Mars to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: An acceptable answer would also be: How do we convice Barry Hughart to start writing again short of kidnapping him ala Misery.
posted by Eddie Mars at 6:40 PM on May 30, 2006

George R.R.Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. Not finished yet, but he IS planning to keep writing.
posted by grumblebee at 6:51 PM on May 30, 2006

It's not so epic as the ones you mention, but it sounds from some of the books you mention like you might enjoy Only Forward. Ignore the reviews that try to pitch it as some kind of high-tech thriller. It's apocalyptic fantasy — it just happens to be set in a joke version of the near future, with talking appliances and pizza-delivering sex robots.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:10 PM on May 30, 2006

Response by poster: Knew I should have included George R.R. Martin in my list. He is a very good writer. I thought his last book slipped a bit, but I'm still looking forward to the next.
I'll shut up now.
posted by Eddie Mars at 7:10 PM on May 30, 2006

Try Vance's Planet of Adventure, originally published in four short paperbacks, now likely to be found only collected in a single volume, and Leiber's only real peer, in their era, for intensity of visual imagination and occasional soaring prose; but more capable of telling a straight story than the great Fritz ever seemed to want to be.
posted by jamjam at 9:35 PM on May 30, 2006

Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun
Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books
Zelazny's Amber series
Fred Saberhagen's Swords nonology (is that the word for a trinity of trilogies?)
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:39 PM on May 30, 2006

Peter S Beagle.
posted by Rubber Soul at 10:43 PM on May 30, 2006

Hm. I love the authors mentioned in the question, but GRRMartin and MMSmith's recent books just make me say "ehh".

My recommendations: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner; anything by Sean Stewart (eg The Night Watch); possibly Tim Powers; the Moomin books by Tove Janssen (children's books but I still love 'em). On preview: yes, Peter S Beagle.

For more China-oid fiction, you could try Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries. Not as poignant as the Hughart, though; more in a normal mystery vein.

And as usual for sf questions, I also recommend popping over to rec.arts.sf.written and starting up a discussion there.
posted by hattifattener at 11:24 PM on May 30, 2006

I would include Hughart, George RR Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire), Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser), and anything by Wolfe in my top 25 reading experiences, so we may have similar tastes in books.

Things that haven't been mentioned yet:

- Steven Erikson's Malazan Series. This is simply the most immersive sf/f world that I've come across. The depth of the worldbuilding coupled with great characters and a most unique magic system makes this an outstanding read. Tied with GRRM for my favorite ongoing series right now. Don't let the terrible American cover-art turn you off. They really screwed the pooch on it. The british/canadian cover-art is much better. The UK/Canada publisher is about 2 books ahead of the states, so I've had to import the whole series so far (it's that good).

- R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series. Fantasy from a Philosophy Ph.D. It's not exactly a light fantasy read, though it is a page-turner. This is a completed series.

- Scott Lynch: The Gentleman Bastards (The first book is called The Lies of Locke Lamora). New author whose first book comes out in June 06. Getting rave reviews with very favorable comparisions to Leiber. This is the book that I've been looking forward to all year.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 5:03 AM on May 31, 2006

I liked number 10 ox and master li. I'm saving the other two.

Here are suggestions. I've read everything that everyone else has mentioned (except Jedi, who is that guy?) and although I liked all the recommendations, they don't really fit what you are looking for. Ursula is probably closest...

Neither do these. But my suggestions have a flavor (not as upbeat as number 10 ox) that, like Hugart, is more important than the story itself...

Lure of the Basilisk
Eyes of the Overworld

and more upbeat, and maybe the closest to what you are looking for: Catastrophe's Spell

I also recommend Prachett as a good nothing-else-to-read option... like Dick Francis...
posted by ewkpates at 5:16 AM on May 31, 2006

I've never read Hughart, but your post piqued my interest, and I stumbled across the fact that he is often compared to Ernest Bramah. Some of Bramah's books are available here at Project Gutenberg so you can give them a go for free.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 5:49 AM on May 31, 2006

Hughart's Master Li series has a pretty near perfect meld of Character (vibrant characters you really get invested with), Cosmology (a consistant world that works based on its own rules), and Comedy (I think 'Whimsy' or the like would fit better, but I wanted another 'C') that will be pretty hard to match up exactly in other books.

My first recommendation for finding more books like Master Li series is to simply read it again! This can get you through a few days every year or so, but there's always the risk that you'd get sick of it, and we wouldn't want that.

Some other authors/series you may want to look at:

Piers Anthony - The Incarnations of Immortality series. It starts with On a Pale Horse wherein the main character accidentally shoots Death and therefore must become him. The series then works through lives of the other Immortals (Time, War, Fate, Gaia, Satan, and God). This series has its own set Cosmology, its Characters are pretty interesting, and it being Anthony* there are some vaguely Comic set ups.

*(Also by Anthony is the Xanth series. I mention this series with a Heavy Heart. Judging by the trajectory of the books when I last checked in on them ten years ago, the current crop of Xanth books must be little more than reader-submitted puns and softcore porn. Stay away! However, the first few books in the series, the ones involving the main character Bink, are hopefully still worthwhile. Xanth is a world where everyone has a magical Talent, except for Bink. If you can find this stuff used or at your library, it can be worthwhile. Otherwise...)

Tim Powers - Drawing of the Dark, like all of Powers' work, has a pretty solid Cosmology. It's hard to explain in brief, but it deals with the ideas of kingship and the connecting between leaders and the land. Anyways, Drawing is an adveture story set amid the Turkish seige of Vienna where the hero must save the West by restoring the Fischer King back to health via a goodly sip of ancient beer. Some of the themes and Cosmology presented in Drawing turn up again in Powers' other books, particularly Anubis Gates and the Last Call series. Good reads all!

Lian Hearn - Tales of the Otori series. This is a more conventional fantasy adventure series set in a Japan That Never Was. It's got magic, ninjas, ancient evils, and still yet more ninjas.

Christopher Moore - Calling Moore the American Prachett misses the point a bit. Again, decent Cosmology, good Characters, and a bit more Comedy than the other stuff above. I think of Moore more as a Zany Tim Powers than anything. However, his book Lamb about the missing years of Christ as told by his childhood pal Biff struck me as very similar to Bridge of Birds in terms of adventure and poignancy.

Tom Holt - A host of fairy tales/myths/stories come to life books here, many of which have been recently rereleased in omnibus form. My favorites were Flying Dutch and Faust Among Equals.

Hope this helps. I've been a huge Hughart fan for years and am available on a moment's notice should someone wish to put Operation: Kidnapping into motion.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:32 AM on May 31, 2006

Gorghemghast by Mervyn Peake is a three book series that might be of interest.
posted by ejaned8 at 10:36 AM on May 31, 2006

This thread has a list of good sci-fi/fantasy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:35 AM on May 31, 2006

I also love Master Li and Number Ten Ox, and had no idea that there was a third novel! Hooray, and thank you!

It's not quite the same thing, but you might want to check out The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. (I'm told that one wants the Mos Roberts translation, and not the older Brewitt-Taylor one).

This is a 4-volume 600 year old novel that I am saving my pennies for--everyone who loves "Bridge of Birds", movies like "Iron Monkey" and other wuxia-type stuff just love Rot3K. I realize that this is very differnet than what you might be looking for, but you might want to check it out.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 12:35 PM on May 31, 2006

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