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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mailvox: your mileage WILL vary

Baseball Savant emails about his daughter's inarguably flawless taste in epic fantasy literature:
I know I've e-mailed you this but my 14-year old daughter has read the Lord of the Rings trilogy 3x and the Hobbit countless times. She loves them. She basically has them memorized. She collects them if she sees copies with a different cover. It's crazy.

She read Throne of Bones in a week. After, she read Lord of the Rings again. So I asked her, how does Vox compare to Tolkien.

She hesitated and then said...."Hmmmm, I think Vox got him."

What I really like about Throne of Bones is that it sucks you in so fast. The beginning pages with the painting! Whoa. Loved it.
That's very flattering, of course, and I'm delighted to hear it, but honestly, it would be hard for me to disagree more. Here is how I rank some random authors on a broad and indistinct range of criteria I have not fully articulated. In some cases, it's based more on their peak, in others, on their average. There is no particular rhyme or reason in this regard; even the greatest novelists have their occasional clunkers.

10/10: Immortals
Tolkien, Eco, Tolstoy, Murakami, Hesse, Maupassant, Poe, Wodehouse

9/10: First-Rate
Lewis, Tanith Lee, Dostoevsky, Adams, Gibson, Herbert, Mieville, Stephenson, Balzac, Calvino, Douglas Adams, Lovecraft, Fitzgerald, Soseki

8/10: Second-Rate
Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Heinlein, Clarke, Barbara Hambly, Arthur C. Clarke, Pratchett, Keillor, Simmons, Zelazny, Howard

7/10: Third-Rate
Robert Anton Wilson, Katherine Kurtz, Ann McCaffrey, Raymond Feist, Eriksen, George RR Martin, Eddings, Card, Poul Anderson

6/10: Fourth-Rate
Gaiman, Asimov, Anthony, Bujold

At my very best, which is to say with ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT, I'd give myself an 8 to date. But I'd regard a 7 as perfectly reasonable, depending upon your tastes. And yes, I can explain each of these ratings in detail, but I'm not going to do so here.


MAILVOX: Just read your recent posts on Gaiman, was curious which book or two you would recommend starting with China Mieville? I have read about his work here and there and it seemed intriguing but never got around to it, am interested now upon seeing that you admire his writing.

I would read The City and the City, followed by Kraken, and then, assuming you enjoyed both of those, read his best, which is Embassytown.

Labels: ,

211 Comments:

1 – 200 of 211 Newer› Newest»
Anonymous Steve January 17, 2018 9:34 AM  

11/10 - Ayn Rand. (tips fedora)

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 9:35 AM  

Everyone likes to argue about hemingway... but I'd be interested to know where you would put Tennessee Williams

Blogger PoseidonAwoke January 17, 2018 9:41 AM  

Who is 'Anthony'? My first thought was Piers Anthony.

Anonymous maniacprovost January 17, 2018 9:42 AM  

I’m afraid to ask which Anthony that is.

What about Nabokov?

Blogger James Jones January 17, 2018 9:45 AM  

Gordon Bennett. Although I am in awe of you, I wonder if I detect a touch of sperg in you. You don't judge yourself - you leave it to others. You end up looking like an ass when you blow your own trumpet. But then again, as you couldn't care less what others think then that's probably not the issue. But as St. Paul says, 'I don't judge myself'.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 9:46 AM  

Interesting placement on Asimov. I consider him to be a strictly superior writer of idea fiction in comparison to any of the other early guys.

But his short stories were dramatically stronger than his longer work, so there's that.

Anonymous Evstratios January 17, 2018 9:46 AM  

Pleased to see RAW on there, a fine man and I've always enjoyed his writings which answers a question I had in the back of my head. Thanks for sharing.

Another thing I was curious about over time was your take on Hyperion. I know it veered off a bit and went hokey with love as the power of the universe but the cruceiforms, the shrike, the AI race towards a UI and so on was always interesting to me as an SF scenario and in the end I like the books. What are your thoughts on that series?

Blogger Snowdens Jacket January 17, 2018 9:46 AM  

I've read most of Stephenson and other than cannibalizing other people's ideas he's mediocre. His characters fall flat and betray a poor understanding of human nature. Specifically female nature. Decent sci fi but nowhere near a 9.

Blogger cavalier973 January 17, 2018 9:49 AM  

C.S. Lewis gets a participation trophy, then?

Blogger pyrrhus January 17, 2018 9:49 AM  

Where is Patrick O'Brien on your list? I have him at about 9.5...

Anonymous JamesV January 17, 2018 9:51 AM  

LOTR is a just OK read for me. I think it depends on what you like. If milieu is your thing the LOTR is probably the best there is. I prefer ATOB because of the richer characters.

Blogger Shimshon January 17, 2018 9:51 AM  

I guess you could say Clarke may have been a pedo, and his women were cardboard cutouts, but he could write.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 9:58 AM  

Where is Patrick O'Brien on your list?

Reads like an 8, actually a 7. His research elevates the effect.

Anonymous Marco January 17, 2018 10:02 AM  

What about Alexandre Dumas (père)?

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:03 AM  

You don't judge yourself - you leave it to others. You end up looking like an ass when you blow your own trumpet.

I think that is a literally retarded mentality. I know precisely how tall I am. I know precisely how much I weigh. I know precisely how fast I can run. Why do you expect me to pretend I don't know how intelligent I am or how my writing compares to the work of other writers?

I'm not a sperg. I understand the social convention is to pretend one has no idea about one's own talents or intellect, but I consider that to be cartoonishly false modesty and I care very little about what most other people happen to think one way or the other.

Of course, the ultimate verdict is not up to me or any one individual. What I think is irrelevant.

Anonymous Steve January 17, 2018 10:03 AM  

Shimshon - Offhand, I can't remember Clarke writing any memorable or interesting male characters either. He was a cold-blooded weirdo who didn't seem all that interested in people.

Blogger Akulkis January 17, 2018 10:03 AM  

@1

Remember -- If it ain't made of felt... it ain't a fedora.

If it doesn't have a brim at least 2 inches wide... it still ain't a fedora.


Never let anyone get away with calling a ridiculous looking Trilby "a fedora"

Blogger Jeff January 17, 2018 10:08 AM  

Heinlein, until illness struck him down.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:08 AM  

Thomas Hardy is a personal favorite, though his cynicism grates.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:10 AM  

Crichton solid 9/10. I'm smarter for having read him.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 10:20 AM  

Crichton... dude... so much fun.

Blogger James Jones January 17, 2018 10:20 AM  

Getting told off by Vox. Not a great day.

Maybe it's an English thing. We tend to dislike those who tell us how good they are - we will be the judge of that, thank you.

Blogger William Meisheid January 17, 2018 10:24 AM  

I notice you do not have C.S. Lewis listed. Is it because he is below your 6/10 level, an oversight, or you haven't read enough of his works to have an opinion?

Anonymous Anonymous January 17, 2018 10:25 AM  

John C. Wright: 11/10 or 12/10?

Anonymous Gecko January 17, 2018 10:26 AM  

Curious where Vox would put Glen Cook. I'd say 8. He can keep a long epic moving and entertaining to the end.

Blogger Desdichado January 17, 2018 10:28 AM  

James Jones wrote:Getting told off by Vox. Not a great day.

Maybe it's an English thing. We tend to dislike those who tell us how good they are - we will be the judge of that, thank you.

No, it's normal. For an INTJ, though, properly assessing your strengths and weaknesses and not being falsely modest about them is normal. But INTJ's are only 2% of the population. And high IQ INTJs are obviously even more rarified.

I don't know where Vox falls on the Meyers-Briggs personality classification, but he's clearly got that aspect of INTJ nailed down. I suspect that the correlation between INTJ and Sigmas is relatively high.

Blogger Desdichado January 17, 2018 10:29 AM  

William Meisheid wrote:I notice you do not have C.S. Lewis listed. Is it because he is below your 6/10 level, an oversight, or you haven't read enough of his works to have an opinion?
C. S. Lewis is a great philosopher and writer of non-fiction Christian polemics. I've never been overly impressed with him as a novelist, however.

Blogger Dave January 17, 2018 10:30 AM  

Crichton. Never know what could've been.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 10:31 AM  

' we will be the judge of that, thank you.'

Oh shut up and go and eat some crumpets and congratulate yourself for letting muslims take over your country. Pommy bastards...

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:32 AM  

John C. Wright is 10/10 at his best. At his worst, 6/10. He has an amazing grasp of the language merged with startling imaginative power; however, it is obvious he sometimes needs an editor to say "no."

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:33 AM  

Crichton solid 9/10. I'm smarter for having read him.

No way. He's a 6. Total stunt writer.

Curious where Vox would put Glen Cook.

7. He had pretty good range.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:34 AM  

Desdichado wrote:William Meisheid wrote:I notice you do not have C.S. Lewis listed. Is it because he is below your 6/10 level, an oversight, or you haven't read enough of his works to have an opinion?

C. S. Lewis is a great philosopher and writer of non-fiction Christian polemics. I've never been overly impressed with him as a novelist, however.


I could see some of the novels lacking appeal, yet That Hideous Strength is one of the best novels ever written.

Anonymous raptor disrespect from behind January 17, 2018 10:35 AM  

I never cared for LOTR. It reads like a travel guide and there's too much language wankery, but I guess since Tolkein was a poet and professor that is to be expected.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:36 AM  

I put CS Lewis at a 9 for Narnia and his overall range.

Blogger William Meisheid January 17, 2018 10:39 AM  

Viiidad wrote:Desdichado wrote:William Meisheid wrote:I notice you do not have C.S. Lewis listed. Is it because he is below your 6/10 level, an oversight, or you haven't read enough of his works to have an opinion?

C. S. Lewis is a great philosopher and writer of non-fiction Christian polemics. I've never been overly impressed with him as a novelist, however.


I could see some of the novels lacking appeal, yet That Hideous Strength is one of the best novels ever written.


Agreed, I also liked Till We Have Faces and while the Narnia series was for children I have read them several times and get more out of them each time.

Blogger Mocheirge January 17, 2018 10:41 AM  

Who is the first Adams in your 9/10 list?

Also, your list is missing Chesterton. But I'm pleased to see Lloyd Alexander getting some appreciation.

Blogger tuberman January 17, 2018 10:41 AM  

10/10
Tolkien, Eco, Tolstoy, Murakami, Hesse, Maupassant, Poe, Wodehouse

I've read everyone here except Murakami and Maupassant, but just one book by Eco, and one by Tolstoy (I tried Tolstoy too early, and liked Dostoevsky much better at 10 years old). I read Eco later and loved his work, and do not know why I did not pursue more.

I read Tolkien early, and again later, loved his stuff, and also loved Hesse in my teen to twenties. Poe and Wodehouse I read too, and was a fan, but did not set me on fire like Tolkien, Dostoevsky, Hesse, and Shakespeare's language did.

Of the 9/10: Already said Dostoevsky was a 10 for me and addicted at an early age. I was a fan of Gibson, Herbert, Mieville, Douglas Adams, Lovecraft, Fitzgerald at various levels that varied between 9 to 7 ratings, and I read Heinlein starting before age eight and would have given him a 10 back then, but would change that now. Hey at age six I was reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and would have given him a 10 at that age. "At the Earths Core" was my first full book (of books not written specifically for children) slightly before six years old, and addicted. My older sister had a number of hard bound copies of several of Burroughs books.



Blogger Cluebat Vanexodar January 17, 2018 10:42 AM  

I really enjoyed the Revelation Space stuff from Reynolds and also Hamilton's Commonwealth series. So hard to find a good book these days.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:43 AM  

Who is the first Adams in your 9/10 list?

Both Richard and Douglas work.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:45 AM  

Having been unable to get more than a few pages into Tanith Lee without recoiling in disgust and never revisiting her work, we obviously have different tastes. You may be right, you have multiple novels in print and I do not; however, Crichton wrote science fiction which broke out of the sci-fi ghetto. The novel Jurassic Park, which was much better than the film, tied in mathematical theory with bringing dinosaurs back from extinction inside a Disneyland theme park. State of Fear was a brutal and entertaining take-down of global warming as a scheme for government control via perpetual fear-mongering. Though his scenarios were sometimes over the top, the idea-building is very satisfying.

Blogger Daniel Paul Grech Pereira January 17, 2018 10:46 AM  

Poe is like 11/10 absolute mastery

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:47 AM  

We tend to dislike those who tell us how good they are - we will be the judge of that, thank you.

That's nice. Do you also rate movies by how fat the director is? Perhaps if you tried rating strikers by their ability to score goals instead of their modesty about their abilities you might actually get somewhere at the World Cup.

It's an utterly stupid perspective. I don't care how nice and modest the author is, if his book sucks, I don't want to read it.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:47 AM  

VD wrote:Who is the first Adams in your 9/10 list?

Both Richard and Douglas work.


Yes, definitely.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:49 AM  

Pattern Recognition is a 10/10.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 10:49 AM  

"No way. He's a 6. Total stunt writer. "

research alone puts him in the 7 range. Also... there is some socio-sexual subversiveness in his writing that gives it a hint more depth than someone like Gaimen.

Blogger great_o'rety January 17, 2018 10:51 AM  

I've missed out on Clarke for a long time, then read "Childhood's End" and now I regret I haven't kept missing out on him for longer. So overrated. Weak characterisation, weak story, not much of real SF to speak of and instead a lot of new age mumbo-jumbo. It read like a true harbringer of today's SJW infestation.

On the other hand, I think VD underestimates Martin, whose talent vastly outgrows his ability to contain it. Which in turn is affected to its detriment by his leftist views and backround. But in terms of raw talent especially when it comes to constructing a wide spectrum of believable characters he's among the best I've ever read.


Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 10:54 AM  

Zelazny. 8.

Anonymous Anonymous January 17, 2018 10:57 AM  

FINALLY someone recognises Raymond E Feist! His Riftworld sagas are truly epic. And, I even agree with the rating given here.

It's a rare being who can rank himself properly, but yes, I'd put Vox on a level with GRRM and Feist. All 3 have a gift of small detail (individual characters' POV) within a broad sweep of great deeds.

Our esteemed host is the new GRRM. Tolkien simply can't be matched. His talent was so prodigious, it might well have been prophetic.

Anonymous Viiidad January 17, 2018 10:57 AM  

Nate wrote:Zelazny. 8.

7 or 8. He would occasionally do really stupid stuff in his books, but he was never boring.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 10:57 AM  

Zelazny. 8.

(nods)

Blogger Mocheirge January 17, 2018 10:58 AM  

Modestophilia is one of the worst traits of modern whites.

Anonymous Gecko January 17, 2018 11:00 AM  

I don't think many of Martin's characters are actually all that believable. Some are, but in general Martin is sadistic, not realistic.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 11:03 AM  

On the other hand, I think VD underestimates Martin, whose talent vastly outgrows his ability to contain it. Which in turn is affected to its detriment by his leftist views and backround. But in terms of raw talent especially when it comes to constructing a wide spectrum of believable characters he's among the best I've ever read.

I don't rate on talent. Or potential. I rate solely on output. Martin SHOULD be better than he is. Sandkings was great. ASOIAF started off really well. But it's all been downhill ever since Ned was beheaded. And we understand why.

A Dance with Dragons was why I wrote ATOB. Because, after I read it, I thought, "for crying out loud, even I can write something better than THAT!"

Martin has 10x the natural talent that I have. But he's not as smart, not as disciplined, and not as honest about the human condition. Also, he doesn't understand the first thing about socio-sexuality.

Blogger KSC January 17, 2018 11:03 AM  

Jim Butcher? I rate him a 7 as of now, but his recent work has gone seriously downhill and he hasn't released a Dresden book in nearly four years. Not a good sign at all IMO.

Fitzgerald = F. Scott Fitzgerald? Only read the Great Gatsby but by all accounts his other work is much better.

First Clarke = Susannah Clarke?

Anonymous Anonymous January 17, 2018 11:08 AM  

I prefer understatement to shouting it from the rooftops, at least on a personal level. A lot (but not all) of the people that do the over-the-top bragging thing sound like they're mostly trying to convince themselves that they're really that good.

Blogger Zimri January 17, 2018 11:10 AM  

Howard belongs in 9/10 alongside or above Lovecraft. Clark Ashton Smith gets in at 8/10.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 11:12 AM  

I prefer understatement to shouting it from the rooftops, at least on a personal level.

These comments are a bit ironic given that other people are literally saying "Vox is as good as Tolkien", I'm saying, "no, I'm not, here is where I think I more properly rank", and people look at this and somehow conclude "he is bragging."

And you wonder why my motto is MPAI?

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 11:18 AM  

I find if you really want to know who goes wear on the rating scale... its extremely useful to compare their short stories. I believe that's where the real chops are on display. Almost anyone can tell a story if you give them 500 pages. Telling a great story in just a few pages though? That's work.

So.. Poe vs Lovecraft? Look at the short stories. Yes.. Lovecraft's are great. but they aren't at Poe's level. but practically no one's are.

Anonymous John January 17, 2018 11:18 AM  

Vox have read any Peter F. Hamilton? If so, where would you rank him?

Blogger Phelps January 17, 2018 11:21 AM  

I think it is appropriate to note that one of the ACTUAL findings of the original Dunning-Kruger paper was that people in the 7-10/10 range have a bias to underestimating their ability.

Doesn't mean you aren't accurate, but it means that if anything, your self-assessment is low.

Anonymous TS January 17, 2018 11:25 AM  

John Grisham has a pretty good formula...

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/john-grishams-3-must-haves-of-novel-writing

Blogger The Kurgan January 17, 2018 11:26 AM  

James Jones,
Shut up. Go away. No one, literally NO ONE cares what you think. You're using up electrons that could best be used in a fart, which would have considerable more value than your comment.

Blogger resborzage January 17, 2018 11:27 AM  

Are you familiar with James Branch Cabell's fantasy/fantastic novels, Jurgen, for instance? Would love to hear your views on his work.

Blogger JACIII January 17, 2018 11:37 AM  

Crichton deserves a +1 just for the lefty angst he brings on.

Blogger The Kurgan January 17, 2018 11:37 AM  

Dan Simmons has a 9 for Ilium and an 8.5 for the Hyperion series but he kind of went downhill after those, though Terror was meticulously researched and deserved a 9 too.

I'm curious where Vox rates him

Blogger Eric Steiger January 17, 2018 11:38 AM  

What about London? If Martin rates a 7, JL must surely be at least an 8.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 11:38 AM  

When I read Awake in the Night Land, I had to pause for a long while to think. Few books have hit me as hard as an adult. Other Wright stories have brought tears to my eyes.

Anyone who doesn't recognize one of our greatest living writers doesn't have a valid opinion.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 11:41 AM  

'Crichton deserves a +1 just for the lefty angst he brings on. '

this.

Blogger great_o'rety January 17, 2018 11:41 AM  

VD is an INTP with learned discipline

Blogger JACIII January 17, 2018 11:47 AM  

Brick Hardslab wrote:When I read Awake in the Night Land, I had to pause for a long while to think. Few books have hit me as hard as an adult. Other Wright stories have brought tears to my eyes.


Crier!

Anonymous Anonymous January 17, 2018 11:49 AM  

Vox, my comments weren't directed at you. You really don't fit that profile at all. Not even close. It ain't braggin' if you can back it up. If anything, you tend to understate your abilities.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim January 17, 2018 11:51 AM  

The absence of Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Faulkner, Williams, O'Connor, hell, just about any Southern Writer does stick in the ol craw a bit. Interesting list, though and some names I'll have to explore. Thanks.

Anonymous Anonymous January 17, 2018 11:53 AM  

This is more a comment on society at large. I'm tired of crap being pumped up as the greatest thing since sliced bread.

It's more along the line of, "When you get to the end zone, toss the ball to the ref and act like you've been there before and you'll be back again, soon."

I'm turning into a curmudgeon, I guess.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 11:53 AM  

"I could see some of the novels lacking appeal, yet That Hideous Strength is one of the best novels ever written."

Agreed. Also the middle portion of Narnia. The character and development of Eustace, alone, puts him in ratified air.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 11:55 AM  

He wasn't making an exhaustive list mate. he was just showing how he sees things and rattled off some examples that would illuminate the scale.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 12:00 PM  

Poe at 9! Interesting. I like Poe quite a bit but just by your other names I'd put him 8.

Although he gets bumped up for his enormous influence and his one masterpiece, "The Fall of the House of Usher".

Anonymous Causal Lurker January 17, 2018 12:00 PM  

The 10s are those who invented worlds and mythos, or who reshaped this world into their own desires. I'll take Vox at 8, sometimes at 9. Long works are excellent, and compare favorably with the Immortals. Short stories are very good, about 8. Poetry or verse? Hmmm. After reading the doggerel, maybe we should be thankful. It could be horrifying if encouraged; not Vogon-like, but Poe-grade weaponized horror in pentameter and (shudder) orc sonnets to the joy of speaking with your dinner. THAT would rate a truly dark 9.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim January 17, 2018 12:00 PM  

@34 @35
Speaking of Narnia and Lewis, my kids and I just finished our second run of The Horse and his Boy, and I don't think there's any better introduction to Islam and Nationalism than Lewis' depiction of the Calormen and the Narnian Horse Bree's longing to be back in his homeland of Narnia. The only sticking point is that they make the Calormen girl a civic Narnian and she becomes queen for a while, but other than that, it's spot on.
It's fertilizer for the Red Pilling of the young.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:01 PM  

Poe is not a 9. Poe is a 10. Period.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 12:02 PM  

And John Wright at 10.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 12:03 PM  

(I exaggerate I suppose, but man was Awake in the Night Land" amazing.)

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 12:05 PM  

Aravis was Calormene nobility and became Narnian by virtue of marrying into the royal line. This is extremely common and while Lewis doesn't say it it probably helped keep peace between the two nations.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:06 PM  

"Poe is not a 9. Poe is a 10. Period."

I don't trust ratings given by hicks with a man-crush for Hemingway.

That said, Poe is phenomenal.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:08 PM  

"I don't trust ratings given by hicks with a man-crush for Hemingway"

zip it hippy. The fact that you're a big pussy that's not masculine enough to understand the truths illuminated in Hemingway's work says something about you. Not the work.


Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:10 PM  

also get your facts right. I love hemingway but Faulkner is my irrational obsession.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:11 PM  

"The fact that you're a big pussy that's not masculine enough to understand the truths illuminated in Hemingway's work says something about you. Not the work."

I will maintain to my dying day that 'Old Man and the Sea' is the most needless, overwrought - and yet stylistically spare - novella ever written. No amount of you waving it around is gonna change that.

Anonymous kfg January 17, 2018 12:14 PM  

I agree with Zelazny's rating on average, and as he was so prolific that is the proper way to rate him, but he pulled one real rabbit out of the hat. It doesn't have the linguistic brilliance of Eco, or quite the scope of Tolkien, but it need make no apologies sharing a shelf with them.

Blogger kevmalone January 17, 2018 12:14 PM  

What an interesting list. The gap between each class seems to increase as the list progresses
Is it established who the 9/10 Lewis is? I had assumed C.S. but from these comments cannot be sure.
Is it established who the second 8/10 Clarke is? My duplicated Adams name question was resolved in these comments, so thanks for that.
More importantly than either of these: I'm unfamiliar with Soseki. Can anyone recommend a good place to start with his work?
Thanks.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright January 17, 2018 12:16 PM  

In a previous post recently, you listed John with Meiville. Does that make him a 9/10?

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:17 PM  

"I will maintain to my dying day that 'Old Man and the Sea' is the most needless, overwrought - and yet stylistically spare - novella ever written. No amount of you waving it around is gonna change that."

That's because you've been infected with western liberalism that has rotted your soul. the fact that you don't understand it doesn't mean there is nothing to understand. It means you're blind.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener January 17, 2018 12:20 PM  

On this scale I would rank Ray Bradbury a 9 and to my thinking Vox is a notch above Heinlein but below Bradbury. 8.5 is fair for Vox I think.

I would also rank John Wright a 9 or maybe 9.5 - it's just hard to put many people on the same level as Tolstoy.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:22 PM  

John C Wright is a 10.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:22 PM  

It's not the content. It's the fact that it's literally ten times as long as it needs to be to tell the story, yet is written with the absolute worst version of Hemingway's "take no prisoners" approach to verbiage. At least L'amour had the decency to keep his version to about 10 pages.

Anonymous Nobles January 17, 2018 12:23 PM  

Crichton was a hack. Although, putting an actual genetic sequence of E. coli bacteria in Jurassic Park and calling it that of a dinosaur was a nice touch.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 12:24 PM  

In a previous post recently, you listed John with Meiville. Does that make him a 9/10?

I don't rate Castalia authors. That would only cause problems. But given my previous musings on the subject, my opinion on John C. Wright is not difficult to ascertain.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:25 PM  

" At least L'amour had the decency to keep his version to about 10 pages."

look.. you're a flaming homosexual. we get it. there is no reason to keep shouting it.

Blogger Al January 17, 2018 12:26 PM  

How dare you not place Dostoevsky in the highest rank, and indeed first among the highest. My confidence in your judgment has now been seriously eroded.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:29 PM  

' My confidence in your judgment has now been seriously eroded. "

I'm certain Vox will lose sleep over that.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:29 PM  

"look.. you're a flaming homosexual. we get it. there is no reason to keep shouting it."

Keep your fantasies to yourself.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 12:32 PM  

How dare you not place Dostoevsky in the highest rank, and indeed first among the highest.

His insight into certain aspects of the human condition is excellent. But when I re-read Crime and Punishment last year, it wasn't quite as impressive as I remembered it. Whereas I found War and Peace improved upon a second reading and had more to say about the world in general.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:33 PM  

"Crichton was a hack."

Crichton was a first-rate entertainer, with the rare condition of both realizing he was merely an entertainer and being honest about it. There's a reason that his books have the kind of mass appeal that most authors can only dream about.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:33 PM  

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/01/10/hemingways-homophobia-245012.html

that's the real reason you hate Hemingway. Papa didn't like the homos very much.

Blogger kevmalone January 17, 2018 12:34 PM  

Well,the first post of this failed to stick so...
What an interesting list. The gap between each class seems to increase as the list progresses
Is it established who the 9/10 Lewis is? I had assumed C.S. but from these comments cannot be sure.
Is it established who the second 8/10 Clarke is? My duplicated Adams name question was resolved in these comments, so thanks for that.
More importantly than either of these: I'm unfamiliar with Soseki. Can anyone recommend a good place to start with his work?
Thanks.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:39 PM  

"The Royal Road to quick literary success is through the entrance to the colon." - Hemingway

See that sentence? That's why Hemingway is immortal.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:40 PM  

Nate, Nate, Nate... that's the genetic fallacy, old man. I don't give a damn about Hemingway (I know this will come as a shock to someone like you). His work is the question.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:44 PM  

His work? Son they will be reading and discussing Old Man and the Sea when your great grandchildren are in Depends.

Blogger Fenris Wulf January 17, 2018 12:44 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 12:47 PM  

Creighton and Wolfe both get short shrift. Radical chic and Mau-mauing the flak catchers is short and so dense it's amazing. It's so utterly American it's like eating carnival food.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:49 PM  

"His work? Son they will be reading and discussing Old Man and the Sea when your great grandchildren are in Depends."

Nobody outside of academic institutions wants to talk about it *now*. In twenty years it won't even be remembered except as an example of how to bore your readers to sleep.

Blogger Constantin January 17, 2018 12:49 PM  

@101 That makes me want to read him even more(yes, I've gone through life without reading Hemingway, sue me). What's a good starting place with him, if I may ask?

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:50 PM  

Butcher and Corriea...

I rate them both as 8s. But each could move up to 9. Particularly Larry. His writing is improving at an alarming rate.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 12:51 PM  

@105 Fenris Wulf, I was very young when I read the two series and thought I was reading two different authors.

Blogger Fenris Wulf January 17, 2018 12:53 PM  

Interestingly, Zelazny is respected by people with wildly different tastes in SF/F who agree on nothing else.

Douglas Adams was more than a satirist, he wrote great, inventive SF. But higher than Zelazny?!?

I rate Lewis' Space Trilogy higher than Narnia. It influenced my thinking in surprising ways.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 12:53 PM  

"What's a good starting place with him, if I may ask?"

Death in the Afternoon. its theoretically a non-fiction book about bullfighting. but... its a lot more than that.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 12:57 PM  

Correia went and took a genre that had degenerated into depraved porn and revived it into something readable.

Butcher is a solid 8 with moments that transcend that. He's also a very prolific guy for as long as he's been writing. I think Larry will beat anyone for hard work though. Once you've farmed everything else is gravy.

Except maybe coal mining. I hear that's awful.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:57 PM  

"That makes me want to read him even more(yes, I've gone through life without reading Hemingway, sue me). What's a good starting place with him, if I may ask?"

'The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macombre'. When he wasn't trying, Hemingway wrote good short fiction.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 12:59 PM  

A buddy once described Butcher as "the best popcorn author in SFF". I'd say that's a perfect description.

Correia, as Nate said, just keeps improving. What's more, he has a demonstrated ability to write from a wide variety of character perspectives that few authors possess. And he's also fun.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 1:02 PM  

Douglas Adams is another that is in a class by himself. He may not be the greatest writer in the world but his prose is as funny read out loud as it is on the page. My brother read a passage to me and I nearly fell on the floor laughing. The radio program was perfect.

Anonymous Yann January 17, 2018 1:05 PM  

@45 research alone puts him in the 7 range. Also... there is some socio-sexual subversiveness in his writing that gives it a hint more depth than someone like Gaimen.

Agreed. Crichton is one of the most underrated writers ever. Each novel is like a depth charge, far deeper and thought-provoking that fake intellectuals as Gaiman.

It's the never-ending problem with artists that artists that are too popular to be considered real artists and whose depth is often unnoticed. It happened with Hitchcock, who was considered a pop-corn director back in the 60s. Same happened with writers like Alexandre Dumas or Jules Verne, or even Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music was extremely popular in Leipzig but dismissed by musicians, it took a century to discover he was the greatest genius in the History of Music.

It's gonna take decades until Crichton reaches the place he deserves.

Blogger Constantin January 17, 2018 1:06 PM  

@112 Thanks.

Blogger pyrrhus January 17, 2018 1:10 PM  

Zelazny (a fencer like Heinlein) wrote some stuff that wasn't outstanding, but his imagination and the quality of some of his writing makes him a 9 at times...Similarly, Philip K. Dick wrote a lot of stuff for Ace that was just cranked out, but 'Man in the High Castle' was genius. PKD has been far more influential than any other Sci-Fi writer because his most imaginative pieces have been made into major motion pictures.
Jack Vance, in his middle years, was a superb stylist as well as having the ability to create worlds...9 for that.

Blogger Katusov January 17, 2018 1:14 PM  

Ray Bradbury I would give a 9/10.

Blogger pyrrhus January 17, 2018 1:16 PM  

@117 Yes, Crichton is a tough writer to rate..Some of his stuff seems rather cheesy while in others he tackles really interesting stuff with great panache. In that he somewhat resembles Philip K. Dick, although Crichton is not as imaginative as PKD.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 1:20 PM  

"Nobody outside of academic institutions wants to talk about it *now*. In twenty years it won't even be remembered except as an example of how to bore your readers to sleep."

Jesus Christ... just stop. You didn't understand it. You don't understand it. Never the less right now today its being discussed all over the internet.

Blogger maniacprovost January 17, 2018 1:20 PM  

'Old Man and the Sea' would have been improved had Janet Van Dyne lost her clothes early on.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 1:22 PM  

"'Old Man and the Sea' would have been improved had Janet Van Dyne lost her clothes early on."

exactly.

its like the woman on Goodreads asking "Hey would Old Man and the Sea be a good book for my 6 year old? He's pretty advanced for his age."

it will be a great book for him. When he's 30.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 1:28 PM  

After reading this thread and a chance to think it hit me, oh God, our modern fiction is awful this is why the puppies were inevitable. Can anyone honestly say, "If You Were a Dinosaur", is in the same league as, "Queen of the Tyrant Lizards"? It's barely in the same genre. Wright tossed that off in a few hours.

The 'respectable' sci-fi scene is pure garbage and perversion. Jackasses eat it up like it was a delicious Delmonico's steak, with as much praise and awards.

Any one of the people we've discussed beat the modern approved award winning sci-fi and fiction with a sledge hammer.

Thank you, to all writers of quality. You've pulled is all back on course.

Blogger great_o'rety January 17, 2018 1:30 PM  

Nate wrote:I find if you really want to know who goes wear on the rating scale... its extremely useful to compare their short stories. I believe that's where the real chops are on display. Almost anyone can tell a story if you give them 500 pages. Telling a great story in just a few pages though? That's work.

Couldn't disagree more. Both forms have their challenges and there are authors who do very well as long as they stick to one and don't try their hand at the other.

Take Sapkowski. He meteorited himself to fame when he took his chance in a short story writing contest of the biggest Polish SF/fantasy magazine. Then he followed up on this with two books of equally excellent or even better stories. Then he decided it was time to become a novelist and since then it has been a constant ride downhill.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 1:31 PM  

Also.. Wodehouse. 10? no. just no.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 1:32 PM  

Bradbury is in a tough position. His type of story isn't really sci-fi. It's good to great but never really in the genre. It's a fairytale set on mars or in small town America.

Blogger Chuck Dantes January 17, 2018 1:33 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous Steve January 17, 2018 1:34 PM  

I've missed out on Clarke for a long time, then read "Childhood's End" and now I regret I haven't kept missing out on him for longer. So overrated. Weak characterisation, weak story, not much of real SF to speak of and instead a lot of new age mumbo-jumbo. It read like a true harbringer of today's SJW infestation.

I read CHILDHOOD'S END as an adult.

I used to think that Christians who complained about Harry Potter and whatnot were a bit odd, but Clarke's book let me know exactly how they must feel.

CHILDHOOD'S END is Satanic. Literally so - Clarke didn't make the alien overlords look like devils for a laugh, his sense of humour was much drier than that.

I can't understand the mindset of someone who would want to write about all the children on Earth turning into inhuman monsters before their parents and the entire planet is mercilessly destroyed, and I don't want to understand either.

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 1:36 PM  

"Jesus Christ... just stop. You didn't understand it. You don't understand it. Never the less right now today its being discussed all over the internet."

Understanding does not preclude distaste.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 1:39 PM  

'Understanding does not preclude distaste.'

you called it pointless. that demonstrates that you don't understand it. It is far from pointless. it has a radically important point.

Blogger bob kek mando January 17, 2018 1:39 PM  

91. Nate January 17, 2018 12:22 PM
John C Wright is a 10.



MFW, Nate characterizes the estimable Mr. John C. Wright as the Bo Derek of skiffy.

especially given his mancrush for gender fluid Hemingway.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/07/03/hemingway-the-sensualist
"Where Mr. Scrooby really got turned around, though, was in bed. In “The Garden of Eden,” the Hemingway stand-in, David Bourne, is anally penetrated night after night by a dildo, with the now short-haired Hadley character on top—a practice that, in real life, seems to date to Hemingway’s fourth marriage, to the journalist Mary Welsh, in 1946. When “The Garden of Eden” appeared, in 1986, reviewers made much of the hair-cutting androgyny while leaving the anality more or less alone, but it’s clear in the text that the “devil things,” as Catherine calls them, center on the penetration, for which all the hair treatment is merely a preparation.

It’s this kind of thing that makes Hemingway’s “libidinal politics” look progressive today, revealing gender roles as the culturally manufactured toys they are. Yet the sex, one soon sees, is actually imagined on much the same macho terms as before, just with the signifiers shaken up. “The Garden of Eden” evokes not cheerful pluralism in transgressing gender boundaries but the old Hemingway themes of the bonding of hunter and hunted, prey and predator. Sex roles are switched, not broadened. The twists and turns are, in this view, entirely sinful—what drives us from paradise, not what reminds us of it.

Like every sexual fetish, his got its tang from transgression. Sex must be experienced as sin to be satisfying. For Hemingway, there was no greater sin than acting in a “womanish” way, and it was therefore the subject that Mr. Scrooby awoke to. The prospect of being unmanned was as thrillingly illicit for his self-stimulation as the enactment of manly ritual was essential to his self-image. We need not believe that the public face is fake to understand that the private desire can be its opposite. The result, as evidenced in “The Garden of Eden,” was certainly more daring and original and honest than the “Old Man and the Sea” stuff he published in the fifties instead. But it was not postmodern gender pluralism, either. It was more binary than that, and more brutal.

What gives Hemingway’s flirtation with gender reversal a special pathos is his relationship with his much loved son Gregory, an intermittent cross-dresser who had a sex-change operation at the age of sixty-three and died using the name Gloria.
"

Blogger S1AL January 17, 2018 1:41 PM  

Needless, not pointless. Those are completely different words.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 1:49 PM  

At least we've determined that S1AL is the Robert Jordan of commenters today.

Do try to get it through your head that no one cares whether you like Hemingway or not. You've stated your opinion repeatedly. Now drop it.

Anonymous Steve January 17, 2018 1:54 PM  

'Man in the High Castle' was genius

Yes, and PKD is basically the exact opposite of Clarke.

HIGH CASTLE has a lot of characters in it, but they're all memorable, distinct, and recognisably human.

Robert Childan is possibly the best realised and arguably the secret heart of the novel. He's an unpleasant, contemptible little social climber, but through his eyes we feel like we understand what it's like to be defeated in war and then occupied.

His painful social inadequacy, barely concealed rage, and internal monologues that sound like a parody of the Japs he so despises/envies are what gives the book's alternate history high concept a texture of verisimilitude.

Blogger William Meisheid January 17, 2018 2:14 PM  

Viiidad wrote:...Crichton wrote science fiction which broke out of the sci-fi ghetto.

S1AL wrote:"Crichton was a hack."

Crichton was a first-rate entertainer, with the rare condition of both realizing he was merely an entertainer and being honest about it.


I found that Eater's of the Dead to be his best, which I enjoyed immensely and very different than his other books. I think he raised his game there. I even enjoyed the movie version, The 13th Warrior.

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 2:51 PM  

@32-I don't think That Hideous Strength is a great novel, but it has a truly great character in Merlin.

Perelandra is better.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 3:07 PM  

Perelandra is definitely better but his best book is The Great Divorce.

Till We Have Faces is also brilliant.

Blogger Sterling Pilgrim January 17, 2018 3:15 PM  

@82... well the story itself stated that peace was kept because Rabadash did not dare go more than the boundary of ten miles outside of his kingdom, and therefore did not wage war on surrounding countries.

Blogger Lovekraft January 17, 2018 3:16 PM  

Is it my turn to trigger Nate or did Nate, if he was so good, you wouldn't have to get yr panties in a bunch defending him. Canada liberal educators love him (probably the Cuba connection) but you won't believe the strips Dave Sim took off him (the way his wife emasculated this bastion of masculinity is an interesting read, but irrelevant I know).

Take HPL. I was quite surprised he merited an 8, considering the consensus seems to be he was a hack. But as Yann states, time has a way of filtering out. I am currently exploring Alan Moore's 12-issue 'Providence' and something is, how do I put it, insightful once I put my finger on it. HPL is someone you can admire for sheer thrills, but there are metaphors for ancient, passed-down wisdom and man's inherent rebelliousness in seeking out forbidden knowledge.

PKD is amazing. Any comment on Philip Jose Farmer and Larry Niven?

Anonymous 'setting January 17, 2018 3:19 PM  

checking.

Anonymous DTA January 17, 2018 3:42 PM  

I've read all but one of the 10s. I'd include in the list Mark Helprin (not the political analyst Helperin) whose best book, my opinion, was Memoir From Antproof Case, or perhaps Winter's Tale or maybe Soldier of the Great War.

Blogger KSC January 17, 2018 3:46 PM  

Woedhouse is absolutely a 10. The actor who plays Jeeves in the BBC audio drama versions improves it even more, if such a thing is possible.

Anonymous Tipsy January 17, 2018 3:50 PM  

Germaine Greer wrote that ever since she arrived at Cambridge in 1964 it had been her nightmare that Tolkien would turn out to be the most influential writer of the twentieth century.

Oh, Fortuna, you capricious sprite!

Anonymous Evstratios January 17, 2018 3:58 PM  

I was trying to remember all day the one guy that I really liked and I ended up reading most or all of his stuff at one point. Philip Jose Farmer, I can't recall now how riverworld ended but it was a damn cool premise and his other stuff was quite good. Pretty masculine and approprately brutal, I'm going to have to hit my shelf in the near future and run over it again. Solid 8 for sure.

Anonymous 'setting January 17, 2018 3:59 PM  

Ok, this is an argument I like.

Many of these I have not read. If its not SF/F my chance of having read it goes way down.

Immortals: I've said that 500 years from now history classes will mention three people from this time: Hitler, Neil Armstrong, and Tolkien. I'd also put Lewis up in Immortals.

First rate: Mieville is unreadable. Douglas Adams, based only on Hitchhikers is Second Rate. Yes, he manages to portray atheism as depressing. This is not a great feat. Atheism is depressing.

Second Rate: Pratchett, yes. But he's a better second rate than Douglas Adams. I'm fine with Zelazny here. But Barbra Hambly? She's a midlist author. And Arthur C. Clarke....he's terrible. Songs of a Distant Earth had him getting up on his soapbox for a several pages lecturing us on atheism. And they decide to leave some guy dead just cuz. Rama was dull. Plus, him being a terrible person drags his rank down. He's low midlist. DNR....Do not read.

If you're going to soapbox do it like Heinlein in Starship Troopers or Cricton in Rising Sun. Make it entertaining and interesting.

Third rate: Card based on his famed novel deserves second rate. Bujold gets third-rate. Martin, did some decent stuff before Game of Thrones, but my reaction to GoT #1 was...no, he won't do that stupid, predictable thing....yep, he did. Sigh. Oh, great, pervy stuff. Determine not to read any more Martin. Martin is not as bad as Arthur C. Clarke, FWIW. DNR.

As for Vox, his best is Opera. Ranking him (without the Now Living Author trying to boost his greatness effect that attends all authors), and I'd say third rate. Which is very good, and not to be sneezed at. I've happily read fifth and sixth rate authors.

Everyone always ranks themselves compared to Tolkien, and I, at least take such comparisons with a cup of salt.

Blogger Wild Ape January 17, 2018 4:00 PM  

Howard is second rate??? In your dreams! The sword and sorcery genre is defined by Howard and he could write rings around Tolkien and others. He was better than Lovecraft by a long shot.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 4:01 PM  

@139

The royal line of Archenland (actually not Narnia, I almost forgot that) extended past that generation.

Anonymous E Deploribus Unum January 17, 2018 4:02 PM  

How dare you not place Dostoevsky in the highest rank

Just finished The Brothers Karamazov on Jordan Peterson's high recommendation. Valuable and very insightful, I agree, and moving to boot. But I got the sense at times that Dostoevsky was getting paid by the word.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab January 17, 2018 4:07 PM  

I just noticed Howard was a second rate. There's no modern Howard. There's no real imitators. No one has come close except maybe Drake in The Dragon Lord.

Blogger Lovekraft January 17, 2018 4:24 PM  

Del Rey put out a compilation of Howard's sword and sorcery entitled "The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian."

Highly recommended with great artwork throughout.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 4:27 PM  

Douglas Adams, based only on Hitchhikers is Second Rate.

And it's not even his best work. I like Dirk Gently even better. Also, I give a bonus point for humor, because humor is so hard to accomplish. Pratchett is not as funny as Adams nor is he as insightful a critical observer of human behavior. That being said, I think he is underrated, especially in the American SF/F world.

The sword and sorcery genre is defined by Howard.

So what? Howard could never, ever, do what Eco and Hesse and Tolstoy did. His work was nowhere nearly as deeply relevant as theirs. He is a great author, no question, but he is not an Immortal.

Remember, I rate their WRITING. Unlike most readers, I look at who can do what.

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 4:29 PM  

Third rate: Card based on his famed novel deserves second rate.

No. The novelette was better. Xenocide is actually the better novel, in my opinion. And the rest of his work makes it clear that he outdid himself with the original novelette. If we were judging people by one shining moment, I'd have Rosenberg up there for "Cincinattus". But reading his other stuff, well, it's not nearly that good.

Blogger maniacprovost January 17, 2018 4:37 PM  

Most of Card's work is pretty consistent, but I wouldn't judge him solely on Ender's Game. Based just on The Silmarillion, Tolkien clearly can't put together a coherent story of any length.

I thought "Lost Boys" was first rate.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 4:46 PM  

Douglas Adams was one of the best writers of dialog that has ever lived.

Blogger Amos Bellomy January 17, 2018 4:49 PM  

Hitchhikers is up with The Man Who Was Thursday as the funniest books/series I've ever read.

Anonymous Tipsy January 17, 2018 4:56 PM  

Amos Bellomy wrote:Hitchhikers is up with The Man Who Was Thursday as the funniest books/series I've ever read.

Hitchhikers was hilarious, but I'd still put "The Confederacy of Dunces" in front of it.

Anonymous 'setting January 17, 2018 5:10 PM  

Douglas Adams: My bonus pt. for humor is already included. He would be midlist without humor. I read in part to escape pain, and atheist writers like Alan Dean Foster and William T. Forschten and Douglas Adams make you want to cry when you finish their book, while Pratchett is a more humane atheist. So, I'm not likely to try Dirk Gently. However, I do generally enjoy watching the TV series when I can get it. Its flaming bizarre.

I would say Adams has a better sentence writing skill, but on keen insight and funniness, I find the exact opposite to be true. Adams is repetitious, and mildly amusing and overly topical. Remember the Italian restaurant joke? Nowadays no one would get it.

I agree that OSC's other stuff that I've read has not been as good except for his non-fiction Writer's Digest book on how to write. It was fun. Thx for the suggestion on Xe.

Blogger Starboard January 17, 2018 5:47 PM  

157. 'setting - sorry to hear that you have pain that needs escaping. I agree that the modern atheists are downers. Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently is nothing like the various TV adaptations, but it is good. The down quality is there, but it is well leavened with surprising humor. Adams' description of Dirk entering Valhalla(?) was really excellent.

CS Lewis' Perelandra was my favorite of the trilogy. I read somewhere that That Hideous Strength was his attempt at Charles Williams style horror. It was good, but Williams did it better. CW wrote seven novels of which his last, Descent into Hell is the best, but try All Hallow's Eve for a quick sample.

I didn't like The Man Who Was Thursday or any of the GK Chesterton fiction that I've read, but I fully admit that it is probably a personal character flaw, as I enjoy his non-fiction.

If you like CS Lewis' Til We Have Faces, try George MacDonald's Lilith. I know the name Lilith smacks of feminism, but trust me, she's the villain in this one.

Anonymous Stan Adams January 17, 2018 5:56 PM  

Would Scalzi be 0/10, or -10/10?

Blogger VD January 17, 2018 6:07 PM  

Would Scalzi be 0/10, or -10/10?

4/10. He's had his occasional moments, but he's been in serious decline ever since Redshirts. When your dialogue is not merely bad, but risibly so, you have a problem.

Ever notice that no one even tries to compare his writing to mine the way they used to?

Blogger Jefferson Kim January 17, 2018 6:11 PM  

Thanks so much VD for listing. I'll have to read through all of them!

Anonymous Ungor January 17, 2018 6:28 PM  

Whereas I found War and Peace improved upon a second reading and had more to say about the world in general.

Confusing response. War and Peace is Tolstoy not Dostoyevsky.

Blogger Manach January 17, 2018 6:33 PM  

I'd agree that the Mr. Wright at his best deserves between an 8 to 9.
Within the realm of Scifi & Fantasy one might also mention if looking at their best: Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson and CJ Cherryl in the 7s to 8s.

Anonymous BigRingLuver January 17, 2018 6:57 PM  

My top 5 writers are :

1) Robert Jorden
2) RA Salvatore
3) John C. Wright
4) Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman
5) Vox Day

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 7:04 PM  


1) Robert Jorden
2) RA Salvatore
3) John C. Wright
4) Margaret Weiss & Tracy Hickman
5) Vox Day

This is probably the most insulting thing Vox has seen on this whole third.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash January 17, 2018 7:04 PM  

You can tell the people who judge based on wordsmithery vs people who judge based on characterization vs people who judge based on ideas vs people who judge based on plot and atmospherics.
Tolkein was also an expert with words, as any Philologist must be. His atmospherics and character development are second to none. But his pacing is at best uneven, and frequently tends toward the plodding.
Wodehouse on the other hand is also an expert wordsmith, and excels at dialogue and humor. But half his characters are cardboard stereotypes and the plot to most of his novels is substantially the same.
Hemmingway is a hack, his characters are opaque and his plotting is almost nonexistent. He excels at the level of ideas, however and many like his facility with building atmosphere.

Blogger Nate January 17, 2018 7:08 PM  

"Hemmingway is a hack, his characters are opaque and his plotting is almost nonexistent. He excels at the level of ideas, however and many like his facility with building atmosphere."

/facepalm

Blogger Snidely Whiplash January 17, 2018 7:10 PM  

Starboard wrote:I didn't like The Man Who Was Thursday or any of the GK Chesterton fiction that I've read, but I fully admit that it is probably a personal character flaw, as I enjoy his non-fiction.
Chesterton was a giant of ideas and philosophy, with an enormous (in more ways than one) talent for seeing through lies. But he wasn't much of a fiction writer. The Father Brown books are as good as he got, and they're pop-lit mysteries with some human insight tacked on, not great fiction.

Anonymous Aphelion January 17, 2018 7:11 PM  

I trust I must be wrong, but admit that I never made it far through a Tolkien book. Too many words. I devoured Summa Elvetica and ATOB and look forward to the full version of ASOS.

I’ve read a little of the immortals but more of 1st, 2nd, & 3rd rate authors listed. I normally read fiction for entertainment and don’t typically seek a slog. I have no problems with Vox’ grading structure or self evaluation, he’s about right.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash January 17, 2018 7:25 PM  

Sorry Nate, that's my honest assessment. Of course, I haven't ready any Hemingway since I was 14, and that was ... a very long long time ago. And I haven't read any Hemingway largely because of how awful I found Old Man And The Sea to be. Just awful.

Anonymous Chrome Dynamo January 17, 2018 7:36 PM  

Looking for Kipling in the mix. Like his earlier stuff a lot, such as "Stalky and Company","Plain tales from the Hills", the verse he wrote.
I put Clark Ashton Smith above Howard, but a matter of taste I guess.
Cordwainer Smith should be better known, IMHO.

I do not read much fantasy. I read historical stuff now adays or Military SF like Galactic Legionnaire (good stuff!). Pournelle's Prince of Mercenaries has good advice within the very good story telling.

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 7:37 PM  

"a broad and indistinct range of criteria I have no fully articulated"

That's as it should be, because there probably is no set of objective criteria. Considering the novel alone, the form has changed so much in the history of the genre. Which standards from which era does one apply? Most people know to at least try and distinguish between personal taste and what most humans might appreciate. But what about the difference between works of obvious greatness and more mediocre ones that nevertheless are more readable? I dunno.

Splitting authors into groups as you have is quite useful. In my experience, people tend to underestimate the gaps between great figures in any field. Much like the intelligence gaps frequently mentioned on this site. It's one thing to be the greatest playwright of your generation or even the history of your nation. But it's quite another thing to be Shakespeare, who may have been one-of-a-kind in the history of mankind. The difference between your average household name in science and Newton is much larger than the difference between myself and a retard.

Tolstoy and Tolkien possess such greatness that they're great enough to fail, in my opinion, over large swathes of their work I can do without. Their books simply contain everything, whole worlds of their own, from the best to the boring. That's one manifestation of the sort of range you were talking about being the difference between you and Gaiman. According to which criteria I'd definitely exclude Poe, but your other Immortals make perfect sense of with that in mind.

Anonymous Catdog January 17, 2018 7:52 PM  

I love the common the thread of “I’m to dim to read Tolkien, but I love Vox!!!”

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 7:56 PM  

While I enjoy imaginative fiction, my taste in literature runs more towards the prosaic and realistic (a loaded term, I know, but I use it in the popular sense). My taste is also colored heavily by when and where I was born, which I couldn't help..

Here are my favorite novelists (my mfavorite, not the greatest):

Waugh
Cozzens
Fitzgerald
Bellow
Conrad
Dostoyevsky
O'Hara
Maugham
Tarkington
Tolstoy
Hawthorne
Tolkien
James (Henry)
Dickens
Marquand
Heinlein
Lewis (Sinclair)
Orwell
Rand

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 7:58 PM  

@174-I'm only now making my way through Scott, having read parts of Ivanhoe merely years ago. He may climb that list.

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 8:04 PM  

@166-The level of ideas is where Hemingway signally fails, I think. He's always acting as if he's building up to profundity, then he can't come out with it because manly-man-ness must express itself tersely, or something.

His characters are flat. Actually, everything he wrote was flat. That was the style. Have little as possible happen or be described.

But I enjoy it for what it is. (And I find myself writing like him, as most people writing in our language after him tend to do.) It's just not very much.

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 8:15 PM  

@166-Anyone who writes satire, though Wodehousian literature is not mere satire, has to rely on stereotype to an extent. But people don't read those stories for Lady So-and-So, they read it for Jeeves and Wooster, and so forth.

I take your larger point. Vox's criteria remain hidden, but you can tell he's interested in a variety of strengths. Tolstoy and Wodehouse were up to very different things.

For me, I value ideas, though not necessarily in the "speculative" sense. I am more interested in characters and wordsmithery than plot and setting. Bht nothing can turn me off faster than a plotless book.

Blogger michimartini January 17, 2018 8:19 PM  

Just curious, has anyone here read Jon Saboe? I enjoyed his SF a lot. But looking at the list i feel very unread. I am a total fan of Lewis' Perelandra trilogy, but i found Hesse somewhat pretentious, but i guess i mainly hated his philosophy.

Blogger Ja D January 17, 2018 8:21 PM  

David Gemmell 8/10?

Anonymous Azimus January 17, 2018 8:22 PM  

I do enjoy Hemmingway. I really liked the first time I read "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I also enjoyed the second time I read it, when he called it "A Farewell to Arms."

Joking aside, Hemmingway had a great ability to paint a rich scene with only the necessary words. In fact he kind of spoiled me - I find it exceedingly difficult to read anyone like Melville or Hawthorne or Cooper or some of the "Lady Novelists" who go on and on and on (and on) about the clothes people wear, or explicit descriptions of a rich man's gardens or four-in-hand, etc.

This comment section has been gold by the way. It has convinced me to go back to the Russian writers... haven't read any of them in 20yrs...

Anonymous Azimus January 17, 2018 8:31 PM  

Here are my favorite novelists (my mfavorite, not the greatest):

.... Dickens....


I have a love/hate relationship with Dickens. He has this trick where he gets you to think one thing about a character, and then pulls the rug out from under you and redeems him. It worked in Tale of Two Cities and Sydney and Madame DeFarge. It did not work for Great Expectations. He went too far - I hated Pip. I wanted him to die. Little ungrateful jackass. Actually I hated everyone except the smithy and the prisoner. Maybe you were supposed to?

Blogger tublecane January 17, 2018 8:41 PM  

@Azimus-I can't be objective about Dickens, Great Expectations especially. That was the first adult novel I ever read, in 5th grade, after falling in love with a truncated picture-book version. I even dressed like Pip for a book report at school.

Fitzgerald and Lewis are similarly corrupted choices. As a Minnesotan, I'm required by law to promote them whenever possible.

Anonymous Mr. Rational January 17, 2018 8:59 PM  

@143  Would that happen to be the same gent who played the role for the BBC films shown on PBS?  He was superb.

@148  If you've read Atlas Shrugged and know War and Peace by reputation, you'd know it's just a Russian thing.

@172  Indeed it has.  I tried reading "Tom Jones" in my teens, and found the differences in sentence structure, typography and general long-windedness to make it daunting and more than a little dull.  But I kept at it and eventually got my head around the differences and finished it at more or less a normal reading pace.  This is probably not something we can expect the average teenager today to do, nor should we demand it of them.  (But we should prompt the best to give such things a try, to widen the horizons of the ones who can.)

Anonymous JAG January 17, 2018 9:21 PM  

Nate wrote:I find if you really want to know who goes wear on the rating scale... its extremely useful to compare their short stories. I believe that's where the real chops are on display. Almost anyone can tell a story if you give them 500 pages. Telling a great story in just a few pages though? That's work.

So.. Poe vs Lovecraft? Look at the short stories. Yes.. Lovecraft's are great. but they aren't at Poe's level. but practically no one's are.



Lovecraft was amazing once he found his own niche. Poe could write in any genre, or even invent new ones. Poe is a demigod while Lovecraft is a tragic hero.

Anonymous Stan Adams January 17, 2018 10:12 PM  

VD wrote:Would Scalzi be 0/10, or -10/10?

4/10. He's had his occasional moments, but he's been in serious decline ever since Redshirts. When your dialogue is not merely bad, but risibly so, you have a problem.

Ever notice that no one even tries to compare his writing to mine the way they used to?


Scalzi is nothing if incomparable.

If only you could write like this ... then you, too, could be the esteemed recipient of a coveted special citation from the Ohio House of Representatives:
https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/50498420-the-collapsing-empire

“Stop whining like a fucking child.”
“You could have just said, ‘I need your help.’”
“All right. I need your help. Stop whining like a fucking child.”
“That’s not better.”

“I want to be there when you question him.”
“No you don’t.”
“I really do.”
“Let me put it another way, Lord Marce. Fuck you, go away.”

“Actually, the captain and I were just talking about the plight of the less advantaged,” Kiva said.
“You?” Ghreni said, disbelieving.
“One, fuck you, and two, yes.”

Having read these quotes, I can safely say that the novel is dead. Scalzi the wordsmith has produced a Meisterwerk of such sublime perfection, such probing depth, such biting wit, that no one shall ever surpass it. The world will never need another book. The Corroding Empire is the alpha, the omega, and (most especially) the gamma of literary excellence.

The verb "to read" scarcely does justice to the mind-blowing, life-changing experience of exposing oneself to Scalzi's meticulously-crafted prose. One does not "read" a Scalzi novel; one absorbs it through one's pores. Scalzi does not "write" books; he summons them from the darkest depths of his terrified soul, and impregnates our minds with his brilliance like a facehugger on coke.

Anonymous Stan Adams January 17, 2018 10:18 PM  

@185 Damn, I confused Scalzi's book with the one by the 6'3" Finnish ex-Marine.

Anonymous Jo January 17, 2018 10:53 PM  

I don't fully follow Vox's scale, but I would rate Scalzi as 3 stars, in general. Although, that said, his latest work is falling, and I don't know what's causing the decline.

Lock In was bland. 2 stars, at best.

Collapsing Empire was about 2 stars also. It felt so rushed. Which is a shame because I thought Scalzi could've done a much better job with it. Maybe if he spent a few more months really working on it and fleshing it out. All of the characters feel more like twitter personalities than actual people with actual depth and dimension. I mean, Scalzi presents the characters with flaws, but it's almost like Scalzi doesn't recognize the flaws in his own characters, like he doesn't bother exploring how those flaws would fundamentally impact the psychology of the characters. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

One thing I have to mention: in my opinion, Dostoevsky ranks higher than Tolstoy. In fact, I think Dostoevsky ranks higher than just about anyone I've ever read.

Blogger Patrikbc January 17, 2018 11:19 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Noah B The Savage Gardener January 17, 2018 11:34 PM  

@176 The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short But Happy Life of Francis Macomber were awesome, gripping stories about men staring death in the face - and Francis Macomber was precisely the opposite of a flat character.

Anonymous The Garden of Adompha January 18, 2018 4:30 AM  

Clark Ashton Smith belongs in the first group, imho. Tolkien is a great author and creator, but his prose is sometimes startlingly bad and clumsy, especially when you consider his erudition and his status. CAS wrote like an angel without Tolkien's advantages.

Blogger andy smith January 18, 2018 1:48 PM  

I'm going to go with 8.5. You are definitely better than Heinlein, Pratchett, Clarke and Zelazny. The only thing I found lacking in Arts of Dark and Light is some kind of simple cohesive theme like Tolkien's "ring of power" or Donaldson's redemption from the sin that you did thinking it wasn't real. Perhaps the theme is there, but I can't figure it out yet. The writing itself is very good, and it covers topics in an inventive way that I haven't seen done elsewhere. After a century of scifi/fantasy it isn't easy to cover new ground. You did and that is quite an achievement. For example, the chapter where you described the battle through a continuously shifting character viewpoint, starting and ending with the crows was brilliant.

Blogger Were-Puppy January 18, 2018 4:01 PM  

@187 Jo

All of the characters feel more like twitter personalities than actual people with actual depth and dimension.
---

Aha, that's exactly what i've been thinking about his writing for a long time. Thanks for pointing that out.

Anonymous Deplorable Winning January 18, 2018 4:32 PM  

Some of these writers are “contract” writers, meaning they produced according to the instructions from someone else’s hidden agenda. Some suspicious examples-

C. S. Lewis
James Joyce
Ernest Hemmingway
Robert Anton Wilson
Robert A. Heinlein
Umberto Eco
Jack London http://mileswmathis.com/london.pdf
J. K. Rowling (Rowling might be an entire committee of spooks.)

There is a similarity with the music scene- many of the big acts of the 1960s and on weren’t even musicians. Studio musicians like The Wrecking Crew did their recordings. This is not at all to say these authors are poor writers, but they are not quite what they appear to be.

Blogger tublecane January 18, 2018 4:51 PM  

@189-If I was asked to write the flattest, least moving story out of the premise "man dies from gangrene on safari in Africa," I almost certainly wouldn't do it as well as that story.

One must look at these things relativistically. Exciting things happen in the Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and a man facing his fears and redeeming his manhood before being shot in the head by his unhappy trophy wife certainly isn't boring. But given such events with such characters, how many people who aren't Hemingway would write the so flatly.

That's his style, as I said. It's modernistic detachment, ironic or not. You van best sum it up as "This is the thing that happened. Then something else happened." I enjoy it up to a point, but it's like unseasoned meat.

Blogger tublecane January 18, 2018 4:58 PM  

@193-Comparing them to fake musical acts from the 60s would imply they were poor writers.

Being promoted and assigned to write a certain way for hidden purposes is something else. It's absolutely true in the case of authors pushed for politic purposes, and obviously some were pushed for ethnic (or ethnic-political) reasons. Which makes you doubt their abilities only if you don't know better. But it does raise the question of just how good were the authors who were suppressed or were simply not lucky enough to receive the spotlight.

Anonymous Deplorable Winning January 18, 2018 5:15 PM  

tublecane wrote:@193-Comparing them to fake musical acts from the 60s would imply they were poor writers.

I specifically did not say, or intend to imply, that any of them were good or bad writers. A lot of the music that The Wrecking Crew, Etc. did for the Laurel Canyon Children-of-the-spooks was quite good, at least technically. But that doesn't make Jim Morrison's ghostwriter into either a poet or a cad.

Example agenda- Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is called "prophetic" and "a warning". It is nothing of the sort: it was the test marketing of a roadmap.

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