The best realised universe

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Banksy
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The best realised universe

Postby Banksy » Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:44 pm UTC

I decided to make this in the books section; but could equally involve anything from games to films.
What do you think is the best realised fictional universe? You know; best established history, realistic factions/countries/empires etc.
Or if not the best, then one of your favourites?

My personal favourite is the Warhammer 40,000 universe; from the game itself to the ridiculously large number of novels expanding the universe, from the Horus Heresy right the way to the end times, more often than not with brilliant cross-references that just cement the picture of the setting in my mind.

Of course Lord of the Rings gets an honourable mention from me as well; the time Tolkein must have put into the Histories of middle-earth as well as creating two whole functional languages is just incredible.

Thoughts?
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby ian » Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:47 pm UTC

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars, Marvel

In that order.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:06 pm UTC

I've gotta go with Tolkien here. It's one coherent body of work, filled with myths, a rich history and geography, diverse cultures, and multiple languages.

Universes that have been around for a while tend to get this feel to varying degrees, like Star Trek/Wars, long-running fantasy settings, etc. But I don't think any of them beat Tolkien for completeness.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Joeldi » Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:18 am UTC

ian wrote:Marvel

I don't really know what I'm talking about, but isn't the marvel catalogue filled with buckets and buckets of stuff most people would rather had never been written (The thing with the clones? On reading Juggernaut's back story I was severely saddened), and retcon after retcon after retcon?
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Mzyxptlk » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:39 am UTC

Tolkien, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dune.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby ian » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:00 am UTC

Joeldi wrote:
ian wrote:Marvel

I don't really know what I'm talking about, but isn't the marvel catalogue filled with buckets and buckets of stuff most people would rather had never been written (The thing with the clones? On reading Juggernaut's back story I was severely saddened), and retcon after retcon after retcon?

True, but I haven't read most of that stuff, so am not too bothered.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby JayDee » Mon Feb 23, 2009 11:45 am UTC

Hmm. I would go with Tolkien in one aspect, although I think plenty of modern epic fantasy authors absolutely trounce him in world building. Tolkien made a world that was mythologically deep in a way I haven't seen done anywhere near as good. The languages help too (and his are my favourite con-langs for similar reasons, not for being the best, but for being approached in a fascinating way.)

I love the way the world changes and does it mythologically. Middle earth starts off flat and perfectly lit with the Gods living in it. Then the Gods depart for their own corner. You have the lamps to trees to sun and moon progression. There is an Atlantis disaster, and then the world is made round. It progress towards our modern ideas of the universe (but not too close - it remains mythological) and passes through most of the views of the world we have had, remaining coherent all the way through. Plus he has my favourite creation story of all time

There are some wonderfully woven tales of the old times, but what we are most familiar with is Lord of the Rings. Which is a fairly simple story in a fairly simple world, but has the weight of all those myths and references to times long ago that feel real and are what I think make the book special.

[/gushing]

On another level, I really like the world of The Wheel of Time. Problems with the books and the writing and so on aside, it's the most detailed world-building I've seen. Dozens of countries with plenty of cities, lots of detail given into culture, traditions, fashions, and the economics of pretty much any of the ones encountered.

When I think of created worlds it tends to be fantasy, mostly epic fantasy that comes to mind. But so much good Sci-Fi has well-realised worlds, even if it's only a well-realised window into a world. The worlds of Ursula Le Guin spring to mind - like The Dispossesed and The Left Hand of Darkness (Earthsea is another well realised fantasy world for that matter.) Both with cultures and societies that manage to be both alien and to seem real.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby eightysevendegrees » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:04 pm UTC

I'm surprised by people answering Star Wars.

I love the films (well, the original three anyway) but I would not have described it as being a well-realised universe. Most of the planets are ridiculous! A city all over a planet would have incredible implications in terms of food imported, waste exported, not to mention the heat it produces. A slug living on a really hot desert? That's got to cause skin problems for him. Then you get the contradictions between the original films and the new ones.

I really enjoy the films for the storyline... not the universe.

Tolkein I would go with. The amount of effort poured into Middle Earth is astonishing. It has history, languages, cultures. He worked out every minute detail. Whether you like the books or not, I think you have to give him credit for working out the interactions between different races. Anyone who's stayed awake through the Silmarilion will know just how much thought went into the universe he created.

I think Pratchett deserves an honorable mention because I think the Discworld is awesome, particularly now that Stephen Briggs has helped create the maps. I think the main reason why I love the Discworld is that the places feel a lot more real than most fantasy cities. I think it's one of his interviews where he says that first thing you do when building an imaginary city is work out where they get their water from (certainly misquoted). Ankh-Morpork has a slaughterhouse district, people clearing away buckets of... refuse, guilds, businesses, police, even a condom factory. In the early books, the world was a parody fantasy universe, but by now, it's been developed so that it's incredibly rich. It's developed in a completely different way to Middle Earth, but it's almost as deep now.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby WBLambert » Tue Feb 24, 2009 4:51 am UTC

The Xanth series by Piers Anthony has a fantastic universe. Variations between locales, characters, cultures... it's got it all.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Feb 24, 2009 5:30 am UTC

Isn't that the universe where males pass out at the sight of panties? And somehow nude women don't affect them?
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby AVbd » Tue Feb 24, 2009 8:55 am UTC

I like that one by that guy… who was it…? Stephen Hawking? Albert Einstein? God? It may have been a collaborative work. Anyway, fascinating and well-realised, although maybe a bit too far-fetched for some readers.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby sje46 » Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:10 am UTC

eightysevendegrees wrote: A slug living on a really hot desert? That's got to cause skin problems for him.

An earth slug, perhaps. But chances are his skin is like nothing we've seen. Evolution makes animals adapt to environments. If you criticize the biology, it would have to be major features, like how Watto's wings are too small to carry him.
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The Death Star's weapon doesn't make sense, I guess. I don't like the twist in star wars . ..that really wasn't a good twist, really. I Don't know what I can say . . Wookieepedia is fascinating though. The fans have realized the universe very well.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby atimholt » Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:34 am UTC

Asimov's Foundation Universe. He added depth to it over the course of decades, then combined his three most popular series with "gluer" novels. What's funny is the first novel of his that I read was his own (and most people's) least like of his works, 'the Stars, Like Dust.' Ironically, it was that book that hooked me on Asimov. To this day, I haven't read a Science Fiction author I like more than him. His science essays (for F&SF, as I recall) are what hooked me on science; he always had fascinating anecdotes to accompany every scientific fact. His writing was so consistently good, he was able to distill all the crappy writing he'd been accruing and holding back for hundreds of books in order to write "A whiff of Death."
But as for his Foundation Universe, no other SF universe has been so thoroughly real. Indeed, the premise of the original trilogy requires the universe, as constituted by the characters and masses, to be thoroughly realized. They are.
Incidentally, the Foundation Trilogy beat out the Lord of the Rings in 1966 for a one time Hugo award for best all time series. As Asimov put it, he'd assumed the award had been invented to honor Lord of the Rings (think about it, it probably had been), and he was surprised when he won.
But Lord of the Rings is good too. I enjoy it most as an audiobook for some reason, helps me get into it better. Probably Robert Inglis's singing.

ËDIT: as a side note, I must mention the Second Foundation. It sucks. Really bad (Asimov had nothing to do with it, being thoroughly dead at the time of writing.)
What really sucks about falling in lüv with Asimov's work is that his prolificity spoils you. Orson Scott Card's pretty good, but he hasn't written 500 books. And Harry Potter was only 7 books long, consisting mostly of filler. The foundation series, all tied together, weighs in canonically at 15 books, and I've read every one. Not methodically, just gradually as I could get my hands on whatever of his work. Took years to find "Caves of Steel," "I robot," and "Pebble in the Sky," but their sequels, etc., were readily available. Go figure.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby cathrl » Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:10 am UTC

I'm not sure if it completely counts as "realised", and it certainly isn't as fleshed out as many of the others mentioned, but I do like the universe of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. I think that's a good example of how to write a future universe which is consistent and makes sense without the author having to explain what everything is and does.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby kwub » Tue Feb 24, 2009 3:40 pm UTC

I'm honestly going to have to go with Jordan's Randland. Despite my major misgivings about his style, pacing, plot disunity, obsessive (and even magically "justified") overusage of deus ex machina, and so forth, the world of Wheel of Time is simply the most geographically detailed, culturally nuanced, and historically complete I've ever encountered in fantasy.
Personal runners up would be Forgotten Realms, Discworld, Warhammer 40k, Star Wars, and Warcraft. And, of course, I would deserve crucifixion if I didn't give honorable mention to the Lord of the Rings.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Beacons! » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:44 pm UTC

The Edge Chronicles. It even has its own crazy chemistry.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby netcrusher88 » Wed Feb 25, 2009 2:56 pm UTC

Definitely Tolkien's Arda (of which Middle Earth is only a small part). If you don't get why I encourage a copy of The Silmarillion and a The Atlas of Middle-Earth, which has great maps of battles from Tolkien's works, as well as just general maps.

Discworld is up there on my list too, for being crazy yet unbelievably consistent. Asimov's Robot/Foundation (yes, the two series are tied together) universe is simple yet elegant, and doesn't try to pretend that Trantor doesn't have problems created by a city-planet - problems echoed in the walled cities of the Robot series.

I have to agree with eightysevendegrees about Star Wars, though. The story is great but the universe is just not developed at all.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby GoodRudeFun » Wed Feb 25, 2009 7:11 pm UTC

So far no one's mentioned Raymond E. Fiest's midkemia, or the universe its set in.


I haven't read the entire "series", but I will. So far, what I've read includes like 50 yearsof indepth history, as well as politics, religion, and geography. Not to mention other entire worlds that interact.


Then again I don't have as many books under my belt as I'd like. Though I did just get my handson a combined copy of foundation and I-robot, so I'm going to see that world for myself. So far its amazing, and I'm only like a fewpages into foundation :P Though I'm also reading it slowly, savoring it. The world really is amazingly done from what I can tell of only a few pages, more depth than some authors manage in an entire series.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:13 am UTC

netcrusher88 wrote:Discworld is up there on my list too, for being crazy yet unbelievably consistent.


I read Thief Of Time recently and loved how Pratchett essentially gave himself a continuity-guarantee device. Anything that doesn't work out is the History Monks doing as well as they can.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Adacore » Thu Feb 26, 2009 12:28 am UTC

I like the Star Wars universe in so far as it's been so obsessively and extensively developed it's a great setting for RPGs nowadays. Not really what the topic is about, but having played and run SWRPG games, there's just so much depth available in the setting, largely because of the massively varied (if somewhat implausible) planets and aliens.

In terms of other stuff, the New Crobuzon stuff from China Mieville - despite only comprising 3 books, does an amazing job at setting up his unique dystopia. Not really what you'd call fully-realised though - it quite deliberately only scratches the grime off tiny bits of the surface. Hmm... it's actually a tough one - I don't really read the uber-long series, so I guess I don't know the main ones. I know a lot of shortish (3-7 book long) series by a few authors which I would say have incredibly intriguing settings, but nothing really fully realised because the focus is more on the plotline(s) than on the world itself.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby eightysevendegrees » Thu Feb 26, 2009 5:55 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:I read Thief Of Time recently and loved how Pratchett essentially gave himself a continuity-guarantee device. Anything that doesn't work out is the History Monks doing as well as they can.


I also love how Pratchett manages to escape his little slip-ups in consistency in places by just saying that people on the Discworld never bothered much with spelling.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby rat4000 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:36 pm UTC

netcrusher88 wrote:I have to agree with eightysevendegrees about Star Wars, though. The story is great but the universe is just not developed at all.


Have you read any of the Extended Universe novels?

I've only read several and the world became about twice as defined. It's not like it's ever going to be completely clear as it's way too big, but the philosophy becomes clearer, the Sith become more interesting, you learn more and more about the characters... You learn about the Yuuzhan Vong...

I'll go with Star Wars and Arda.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby sje46 » Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:46 pm UTC

You have to keep in mind that there's only so much you can communicate in six movies. Read the novels. I only read like two, a long, long, long time ago, and I know that Star Wars is a lot more developed than you may think.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:55 pm UTC

rat4000 wrote:
netcrusher88 wrote:I have to agree with eightysevendegrees about Star Wars, though. The story is great but the universe is just not developed at all.


Have you read any of the Extended Universe novels?

I've only read several and the world became about twice as defined. It's not like it's ever going to be completely clear as it's way too big, but the philosophy becomes clearer, the Sith become more interesting, you learn more and more about the characters... You learn about the Yuuzhan Vong...

I'll go with Star Wars and Arda.


They still suffer the fucking RIDICULOUS Star Trekian "One Planet, One Unified Culture with a Unified Terrain Feature" flaw.

Oh, it's the Desert Planet with the Warrior Nomads. And here's the Swamp Planet with the Tribal Fishermen. And here's the City Planet, where everything is city. Everything. Which means their airspace should be overwhelmed with food transports sailing in on an hourly basis.......
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Durandal » Sat Feb 28, 2009 6:37 pm UTC

Beacons! wrote:The Edge Chronicles. It even has its own crazy chemistry.


fuck YES.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby cathrl » Sat Feb 28, 2009 9:56 pm UTC

Beacons! wrote:The Edge Chronicles. It even has its own crazy chemistry.


It's really small, though (at least, unless there's a whole lot of world which isn't in the couple of books I pinched from my son read). It's relatively easy to realise a world consisting of two small towns, a bog and a forest.

Not knocking it. I just don't think you can really compare it with fictional universes which span, at the very least, whole planets, and some of them whole universes.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby SecondTalon » Sat Feb 28, 2009 11:06 pm UTC

And yet, so many people can't pull off two towns and a bog in anything approaching a realistic fashion.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Sun Mar 01, 2009 12:30 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:They still suffer the fucking RIDICULOUS Star Trekian "One Planet, One Unified Culture with a Unified Terrain Feature" flaw.


I know it's not a full excuse, but I've always liked the explanation that that's only how an outside, human observer views them. If you were actually in the culture, you'd know all the subtle variations others wouldn't pick up on. I don't know if this really applies to Star Wars, as I read this in relation to Trek, which works though humans usually.

Oh, it's the Desert Planet with the Warrior Nomads.


Frank Herbert deserves a medal for somehow making that work believably, with the sandworm ecology and all.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Pristiq » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:59 am UTC

Enderverse?

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby aireoth » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:16 pm UTC

Tolkien, its old, he died before completing all of it, but he did the best I've seen creating a world with a depth rarely witnessed.

Warhammer 40K has one major problem, its full of holes when you compair it to the boardgame, for example Space Marines are not near indestructible enough. I know its all done for balance, but the boardgame is the reason the universe exists.

Star Wars, it to is full of holes and inconsistencies, from Jedi being incredibly powerful too the mass suckage of Jedi in the new movies. Not to mention a Galactic Empire of epic proportions is built within 18 years between the movies, with all new ships, fighters and everything, with no reminant of the older ships. Not to mention wasn't the X-wing supposed to be an old ship model?

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Aaddrick » Wed Mar 11, 2009 4:17 pm UTC

Accelerando - Charles Stross

I'm on a massive Stross kick right now. It might not be a "Universe" like Warhammer 40k or Marvel, but it's enough to wish for.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby PAstrychef » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:18 pm UTC

Interesting question-you sure do gets lots of detail in The Wheel of Time, but who wants to read all of it? It ruins any pace the story has. Which is glacial to begin with.
A book/movie that drops me into a coherent place and time, where I'm not think but what about?.....is what I'm after-love LeGuin for this, and S.M. Stirling. Firefly did a pretty good job.
About Tolkien-he was mostly interested in the languages/mythology. The stories themselves were kind of an afterthought.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby SherryCQ » Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:02 pm UTC

Along with Tolkien and his universe's lived-in feel, I think I'd like to live on Anne McCaffrey's Pern--NOT just because of the dragons. It's because the people sound more like people, and their personalities are shaped by their experiences and surroundings instead of being static, unchanging figures.

Sure, Anne focuses a lot on the dragonriders, but there's a reason it's the Dragonriders of Pern series. The characters themselves come from very diverse places: Menolly lived on the coast, so she grew up eating fish and takes a while to get comfy with the knowledge that meat and fresh fruit =/= hard-to-get for everyone.

Moreta grew up with horses/runnerbeasts and still cares about them after twenty years with a dragon, and Orlith thinks of it as a slightly-annoying quirk. And what does Moreta want to do after the end of Threadfall? Improve the Weyr? Rejoice that the planet's greatest danger is gone for the next 200 years? Sure she does, but she also wants to GROW HER HAIR OUT because she hates having to cut it so short!

Lessa's family was prosperous until they all got killed and she had to go into hiding, so she became an angry, vengeance-seeking bitch until F'lar told her to go and Impress the new queen dragon, which mellowed her out considerably. I still think her unpleasant at certain points, and she is rather spoiled in terms of how much authority she has, but she's ultimately a good leader and she tries hard to keep everyone safe and happy. You can't always have the "good leader, good person" formula, and the fact that she DOES get annoying actually encourages me to like her.

While the characters seem perfect on the outside, Anne McCaffrey gives us little details that humanize them and make them more believable. Planetary details and extremely-detailed world histories are definitely great, but I would definitely consider Pern among my highest-ranking places because while you live ON a planet, you live WITH the other people inhabiting it.

And the dragons. HELLS YES.

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Re: The best realised universe

Postby SecondTalon » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:17 pm UTC

Pristiq wrote:Enderverse?
The one that had the Norse Planet and the Chinese Planet and the planet with THREE species?

Yeah.. no.
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Aquilai » Tue Apr 14, 2009 12:22 am UTC

Everworld by K A Applegate
A short series (unlike her more popular Animorphs) where there's a world that some kids are brought part way through to when they dream they are living in another world where all the mythological stories are true (Greek, Roman, Viking, Aztec etc). It gets quite immersive. I'm sure there are probably a few other books which have a similar sort of idea but I would highly highly recommend reading them.

(There are pdf copies http://animorphsforum.com/ebooks/everworld/)
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Tue Apr 14, 2009 1:15 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:
Pristiq wrote:Enderverse?
The one that had the Norse Planet and the Chinese Planet and the planet with THREE species?

Yeah.. no.

To be fair, said planet at least had a good reason for only having three species.
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Jorpho
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Jorpho » Tue Apr 14, 2009 3:50 am UTC

I like David Brin's Uplift novels. I really wish he would write another one; he left all kinds of loose ends in the last one. I find it nifty that he deals with how all these big intergalactic civilizations age over the millenia.

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Azrael001
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Azrael001 » Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:00 am UTC

George R.R. Martin's world in the series A Song of Fire and Ice. I'm not good at quickly describing it off of the top of my head, but it's good. History is all there, along with various countries all with shifting politics etc. etc. Also, the characters are mortal.
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0range
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby 0range » Tue Apr 14, 2009 8:04 am UTC

Azrael001 wrote:George R.R. Martin's world in the series A Song of Fire and Ice. I'm not good at quickly describing it off of the top of my head, but it's good. History is all there, along with various countries all with shifting politics etc. etc. Also, the characters are mortal.


I'm surprised it took so long to come up. I've really enjoyed the Dunk & Egg adventures... they really flesh out some of the history.

How about Jack Vance's Demon Princes?
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Stormlock
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Re: The best realised universe

Postby Stormlock » Wed Apr 15, 2009 2:58 am UTC

I like the world of Faerie in Iron Dragon's Daughter and Dragons of Babel. High fantasy has always been my favourite genre, but it's always frustrating having to suspend such a massive amount of disbelief. This setting is kind of like what high fantasy would be like if you actually got an honest answer every time you asked "But wouldn't someone (Or everyone) be taking advantage of fantastic thing X?" One of my favourite parts is when someone magically kills someone else by giving them an aneurysm from miles away. No fireballs, no dark gods of death and evil stealing your soul, just a little twitch in your brain. The government agencies use magic to track you down and mete out justice. Shoplifters contend with magical wards on merchandise. Racism abounds, especially towards the race that can walk through walls, whom everyone assumes are always thieving murderous bastards.
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