Here are some books (my favourites) from the Bilkent library. However, this part is not specifically intended for Bilkent students. Most of the books should be available outside, too. The ones with Turkish translations are specified to be so.


Tolkien Jordan Wolfe Hackers Ender Ripley Bambi Neverending Story Catch 22

The Middle Earth Trilogy + The Hobbit - J. R. R. Tolkien .

This deserves a special section by itself for commentary. Here, I might mention that the Prologue of the Trilogy, "The Hobbit" is now translated to Turkish, but although the translation is a fair attempt, it leaves too much to be desired. The real taste is certainly much more apparent in the original. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy is also printed in Turkish, and IMHO it is a better translation, more in keeping with the tone and the linguistic ideals of the book.

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The Wheel of Time - Robert Jordan .

"Robert Jordan has come to dominate the world that Tolkien began to reveal."

This is printed on the back cover of all the volumes of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Perhaps "dominate" is too strong a word in this context. We're talking about creating a full world, or if you please Universe, of the author's own; how can we pit such different frames of reference against each other and decide which is "dominating"? (The long, rambling, fruitless discussion of Star Wars vs. Star Trek come to mind :-) ).

Well, if we simply have to have such a criterion for comparing different "created universe"s of fantasy literature, ironically, "realism" springs to mind as a suitable one. Self-consistent realism, of course... Tolkien was out to create a whole mythology, hence it's hard to vie with him in that aspect; he has everything in place back to the creation of his universe in The Silmarillion.

But so has Robert Jordan.

Next, you can look at the richness of the texture of the universe. And that is where you stop considering Jordan to be "just another Tolkien wannabe". To start with, for even a very good author, creating an extremely detailed world in a small numberof pages is difficult, even if the creation is exquisite. A case in point is Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea books; we learn a lot about the wizardry in Earthsea in those books, but necessarily little about the customs of lands and people, for instance, beyond mere mentions. Those are four books with at most 300 pages each, if that. But in (till now) eight volumes of 1000 pages each, Jordan has the opportunity to create 10 different countries, with political systems, customs, even people's temperament; complete with international relations, international powers and their clashes, and an over-all theological/supernatural system and the good/evil confrontation inherent in that. Not to mention very flesh-and-blood and finely crafted characters. And he does not waste that opportunity.

The number of Wheel of Time sites on the Web is probably as numerous as Star Wars pages and Tolkien pages, so I won't give more information about it here, to preserve bandwidth. I can only mention that the books are masterpieces in all aspects: Characters, setting, background, conflicts, dramatic scenes, action, plot devices, you name it. The only detectable redundancy comes from the fact that Jordan tries to make all his volumes accessible as stand-alones; so he repeats some key facts about his universe and definitions in all of them at one point, as they are reintroduced. But I have to admit the effort becomes somewhat futile after the fourth book.

Bilkent Library has, to my knowledge, only the third volume, The Dragon Reborn; it was that one that I first read and loved. I was able to follow it without much difficulty, too, with no knowledge of what had happened beforehand except what I was able to deduce. Only after reading the first two volumes, though, and upon rereading The Dragon Reborn, did I realize how many nuances I had missed in my ignorance (it made the book that much more enjoyable, naturally). The best proof that can be offered on the richness of the series is that, for instance, if you stop and reread all after you've read the first four, you'll catch things you've missed before; if you repeat that after the sixth, you'll still catch more. I've spoken to people who've read them 5-6 times over again, and they are not disappointed. But it is a time commitment, of course :-).

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The Book Of The New Sun and The Book of the Long Sun - Gene Wolfe.

Originally published as four books ( The Shadow of the Torturer, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Sword of the Lictor, The Citadel of the Autarch) the tetralogy The Book of the New Sun is available now in two volumes: The Shadow and the Claw, The Sword and the Citadel. The hero is Severian, an apprentice of the torturers. He is banished from his guild for loving and pitying a prisoner and sets out to meet a bigger fate in the outside world. Colourful pictures, brilliant analyses of human moods and feelings, and unlimited fantasy is literally sprinkled through the book and although your first feeling might be that it is impossible to read up to the end because of the small print, that is only an illusion. The book has more awards than I can remember now.

The Book of the Long Sun is also a tetralogy: Nightside the Long Sun, Lake of the Long Sun, Calde of the Long Sun, and Exodus from the Long Sun. Here we have Silk, an augur, which is the equivalent of a priest in his community. He is enlightened by a god at twenty-three, and every aspect of his life changes within the next 24 hours. He discovers that there is more to himself - like a "criminal" side, and still more.

Both books share common properties that make them so intensely readable. Both are set in a community of their own, fictional yet realistic and whole, so that they have their own reality. The reader gets to know and moves inside that reality, just as he might do with other examples of such perfect fictitious "realities": Middle-Earth of Tolkien, the galaxy in the Foundation series by Asimov, the Star Wars universe. The language is also very attractive, both books having words and terms unique to themselves: Some more antique words or usages in the English language in the New Sun, and terms which are sometimes distorted versions of common words in the Long Sun. All in all, although perhaps the Book of the Long Sun is a little more straining to follow, both of these series are remarkable works to be enjoyed.

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Hackers - Steven Levy.

"Obsessive, idealistic, often reclusive, always brilliant, they were...

HACKERS

..." The story of the computer wizards from the dawning of the hacker culture in the AI lab of MIT with the "first true hackers", who lived virtually on the mainframes in the AI labs, then moving on to Stanford and other universities. The guys who delighted in the computer and the computer alone, used it to create "Tools to Create More Tools". Then the hardware hackers of the seventies, whose dream was to "personalize the computer". They ended up with fulfilling their dream. They created PCs and the PC culture in societies of their own. Then the game hackers of the eighties.

With special emphasis on the "Hacker Ethic", Steven Levy has written a very professional book which can spur you on to hacking yourself. Not only on the computer, for hackerism is, as the book makes you understand, applicable to everything, though perhaps more extensively to computers and electronics.


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Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card.

To what end can an exceptionally talented child be pushed to? What's the limit of working real hard? And what will happen to the child in the end?

The author says in his preface that a school librarian once told him that Ender's Game was the most-lost book in the library. He considers it a high praise and so do I, but please, replace it after reading. :-)

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The Ripley Trilogy - Patricia Highsmith.

Ever liked the killer in a detective novel? This might be your chance for the experience, although these are not strictly detective novels but more like psychological crime novels. The trilogy is The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley in the Dark, and Ripley's Game. (A fourth actually follows, The Boy Who Followed Ripley , but it felt a bit different to me.) By far the best is the first volume, but the others go a great way to increase Thomas Ripley's likeability. You can feel yourself anxious wondering whether he will be caught or not - not an usual feeling, you might admit! (Still, some people told me that the novels weren't their type. Just try.)

The Turkish translations are also available, though I don't know whether the library has them or not. Titles Becerikli Bay Ripley, Ripley KaranlIkta ve Ripley'in Oyunu, respectively.

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Bambi, A Life in the Woods - Felix Salten .

Now what can I be thinking of, including the novel of a Disney character in this list along with works of Tolkien and Heller? Nothing surprising, I assure you. The original Bambi, the Bambi of Felix Salten, is certainly not a Disney character, nor the book a Disney scenario with everyone living happily ever after...

When I bought the book in a second-hand store, 12 years after I'd read it as a child, I was spurred solely by a sense of nostalgia. However, when I began rereading it, I immediately realized that I should have done that all along. When read by an adult, Bambi immediately sheds its popular cover as a "children's book". Short, yet tightly packed with ideas about life, wildlife, existence, nature and humanity, with an aura of melancholy that is yet without bitterness (yes, I know this is paraphrasing Tolkien, so what? :-) ), it is extremely, exquisitely -- readable.

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The Neverending Story - Michael Ende.

Was published and awarded in 1979. Then made into a movie and its sequel in the eighties, I think, but neither the movie nor the sequel can approach the novel. Follow Bastian Balthasar Bux into a story (I mean that literally, into), whose setting is Fantasia (or Fantastica, depending on the taste of the translator.), which, as its name implies, a great fantasy world. Learn the importance of words and names and bravery and memories. Turkish translation also available, under the title "Bitmeyecek OykU."

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Catch 22 - Joseph Heller.

Akin to "The Naked and the Dead" by Norman Mailer in that this book might well be the war book about World War II. Introducing you to Yossarian the fighter pilot, whose main objective was to stay alive, and main belief was all the enemy was out to get him (it doesn't matter that the enemy tried to kill everyone at the same time - that still meant they did try to kill Yossarian, didn't it?). The book might be hard to read at the beginning, but if it grips you, well - you just go on reading. A series of bewildering paradoxes and absurdities to illustrate the biggest paradox and absurdity of all - war.

Turkish translation also available, under the title "Madde 22."


More will follow... In particular, a sprinkling of Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn and Ursula LeGuin...