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Desert Island books. - Ed's journal
Desert Island books.
On the radio the other day, I caught 'Desert Island discs' for the first time in ages. I listen to Radio 4 a lot, but it's mostly on the to or from work run. This, in addition to the fact that I'm really not a music junkie, means that I don't tend to hear this particular program.

Anyway. In addition to their 'pick your music' they also have a luxury, and a book.

This got me to thinking, what I'd pick.

Now, I've read a _lot_ of really good books, over the last few years.

Top of the list though? Well, it's actually somewhat hard to pick _one_ favourite.

If I had to, I think it'd have to be Dune (wikipedia link, contains some spoilers). I think of all the books I've ever owned, this one merits the singular distinction that I've bought 4 copies of it, over my time as an 'avid reader'. (The other two that fall into that category is Iain M Banks 'Player of Games' and Elizabeth Moon's 'Deed of Paksennarion, of which I've bought a replacement copy of both).

Dune was written in 1965, and is set in a fairly distant future. (I believe it's about 20,000 years from now). The 'Dune' of the title, is a desert planet, notable because of a resource called 'spice' that's only available there. The planet's a setting for a rather vicious conflict between two rival Great houses - Atreides and Harkonnen.

The reason I really like it, is that the world feels like it has a very extensive history to it. It's set a long time into the future, but there's just enough of a mix of 'today' that grounds it in reality. There's a few 'world building' notes in the back of the book, which lay down various things about how and why the Planet and Universe are the way they are, which ... well, aren't really necessary to the story at all, but make a lovely bit of additional flavour to flesh out some of the questions you might be pondering.

One of the other reasons I like it, is that it's one of the few sci-fi books that doesn't have computers. Instead a whole lot of stuff is accomplished by semi mystical people and abilities - such as Mentats, which are essentially 'human computers and analysts', or Guild Navigators, which are critical to moving spaceships between the stars.

It's also somewhat unusual in the sci-fi I've read in that it's got serious religious overtones too.

Well, it's got all the bits to a book I really like. A bit of mysticsm, a bit of scifi, and a plotline that seems to be very far reaching across the universe. It combines a short term violent and callouse approach to life, with some extremely long reaching plans and designs in what is, I feel, a very elegant and fascinating fashion.

I'd include in my 'worth reading' list the rest of the trilogy, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune. But it's really that they tidy up the story arc a bit, where Dune is the true masterpiece. (There's another 3 dune books, set about a thousand years later, but they're really inferior to the original in my opinion.)

So, if you had to pick out one book that you really would want to keep a copy of, above all others, what would it be, and why?
8 comments or Leave a comment
necessitysslave From: necessitysslave Date: August 1st, 2007 07:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Hmm. I haven't read Elizabeth Moon's 'Deed of Paksennarion' What's it like?
ephrael From: ephrael Date: August 1st, 2007 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I was lent the trilogy when I was on crutches a few years ago, and can thoroughly recommend them.
ehrine From: ehrine Date: August 1st, 2007 12:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
In one word, Brilliant.

One of the best fantasy trilogies that I have ever read. What works really well is the basis that the main character has had no contact with magic in her life and such things as a healing potion (and its price) are outside her experiance. Think about how a D&D peasant might view the world and how much things are worth and that's where the protaganist starts. It's refreshing to read something from that point of view rather then the more traditional hero where magic and the like are common place througout.
huwjones From: huwjones Date: August 1st, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Starts with some youth enters military and makes good (a speciality of Moon's, I believe) and then enters some nice areas of faith, courage and what it means to be good. All in I, I advise it. Some interesting looks on D&D concepts in it, without actually being in D&D.
From: sebbo Date: August 2nd, 2007 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
eagerly awainting delivery of my copy, as coincidentally i just purchased this one a couple of days ago.

Read ed's copy and felt it was time to own my own.
From: feanelwa Date: August 1st, 2007 09:01 am (UTC) (Link)
The Dangerous Book for Boys, because it is a comprehensive reference work of skills you need while stranded on a desert island, plus cricket.
ehrine From: ehrine Date: August 1st, 2007 09:58 am (UTC) (Link)
That is a good book. Might have to re-read my copy :)
ool272 From: ool272 Date: August 1st, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
To the surprise of nobody who's talked to me about books, I'd take The Book of the New Sun (if I'm allowed a four-volume novel), since a) the quality gap between it and any other genre book I've ever read is virtually embarrassing and b) it can be re-read many times for additional insights, yet you may never get to the bottom of it all.
8 comments or Leave a comment