Need another fix?

Now that all of you have burned through the 7th Harry Potter book like GWB with an 8-ball of coke in the 70s, what is left for you to do? How to combat that remorseful feeling of being out of such perfectly fluffy literature?

Well here’s an open thread to discuss those other series which may provide a HP-like fix for those who are starting to suffer. I have a suggestion that is no mere methadone substitute.

The series I’d recommend wholeheartedly would be George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series that begins with A Game of Thrones.

Martin has created the most interesting series I’ve read in the genre, not because it’s fantastic, but because it so perfectly captures various aspects of human nature. Usually in the fantasy-genre there is a formula which gets pretty boring, of a boy or girl chosen for destiny. People are good or evil, there is no moral ambiguity, and from the first book you know what the outcome will be. Martin kills all those people off within a few chapters and you are taken through a more realistic world of feudalism in which chivalry is illusory, even the good people with power have to do wrong, and the outcome is never clean and simple. He’s five books into the series, there are going to be seven total. Also, if you like books on tape, Audible has the series so far read beautifully by Roy Dotrice.

It’s my favorite series of books, and unlike the HP books or Tolkien, it is far more appropriate for an adult readership. In fact, kids under about 14 or 15 probably shouldn’t read them. It has the more interesting moral complexity of books like Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark materials Trilogy” which I can also strongly recommend. People frequently describe them as the fantasy series for atheists, but I think that’s a simplification.

What do others think? Who should we turn to now that Potter’s series is over?


  1. For kids (or light, fun reads for adults)– the Lemony Snickets series! The author is a secular huamanist *thumbs up*

  2. Ditto on Lemony snicket, those are a blast, but maybe just a little bit too light. The George R.R. Martin books at least you feel you’re getting your money’s worth – like HP they have a nice weight to them.

  3. The Saga of The Pliocene tend to be my fav among the fantasy fiction series. It’s a little silly in some regards. Julian May was a respected science writer in her day.

    The Dune Series is good diversion, and just a little deeper on the ecology front. Frank Herbert was no slouch.

    I saw an interview on TV at the start of Iraq War II. The troop giving the interview was wearing a helmet with “Shai-Hulud” penned in marker across the rubber band on his helmet.

    I hope he got out OK. He had the right idea.

  4. Nick Johnson

    Seconded on His Dark Materials. They’re even making them into movies now!

    I’ll have to pick up the George RR Martin books when I’m next in a bookstore. 🙂

  5. While not the same genre, I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t recommend all five books of the Hitchhikers trilogy by Douglas Adams. But everybody here has already read them six or seven times, right? RIGHT?

  6. Ditto on Dune. I just read those this year and really liked them. They’ve also just come out with an audio version of those as well. Like Dune, the Martin books are a very well thought out world, with an interesting array of characters and a much more complex set of motivations. Although the characters in Dune were a little more super-human and ultrarational. I like how the characters in the Song of Ice and Fire make mistakes, but they aren’t the lame-brained idiocy like HP always makes in each book. They’re the mistakes of chosing between two evils with inadequate forsight that coalesce into a firestorm of catastrophe and revolution. Good stuff.

    I realize this is heresy, but after the Guide I felt they got redundant and there wasn’t much character development. They’re clever, but not as engrossing.

  7. Seconded on His Dark Materials. They’re even making them into movies now!

    I’ll have to pick up the George RR Martin books when I’m next in a bookstore. 🙂

    Feh, movies. Martin’s books are being made into an HBO series. They’re gonna get all Sopranos on your asses if we’re lucky.

  8. The Saga of The Pliocene tend to be my fav among the fantasy fiction series.

    I totally would have agreed with you back in high school, before I’d studied any actual biology. However, now I know a little more, and my suspension of disbelief only goes so far. While I can forgive a certain amount on New Age silliness, when she starts invoking Teilhard de Chardin’s crazy teleological evolutionary views I can’t get past it.

    Of course, that said, Marc Remillard, Aiken Drum, and most especially Uncle Rogi are some of my favorite characters in all of fiction.

  9. MH, I told you if you posted this I would suggest The Wizard of Oz series, at least the ones L. Frank Baum wrote. After that, they’re hit-or-miss, though I think there are over 100 in the series. The main character is a girl, obviously, but the books are really interesting, imaginative, and political. I think it’s time for a Wizard of Oz renaissance. Like the HP books, the movies don’t do the Oz books justice. Like many children’s serials (I’m thinking of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland) they can be read on multiple levels; it’s particularly interesting from an anthropological perspective to see Baum invent strange peoples, places, customs, etc.

    It looks like I’m going to have to read Dune. I have put it off long enough.

  10. Seconded on His Dark Materials.

    I’ll third that one, and add that (a) it has the best depiction of God ever. Even PZ would have sympathy for him, and (b) as a result of the book, I bought some Tokay from my local Alko. It’s a really nice wine (when not poisoned).

    Are we taking recommendations of Pratchett as read?


  11. Actually, after looking at the above-linked volume that combines all the Oz books, I think it’s better to invest in the nicer hardcover single-volume editions, which have the original illustrations. Illustrations are important.

    If you want a more adult– much more “adult” (ehem) — series, there’s always In Search of Lost Time, which has just come out in a beautiful new edition (it’s hard to decide whether the paperbacks or the hardcovers are better-designed) and well-regarded new translation. I find it amusing that HP is 7 volumes, just like Proust (although ISoLT is usually published as 6 books). Although they are about the same length, they might take slightly longer to read. 😉

  12. Nio DiPietro (Tyler’s Sister)

    Heya! I’m related to Tyler, and he showed me this post that piqued my interest.

    Another awesome series that can easily fill the gap that Potter fans crave is The Dresden Files, By Jim Butcher. It sounds very similar at first, what with the book’s main character is a wizard named Harry, but that’s probably the only similarity.

    The Dresden Files is basically what I’d describe as ‘Harry Potter for Adults’ with a more mature plot. It has all the elements that a good series should: lovable characters, humor, plenty of action, and a gripping plot.

    As mentioned above, the main character is a wizard named Harry Dresden who lives and runs a business in modern-day Chicago. From the first page it kept me interested, and I hope it will have the same effect on all of you. I highly suggest picking it up in your spare time!

  13. Josiah Carlson

    I concur on His Dark Materials and The Song of Ice and Fire. Quite good. For young teens, I would suggest David Eddings’ Belgariad series (begins with Pawn of Prophecy). When I was younger I couldn’t get into any of his (or his wife’s) other books, but I do remember the Belgariad fondly (even with its flaws).

    I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett, but I did enjoy (earlier this summer) his co-authored book with Neil Gaiman; Good Omens. Of course speaking about Neil, it’s kind of hard not to mention Sandman, Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys, etc.

    Pulling away from fantasy, though thick, and somewhat tricky to get into, I have enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, as well as his earlier Snow Crash.

    For random summer reading: Tower of Glass by Robert Silverberg, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (and basically everything else he has written), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, and Nova by Samuel R. Delany. If one is up for a bit of levity, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, as well as all of his other books, are quite nice for relaxing on the beach.

    I also liked The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber and Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, but I could see how others wouldn’t.

  14. I loved the Eddings books as a kid, from the Belgariad to the Mallorean to the ones about Sparhawk. Eddings books suffer from the “meet the character of destiny and know his fate by the first chapter” phenomenon, but what can you do. Eddings writing is wonderful, and the characters he creates are intensely memorable and are what sells the story. You really care about the characters, more than other books I’ve read – certainly more than HP, sorry. I always liked the teachers better than the kids in the stories. Then again, teenagers are annoying.

  15. Eddings books suffer from the “meet the character of destiny and know his fate by the first chapter” phenomenon

    Yeah, but when you’re young enough not to have had any experience with that kind of foreshadowing, it doesn’t really matter!

    Absolutely recommend Song of Ice & Fire, and His Dark Materials.

  16. Zelazny’s “The Amber Chronicles” is worthwhile.

  17. You must read Robin Hobbs three trilogies set in the same universe:

    The Farseer Trilogy
    The Liveship Traders
    The Tawny Man

    It is very good fantasy.


  18. David Harmon

    I keep meaning to read Martin’s series and the Belgeriad….

    In the mean time, I second Terry Pratchett — the guy has the power of a true mythmaker, except he happens to be a skeptic. So, he ends up with satire…. (Which doesn’t always help — back when I was hanging out with neo-Pagans, I actually met people calling themselves “edge-witches”!)

    I love Julian May’s epic too — note that the Pliocene books aren’t the whole series, there’s another five books covering the beginning of the Mileu proper. Pullman’s His Dark Materials : Amen, it’s an instant classic.

    Also, a plug for Tad Williams — his “busted trilogy” Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn pulls a vini, vidi, vici on Tolkien. (The third book overflowed into two paperback volumes; this is “fantasy by the pound”, even if he did finish the tale!

    Now, I also love Feist (Midkemia, start with Magician: Apprentice) and Jordan (Wheel Of Time, start with The Eye Of the World). These are the guys for whom I coined the phrase “fantasy by the pound”! I have to admit, they both throw up a lot of “evil by nature” villians, but that makes sense in context, as both worlds are battling Gods Of Evil. In Feist, there are also some nicely ambiguous characters, especially in the early books, where the “real fight” is happening in the shadows of conventional wars. Jordan comes with a warning: the author is very ill, and last I heard, it’s unclear if he’ll have time to finish his fearsomely complex epic.

    On a much lighter (or maybe darker) note, there’s Simon Green’s Nightside, starting with Something From the Nightside, and recently wrapped up with Hell To Pay. The drive-bys and shout-outs alone are worth the price of admission, but you do get a nicely tortured anti-hero and a truly bizarre supporting cast.

    Stephen Donaldson’s Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is brilliant, but it’s also depresssing as all hell….

  19. I agree on Robin Hobbs, she is one of the best fantasy authors writing today. I liked Eddings until I realized that all of his stories are exactly the same. He’s a good writer, and he has interesting characters so it’s worth reading some of his stuff, but I would only recommend the belgariad/mallorean and the sparhawk novels, because his other series have the same storyline, and less interesting and well developed characters.

    In science fiction, I’m reading through some Alastair Reynolds right now, and it’s very good. There is a lot more moral complexity than in most sci-fi, and the science is a lot more believable (though some of it does get pretty out there, like messages from the future and such). The first novel in his main series is Revelation Space (He’s got some standalone novels and short stories in the same setting, as well as some in other settings).

  20. zach wilson

    For some modern Sci-Fi in the vein of Starship Troopers and Ender’s Game, read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. I gave a copy to my mom and she read it in one night. Trust me on this one.

  21. Steven Erikson: “Gardens of the Moon”; “Deadhouse Gates”; “Memories of Ice”; … (The “Matalazan Book of the Fallen” series). Robert-Howard-ish heroic fantasy with better writing and lots more humor.

    Vernor Vinge: “A Fire Upon The Deep”; “Deepness In The Sky” – two of my all-time favorites.

    There’s an age factor involved. My teenaged nephews had difficulty understanding the Vinge universes. I myself didn’t like Hemingway as a teenager, but later thought “For Whom The Bells Tolls” was one of the best reads of all time.

    Let’s not forget Gene Wolfe’s “Urth” series (“Shadow of the Torturer”, …) and his “Soldier” series.

    I could go on for a while, but I’ll leave it at that.

  22. Although the characters in Dune were a little more super-human and ultrarational.

    Given, but that’s a conscious attempt on Herbert’s part. I’m not one of his cultists, but his books mesh philosophy, religion, politics, ecology, linguistics pretty well. Anybody that calls himself a sandworm, understands at least some of the points Frank was making.

    The focus of the super-humanness and ultra-rationality in Dune is that he liked to think about where we were heading way down the line evolution and science wise (maybe through designer genetics) to create specialization castes.

    Another one of his very thought provocative books — back in the day — was The White Plague — prescient in many ways. Genetics used as a weapon for genocide. There was a story recently — alarmist I’m sure — about modern universities providing access to tools and specialized knowledge to a much broader and dissatisfied population; in effect placing the capabilities that Frank Herbert talked about, into the mainstream.

  23. I like anything by Neal Stephenson

    The Baroque Cycle Trilogy was particularly enjoyable.

  24. Not for kids, but Tom Harris Red Dragon/Silence of the lambs/etc were a decent read. Silence is the best I think. Also, not too many in the Dexter story lines (Jeff Lindsay) yet but they are a light and quick read, generally a bit funny to read.

  25. Rachel

    For more magical English schoolkid lit I’d suggest Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series. I find a lot of fantasy boring, but this isn’t. Great YA fiction.

    Start with the book called “The Dark is Rising”, though. It’s the real first book of the series.

    And of course, the original Narnia books. Thrill! to all the Christian references you didn’t get as a kid! They’re still clever and almost-too-adorably well written.

  26. Breaking news- stop the front page, rip out the presses!

    Rowling has agreed to writing another Potter book. The theme is that Harry graduates and goes to work in the White House because only powerful magic can straighten things out. The title will be “Harry Potter and the Half-Wit Prince.”

  27. I have to agree that Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series is really good. I recently got my brother-in-law hooked on it.

    Someone else already mentioned Tad Williams Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn books. These are also excellent. Together with Martin’s, these are my two favorite fantasy series.

    Also already recommended (you guys have taste, that’s all I can say) is John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. There are three books and they’re all good. I enjoyed the second book the most. They’re especially good because they’re quick reads and yet they still contain some pretty weighty subjects. You won’t feel cheated even if you finish a book in one night.

  28. First, it bothered me that you said Martin was five books in when I’m pretty sure he is only four. Also, there is a question of whether or not his next book is actually book five since he had to split book four into two books due to length (he explains this at the end of A Feast for Crows). Was this just a mistake, or have I fallen behind in the series?

    Second, while these books may be more mature than most fantasy, I would think a fourteen-year-old could easily tackle them. While they are somewhat graphic, anyone who is sucked into the fantasy genre at an early age has probably encountered this sort of violence, etc., by the age of fourteen, either in video games or playing D&D with his brothers (personal aside).

    I really do love this series though. Another series I would recommend is the Prince of Nothing series by R. Scott Bakker.

  29. You’re right, he’s not released the 5th, a Dance of Dragons. It should be soon though. He split the 4th book into two, and said the 5th was essentially mostly done as a result. But then, that was in January.

    Either way. Probably within a year if I had to guess.

  30. Definitely have to recommend Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. Someone above described it as fearsomely complex, but of course it’s not — if you pay attention.

    A Song of Ice and Fire is also fantastic, but just be warned for heartbreak. A Dance With Dragons is book 5, but it more or less is Part II of book 4 split simply due to physical book length constrictions.

  31. concur, love the Martin books so far. Eddings was fun many years ago, actually laughed at some of the characters. Jordan started off great but fizzled, have the most recent book on my shelf and just havent been able to start it. My strongest recommendation of recent books is the Sword of Truth series, standard fantasy start which got a bit philosophical towards the mid-end particularly enjoyed Faith of the Fallen.

  32. Janine

    I have a weakness for James Morrow’s Godhead Trilogy;
    Towing Jehovah, Blameless In Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman. Who knew that the Corpus Dei could be so funny?

  33. It’s my favorite series of books, and unlike the HP books or Tolkien, it is far more appropriate for an adult readership.

    Are you saying Tolkien isn’t appropriate for an adult audience? Have you read The Silmarillion? The Hobbit / LoTR are just warm-ups.

  34. Justin Moretti

    HP is basically intended for a young audience, so I can accept that some of the villains are going to make unbelievably simple mistakes or be chosen more for their brawn and their loyalty than their brains – e.g. the 17 year old wizard who cannot pronounce “diadem” correctly even after having heard the word.

    I’ve seen the trailer for the first book in the Dark Materials trilogy – the film imagines a sort of techno-Victorian world similar to that invented for “The Adventures of Luther Arkwright”, and seems like a good mix of science and magic, as opposed to “medieval-style” fantasy. I hope this is continued in the books (which I am desperately trying to obtain!).

    I think this was part of the attraction of HP for me, that it is set in a contemporary or near-contemporary universe rather than the knights-and-castles worlds that so many fantasy authors stereotypically cling to (which is frankly a turnoff).

    One could try Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series also.

  35. I have to admit, I don’t think the problem with Jordan is that it’s complex – just dull. I tried reading them several years back and had to give up in the middle of book 8 through lack of interest. It struck me that the story was stuck in a rut – while I enjoyed the first 2 or 3 a lot, the stories of books 4-7 stuck me as essentially rehashes of each other – very little progress. Also, I did start to find the characters deeply unsypathetic. I still have the paperbacks on my shelves, so I may go back. As far as fantasy goes, I’d have to stick with pratchett or martin as my recommendations.

  36. The Dresden Files, starting with Storm Front (Summer Knight, the 4th, is my favorite, but it’s a little tricky to jump in there). Don’t be put off if you didn’t care for the TV series, the books are much better.

    Any of Peter David’s non-Trek series: Apropos of Nothing, Knight Life, Psi Man.

    Robert Asprin’s Myth series.

    Guilty pleasure because they’re not that well written, but I enjoyed Simon Hawke’s Timewars and Wizard of 4th Street series (the earlier ones are better in both, but both manage to maintain their arcs across a lot of pages).

  37. Josiah Carlson

    Re: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series

    My wife read the first 5. Her complaint was that he originally intended it to be a trilogy, but then when the money started coming in, decided to make it 5, then 7, then 9, then… As a result, everything after the first 3 or so books are boring, and read like anti-woman propaganda produced during the proceedings of a bad divorce. Her recommendation: read the first 3 to 5 (the original, not the repackaged stuff), then imagine how much better it would have been had he ended the series before getting greedy.

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