Planning a road trip to Montreal next weekend, Akemi and doggies in tow.  Looks like my visit will coincide with the Montreal Comic Con (Montreal Comic Con).  “You excited to meet Stan Lee and Adam West?”my sister texted me.  Yes, would love to meet Adam West and check out the original batmobile (was and still am a fan of the campny 60’s t.v. series), but got the chance to meet Stan Lee years ago in Pasadena.  Brad, Paul and I were there as part of a SyFy/USA event celebrating Psych, the launch of Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, and SG-1’s 200th episode.  We had just had dinner at Robert Picardo’s beautiful house and were milling about the open-air function when I spotted my childhood hero: Stan Lee.  He was looking incredibly relaxed, seated, surrounded by a half-dozen of his crew.  He looked to be holding court as the various well-wishers – many of them established actors and directors – stepped up to shake his hand and exchange a few words.  I’m not one to be star struck but this was Stan Lee!  I waited until the queue dispersed and eventually approached him.  I introduced myself and told him I was a long-time fan.  Well, he couldn’t have been nicer, smiling hugely, thanking me for stopping by and then, upon learning I was part of the Stargate franchise, lauding the show’s success and wishing it many more seasons to come (from Stan’s mouth to the network’s ear!).  Very cool.

Jelly and Maximus relax after a hard day's lying around.

Last week, I received an email from my old friend, J.P. Frantz of SFSignal, who wanted to know if I had time to take part in an upcoming Mind Meld discussion. Well, as it turns out, due to recent developments (see previous issues, ed.), I have oodles of free time, so I welcomed the opportunity to weigh in and force my opinion on the unwary masses.

The question for this go-round:   If you could, what books or stories would you like to read again for the first time?

My response:

I read a lot (or, frankly, used to be before landing my last gig) and, while I’ve certainly read many good books, it’s not often I’ve come across a truly great one. But on those rare occasions it does happen, I set these books back on my special shelf, a space reserved for those titles that so surprised, so touched, so thrilled, that I would actually consider revisiting them some time in the future. I don’t think anything can equal the experience of reading a great book for the first time, but I’ve found that recommending the book to a friend and seeing their enthusiastic reaction comes a very close second.

The following are my “most recommended”, all of them great books I would love to read again for the first time…

  • Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi: Revitalized my long dormant love of reading – books in general and SF in particular. Smart, humorous, and impossible to put down.
  • A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin: The greatest ongoing fantasy epic boasts a dizzying roster of colorful characters, twists, turns, and the type of surprises you don’t see on t.v. Until recently.
  • The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie: Deft, dark, and disturbingly visceral, it turns High Fantasy on its ear – then slices it off and stomps on it.
  • Fast Forward 1, edited by Lou Anders: While Old Man’s War reignited my passion for reading, it was this anthology that renewed my love for the short form.
  • The Dark Beyond the Stars, by Frank M. Robinson: An underappreciated gem that I discovered, interestingly enough, on a list of underappreciated gems. If you’re a fan of science fiction, I defy you not to love it.
  • Camp Concentration, by Thomas M. Disch: A masterpiece by one of SF’s greatest minds. Sharp and subversive, it packs an emotional wallop that lingers long after it’s been read.
  • The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book #1), by Lemony Snicket: I picked up this book on a lark because I found the cover art amusing. Little did I realize I’d become hooked on the work of the most devilishly dark and wickedly clever children’s (?) authors since Edward Gorey.
  • The SFWA European Hall of Fame, edited by James Morrow and Kathryn Morrow: Another overlooked gem, this collection brings together an outstanding selection of European SF and Fantasy. It actually pains me that they didn’t do a second volume.
  • The Speed of Dark, by Elizabeth Moon: One of the most touching books I’ve had the pleasure to discover. I loved it so much I made it a book of the month club pick on my blog even though I’d already read it.
  • The Empire of Ice Cream, by Jeffrey Ford: My introduction to the works of the wildly inventive Jeffrey Ford. Ever since, I’ve picked up everything he’s written – and continue to be blown away.
Head on over to SFSignal and check out what others had to say:
And, once you have, head back here and give me your list of “stories you like to read again for the first time”.

34 thoughts on “September 10, 2011: Montreal-bound! Dogs! SFSignal’s Mind Meld!

  1. Cool, you get to do some real leisurely and enjoyable R & R and see Mom too. Hope Akemi likes the Geek Con there. Hope Baby is in good spirits.

    Great pix of the poochies – can never have too many of them.
    You know, Maximus looks just like a puppy and Jelly looks like a mommy.

    Agree with you re: Speed of Dark, Empire of Ice Cream, Blade itself, Old Man’s war. Did not read the others…yet, need to catch up on your recommendations. Sooooooo behind.

    The Speed of Dark touched me…and I still have something that resonates when I think about book and when I have recommended it to others. Still not sure of what or why. While the Blade itself started a little slow for me….I had to read the entire series, excellent choice and I enjoyed it..

    Now, sigh, gotta get back to work.

  2. How does someone who *just had dinner at Robert Picardo’s house* wind up starstruck by Stan Lee? I mean, I know he’s awesome and everything, but so is Robert Picardo!

  3. Just the classics for me:

    Moby Dick
    Great Expectations
    Hamlet (most any of Bill’s stuff really, but Hamlet’s my favorite)
    Of Mice and Men

    I’m so glad I was forced to read these in high school. I’ve enjoyed them ever since.

    I also loved the original Batman tv series. I’ve seen two of the original Batmobiles, been to George Barris’ shop, and even visited the original Batcave, too!


  4. Oh! You DO have to meet ADAM WEST!! — I had the good fortune to meet Him at the hotel restaurant when He was doing a comic con in Detroit [Novi] about a decade ago. The place was empty and He was seated at the NEXT table! — I once had the entire BATMAN BubbleGum Card Collection, NO waaay I wasn’t going to say “Hi!”!!

    As it happens, that Listerine Commercial he had done back then – [playing Himself at an autograph table] – had just aired a couple of weeks before in Canada… He hadn’t seen the Finished-Cut of it, so He was eager to hear about it.

    Alas, if I hadn’t already finished eating and was about to go meet Someone, I probably could have swung a “Lunch Invite”!! 😀 And I’ve got to say, for a guy who was in His 70s then, He was STILL Charmingly **HOT**!

    Sadly though, I never did get a chance to get His autograph… :-[

  5. Hmm…lemme think…n/m, thinkin’s for chumps. I wanna’ be an unwary mass.

    Old Man’s War
    A Game of Throne
    The Blade Itself
    Fast Forward 1
    The Dark Beyond the Stars
    Camp Concentration
    The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book #1)
    The SFWA European Hall of Fame
    The Speed of Dark
    The Empire of Ice Cream


    Naw, really, the first six Dune books would be awesome to read again for the first time.

    While we’re wiping our memories then reading the books again, can I just wipe my memory of having listened to The Machine Crusade on tape and then skip the reading/listening to again part? There’s this one disturbing scene that would be nice to get out of my head.

    I’d say the Sermon on the Mount — as in the text in Matthew — because it’s mind-blowing once you “get it”, but that didn’t happen the first time I read it, more like the hundredth time.

  6. I have read “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes twice and it still makes me cry. I’ll read it again as soon as I find a copy. I am also re-reading “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. Other great stories I have enjoyed are “Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clarke and for pure fantasy, all of the Narnia books. Not the films since the films can’t do the books justice. I’ve also enjoyed female authors like Ursula K. Le Guin who wrote “The Left Hand of Darkness” and the “Earthsea” series.

    One book in particular that I would recommend for you, Joe, is called “Sirius” by Olaf Stapeldon. It is a sci-fi story about a man who creates a super intelligent dog. A brief synopsis can be found here:


  7. Poor, sweet Maxie looks so sad. 🙁 What is the little jacket he wears? Is it to keep his tummy warm, or just for decoration? Please give all your babies a snooch on top of the head from me. And hugs to you, too. 🙂

  8. Upon reading the question, the very first book I thought of was Old Man’s War.. which, I have read, has been picked up finally to be made into a movie.

    Have a good break in Montreal. I know that Maximus has been in the forefront of the pack but I was also wondering how Jelly was doing with her hip issue?


  9. Books I’d love to read again for the first time are those that affected me emotionally in a way that can’t be the same for a second reading, or those that delighted me with a twist or creative approach that I didn’t expect. There are probably many more books on that list, but the ones I can think of right now are:

    1, To Kill a Mockingbird
    2. The Book Thief
    3. The Speed of Dark
    4. Of Mice and Men

    These first four books really had an emotional impact on me.

    5. Murder on the Orient Express (the first Agatha Christie I read)
    6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ( for the sheer fun and surprise of how much I enjoyed reading this)
    7. Trixie Belden mysteries (loved these as a kid–couldn’t wait to read the next in the series)
    8. Old Man’s War (read this after you recommended it, Joe–the book that made me realize I really do like to read science fiction)

  10. Would like to add to my list:
    – Dune
    – Ender’s Game
    – Hobbit
    – Grania
    – Downfall
    And, would like to thank you again for reviving my delight in reading again.
    Now, to get my schedule and work to stop messing up reading time.
    Thank goodness for the Kindle. Many books in a small portable “book.”

  11. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
    Dune, Frank Herbert

    Oh, so many more – but those three pop to mind first.

    @SiSi – for me the primo kids’ series was the Rick Brant Science Adventure books; hooked me on science and science fiction, all at once!

  12. Montreal is a foodie heaven place. Are you going to load up on those cured meat sandwiches?

  13. Some of the books you listed I have yet to read. Thanks for posting. I’ll be sure to check them out. 🙂

  14. Sorry to hear Maximus’ treatments didn’t go as well as hoped. I’ll be keeping him in my thoughts!

    Stories I’d like to read again for the first time…that’s tough in the sense that I usually glean something more out of each reading. But, simply for enjoyment factor…

    Good Omens
    Ender’s Game
    The entire Xanth series
    The Dark Jewels trilogy

  15. Anne McCaffrey – Dragonrider Series and the Tower Series because my daughter loves them as well. They have been reread so many times they are falling apart.
    My favourite non Sci-fi/fantasy book is called North and South written around 150 years ago and is still relevant today. One of the few books I have read that I suggest people really persist with, the language can be challenging as it is based around the Yorkshire area and uses what I imagine was the local slang of the time. It does reward your effort.
    The Xanth series from Piers Anthony always makes me smile – all thoses puns.
    I love rereading books, I read fast so you get something else out of the story each time.

  16. Across Realtime – Venor Vinge
    The Songs of Distance Earth – Arthur C. Clarke
    Rendezvous With Rama – Arthur C. Clarke
    3001 The Final Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke
    Dune – Frank Herbert
    Foundation Trilogy – Isaac Asimov
    Through Wolf’s Eyes – Jane Lindskold
    Watership Downs – Richard Adams
    Earth Abides – George R. Stewart

    These are also the books that will always live with me no matter where I am.

  17. Stargate & Psych… 2 of the best production teams to grace the small screen!

    Hey, Joe!

    With us sitting on the threshold of the new fall tv season, are there any NEW shows in particular that have peeked your interest?

    *Give Maximus a hug for me… he’s very brave!*

  18. I re-read books ALL the time which is why a Kindle was perfect for me. As a kid, I would ride in the backseat of the car, holding an open book, waiting to pass under street lights so I could read a few more words. Those who are not readers will find that foolish. I did read Dark Beyond the Stars & found it facinating.

  19. Jelly’s position on the pillow looks terrific for easing pressure on the hips. Jelly needs to finish her book on doggy yoga.

    The books that I read over and over as a kid were the Secret Garden and Jane Eyre, and if any of the many film versions are playing on TV I’ll always watch.

    I’d love to reread Fiskadoro, a book so strange and weird that I sometimes think I dreamed it; one of my friends absconded with that one. And I’d like to read Amulet of Samarkand again but a coworker’s kid got hold of that one and never gave it back. I no longer lend books, which is why my copy of The Alchemist is safe and sound, that one for sure I’ll be reading again.

  20. Tom Sawyer. I read it as a child and loved it. It reminds me of a simpler time when I was just a kid without a care in the world. I wonder if I read it again how I would react to it now that I’m an adult.

  21. So far Ive only re-read books I loved as a kid only because I forgot them. like dark material trilogy; the atheist church hating aspect was heavy handed didnt realize it so much as a kid. I’d recommend it though, also old man’s war, enders game, game of thrones. A lot out there are a tad forgettable for me. I need to find me some under-appreciated gems because the mainstream stuff isnt doing it for me like anything by Iain banks for instance. Something that has clever sci-fi elements but also has intriguing characters to go with it.

  22. I’ve been watching Psych (and the occasional rugby match) all day to avoid the very depressing 9/11 coverage. I just love Shawn (who looks and acts a lot like Mr. Das) and Gus (who acts a bit like me…YES, I am the voice of reason in our relationship. Scary, innit?). It’s one of my favorite shows, ever…and it grows on me more every year. I think it’s the lightness of it; I like detective shows, but some can be downright depressing. Psych keeps it fun, no matter how ‘serious’ it gets.

    Speaking of good cop shows, Marvel is releasing an OGN based on the TV show, Castle, and Castle’s fictional detective, Derrick Storm. Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm is written by Brian Michael Bendis, and due out September 28th.

    I plan to pick it up.

  23. Books I’d like to read again for the ‘first’ time?


    I don’t read all that much, and few books have I fallen in love with, but I think I can safely say that

    Monsieur Zenith the Albino and the entire Elric saga would make the list…as well as almost all the Agatha Christie books I’ve read. In fact, I used to often go back and re-read them, and loved them as much the second time around as I did the first.

    Speaking of detective books, I just learned that Hamish Macbeth wasn’t just a tv show, but a book series, as well. I must pick up the first one, soon! I am very much in the mood for detective fiction again, thanks to a certain pale FBI agent with a honeyed southern accent and exquisite taste in everything from clothes to cars.


  24. I love to read but I have to wait a few years before I will read a book again. Hmm, It’s hard to narrow down the list.
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. I listed to that on my Mp3 player while I worked at the humane society. It was so riveting that I didn’t want to stop working!
    Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card really sucked me in. Hubby thinks I should go back and read the first ones in the series that Card wrote. I tried to read Ender’s Game and it didn’t flow as well for me. Card’s writing style changed I suppose?
    I would read Robert K. Tanenbaum’s Karp series again.
    I want to examine your book list in more depth because you had some good suggestions. My son has all the Lemony Snicket books and I may try those. Thank you for the suggestions!
    My hubby frequently reads books over and over. He loves Orson Scott Card but lately he has wanted a bit of fluff reading. So he’s been reading the Area 51 novels again.

    Das: I’ve been watching Netflix lately. They have some of the BBC mysteries that we both love from Masterpiece Theatre. Plus, they have a British mystery series called “Midsomer Murders” that I’ve become addicted to.
    Midsomer Murders is not as intense as “Inspector Lewis” but it’s a cute show.

  25. 😳 I “listened” not listed. I’ve had a headache all day. That is my excuse and I’m sticking to it! How was your day Mr. M.? You and Akemi ok? The dogs?

  26. Hubby says his favorite books to reread are:
    Asimov: the Robot and Foundation novels
    Chalker: Rings of the Master and the Quintara Marathon
    Gear: the Spider novels
    Hogan: almost all, but especially the Genesis Machine and the Giants novels
    Most Matthew Reilly and James Rollins thrillers.

  27. Poul Anderson’s High Crusade started me on Science Fiction at the age of 12. From the I rapidly progressed to Asimov (Robot, Foundation and his Lucky Starr series), Jerry Pournelle/Larry Niven (Ringworld, Oath of Fealty), and James P. Hogan (Giants series and Thrice Upon a Time).

    I tended toward the harder-science side of the spectrum (must be the engineer in me), so I haven’t read Tolken or much Fantasy in general (outside of a few Anne McCaffery books).

    I recently reread High Crusade, and while it was a bit of a romp, it was a fun romp. I may see if I can get my 12 year old son to read it; hey, he already loves Stargate!

  28. Top Ten Re-reads:

    Alfred Hitchcock & the Three Inventigators – Robert Arthur, Jr.
    The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
    “The Luck of Roaring Camp” Bret Harte
    Life on the Mississippi – Mark Twain
    Charlotte Temple – Susanna Rowson
    The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
    Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse
    The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    The Chronicles of Amber – Roger Zelazny
    Dune – Frank Herbert
    The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
    Hard times in Paradise – David & Micki Colfax
    The Tin Drum – Gunther Grass
    Ghost Story – Peter Straub
    Anthem – Ayn Rand

  29. Ten isn’t enough, here are 5 more favs to make an even 20!

    Watership Down – Richard Adams
    The Philosopher and the Druids – Philip Freeman
    Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea – Jules Verne
    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever – Stephen R. Donaldson
    Salem’s Lot – Stephen King


  30. Thank you for your list. I was looking for new SF books to read and there are so many, I didn’ know which one to choose. My interest in SF was revitalized last year by watching a second time Farscape and Stargate SG1 (thank you, again!).
    The book which surprised me the most and that I would like to read again for the first time is “Les fourmis” (Empire of the ants) by Bernard Werber.

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