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Author Topic: Great epics I have known
Contrarian
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posted 19 December 2004 10:17 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Michael Enright talked today to a guy named Stephens who has written a new version of the Epic of Gilgamesh; it sounds well worth reading; has anyone read it yet? I have an old Penguin edition somewhere, but can't recall if I actually read it or not; it probably didn't stress the sexy bits.

Years ago I read quite a few epics and sagas, mostly in Penguin versions. One of my favourites was Dante's Divine Comedy, the translation by Dorothy Sayers and Barbara Reynolds.

Science fiction/fantasy writers have been mining epics for years; Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven wrote Inferno in which they added some more modern sins and punishments.

Anyone have favourite epics? None of your feeble little novelettes or skinny books of poetry here.


From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
swirrlygrrl
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posted 19 December 2004 10:48 PM      Profile for swirrlygrrl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Yarg. I've always hated epics - read (excerpts of) Gilgamesh in my comparative literature class as an undergrad, along with some of the Greeks. I could never gain any attachment to the epic hero - his tragic flaws were always so overwhelming that I found myself smugly satisfied when it lead to his downfall (as compared to my genuine sorrow when reading books in which ordinary people face downfall due to their ordinary flaws, a la David Adams Richards). Apparently, this meant I didn't appreciate the literature. Epic heros didn't tend to be nice people, and often treated women particularly hossibly in my remembrances. Never read anything more modern in the epic or saga department. Tried the Divine Comedy, but then paper season hit. Perhaps its my own tragic flaw.
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Left Turn
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posted 20 December 2004 12:31 AM      Profile for Left Turn        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I will always be partial to Homer's Odessey.

The SW Trilogy (the Original Trilogy, the Prequel Trilogy pales in comparison) makes a great modern epic.


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steffie
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posted 20 December 2004 12:33 AM      Profile for steffie     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
SW?? Explain. [Ed. d-uuuhhh!! Star Wars ]

Does the Dune trilogy count as an epic? Man, that was long.

[ 20 December 2004: Message edited by: steffie ]


From: What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish? | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Hephaestion
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posted 20 December 2004 02:28 AM      Profile for Hephaestion   Author's Homepage        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I got the Illiad and The Odyssey as bedtime stories as a kid, LOL. Still love' em both, and I've re-read 'em many times...

Lord of the Rings
The Foundation series
The Narnia series
The Red Mars/Green Mars series
The Ender series*
The Alvin Maker series*
Toynbee's "History of the World" series [history]
(tv) "The Day The Universe Changed" series [science/history]
[blush] The Harry Potter series
The Dream of Eagles series [warning! HIGHLY addictive!!]

and I could go on... I love a good epic... what's yours?

Edited to add:

I forgot to explain the asterixes... both series are by Orson Scott Card, one of the most brilliant witers around, but also a dreadful homophobe. I hate myself for loving his books, and despite the fact that his writing captivates me, since I found that out, I've never picked up another of his books. (I'd love to know how theAlvin Maker series ends, though...)

[ 20 December 2004: Message edited by: Hephaestion ]


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Left Turn
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posted 20 December 2004 03:23 AM      Profile for Left Turn        Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
steffie wrote:
quote:
Does the Dune trilogy count as an epic?

I think it does.


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faith
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posted 20 December 2004 10:53 AM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I love to read anything. Even if I pick up a book I feel is poorly written , I kind of mentally acknowledge the fact that the book will not be that great and then keep on reading. (perhaps it's an addiction)
One of my favourite epics is the series by Katherine O'Neal Gear and Michael Gear on the first peoples of North America. The first in the ongoing series is "People of the Wolf" .
Both Katherine and her husband Michael are both archeologists and historians so the research is very well done. The Gear team is also amazingly good at fiction.
Sometimes the spiritual side of things gets a little weird for modern readers but the writing tries to portray a prehistoric aboriginal point of view.

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skdadl
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posted 20 December 2004 11:11 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I also think that Dune qualifies.

Because Blake and Keats and Northrop Frye all admired Milton so much, I have really tried hard to love Paradise Lost, through which I was dragged several different ways over the years, but I guess I'm a failure. My first Milton prof was a bit of a pompous old coot, so maybe I'm conflating him with Milton's narrative personality. I consider not loving Paradise Lost my major failure as a student of literature.

A year ago I started reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, which is splendid, and I promise I'll get back to it any day. I have read John Gardner's "rewriting" of Beowulf from the monster's point of view, Grendel -- a charming, magical wee gem.

I think it's fair to call modern romances or fantasies epics -- in Poetics, the romance sort of takes the place of the epic in later cycles of the same tradition, and there are many structural similarities. Gilgamesh and Homer and the Norse sagas are still a bit different, though, because they usually represent the first attempts to set down in writing what by then were very long oral traditions, and their setting down may itself take hundreds of years, as in the case of "Homer."


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remind
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posted 20 December 2004 12:43 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
You beat me to this, I agree their books are simply wonderful, the latest 2, People of the Owl and People of the Raven, are just as powerful and well written. An amazing amount of research has gone into their works.

Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series starting with Clan of the Cavebear is equally as good.

Edited to add: I also liked the the Gaia Trilogy by John Varley


quote:
Originally posted by faith:
One of my favourite epics is the series by Katherine O'Neal Gear and Michael Gear on the first peoples of North America. The first in the ongoing series is "People of the Wolf" .
Both Katherine and her husband Michael are both archeologists and historians so the research is very well done. The Gear team is also amazingly good at fiction.
Sometimes the spiritual side of things gets a little weird for modern readers but the writing tries to portray a prehistoric aboriginal point of view.

[ 20 December 2004: Message edited by: remind ]


From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
faith
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posted 20 December 2004 01:02 PM      Profile for faith     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think my favourite in the series is "People of the Lakes" . Once I have read them I tend to get the details a little mixed up but didn't People of the Lakes have a character called Dark Face or Scar Face or something like that? Dark Face got up every morning and practiced his fighting moves and then was scared out of his loin cloth crossing the Great Lakes in a storm?
I have just finished People of the Raven and am awaiting People of the Moon and People of the Weeping Eye.
I enjoyed Jean Auel as well.
I hate to do this ..but -maybe the well read people on babble can help. Years ago I started reading a series of books on a family in England that spanned several centuries. I think the series was named after the family name and the characters in the book were so well developed. The story followed the families fortunes and misfortunes over time which isn't really much of clue I know as almost all epics do this kind of thing. The problem for me is that I never pay attention to titles or authors until after I have read a book- if it's good I remember them - if it's not they're promptly forgotten. I checked one book out from the library and then we moved and I couldn't remember the name of the series although I think it was a very extensive number of volumes. Any help or suggestions kindly appreciated.

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Bacchus
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posted 20 December 2004 02:38 PM      Profile for Bacchus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Hmm Epics

David Eddings books
Dante's Inferno trilogy
Marion Zimmer Bradleys Avalon and Darkover books
LOTR
Dune


Card was a homophobe? How did that come out?


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steffie
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posted 20 December 2004 02:49 PM      Profile for steffie     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Bacchus:

David Eddings books


I was so affected by The Belgariad that I created an art piece of the characters, and nearly named my son Garion. My mistake was in telling people of my plan to do so. I bowed to pressure and named him something more mainstream.


From: What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish? | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Jimmy Brogan
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posted 20 December 2004 03:02 PM      Profile for Jimmy Brogan   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

Creation and Julian by Gore Vidal

The Journeyer and Aztec by Gary Jennings

The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess

A Fire Upon the Deep and its prequel A Deepness in the Sky by Vernor Vinge.


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Contrarian
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posted 20 December 2004 03:43 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
R.A. Lafferty's science fiction has an epic feel to me, with characters that are larger than life, as in Past Master, Annals of Klepsis etc. In a different genre of fiction, his Okla Hannali is definitely an epic; with a fictional Choctaw man for a hero, he whips you through a large chunk of the history of the Indians in the US; some of the great chiefs, the Trail of Tears, the massive and divisive effects of the Civil War, some of the Indian wars... And no one writes like him.

John Myers Myers' Silverlock is a classic romp through literature [including epics] and is great fun with some wonderful songs; a later book The Moon's Fire-Eating Daughter is similar but a little more work to read. Myers was not all that politically correct but he wrote tight and driving prose, in a very American voice I think.

Someone with a similar style is Neal Stephenson, of Snowcrash, The Cryptonomicon and others. My sister made me read the first couple of paragraphs of Snowcrash, and she was right, it hooks you instantly.


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remind
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posted 20 December 2004 03:43 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Sarum was an excellent book! And weirdly enough, I am currently re-reading Pillars of the Earth. Just started on it the day before yesterday. The intrigue is just beginning.

quote:
Originally posted by JimmyBrogan:
Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet

Bacchus, I also really enjoyed David Eddings' books. The Balgariad series hooked me.

In that vein Terry Brooks, The Landover series is good as well.


From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Contrarian
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posted 20 December 2004 03:45 PM      Profile for Contrarian     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Oooops; meant to edit myself, not quote me.

[ 20 December 2004: Message edited by: Contrarian ]


From: pretty far west | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
remind
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posted 20 December 2004 03:53 PM      Profile for remind     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
People of the Lakes was wonderful, that was the one with the young Shaman who was contrary, and was trying to figure out were the bone from the penis went, was it not? It was a very amusing book.

Me too on the awaiting the latest 2 O'Neal Gear books, as I am for Jean Auel's last book in the Earth's People series. I have re-read Shelters of Stone like 3 times.

quote:
Originally posted by faith:
I think my favourite in the series is "People of the Lakes" . Once I have read them I tend to get the details a little mixed up but didn't People of the Lakes have a character called Dark Face or Scar Face or something like that? Dark Face got up every morning and practiced his fighting moves and then was scared out of his loin cloth crossing the Great Lakes in a storm?
I have just finished People of the Raven and am awaiting People of the Moon and People of the Weeping Eye.
I enjoyed Jean Auel as well.


From: "watching the tide roll away" | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Bacchus
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posted 20 December 2004 04:23 PM      Profile for Bacchus     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I love the Belgariad (and his other couple of similar trilogies). Mostly because I loved the character interaction and dynamics and growth, more than the story almost. Plus he has a wonderful sense of humour.

The others mentioned by people are good reads too. It sjust hard to know the different between a epic and a series sometimes (like Lindsay Davis or Bernard Cornwell)


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