There is a certain atmosphere to Diablo, a sort of dark, epic, mythological feel that truly makes it worth playing. It’s something that I, at least, can’t help myself from coming back to, either in films, literature, or gaming.
So, having already given you my recommendations for some good films, I now have some authors to tell you about. No doubt most of you have heard of these people already, either through my column, or from your own reading, but an extra recommendation can’t possibly hurt.
(No, I’m not going to flog either my own book or the new novels being released by Pocket; you’ve already heard lots about them, and they are so few in number that they wouldn’t fill an entire column. On the other hand, I’m not going to talk about Tolkien either; I have no doubt that everybody has read The Lord of the Rings, and those who haven’t will end up doing so once the first movie comes out in December.)
I’m going to start by venturing back into the mists of time: Seamus Heaney’s new translation of Beowulf has just made it to trade paperback, and not a moment too soon (I think the hardcover cost me around forty dollars). Beowulf is one of the first epics ever written in the English language, and, like Diablo, it is a rousing tale of horrifying monsters and great heroes. Heaney’s translation is elegant and evocative, and you can almost imagine that you are sitting there listening to a skald as you read it.
Leaping to the twentieth century, I would like to highlight one of the best fantasists ever to live. His name was Robert E. Howard, and he created this little character named Conan that you all might have heard of. Howard’s Conan is not the character from the movies or TV show; he is a ruthless mercenary, a shrewd warrior who, free of the fears and limitations of civilized men, has no difficulties taking down demons or gods. The original Conan adventures are still around in second-hand bookstores, although for some strange reason they are not currently in print. A shame, really; they still stand up as great fantasy today.
Staring at my bookcase, another author comes to mind: Ed Greenwood. Greenwood writes primarily very light reading (which sometimes drives him crazy; he’d much rather be doing literary fantasy, and his editors keep holding him back), but almost all of his work revolves around small parties of adventurers off in search of fame and fortune. I’d go as far as to say that he is a master of that sort of D&D-style story. However, due to the way TSR operates, I’d actually caution against most of his Forgotten Realms novels; about the only book of his that I know of which hasn’t been butchered by TSR in the editorial process was Cormyr. Go with his Band of Four series, published by Tor, for a much better read.
David Gemmell is another author I would recommend; he is very properly known as a master of heroic fantasy. His characters must fight against overwhelming odds, and there is usually something underneath, so that higher-common-denominator readers will get something out of it too. His worlds are dark, filled with demons and sorcerers, and always interesting. In his early Drenai books he had a problem of retelling the same story with different characters, but once you get past the third book, it isn’t a problem anymore.
Another British author worthy of attention is Michael Moorcock. His work has probably influenced the Diablo world a great deal, in fact; much of it revolves around the Eternal Champion, a hero born in age after age, world after world, to fight for the balance in the war between Order and Chaos, a conflict that has existed since the dawn of time. In one place the Champion is Corum of the Silver Hand, in another Elric of Melnibon?. Most, if not all, of these stories can be found in a series of omnibus editions published by Millennium (sometimes also known as Orion Books) in the UK and Canada, and White Wolf in the United States.
If only I had the space to tell you about all the great authors on my bookcase! There’s Brian Jacques’ compelling Redwall books, Bernard Cornwell’s excellent Warlord Chronicles, Terry Pratchett’s remarkably funny and literate Discworld novels, Tad William’s triumphant Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, George R.R. Martin’s dark A Song of Fire and Ice series, Michael Scott Rohan, Guy Gavriel Kay, and so many others…
But, the final author I will highlight is my friend and mentor, Dennis L. McKiernan. His books have had more influence on me than most of these other authors put together. McKiernan’s work is very mythical; his world of Mithgar is a land of Elves, Dwarves, wizards, and dark forces. However, not content with just telling a good story, he also deals with philosophy, religious issues, morality, and the question of free will. Furthermore, his characters have a makeup that is often firmly rooted in psychology, causing his villains to be extremely interesting.
And that is my list. I have no doubt I have missed quite a few good authors; even on my own shelves there are names that are either buried behind another book (most of my bookcases are double-stacked), and some authors I have not yet had the chance to read. But, for somebody looking for some great books for their collection, I think this is a good start.
Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner is written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.