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Unusual SciFi and Fantasy

Nine books that nobody else will tell you to read.

King, Stephen
The Eyes of the Dragon
Stephen King tries something different in this dark fairy tale. It's written simply but elegantly, using high-fantasy language suggestive of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, the story is nowhere near as impersonal, exploring the thoughts and emotions of the characters in detail. Written for King's daughter, this tale shows all the signs of a fantasy and few of King's usual horror trademarks. Watch as King Roland's power fails, and his advisor, Flagg, pits Prince Thomas against the heir, Prince Peter. This book is especially fun for fans of The Stand or the Dark Tower series.
 
Salten, Felix
Bambi
Disney has a reputation for producing lovely children's films, but they often start with disturbing, adult-themed stories. The original book on which Bambi was based is no exception. Comparable to Watership Down by Richard Adams, this book takes a more realistic look at "cuddly forest animals" and their dangerous lives. People who had nightmares about Bambi's mother or the forest fire might want to skip this one.
 
Anthony, Piers
A Spell for Chameleon
Bink is the only person in Xanth who does not seem to have a magical power-even a little, useless one. The King of Xanth has declared that any people without magic must be exiled to the nearby kingdom of Mundania. To avoid this terrible fate, Bink seeks out the Good Wizard Humphrey to find out if he really does have a talent. Of course, nothing is ever that easy, and Bink goes on quite an adventure before the novel is over. Pun-packed and full of silly humor, this is the first novel about Xanth in a very long series.
 
Lackey, Mercedes and Andre Norton
The Elvenbane
In this realm, the Elves are the rulers, and the Humans are their slaves. Dragons, the world's third race of creatures, have vowed to keep their existence a secret for their own safety. They do have the ability to change their shape, which allows them to interact with Humans and Elves without discovery, but they try to interfere as little as possible - until Alara finds a half-breed baby whose existence is forbidden, and whose mother has died for conceiving her. She names the baby Shana and raises it alongside her own children, but this strange little family can only lead to trouble for all the inhabitants of the realm.
 
Pike, Christopher
The Last Vampire series
Almost every book by Christopher Pike involves sexy teens that get caught in dangerous paranormal adventures. This series is no exception, but it goes beyond the usual plots through Sita, the heroine. She's a 5,000-year-old vampire from India, so Pike proves his authenticity by loading the series with Hindu lore. Even Krishna plays a cameo role. It is debatable, of course, how accurate the information is. It is coming out of the mouth of a 5,000-year-old vampire, so it's good to take it all with a grain of salt. Still, it's a refreshing change from the usual scenarios, such as a western pre-Christian or futuristic setting.
 
Rushdie, Salman
Haroun and the Sea of Stories
This book is written simply and beautifully, like a fable. It reminds a lot of readers of a children's fairy tale. However, the characters are complex and human, and there's more to the story than a charming plot. It is partly about the act of writing itself, partly about Rushdie's own experiences as an author, and partly it is about the larger world. Rather than a struggle between good and evil, Rushdie takes a look here at the struggle to create meaning out of nothingness.
 
Poe, Edgar Allan
Ligeia
Ligeia is a mysterious and extremely well educated woman. The narrator can't remember where she came from, or how they met, but he loves her immensely. Then, Ligeia dies. Grief-stricken, the narrator moves to a creepy, dark house and marries a helpless bride. Does he know what is about to happen? Is he losing his mind from the pain, or is Ligeia still communicating with him?
 
Gardner, John
Grendel
In order to get the most out of this book, the reader should be familiar with the first half of "Beowulf," the famous old English poem. Gardner traces the plot of that story from the monster's point of view, up until he is killed. Written with a very deliberate structure and several layers of meaning, this book is a literary masterpiece. However, it's also fun to "find out what happened to that monster." Be warned, the answer is tragic, grim, and gruesome, but it will make you think carefully about the way you see the world.
 
Koontz, Dean
Lightning
Laura Shane has had a guardian angel her whole life: he's miraculously appeared in time to help her survive several potential tragedies, including her own birth. Now her husband Danny has been killed, and Laura and her son Chris are trying to escape a similar fate. Someone is trying to murder them, and they're not quite sure why. But, heralded by terrific lightning, Laura's guardian appears again. Who is this stranger, really, and why is Laura so important to him?
 

Updated:09/09/09