KhaOS' Suggested Reading List

  • The Road To Science Fiction Vol 3: From Heinlein To Here
  • The Road To Science Fiction Vol 4: From Here To Forever
  • The Road To Science Fiction Vol 5: The British Way
  • The Road To Science Fiction Vol 6: Around The World
    edited by James Gunn
    Published by White Wolf Publishing

    If I ever got around to teaching a class on Science Fiction, these books would be at the core of the syllabus, along with Brian Aldiss' Trillion Year Spree. James Gunn, more noted for his academic treatment of SF than what he's actually written (of which "The Immortal", which was turned into a TV series, is probably the most famous), puts together an incredible collection of the best that SF has to offer. The first 2 volumes are out of print, but White Wolf (bless 'em!) brought the 3rd back into print and continued to publish Gunn's latest efforts into what started out as a chronological exploration (the first two volumes covered Gilgamesh to Wells to Heinlein) into a showcase of international takes on SF. He prefaces each story with a short essay about its author, and the context which the author's work appears in the framework he presents in each volume. If you're a veteran SF reader you'll be delighted at getting some of the best stories ever written under one cover. If you're new to SF, this is an excellent introduction to the genre and the infinite possibilities of it.

  • Marvels
    by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
    Published by Marvel Comics

    I gave up on Marvel Comics in 1986, around the time of the infamous Mutant Massacre (in my fantasies, I pray that everything that has happened in the X-Books since then is a fever dream in Professor X's mind, but I digress). The writing was horrible, the art grew more and more grotesque, and the stories just weren't grabbing me anymore. In 1992, all that changed. I had never heard of Alex Ross, the artist at that point, but a single look at his photo-realistic painting and I knew the man was good. Kurt Busiek had been a quiet, competent talent for years, but I had never really noticed him. Marvels is, in a way, the history of the Marvel Universe, starting in 1939 with the birth of the original Human Torch and the debut of the Sub-Mariner, and ends with the traumatic death of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man's first true love, at the hands of the Green Goblin. These are events that long-time readers know well, but Busiek gives us a perspective we've never seen before - the man in the street.

    Marvels is also the story of Phil Sheldon, a photographer who witnesses these cosmic events and relates to us what it's like to live in a world where 40-foot-tall men stride across skyscrapers, mutants and giant Sentinel robots battle in the streets, and where super-heroes are like gods. By the end of the series, I was feeling like a kid picking up my copies of the Avengers and Spider-Man and Captain America for the first time, alternately going 'Wow!' and 'Cool!'. The last few pages almost left me in tears as I remembered what it had felt like to read Gwen's death for the first time. It was then I really appreciated the adage that there were no bad characters, just bad writing, and what a rich history the Marvel Universe has. Since then, Marvel has been seeing a bit of a renaissance in its story-telling, and is actually worth picking up again. Except for the X-books, which still suck. Pfeh.

  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale Vol 1: My Father Bleeds History
  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale Vol 2: And Here My Troubles Began
    by Art Spiegleman
    Published by Pantheon Books

    Art Spiegleman was known for his highly expressionistic underground comics work, particularly in the magazine RAW, which he produced with his wife, Francoise Mouly. When he came up with Maus, the biographical tale of his father's experiences during the Holocaust, it exploded upon the comic world not because the art was complex, but because it was so simply, yet lovingly rendered. Spiegleman tells the story straight, but portrays the Jews as mice, the Germans as cats, Poles as pigs and Americans as dogs - lending it a totaly separate layer of symbolism that resonates throughout the entire piece. Maus is also the story of Art coming to terms with the relationship with his father - and how he, too, survives him. A resoundingly real story, moving, horrifying and touching at the same time, that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go, even after you've put it down.

  • The Essential Ellison: A 35-Year Retrospective
    by Harlan Ellison
    Published by Morpheus Books

    No list of mine would be complete without a mention of whom I consider one of the greatest living writers today, and a literary role model of mine. Like or dislike Harlan the man, you have to admit that his writing kicks some serious ass. He's won more awards for his writing than anybody else I've heard of, and still does. The Essential Ellison is a good place to start, from his first stories, written when he was a teenager, which are almost embarassing, yet you got to admire the man for the honesty to publish them, to classics like 'Repent Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman' and 'I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream', to stories from the early 80s. This collection doesn't have all my favorite work, but it has most of them, abd everyone has his own idea of a perfect Ellison collection anyway. My idea of one is to have 'em all (and White Wolf, bless 'em again, is bringing his backlist back into print).

    Ellison writes of mortal dreads, unforgettable stuff, using words like a scapel cutting in at the eye, writing of terrors that grip the human soul, of the horrible ugliness of the human experience, and yet somehow, in them you manage to sense that he still believes in the ultimate goodness of mankind, and the ability of each and every one of us to find redemption, mired in the muck as we are. His are cautionary tales, angry tales, stories that make you sit up and go 'No!'. And just maybe, if you get angry enough, if you get as angry as him, things can change.

  • The 60 Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time
    by Johnathan Vankin and John Whalen
    published by Citadel Press

    I love conspiracy theories. I buy very little of them, ultimately, but I just love seeing the way theorists piece together the most incredible of tapestries from the smallest of threads. 60 Greatest Conspiracies is basically the Idiot's Guide to Conspiracies, giving you a quick rundown on the best stuff from the CIA mind control experiments and LSD to the faked Moon landings, the Jonestown Massacre, and of course the classics like Jack the Ripper, JFK, the King assassination, RFK, and Marilyn Monroe. This updated edition includes more recent X-Files like the HAARP microwave project and the Alien Autopsy footage by Ray Santelli. Great bathroom reader stuff. Get through this and you'll finally begin to understand what the paranoid down the block is mumbling about as he wraps aluminum foil around his head.

  • From Hell: being a melodrama in sixteen parts
    By Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
    published by Kitchen Sink Press in ten volumes and one epilogue

    These days, people rave about Neil Gaiman, but not many remember that the person who paved the way for stories like the Sandman, set in DC Comics' supernatural realm, was the one, the only Alan Moore. Moore revitalized the horror comic genre when he took over Swamp Thing in 1983, and was responsible for drawing together the threads that made Cain and Abel inhabitants of the Dreamlands, for fleshing out concepts of Heaven and Hell, for creating characters like John Constantine and dragging tired old concepts out to the light and breathing them new life. Gaiman, to me, will always be deriviative, walking in the shadow of the true master.

    Nowhere is Alan Moore's mastery of the macabre and the almost insane attention to detail his mind works in more apparent than in From Hell, his retelling of the Jack the Ripper murders. Taking the Masonic Ripper conspiracy theories of Stephen Knight as his starting point, Moore connects the serial killers of today with the one that started it all, raising issues of synchronicity, of the architecture of history, the secret occult patterns written in the streets and places of London, and much more, ably assisted by the atmospheric art of Mr. Eddie Campbell. Fully annotated with his research notes, which are an education in itself (I've used them to retrace Moore's own journeys in London's secret places), you come out from this not wholly convinced that it is, after all, fiction. As one of the characters says in the first chapter, and echoed by Moore himself in the epilogue, "I made it all up, and it all came true anyway. That's the funny part." Disturbing stuff of the best kind.