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"Better than Tolkien"

I've looking for fantasy to read on an upcoming trip, so I Googled "all-time best fantasy" just now. I carefully inspected eight different lists: specifically all the relevant lists in the first page of search results. Of those eight lists, six were trash. Here's a meta-review… How can I so decisively call a list trash? Because anyone who fails to put The Lord of the Rings at #1 (unless they put The Hobbit or even The Silmarillion there) is either ignorant or insane.

Look, folks, J.R.R. Tolkien is the yardstick by which fantasy is measured. I'm not saying he will never be surpassed, but it hasn't happened yet. In particular, no, George R.R. Martin is not better than Tolkien—especially even before he finishes his interminable series.

There were other great picks as well. One list put The Fountainhead at #49 out of 100. Ayn Rand's philosophy of greed and selfishness (and the utter unreadability of this book) aside, this is not a fantasy novel. If you're gonna put this on the list, I think you've got to put Battlefield Earth up there too. Maybe it was; #49 was all the higher I was willing to go.

It was kind of funny watching everyone try to figure out what to do with Harry Potter. One list even acknowledged the problem. Certainly on a list of most popular fiction series in any genre, Rowling's is far and away the best selling of all time; one of the lists points out that The Lord of The Rings is still the number two selling fiction book of all time, after Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Is "most popular" the same as "best"? None of the lists seemed to think so.

I dunno. These lists are unsurprisingly subjective. Certainly they reminded me of a lot of great fantasy that I had long since forgotten, and several of the better lists suggested some that I hadn't heard of. I guess the system works. But it would have been more satisfying if they got the basics right. "Better than Tolkien." Pfah. Fob

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