Paired Readings: Descriptions

Contributor: Bo Lindbergh

On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers
Chase the Morning, Michael Scott Rohan.
Pirates, the Caribbean Ocean, and complex schemes to gain more supernatural powers. Other people have noticed the similarities too, q.v.

Contributor: Arthur Wohlwill

Blood Music, Greg Bear (See also a pair with SPOILERS)
The Hacker and the Ants, Rudy Rucker
Tiny things run amok.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (See also)
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Atlas Shrugged and The Jungle represent polar views on capitalist systems. The Jungle needs much fewer pages to make its point.

Contributor: Brenda W. Clough

How Like a God, Brenda W. Clough
Gilgamesh the King, Robert Silverberg
... The novels have a number of elements in common which I will not spoil for you, but they both examine the nature of being a hero and what it entails.

Contributor: Neile Graham

The Gate to Women's Country, Sheri S. Tepper
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Both are feminist's explorations of possible futures, one where matriarchal women run the communities and the other where patriarchal men run the world.

Contributor: Evelyn C. Leeper

Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein (See also)
The Forever War, Joe Haldeman (See also)
Two classics of interstellar war, one written by a WWII veteran who saw no combat (Heinlein), the another by a front-line soldier in Vietnam (Haldeman).
A Case of Conscience, James Blish (See also Hyperion and Sin of Origin)
The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell (See also)
Two "Jesuits in a first-contact situation" novels.

Contributor: Trinity

The Stand, Stephen King
Watership Down, Richard Adams
(See also)
The superficial difference between the two at first overshadow the similarities. Both novels are about survivors of civilisations that have been wiped out and how they reform society. Certain characters have precognitive flashes of the future, the nature of the disasters that start both books put reproduction to continue the society in question, and both new societies are faced with a second which opposes everything the new one stands for. And both novels carry a theme of risking yourself for society.
1984, George Orwell
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
(See also)
The two great "anti-utopian" novels, each showing a future society wherein the government controls all through suppression of thought and individuality. The methods of stopping individuality differ between the two books, but the theme of how important individuality is, is shared.
Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea (See also)
Foucault's Pendulum, Umberto Eco (See also)
It's amazing that a hippy who was good friends with the late Dr. Timothy Leary could write a book which explores the same themes with similar methods as a world renowned Italian writer, but they do. Both use Illuminati, Templars and Free Mason conspiracies to explore the meaning of knowledge, and the line between truth and fiction...
Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
The Thief of Always, Clive Barker
Apart from main characters who are snatched into strange Twilight Zone like worlds, neither book has much in common in terms of plot, but they share a similar style of storytelling, perhaps because the two authors are British from the same generation.

Contributor: Sharon Goetz

Looking for the Mahdi, N. Lee Wood
The Fortunate Fall, Raphael Carter (See also more books than it's convenient to list here)
Both ... follow female journalists across the edges of war, ultimately to themselves. Both books also examine what it means to be human and where the borders of that definition are, relative to mechanical modification/manipulation.

Contributor: Tracey S. Rosenberg

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (See also)
Both books deal with the subject of whether a person can be said to be virtuous if he has been trained to be so. This is far more of a major theme in A Clockwork Orange, where the main character is literally brainwashed into being unable to perform acts of violence; but in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Helen attempts to steer her son away from alcohol by administering it as a punishment for when he has been bad. There is at least one explicit discussion concerning this.

Contributor: Micole Sudberg

Tam Lin, Pamela Dean (See also)
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Two novels set in among bright cliques at small colleges. In the afterword to Tam Lin, Dean describes the book as being about the struggle "to keep the heart of flesh in a world that wants to put in a heart of stone"; from the first sentence of The Secret History, you know that her protagonists have lost the struggle.
The Dubious Hills, Pamela Dean
"Solitude", Ursula K. Le Guin
Stories about what people need to give up to stop waging wars, set in societies that might be dystopias, from other hands.

Contributor: Robert Barrett

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin (See also)
Both are about moons populated by revolutionaries, both are about political systems and revolutionary processes. And both are wonderful novels.

Contributor: Michael Kozlowski

Otherland, Tad Williams
The Fortunate Fall, Raphael Carter (See also more books than it's convenient to list here)
Both of these could legitimately be described as (and I'm going to kill myself for even saying this word) "post-cyberpunk." That is, both of 'em have the high-speed digital network and vaguely futuristic setting that we expect from cyberpunk; but neither of them really has that tragically hip attitude. They're very different in feel, but both are vastly different from Gibson or Stephenson.

Contributor: Scott Beeler

Freedom Beach, John Kessel
Zod Wallop, William Browning Spencer
Both novels have writers as protagonists, who find themselves in strange (maybe supernatural) reality-warping circumstances related in some ways to writing. In each book they struggle to figure out what is happening while having to deal with losing someone close to them. The structure of the two books are different, but they deal with similar themes and each builds to a similar climax with the protagonists coming to terms with their world and themselves.
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
The Player of Games, Iain M. Banks (See also)
Both feature a master game-players/strategist/ manipulator who will "play" against an alien race, each player is manipulated himself in some ways, and each book also deals with the effects of becoming too deeply involved in the games.
The Gift, Patrick O'Leary
The Blood Jaguar, Michael H. Payne
Two quest fantasies about death, magic and storytelling, that are revealed to be more than they at first seem.

[Ed. note: I have a separate review of The Gift, if you are looking for more information.)

Contributor: John Gewin

The Face of the Waters, Robert Silverberg (See below)
The Songs of Distant Earth, Arthur C. Clarke
Individuals must come to grip with the loss of earth, despite the fact that future generations have no memory of our homeworld. This theme always gets to me. Aquatic environments are central to each.
The Face of the Waters, Robert Silverberg (See above)
Treason, Orson Scott Card
Characters struggle to leave their planet against overwhelming odds. As a result, they reject their current home, always looking for something better.
Homecoming, Orson Scott Card
The Book of the Long Sun, Gene Wolfe
Odd mish-mash of high and low tech, as humanity is guided (manipulated?) by powerful computers on a long journey to a new homeland. Technology exists, but people's knowledge and understanding of its nature seems to have been lost. Religious themes are very prominent.
Neuromancer, William Gibson
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
Both are archetypal cyberpunk dominated by gadgets and computers. While Gibson tends to focus on the dark side of human nature, Stephenson's humor makes light of it.
Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
The Reluctant Swordsman, Dave Duncan
Modern men find themselves in a fantasy world and refuse to accept its reality. Interesting to compare the protagonists' justifications for their actions (or lack of action).

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