Good Minds Suggest—Patrick Rothfuss's Favorite Works of World-BuildingPosted by Goodreads on November 5, 2014
Patrick Rothfuss knows a thing or two about building credible fantasy worlds. The author's bestselling series, The Kingkiller Chronicle, is one of the most acclaimed fantasy series of recent decades, with its intricate portrayal of the magic-steeped Four Corners of Civilization. It's little surprise, then, that when asked for his list of book recommendations, the Wisconsin-based writer chose "world building" as the theme for his picks. Rothfuss recently fleshed out his own fantasy realm with a new novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which focuses on one of the secondary players in Kingkiller—fans who devoured parts one and two of his projected trilogy, The Name of the Wind, and its sequel, The Wise Man's Fear, will have to wait just a little longer for the third installment. Luckily, however, they can distract themselves with the fellow master world builders Rothfuss highlights below.
The Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson (Goodreads Author)
"In the Mistborn Trilogy (the first three books), Sanderson creates a fantasy world unlike anything I've ever run into: an eminently believable nigh-apocalyptic, totalitarian-feudal, semi-industrial society with a marvelously elegant and well-defined system of magic. Then Sanderson wrote another book, same world but 400 years later. Society and technology have progressed, and now it's a quasi-Victorian frontier western. But here's the kicker: He's still using the same magic as before because it's part of the world. Sanderson plans to keep evolving the culture and technology until it's futuristic. Meaning the world he originally wrote as epic fantasy will become sci-fi, all the while holding true to the rules of magic he originally created. That's serious world building. "
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Goodreads Author)
"Building a completely new world like Tolkien or Sanderson is impressive. But what Neil Gaiman does in The Ocean at the End of the Lane is, if anything, even more impressive. He takes the world we know, twists it ever so slightly, and makes it wondrous strange. I haven't felt that way since I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a child and spent years truly hoping beyond hope that I might stumble on a door to Narnia."
Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde
"Not Fifty Shades of Grey. Totally different story. This is a book of such strange and subtle ambiguity that I'm genuinely at a loss for how to describe it without making it sound ridiculous. It's a world where humans lack the ability to see a full spectrum of color. Which color you can see and how intensely you can see it effectively determine your place in a caste system. There's a totalitarian government that does things like prohibit spoon production, making spoons a valuable status marker and creating a thriving black market. Sound bizarre? Here's the thing: Somehow it's not. The world comes across as strangely ordinary, the people fretting about spoon registration the same way I might muddle through getting my passport updated. It's exasperating, but it's just life, y'know?"
Declare by Tim Powers
"What's truly marvelous about Tim Powers is that he builds his fantastic premises with such care that they fit seamlessly into the real world. He brings in historical facts I know are true, adds some quotes from Shakespeare, and draws a sensible conclusion based on archeological research. Then suddenly I'm nodding along at the fact that *obviously* there are djinn (supernatural figures) in the world, there have been for thousands of years. And of *course* they had influence in the Cold War…. Wait. What? When did all of this become self-evident? In some ways what he does is the masterful opposite of the magic trick Gaiman performs in Ocean. Gaiman shows you the mundane and makes it magical. Powers shows you the magical with such cunning and subtle persuasion that it feels like the most sensible thing in the world."
Girl Genius, Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil Foglio and Kaja Foglio
"Perhaps my favorite comic series, and that's saying a lot. Phil and Kaja Foglio set their story in an alternate world where mad scientists aren't crazy—they're angry—and the science at their disposal is beyond the ken of mortals, very, very real. From that premise you get a Europe where the Industrial Revolution turned into World War 0, a nightmare where every baron with a workshop can manufacture clockwork automata, build death rays, or revive the dead. The story is by turns funny, delightful, dramatic, and above all clever, clever, clever."