Level 3:  Mostly Accessible

              I look at this group as books that are still fairly easy to follow but have a few things that make for a more ambitious read than the groups before.  I think it’s very possible to start someone on fantasy and science fiction and get them engaged with books from this group, but they should know going in that it could be a bigger time commitment or the story might not be quite as straight forward as they are expecting. 

                Game of Thrones- It’s long and it has a ton of characters so it could be a daunting task for some readers unfamiliar with the genre, but other than that there is a lot about it that makes it highly accessible for readers.  The structure of chapters being named for the character they center around makes the novel easier to follow than a ton of series jumping around.  Additionally, the magical elements of the story are kept of the periphery in the early books… when we get to them, they matter and jump out at you, but you don’t have to familiarize yourself with complicated systems of magic right away.  Most importantly, they are fun, and they move.

                The Name of the Wind- Again the length could be daunting but other than that the story follows one main protagonist as he learns about the magical parts of the world he encounters.  A school setting is often times a great way to learn about the world and magic because the reader is learning along with the main character, and it doesn’t feel forced.  To me what stands out in this novel is that the pros are absolutely beautifully at times.  Just the prologue alone is a wonderful piece of writing.  I sometimes think how long did it take Rothfuss to craft the line “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a mind who is waiting to die?” 

                The Lies of Locke Lamora- It clocks in at 700+ pages and has a unique structure alternating between Locke’s thief upbringing and his present-day exploits, but I’d say other than that it’s a very accessible novel to those new to fantasy.  The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tail of deception, revenge, frightfully dark magic set in a hostel dark and violent city. Lynch’s tale moves quickly for the 700 plus pages and in the end the payoff is certainly worth the journey. The Lies of Locke Lamora is the first in a seven-part series (only two others written so far), however, it is also reasonably self-contained so that the reader can be content just reading this one (though I’d imagine you’ll want to move forward after).

                The Fellowship of the Ring- It’s the foundation for which so much of modern fantasy sprung and even the fantasy that has gotten away from sword/sorcery/quest type sagas owe so much to the world building.  It is a must read to any fantasy reader and frankly can make a great introduction for the right reader. 

                American Gods- Part of it seems a little dates, but it’s a really cool look at America through fantastical story telling.  It follows one character consistently.  The fantastical elements of the story worked well, there were a ton of very interesting characters (Gods and Human) who our protagonist met throughout the novel. The big reveal at the end is really perfect. Looking back to early in the book it really made some scenes at the time I thought kind of minor seem much more important. There were a ton of small touches Gaiman added that I really appreciated such as explaining that the lame tourist traps (like worlds largest Carosel) are strong places for the Gods.

                Dune-  This is a book I put down before I had read much science fiction then absolutely fell in love with once I had gotten more into the genre.  It’s part of what inspired me to think of the genre this way.  At its core the story is one of a family feud and powerful families seeking more power.  However, the story is so much more.  It is littered with cool ideas, from the importance of the spice, to the Bene Gesserit, to the prophecy of the Mahdi and so on.  The story makes you work but rewards you at every turn. 

                Snow Crash-I think much of Neal Stephenson’s work would be hard for non-genre readers to get into.  However, I think this is the big exception to that.  It is a bit dated, but boy is it fun.   Hiro and Y.T. (Y.T. in particular) make for great central characters.  From the beginning the novel is just so cool.  I mean just read this early passage:  “The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed sub-category. He’s got esprit up to here….The Deliverator’s car has enough potential energy packed into its batteries to fire a pound of bacon into the Asteroid Belt. Unlike a bimbo box or a Burb beater, the Deliverator’s car unloads that power through gaping, gleaming, polished sphincters. When the Deliverator puts the hammer down, shit happens.”  The large Sumerian Linguistics info dump is really the only part of the novel that is isn’t fully immersive and why I put it in this group.

                Hyperion- One of my all-time favorites, Hyperion is an science fiction at its very best.  Its structure and constant literary references might not make it the most accessible book.  Written in the style of Canterbury Tales with elements of Keats and Shakespeare woven in, Hyperion is basically the story of 7 Pilgrims and the journey to the Time Tombs on the planet of Hyperion. Each Pilgrim tells their own tale as to why they are making the journey on their way and each tale is completely unique in style and feel. The stories range from pure intrigue to action packed, to emotionally brutal. The tombs are guarded by a creature called the Shrike who impales his victims on a metal tree. Just an awesome work. 

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