Top 10

Top 10 eReader Features

I recently finished reading The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson on my iPod Touch, and it was a revolution in reading for me. It wasn’t the first book I’d read on the device – I’d read a few non-fiction books (Rework by 37Signals and HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith, to be exact), but this was the first fiction novel I’ve read in electronic format. With a novel, the expectations are a bit different.

All the things I’ve come to enjoy about reading fantasy literature were contrasted with reading in digital format: the comfort of getting cozy on the couch with a paper novel, escaping to a different world, and the ease with which I can accomplish both. I decided to highlight some of the features I enjoyed while reading on my iPod Touch, and that I’ll look for in the future in any device I decide to read eBooks on.

This is the fifth in a series of Top 10 posts covering the fantasy industry. Last week, we covered the Top 10 Fantasy Video Games of All Time.

Reading Without a Light

I found that reading on my iPod Touch, which is a device with a back light, was a significant advantage over paper books. Being able to read without a light means you don’t have to sit next to a lamp, and for me, being next to a hot light in Brazil is not fun this time of year. Other eReaders like the Nook and Kindle don’t have back lights, although newer color versions of the devices do. Having a back light is a feature that I’ll consider essential when deciding on purchasing a larger eReader in the future.

Reading with One Hand

Probably the most convenient feature of reading on my iPod Touch (and I could see doing this on an iPad or a Kindle as well), is the ability to read with one hand. Its like a Rondo no-look pass in basketball. I was able to dedicate my other arm, which is usually stuck holding the other half of a paper book so it won’t close, to other essential tasks, everything from hugging my wife on the couch to snacking to adjusting the music volume on my stereo. I never thought I’d want to be doing other stuff while reading, but this really just gives me the opportunity to read when I would normally be sitting on the couch with my wife watching some Brazilian novella I have absolutely zero interest in. Bravo, iPod Touch, bravo.

Search

Searching books for keywords is something that has always taken a while with print, especially for me digging through web development reference books. With regard to fiction, being able to search is great for reviewing books here on FantasyBookNews.com – I don’t have to stop every time I encounter a quote that I want to pull for my review. I can make a mental note and then go back at the end of the chapter and search, in order to pull the exact quote. Of course, this feature is tied very closely with the next, which is…

Bookmarks

Bookmarks are like the all-star feature of digital book readers. I can’t count how many times I’ve, in the past, stopped reading, found my notepad, picked up a pencil and jotted down a page number. No more! The bookmark feature in iBooks is fantastic, you can simply touch the bookmark icon in the upper right hand corner and iBooks will remember every page you tag. This is a revolution for me with regard to reviewing fantasy novels. Marge, I think I just tripled my production time.

Pages Remaining

I occasionally flip forward while reading paper books to see how many pages I have remaining in each chapter. With iBooks, you’re able to toggle whether the pages remaining appear on screen or not, letting the reader decide whether this is information they want to see, or whether they consider it a distraction and want to hide it. I played around with toggling this on and off the entire time I read The Way of Kings, if for nothing more than the fun of toggling. Toggle, toggle. No, seriously, this is a really nice feature that I’ll definitely look for in future eReader purchases.

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Top 10 Fantasy Video Games of All Time

Fantasy RPG video games have come a long way over the past 30 years, so I wanted to take a look at historically how we got from the text-based games of 1980 to the fully immersive online worlds where we play today in 2011. If you’re like me and you’re into fantasy books, you’ve likely played RPG video games, and maybe even played some old school role playing games as well. These video games combine the best of fantasy literature and role playing games, and are in chronological order starting in 1980 through 2011, not in order of goodness, or any other sort method.

This is the fourth in a series of Top 10 posts covering the fantasy industry. Last week, we covered the Top 10 Fantasy Books for 2011. Next week, we cover the Top 10 eReader Features.

Zork I (1980)

Yes, this is a list of the top 10 RPG video games of all time. Yes, Zork I was a text-only interface. That means no graphics, kiddies. Before the mocking commences, remember this was 1980. Remember that Zork I sold over 400,000 copies. I had to include Zork here out of respect. Not only this, but playing a text-only game accomplishes something that many games today lack: imagination. With a text-only game, the player is left to imagine the gaps, and the human imagination is the most powerful generator of ideas on the planet.  There was real problem-solving mental power involved in playing Zork I. Also, the literal definition of a role-playing game is one in which you imagine what your character is doing, and imagine the world they play in. In this regard, text-based RPG video games may be the best translation of pen-and-paper RPGs to the digital realm, and still remain at the top of this category after 30 years. My hat is off to Zork I, one of the founding fathers of the RPG video game genre.

Dragon Warrior (1986)

I spent countless hours of my childhood romping through the Dragon Warrior world on my NES. Dragon Warrior was the first RPG to be presented to console (non-PC) based players, and as such is the flagship title for the genre on consoles. Dragon Warrior offers a turn-based battle system, introducing a pen-and-paper style (ala D&D) battle system to millions of console gamers who had potentially never experienced such a game. Dragon Warrior also offered a simple inventory and item management system, again reminiscent of table top gaming. I recently found a Java emulation of the game online, and played through the first few areas, and was amazed by the simplicity of such classic games. Many newer games offer too many options, and playing Dragon Warrior for a few moments has me yearning for a more recent RPG that can offer such a simple experience.  Unfortunately, I think I’m out of luck, and I’m also disappointed that I can’t get the original Dragon Warrior on my Wii console. Boo Nintendo. But alas, Dragon Warrior stands in my memory as one of the most satisfying RPG video games of my life.

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

While I spent more time playing Zelda II as a child, the original Zelda game that spawned what has become a modern icon for fantasy video games had to make the list. Zelda, and its main character Link are perhaps the most recognizable game/character combo in fantasy video games in the world. It has garnered the top position for the best video game series ever by GameFAQ, with over 20 titles in the series. I mean, Robin Williams named one of his kids Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was the first console game to feature an internal battery for saving your game — meaning the player could take the cartridge to a friend’s house, stick it in said friend’s NES, and continue gameplay to the dismay of friends and family who were forced to watch. If you doubt Zelda’s true pimp hand, just check out this image on WikiPedia.

Dungeon Master (1987)

Dungeon Master is the first 3D realtime RPG video game. ‘Nuff said. Ok, maybe not. But it is notable, being the first title that mixed traditional RPG elements like leveling, mana, weapons inventory and character party management with a non-turn-based combat system. I remember moments of sheer terror playing this game, when you actually hear a monster screeching somewhere in the distance, but don’t know what or where it came from. Even more terrifying was looking through your inventory when all of a sudden you get whacked in the face by a mummy. Dungeon Master is a testament to the fact that the realistic graphics of modern games don’t necessarily make a good game. While the graphics were fantastic for its time, looking back now they look extremely simplistic, but the gameplay doesn’t suffer for them one ounce. Dungeon Master was a truly engrossing RPG for the Atari ST (it actually reached more than 50% market penetration of all ST’s ever sold), and a truly satisfying solo RPG game to play. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Final Fantasy I (1987)

Final Fantasy is one of the most successful video game franchises in history, RPG or not, having sold more than 97 million units in all. What better way to honor the series, than to include the flagship title for the game in our list. Final Fantasy for NES was released in 1987, and expanded on Dragon Warrior style play, in that it retained the turn-based battle system, but players were now responsible for managing a party of four characters rather than the one character in Dragon Warrior. Final Fantasy also added a magic casting system, which was lacking in Dragon Warrior. For lovers of fantasy series, the Final Fantasy main series contains 14 titles, countless sequels, prequels and spin-off games, two feature-length films, tv series, novels, manga comics and soundtracks. In the words of Paris Hilton, “that’s huge”.

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Top 10 Fantasy Books for 2011

As I did last year, I’ve compiled a list of what are perhaps the most highly anticipated fantasy novels for 2011. The first three are actually carried over from last year, as they failed to be released in 2010, which arguably leads them to only be more highly anticipated.

This is the third in a series of Top 10 posts covering the fantasy industry. Last week, we covered the Top 10 Fantasy Book Trends of 2010. Next week, we cover the Top 10 Fantasy Video Games of all time.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

While fans are frustrated with the time between the previous novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series and A Dance with Dragons, 2011 would be a fantastic time for Martin to release the latest novel in the series, with HBO launching the Game of Thrones television series in 2011. Rumor has it Martin will be announcing something in the coming weeks. Pick up A Dance with Dragons over at Amazon.com.

A Dance with Dragons

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Republic of Thieves has a tentative release date of Spring 2011, likely due to Lynch‘s bout with depression, which he’s discussed publicly. Here’s to hoping Lynch is hanging in there, as fans of Locke Lamora and crew are salivating for the next installment in this series. Pick up The Republic of Thieves over at Amazon.com, which recently announced the release date as February.

The Republic of Thieves

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Set for release on March 1, 2011 (according to Amazon.com), the second novel in Rothfuss‘ trilogy is likely to be one of the top-selling fantasy novels of 2011. Fans of Kvothe are extremely excited to see where Rothfuss takes the flame-haired hero next. Pick up The Wise Man’s Fear over at Amazon.com.

The Wise Man's Fear

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie is hands-down one of the best in the business at this point, and The Heroes is the second stand-alone novel following his First Law trilogy.  I’ve only read the first novel in the First Law trilogy, but I can’t wait to play catch-up and get to his more recent work. Pick up The Heroes over at Amazon.com.

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

Requiem by Ken Scholes

Requiem is the fourth book in the Psalms of Isaak quintet. I’ve read Lamentation, the first in the series, and have read reviews of the second and third novels in the series. If Requiem continues the reported increase in quality, The Psalms of Isaak is shaping up to be one of the highest quality fantasy series of the current generation of writers.

[Book cover not yet released]

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Top 10 Fantasy Book Trends of 2010

I’ve been tracking the top 5 books in the fantasy category on Amazon’s bestseller list for a while now, and I figured I could pull some interesting data from the weekly posts.

This is the second in a series of Top 10 posts covering the fantasy industry. Last week, we covered the Top 10 Fantasy Books of 2010. Next week, we cover the Top 10 Fantasy Books for 2011.

Kindle vs. Hardcover

I’ve only been tracking formats since September, but this is still 33% of the year’s worth of data. Starting on September 5, 2010, and reviewing the data weekly, 48 times Kindle editions of books were in the top 5, and only 37 times hardcover editions of books made the top 5. One interesting note here: Kindle sales were stronger in September and October, then as Thanksgiving rolled around, hardcover sales surged. But, once we got to the final week of the year, the day after Christmas marked the first week where all five novels in the top 5 list were Kindle editions. An inkling of what’s to come in the new year?

Epic Fantasy vs. Urban Fantasy

In the epic vs. urban smack-down urban fantasy wins, hands down. Urban fantasy novels appeared in the top 5 a whopping 198 times, to only 43 for epic fantasy. Epic fantasy was helped tremendously by the Jordan/Sanderson novels, but it just wasn’t enough to come close. Even though we see a traditional spike of epic fantasy sales around Christmas every year, urban fantasy is riding strong from 2010 into 2011.

Most Weeks at #1

Towers of Midnight spent the most weeks in the #1 spot, with 16. Second was Dead in the Family, with 11 weeks. Tied for third were Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer, and Dead Witch Walking, by Kim Harrison. Rounding out the top 5 novels in #1 for the most weeks was Bite Me, with two weeks in first place. The following novels all grabbed first place for one week only: A Game of Thrones, No Mercy, The Legend of Sigurd & Godrum, Calling Home, Changes, Once Bitten, Wit’ch Fire and Eclipse.

Longest Streak at #1

Towers of Midnight spent 14 weeks at #1, from September 5 through December 19, showing that even with the influx of urban and vampire fantasy, traditional epic fantasy still holds a place in fans’ hearts. Second was Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris with 7 weeks at #1, and third was Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison with 6 weeks at #1.

Longest Streak in Top 5 (any position)

Amazingly, both Dead in the Family and Breaking Dawn tied, for spending 33 consecutive weeks in the top 5 each. In second place for this category is Towers of Midnight, which spent 19 consecutive weeks in the top 5 list.

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Top 10 Fantasy Books of 2010

Like I did last year, I’m going to recap the top 10 fantasy novels of 2010. Unlike last year, this time I’m splitting the difference. Five novels in the top 10 are the favorites I read over the past year, and the other five are novels that I haven’t read, but spent a good deal of time on the Amazon top 5 fantasy bestseller list. If you’re looking for a gift, its likely that any book from this list will delight the recipient.

This is the first in a series of Top 10 posts covering the fantasy industry. Next week, we cover the Top 10 Fantasy Book Trends of 2010.

Lamentation by Ken Scholes

Lamentation was one of my favorite fantasy reads of 2010. A vibrant new world, painted with colorful, unique characters, all wrapped into a story with heart, makes for a fantastic package. This first installment promises a quality series to come in The Psalms of Isaak. Check out my full review of Lamentation.

fantasy books Lamentation

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie was the best fantasy novel I read in 2010. Gritty, fast-paced, and filled with action, this first novel in a new epic fantasy series solidifies Abercrombie as one of the premier new authors in fantasy literature. The characterization isn’t just top-notch, the characters in The Blade Itself are unforgettable. Not only does Abercrombie deliver a quality novel, but there are moments of hilarity contained in these pages. Abercrombie is an honest, open-minded author, and these qualities shine in The Blade Itself. Check out my full review of The Blade Itself.

fantasy books

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Yet another fantastic first novel in a series discovered in 2010. Empire in Black and Gold kicks off at a frantic pace, in the middle of a battle, and doesn’t relent for the rest of the novel. Absolutely blistering pace is combined with a truly original idea for characterization: all the characters in this novel are some derivation of what Tchaikovsky describes as kinden, which are half-human and half fill-in-the-insect. This makes for some truly unique elements in fighting, and opens up the opportunity for all kinds of historical backgrounds among the different kinden in novels to come. As if to match the blistering pace of the novel itself, Pyr has been releasing the novels in The Shadows of the Apt series every three months or so since this novel’s original release date. Looks like I’ve got some catch up reading to do. Check out my full review of Empire in Black and Gold.

fantasy books

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Daemon was, hands down, the most addictive novel I’ve ever read. While blending elements of fantasy and sci-fi (something I normally don’t enjoy), this techno-thriller beats the pace of a Dan Brown novel into a quivering pulp and delivers a novel that you can’t help but devour in a week or so. The hook: a computer game design company founder writes a code that monitors news headlines online. When he dies, it triggers a series of events that attempt to takeover the economy and portions of the government. Oddly, the DDOS attacks on large corporate web sites recently in relation to the WikiLeaks site are eerily reminiscent of the themes discussed in this novel. Scary. Check out my full review of Daemon.

fantasy books

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I’ve read a few Sanderson novels at this point, and Elantris is, if not tied for favorite with Mistborn, my favorite Sanderson novel. This novel contains similar themes as Mistborn, but was written prior, and I believe Sanderson had an insatiable appetite for writing fantastic fiction at the time. This is a beautiful story, self-contained in one volume, that is definitely worth going back and reading for any Sanderson fans who have tasted his more recent work. Check out my full review of Elantris.

fantasy books

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Top 10 Fantasy Books for 2010

Here’s my list of the books I’m most excited to read in 2010. The first three are not released yet, and are possibly the most highly anticipated fantasy novels slated for (potential) release in 2010. Picks 4-6 are historical fiction, or some twist on the sub-genre. Books 7-9 are continuations, if not necessarily in the same series, of authors I’ve already read at least once. And my final pick is a classic thrown in for good measure.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I know its been five years since A Feast for Crows. But Pat over at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist has this book slated for release in 2010, and he knows George R.R. Martin personally. Coincidence? Hopefully, for legions of A Song of Ice and Fire Fans, its a bit more.

A Dance with Dragons

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The first two books in Scott Lynch’s fantasy debut series have redefined the meaning of action fantasy. Saying the third book in this seven book series is highly anticipated is like saying Tiger Woods made a boo-boo. In other words, its going to be huge.

The Republic of Thieves

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss delivered a home run with his first novel, The Name of the Wind, and rightfully earned himself a seat among the top dogs in the fantasy novel industry. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we’ll see this one drop in 2010.

The Wise Man's Fear

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

With a degree in anthropology, Steven Erikson’s ability with characterization should be fantastic. Gardens of the Moon is the first book in the ten book Malazan Book of the Fallen series. With historical fiction gaining traction in the industry and the popularity of the later novels in this series recently, I’m interested to get Erikson’s take on fantasy novels.

Gardens of the Moon

Acacia by David Anthony Durham

Durham has traveled the world, and lived in Scotland for a number of years, before landing in California as a Creative Writing professor at California State University. He’s made a name for himself writing novels involving The American Civil War, Carthage and the war with the Roman Republic. Acacia is his first attempt in the epic fantasy genre, and has made some noise in the industry.

Acacia

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Top 10 Fantasy Books of 2009

Okay, so I want to make sure we’re clear before diving in: this is not a list of the best fantasy books released in 2009, but rather the top books read and reviewed here at Fantasy Book News in 2009. That said, there are some newer books, and some classics, but overall this is an elite list of fantasy novels that any avid reader should check out. And away we go.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

While this series is going on fifteen years, I gave a re-read to the first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series in 2009, in audio book format. The book still has the same enchanting effect as the first time I read it, and is still the standard to which I compare most other fantasy books, and absolutely any epic fantasy books. Check out the full review of A Game of Thrones.

a-game-of-thrones

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The second book in Lynch’s seven book Gentlemen Bastards series delivered what many creative people struggle to accomplish time and time again: give the audience a better experience than the original. Red Seas Under Red Skies upped the stakes from The Lies of Locke Lamora, and hit ended up hitting a grand slam. Read the full review of Red Seas Under Red Skies.

red-seas-under-red-skies

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This whopping freshman fantasy novel by Rothfuss completely transports you to another world, which is one of the goals that every fantasy novel aspires to. Believe me, I read most of it while lounging poolside in Araxa, Brazil, and I can’t tell you how many times I forgot my beautiful surroundings for the world that Rothfuss creates. Check out the full review of The Name of the Wind.

name-of-the-wind

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The quintessential fairy tale, The Last Unicorn is simply a beautiful story. Get lost in a world of fantasy and magic, complimented with a fantastically original plot and a genuine sense of humor. Read the full review of The Last Unicorn.

the-last-unicorn

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is an absolutely beautiful novel. Its got everything that a fantasy reader looks for: insanely original devices, characters you can identify with, tons of action, and wholesome undercurrents. We have a full review of Mistborn over here.

mistborn

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