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A List of Egregious Omissions

I consider myself to be a well-read human being. Sure, I’ve read a lot of books. More books than the average reader, I’d dare say. I’ve read most of The Classics, even though I’m not a huge fan of LITERATURE, in the proper sense. Reading, to me, is a means of escape–hence my gravitation toward fantasy. But even in the realm of fantasy, there are omissions. Egregious, inexcusable omissions for which I have no defense.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll now publicly admit to my Top 5 Most Egregious Fantasy Omissions. I do so not to encumber myself with a virtual hair shirt, but instead to foster discussion—and hopefully a greater understanding of what people read and why. I strongly encourage comments. But be nice. I’m sensitive.

Without further ado…

Sandman (cover)5. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Whether you’re a fan of comics or fantasy or both, you’ve heard of Sandman. With a run of 75 issues, Neil Gaiman exploded on the American comics scene with his epic tale of Sleep and all the other Endless. I’ve never read an issue. I own three Absolute Edition omnibuses of Gaiman’s run. I’ve come across Sleep and Death in other titles. I’ve read Gaiman’s novels. I even love the film version of Stardust. But I haven’t read a single word or looked at a single panel of what most consider one of the best (and most fantastical) comics of the 1980s and 1990s. Sandman is a touchstone, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (cover)4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I can remember seeing Mr. Adams’ masterwork on the shelf of my local bookshop from a ridiculously young age. The book. The nicely packaged box of cassette tapes. The fact that it said “Trilogy” but encompassed more than three books. All of these things have made an indelible mark on my brain. And with the advent of the Internet, H2G2 has been referenced innumerable times on nearly every fantasy, sci-fi or Anglo comedy site I’ve ever visited. But I’ve still never heard it, seen it or read a word. And for a guy writing for a fantasy website, that’s downright embarrassing. Particularly since I have read the first five or six Anita Blake novels. I know, I know, I have no defense for my actions. It is a horrible, inexcusable gap in my reading list. And again, there’s no real reason for not reading it. I own an omnibus and a DVD of the movie. They look great on my shelf. If the wear on the cover of the book is any indication, I’ve even thrown it into my workbag a couple times. Why haven’t I read it? Dunno.

Dragonflight (cover)3. Dragonriders of Pern series by Ann McCaffery et al

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. I cut my fantasy teeth on Dragonlance novels. I was really, really into dragons as a kid. There were charts involved. I used to stare at all the Pern novels at the bookstore and library, but I was never once compelled to pick one up and read it. While I don’t personally consider my Pern deficiency to be a Cardinal sin, legions of McCaffery’s fans would surely disagree. Unlike the two entries listed above, I’m not even sure what the Pern books are really about. But I knew then and know now that there, there be dragons (I know, I know, I’m better than that…) and historically that has been enough. As sad as this sounds, I’m sure there was a certain degree of preteen sexism involved, even though I was well aware that my beloved Dragonlance novels were written by the very, very capable Margaret Weis. I can see 11-year-old me being concerned that a lady named Ann couldn’t really write about dragons. What can I say? 11-year-old me was a moron.

Gardens of the Moon (cover 2)2. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

A ten-book epic fantasy series? TEN BOOKS?!? Considered by many to be a Millennial masterpiece? WHY HAVEN’T I READ THESE?!? I’ve actually tried a couple different times. I get credit for trying, right? I can honestly say I haven’t gotten past the first five pages on each attempt. Each time I immediately got bored and turned off by the prose. It could be a matter of tone. It could be a fear of commitment. It could be the occasional bad review I’ve come across. But none of those reasons hold water because I’ve plowed through the entirety of Jordan’s Wheel of Time multiple times. And I’ve read more Sword of Truth novels than many would consider healthy.

Elric of Melniboné (cover)1. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock

Tolkien. Moorcock. Martin. The consensus Big Three of pure fantasy. I’ve read all of Tolkien. I’ve read all of Martin. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never even touched Moorcock. (Pause for laughter). You guys need to grow up. (More laughter). Seriously.

Anyway….

The saga of Elric of Melinbone has been lauded, referenced, recognized and proselytized on paper, on film, in music and on television. Mainstream, underground, fantasy readers and non-fantasy readers alike—Elric unites them all. And I’m on the outside looking in. I can feel your scorn. And I accept it.

So that’s it. That’s my list. “Dishonorable mentions” would also include Pratchett’s Discworld books, anything by Terry Brooks, and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series. Please skewer me, because I deserve it. And I’d encourage each and every reader to post their own list of Egregious Omissions in the comments thread. Through collective confession, maybe, just maybe, we can embark upon the road to penance, and start filling each other’s gaps. (STOP LAUGHING!!!).

Title image by Janny Wurts.

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21 Comments

  1. Phil Norris says:

    Well of those you’ve listed I’ve only read Douglas Adams. I have read Orb Sceptre Throne by Ian C. Esslemont (which is a kinda Malazan sidestory) but never gone anywhere near the main books (mainly because I found OST hard work). So, omissions…

    The Wheel Of Time – on paper (ha!) this should ring my bell, but I think the sheer scale of it daunts me (but saying that ASoIaF did initially but read that in 6 months).

    Malazan Book Of The Fallen – much like WoT, so much to read and so little time.

    Discworld – I’ve read Colour Of Money but wasn’t overly enthralled with it. Funny in places but that was it, didn’t inspire me to try the rest or immerse myself in Pratchett’s world.

    The Mistborn Series – seems to have totally passed me by, I know the name but thats it.

    The Black Company – read one short story in an anthology, liked it but thats as far as I got.

    The Chronicals Of Narnia – seems to have passed me by.

    Harry Potter – seen the films but never bothered with the books.

    Think I’ll stop there else I’ll be forced to hand back my Geek badge. In my defense I have read…

    Lord Of The Rings
    The Hobbit
    The Silmarillion
    Shannara
    Conan
    A Song Of Ice And Fire
    First Law + standalones
    Some Harry Dresden
    Some Atticus O’Sullivan

  2. Johann says:

    Dragonriders of Pern and Elric for me.

  3. I’m unfortunately in the same boat with you on Malazan, Pern and the Elric Saga. I’ve tried numerous times to get through Gardens of the Moon, and never made it past the first 100 pages. It does seem odd that we can get through WoT and SoT and not Malazan, but something about that series is just too…discombobulated for me.

    I think you have to hit Elric at an early age – once you’ve read WoT, you’re kind of ruined for simpler plot lines.

    I have current egregious omissions, like Peter V Brett’s The Warded Man and Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, and numerous others on my list.

    As they say, too many books, so little time.

  4. tkp says:

    First, my omissions:
    All of hitchicker’s guide. I’ve read the first 2-1/2 books (long enough to find out the question) but no further. I loved “Restaurant…”
    Currently working on Sandman and I must say- shame on both of us! why didn’t I read this before?
    Never read Pern. Never terribly interested from what I heard. I don’t consider this an error, though, just a gap that I don’t mind.
    SOIAF- haven’t read but want to.
    I tried reading Sword of Shannara. I really did. I thought it was awful. It took me two months of consistent reading to get through the first half before my wife told me to just let the library have it back. I wasn’t getting anywhere. Brooks, at least in this novel, fails miserably to “show, don’t tell.” However, I did read his novelization of Star Wars Episode 1 and thought it rescued the movie from itself in a number of ways.
    Sword of Truth series- saw the tv series on netflix but haven’t touched the books yet… for shame 🙁
    The last two on your list I’ve never actually heard anything about them, and Malazan Book of the Fallen I’ve never heard of.

    Next, I do think that all fantasy fans should have a significant background in mythology from their sources. No reading Edith Hamilton’s mythology. Read Homer, Apollodorus, and Eristophanes. Only then can we truly understand the story and structure of their tales. Hence I studied Ancient Greek for my B.A. (and now work tech support).

  5. Zack Matzo (@perch15) says:

    Thanks for reading, Phil! I’d encourage you to give WoT a try, especially since it is wrapping up in January. It’s massive, and there’s a bit of a lull in the middle, but I consider it an utter classic. I feel the same way about Discworld–funny, but not engaging for whatever reason. That’s one series I keep trying though. I’m in the same boat as you with Potter–I came to the series through the movies, I love the movies, and I have no real desire to read the books. I do kind of want to check out the Stephen Fry-read audiobooks though. Narnia I read as a kid, and detested. Mistborn I have, but haven’t read. I liked Sanderson’s work on the WOT books thus far, so I want to make sure I read them eventually. The Glen Cook stuff has never really interested me for some reason.

    Do you find that you have a difficult time “forcing” yourself to read things? I know I do. Even if I *know* I’ll enjoy a certain book, the timing just has to be right. That’s why I hoard.

    • Phil Norris says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever had to “force” myself to read something. I think if I did then I wouldn’t be reading it in the first place. But saying that a couple of books come to mind where I had to force myself to continue and ended up giving up on one totally a third in (Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson).

      Timing does count, I picked up A Game of Thrones because I’d been following the build up to the HBO show over on WInter Is Coming and Westeros.org.

  6. Dominic Stevens says:

    Don’t beat yourself up. There are so many books out there that you will always have missed a few that people tell you are absolute classics and must reads. Though take issue with this “Tolkien. Moorcock. Martin. The consensus Big Three of pure fantasy”, ummm who’s consensus? A good big three for sure but you will have people arguing almost immediately that you should include Howard or Lewis or LeGuin and even Jordan, Feist, Eddings, Brook etc… Basically there is no consensus and nor will there ever be.

  7. Of those, the only one I haven’t read at least a substantial amount of is the Erikson, who I must get to at some stage. On the other hand, my dishonourable list includes the vast majority of fantasy published since about 1990. I have a lot of catching up to do.

  8. JC Crumpton says:

    My dishonorable list:

    1) The Malazan Book of the Fallen
    2) The Name of the Wind
    3) The Black Company
    4) Gormenghast
    5) The Blade Itself (or anything by Abercrombie)
    6) The Way of Kings (and Mistborn series)
    7) Dragonriders of Pern
    8) First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
    9) Riftwar Saga
    10) Harry Potter

  9. Alister says:

    The only Tolkien I’ve read is The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring…

    I’m warming to Pratchett, though.

  10. Khaldun says:

    I could never get into the Malazan books either. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t hold a candle to Martin’s ASOIAF (although I never got past page 200 of the first Malazan books so it could be an unfair comparison… Still, nothing hooks a reader better than ice zombies and a beheading).

    I recommend you immediately begin reading the Dresden files,

  11. Larik says:

    My Dishonorable(r) list:

    1. The Malazan Book of the Fallen: Tried numerous times to read it, but so much was left unexplained, yada yada, boring, etc.
    2.The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: Yes, yes, I haven’t read NAME OF THE WIND?!?! Well, I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed by it. So much hype surrounds it, I’ll probably go in with my hopes too high up, and bam, shattered. I’ve started it a few times, but I keep forgetting to continue reading it.
    3. Anything by Pratchett: Same with Rothfuss. A lot of hype surrounds Pratchett’s books, and I’m afeard (aye, matey) of getting my hopes too high for it. Besides, if I wanted comedy, I’d read a PR book or watch a sitcom.
    4. Harry Potter: It was… Well, I read the last two books. I didn’t read any of the previous ones, but it’s a testament to how little goes on in the prior books that I could jump in at the last two books with only the knowledge of someone that watched a few of the movies. They were meh. Nothing special.
    5. Dresden Files: Read the first two books. They were meh. I know, I know; they get AWESOME after the first four books. My issue is… I’ve got to read two more books before it becomes remotely interesting? The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams was interesting from page one. Plus Harry Dresden and Harry Potter are so alike (in the sense that they mope around), it’s hard to differentiate between the two characters.
    6. Wheel of Time: … This isn’t really an omission considering I read the first book and half of the second book, but I’ll throw it in anyhow. My friend told me it was a lot like ASoIaF. Yeah… We’re no longer friends. ‘Nuff said.

    @Khaldun: I once read a 1 star review of Gardens of the Moon on Amazon, and someone commented: “You can’t give Gardens of the Moon 1 star without reading the rest of the series.”

    I replied: “So you’re telling me that we shouldn’t rate the book itself, but the series itself? When the first book was absolutely awful for us, and we keep hearing about how it gets rather dragging in some of the next books; you want US to read 9 other books of a series we dislike so that we will be allowed to rate the FIRST BOOK one star? Not even if you pay me and waterboard me…”

  12. Khaldun says:

    @Larik. We should find some way to incorporate facebook ‘likes’ because that’s what I want to do to your comment. If the first book in a series sucks, it deserves a 1. You can write a caveat that the series gets much better as it goes on, but we’re reviewing that book and not the whole series.
    @Larik. I stopped exactly where you did in book 2 of the Wheel of Time. It just so happens that I read ASOIAF before starting this one, so that’s probably why I couldn’t keep reading.
    @Larik. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Dresden Files novels, and while the series does get a lot better as it goes on, if you didn’t enjoy the first two I’m not sure you’d enjoy the rest of the series either.

  13. Zack Matzo (@perch15) says:

    I’m really happy to see some discussion on this topic. I’m even happier to see that I’m not a man on an island here. Clearly, we all have some books we haven’t read yet. @Larik—comparing WOT with ASOIAF is like comparing apples and flux capacitors. You need a better friend-screening process. 🙂

    @Dominic Stevens – It seems like there is a consensus that Tolkien, Moorcock and Martin were the key innovators of their respective eras. I base that solely on the repository of articles, blog posts, message board posts, etc clogging my brain. My memory could definitely be hazy.

    Thanks again for reading everyone. I think I’m going to give Mr. Dresden a shot as soon as I’m done with the next Low Town book. After that…who knows?

    • Dominic Stevens says:

      Apologies but I am afraid your memory is rather hazy – I would love to see a link to an article or two which calls these three ‘The Big Three of Pure Fantasy’ as I have never seen this stated on any article except yours here, and certainly there is definitely not a consensus as this opinion would need to be stated again and again over several years of criticism and discussion to be a consensus. Robert E Howard is widely attributed as creating the sword and sorcery genre – NOT Moorcock. Though Moorcock was an incredibly influential writer in the sub genre. And even Martin is debatable – people argue that he made epic fantasy ‘gritty’ – but then people would argue that there were other writers before him dealing in shades of grey – (including of course Moorcock) and that Jordan beat him to the punch of writing several book volume ongoing sagas with a cast in the thousands and several different cultures with ongoing internal strife within each side. Sorry, but there is no consensus to the BIG THREE OF PURE FANTASY. And CS Lewis for YA fantasy, Ursula LeGuin for the more poetic character driven fantasy that begat Rothfuss and Hobb? See its not even a three.

      For anyone who wishes to discuss this further (and in particular Perch15) please join the discussion here : http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/fantasy-book-discussion/epic-pooh/

  14. Jo Hall says:

    My Dishonourable list :

    1 – Wheel of Time. I keep LOOKING at it, but it never gets any further than that.
    2 – The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula Le Guin. I own it, so I have no excuse
    3 – Anything by Stephen Erikson
    4 – The Name of the Wind – Yes, I KNOW I suck
    5. Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy
    6 – The Sword of Shannara – in fact, any Shanarra books. Though I have read all the Magic Kingdom of Landover novels
    7. Peter V Brett
    8. Mark Lawrence – though I’m inching towards Prince of Thorns
    9. Any Dresdan Files books
    10. Temeraire by Naomi Novik. I own it, I’m sure I’ll love it, but it’s been sitting on my shelf gathering dust for three years and I have no idea why.

    As I learned my lesson by kicking myself for not reading Dune earlier, my only excuse is that new books keep coming out and sometimes I forget about the old ones!

  15. Lester Hicks III says:

    the malazan book of the fallen’s “Memories of Ice” is.
    one of the most engaging fantasy novels I’ve ever read though some of the others drag at points. Ian
    esselmont’s take on the spin offs are more riveting to me.Abercrombie may have a case for best new writer of the past 15 years or so. If u enjoy mature fantasy u haven’t missed anything with Harry Potter or the Pern novels. Rothfuss is great but Pratchett and H2G2 are juvenile in humor!

  16. Zack Matzo (@perch15) says:

    I’m happy to report I’m a book and a half into the Dresden Files and I’m enjoying it. Definitely light reading, but despite some amateurish prose and unformed (as of yet) characters, I’m enjoying watching Butcher’s world coalesce. The background mystery surrounding Dresden is enough to keep me reading, and I’m averaging a little less than a book every two days, so it isn’t a huge time investment. We can cross those off the list!

    I haven’t read The Name of the Wind either. For shame. Anyone have any thoughts as to whether the Adrian Tchaikovsky books are essential reading? The bug aspect is a real turn-off for me.

  17. Aaron says:

    I realize this post is a bit old, but I encourage all of you to stick it out with Malazan..

    I’m right there with you when first starting Gardens of the Moon in the series, but I promise you it improves. The more you read of the series the more things all come together and you appreciate it.

    I just finished the second book, Deadhouse Gates and much preferred it to most of Gardens. Read Gardens of the Moon all the way through and if the ending doesn’t hook you then so be it – you gave it a fair shake.

  18. Andrew Barton says:

    I can’t imagine why omitting the Shannara books would be ‘egregious’. There is nothing at all original in the first three books, and the later ones just about rise to the level of competence.

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