Books like visual novels

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#1 by autopkr
2013-02-12 at 03:38
< report >link

Listen to this. Think of a scene. A scene where a man whose life experience is constituted of such profound moments, trials and heartaches. He walks down a sunflower field, his eyes shut. He chuckles and a bittersweet smile creeps up on his face. He's thinking back. Thinking back to how naive he once was. Thinking back to the times he knew such profound happiness. The moments he shared with the one's he loved so dearly. What am I now, eh? He asks himself. His life was the best. Truly, he had seen and experienced it all. If only he could go back, go back to the times when he was still just a cocky, naive brat. A dream, eh? Yes, a dream. He has always envisioned happiness above his deep sorrow. Fleeting moments when you listen to music and see a dream, a dream that relieves you from your life of pain and dourness. Moments of profundity are what drive us, it's what takes us on the path forward. And whoever tries to undermine this with things like "logic over emotions" is merely in denial or ignorance. For mankind will always be driven by emotion, it is our power and the never-dying flames in our hearts that make us stronger!

Anyway to get to the point, when I listen to music like this, I experience profundity. In my writing if there is one thing I wish to convey more than all the "life lessons", more than all the eloquence of description, then it is to create moments of great profundity within the reader. I want my reader to chuckle and smile bitter-sweetly like the man in the above paragraph. All the while tears stream down their cheeks!

There is something visual novels create that the majority of contemporary western novels fail to do. When I pick up a book these days, it is usually so banal, mundane and shallow that I can't help but feel the same way myself. Why? What does this reflect on our society? It is true we indeed live in the philistine age, but has our existences really got so shallow? Has knowledge and enlightenment made us lose our passion!?
I don't know, maybe I'm looking too deep into it. Maybe novels will never transcend visual novels. Maybe there is just something about music and reading together that really has the power to touch our hearts. But in my fading hope I ask of you, what books can you share with me that encompasses what I am looking for?
What have you experienced?Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 04:16
#2 by loctar87
2013-02-12 at 04:36
< report >You know, you could have just said: "Hey guys, do you know any good books that make you emotional like VNs do?" Trying to inspire emotion in a random forum topic is more likely to earn you ridicule than praise. Don't take this the wrong way, but you'll find that the emotion you feel from words tends to drain away when you put them to paper. Actually getting a good emotional reaction from people is a lot harder than you might think.

Anyway, there are lots of good books out there, though I'm not much of a reader. I would recommend "Pillars of the Earth" and "Ender's Game".Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 04:39
#3 by yimw
2013-02-12 at 04:58
< report >So if I get you right you're looking for a novel that places emotion over reason or intellectualism or something?

First of all it has not been my experience at all that literature does not touch upon profound emotion. Quite the opposite really. All of my favorite books have affected me emotionally. I will agree that VNs focus on evoking emotions more than books do, and do it in a more obvious tear-jerker way, but basically any good book will have an profound emotional component to it. The writers who have affected me the most emotionally (and are therefore among my favorites) are Pynchon, Dostoevsky, Hemingway, and David Foster Wallace. The middle two are probably more recommendable to someone who is anti-intellectual.

Also did you really equate knowledge and enlightenment with shallowness?

That song is very nice by the way. Thank you for linking it.Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 05:02
#4 by autopkr
2013-02-12 at 05:42
< report >Thank you for the recommendations both of you, I'll be sure to check them all out at some point.

@yimw: Whilst I am looking for a novel that can inspire strong emotion within the reader, this is not limited to anti-intellectual works. I consider myself a pious follower of intellectualism. Do the two go hand-in-hand?
Maybe, but it is not important for a book that evokes great profundity to be intellectual or not. Even the simplest child's story can evoke such profundity that I am looking for. When we enter the realms of realism and intellectualism, things get more logical and less emotional. Sure it'd be great for a book to be able to encapsulate grandiose knowledge alike while still creating a very personal and emotional experience, but I have yet to traverse those seas, whether such a work exists or not.
I am most reassuringly looking for intellectual and well reasoned works as well, I just doubt the existence of what I am truly looking for.

I did not equate knowledge and enlightenment with shallowness. It was our pursuit of "true knowledge" and enlightenment that gave us depth. Now that we have come to an era where we have "all the answers", where rationalism is dying and the age of science has surmounted us, where idealism and the aesthetic are despised, it all seems so shallow. It's the fact that we have lost all sense of virtue and value and our teenagers are more concerned with writing cliched melodrama than awe-inspiring poetry that is wrong. It is our nhilist society that I despise and by it's very definition we are shallow.

And I'm glad you enjoyed that song. It's a personal favourite of mine. :>Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 05:46
#5 by ganz
2013-02-12 at 06:26
< report >Priestess of the White.
Lirael.Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 06:29
#6 by overmage
2013-02-12 at 06:59
< report >I second Ender's Game.

Also, no offence but your opening post came off sounding more corny than anything

'Books like visual novels' is a misnomer since if anything visual novels are an alternate version of books. Also, what makes them appeal to you happens to be the writing style of whoever wrote them (or maybe not even that since it's diluted by translators)

It's the opposite really, most visual novels struggle to transcend traditional novels as the former is a much younger medium and just finding its wings. You've obviously not looked hard enough if you can say something amazing like that, for example Dune by Frank Herbert is one of THE defining intellectual works that happens to be the best damn science fiction read ever.

For every good visual novel, I can give you five good novels with far deeper insights into humanity and life. It's true that the current western novels are trending towards LOTR and Harry Potter ripoffs but given that over 90% of eroge consists of nukiges, it isn't faring much better in that regard.

The ONLY translated visual novel thus far that can be said to have joined the ranks of any of the great novels I've read (Ender's Game, Magician and Dune being some examples) is Muv-Luv Alternative. No doubt moogy may note some vns that are great works, however to the best of my understanding those remain untranslated or have bad translations that destroy all literary subtleties.

(N.B. Enjoyment is not the same thing as acknowledging greatness. You can enjoy something while acknowledging its failings.)Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 07:20
#7 by aevumus
2013-02-12 at 07:53
< report >If you're truly looking for something that reflects society and draws to light our existence, I suggest you look into Dystopian works.
Brave New World, 1984, Fahrenheit 451 are probably the most well known titles.
Hunger Games if you're after something a bit more contemporary (although I can't vouch for whether it fits your palette as I haven't read it myself).
#8 by gerardlonewolf
2013-02-12 at 08:12
< report >
Hunger Games

Uhh, I'd rather go read Battle Royale manga.
#9 by overmage
2013-02-12 at 08:21
< report >Hunger Games is light entertainment that gently treads on the topic of dystopia. It's something I would recommend to teenagers or romance fiction fans as that's what its target audience is.
#10 by moogy
2013-02-12 at 09:39
< report >Dogura Magura. Fans of denpa eroge should love it.

In all seriousness though just read Japanese books. And if you don't know Japanese, then you don't what visual novels are really like (and how they're written) in the first place, so there's no point in trying to find books like them.

It's a light novel but recently I've been reading Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu and that has quite great writing that should appeal to any fan of good VNs.

Also why is Ender's Game being listed here. What the hell would make you emotional in that book? It's about gleeful xenocide, written by a Mormon, and full of terrible and obvious propaganda.

Also holy crap don't list fantasy novels from the 80s when naming "great novels" you've read. Dune is pretty horrible in the second half once it turns into strange space religion and LSD trips too.Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 09:57
#11 by 7hs
2013-02-12 at 10:44
< report >I'm not religious, but I thought Shuusaku Endou's Silence was pretty affecting. It's probably safe enough to read in English since it was translated by a professional and not a nobody from the internet.

Outside of glorious Japan I suppose the author I've felt the most emotion from is Albert Camus, probably because I personally identify with most of his philosophical views. Start with The Plague, it's more accessible than his other novels.

If you are incapable of feeling emotion from anything other than genre fiction, I guess your only option is Stanislaw Lem's Solaris. Get the Kindle edition with a new translation, not the crappy old double translation by way of French. It seems native English speakers are utterly incapable of writing fiction that successfully evokes emotion! Even bringing Conrad to the table wouldn't fix that, he was Polish too.

Incidentally, a piece of dialogue in Solaris itself skewers genre fiction pretty brutally: "We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world..."

In other words shit like Dune and Ender's Game are just laughable attempts to idealize the meaningless conflicts we've had in the past on Earth itself. If you're going to praise genre fiction at least praise someone who is actually capable of doing more with it than imitating our own sordid history, such as Lem or maybe P. K. Dick.

The only emotion you're going to feel from Dick is paranoid schizophrenia though, so I'm getting pretty off topic.Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 10:45
#12 by overmage
2013-02-12 at 17:10
< report >@moogy: I liked Ender's game since to me whether or not you agreed with his views it made you think about various themes that it embodied (beyond the obvious Mormonism and preachiness), while the entire book was done in an incredibly simplistic style that managed to convey those themes. Many works that attempt the same thing end up veering into highbrow territory where the level and subtlety of language used meant only bored literature students (or self-proclaimed lit buffs) are the only ones able to properly appreciate the deeper themes. Now Orson Scott Card is the world's biggest d-bag author but Ender's Game is the one novel I'll give him mad props for. But I get that not everyone likes it, it's always been a polarizing novel.

For Dune, agree to disagree, I saw it as one of the few works that crossed the boundary between popular/genre fiction and literary fiction (a lot of the latter, while enjoyable in its own right, could quite often fail to obtain mass appeal. I personally see such a work as failing in its own way if it can only be appreciated by a small subset of a subset of readers) so I found a lot to marvel about it as it blended a lot of experimentation into it. At the least, far more than something by Haruki Murashitmi (or maybe you like him. surprise me :p)

My Japanese is nowhere near good enough to appreciate the subtleties in japanese works so I'll pass for now.

In other words shit like Dune and Ender's Game are just laughable attempts to idealize the meaningless conflicts we've had in the past on Earth itself. If you're going to praise genre fiction at least praise someone who is actually capable of doing more with it than imitating our own sordid history, such as Lem or maybe P. K. Dick.

Opinions, opinions. I think Dick is great, and I still liked Dune. Different strokes for different folks.

It seems native English speakers are utterly incapable of writing fiction that successfully evokes emotion!

Outside of glorious Japan

You must be a real hit at parties, highbrow-japanophile-foreignphile-san! Showing off the superiority of your esteemed self's tastes must make you feel gooooood.

I took literature classes for over six years. In that period, I devoured books both populist and archaic. And in that time, I've had the great displeasure of meeting countless people like you - all folks with grossly exaggerated perceptions of their own haute-ness. I like to term such people intellectual hipsters.


But to get back on the topic at hand another novel that I thought was really great was Lord of Light, by Roger Zelazny. No doubt somebody will come and say it's shit as well purely because

1. it won a genre fiction award (wow overrated fucking mainstream piece of shit)
2. the author was American

:)Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 19:47
#13 by usagi
2013-02-12 at 17:15
< report >Hm, what about Stephen King's works? Also I would highly recommend works of Strugatsky brothers. While not all of their novels are easily accessible for nonrussian reader - all their works are godlike. Especially I would recommend Hard to be a God and Roadside Picnic ;)
#14 by overmage
2013-02-12 at 17:48
< report >King, IMO, is like a machine gun aiming at a target board. Very hit-and-miss, but with occasional gems.Last modified on 2013-02-12 at 18:03
#15 by moogy
2013-02-12 at 21:41
< report >Yeah, I like what I've read of Murakami. I don't really see how anyone can read like, Hard-Boiled Wonderland, Kafka on the Shore, and Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and come away hating them, at least. Mm, speaking of which, I never got around to reading 1Q84, I should pick up the Japanese versions at some point.

Also, I'd personally consider it a plus if only a small subset of people or an extremely learned reader could fully appreciate a novel, whether it be due to a niche approach to storytelling or cerebral language or what have you. Hell, one of the reasons I like VNs is pretty much because they're such an obscure and unread medium for storytelling. I guess that's the hipster in me talking though.

For what it's worth, my favorite English language novel is Catch-22, though, which is a pretty generic pick.
#16 by defiled-phoenix
2013-02-12 at 23:36
< report >orson scott card is a xenocidal maniac bent on killing the proud ant people of alpha centauri
#17 by overmage
2013-02-13 at 12:01
< report >I actually lost respect for him after 1Q84 because it felt like he was recycling his old themes. He seemed great to me at the start but eventually it felt like the same kind of greatness which meant it was no longer so great... maybe you might see what I mean if you read 1Q84. Or maybe not. Oh well. :x

@16: aye
#18 by katzy07
2013-10-13 at 20:10
< report >If you haven't read The Talisman by Stephen King, that's definitely one of his hits and not a miss at all. I really felt like I could resonate with the main character and there was a lot of emotion there.

Also, if you're in the mood for some tough hitting stuff there's Catcher in Rye. It might seem like an angst filled binge (and to an extent it is) but there were some moments in it that really hit my warm and fluffy spots.

-Muv-Luv was good. It kinda toes the line for being considered Literary material for me though. For one, all that work you have to put into to even get to Alternative is a huge minus. And in the end it edged away from it's theme of loss and responsibility at the most crucial moments.

The only games I've played so far that I would definitely say have literary merit (In the sense that I could almost see them being read and analyzed in a classroom setting) would be Cross Channel and Swan Song. Maybe Fate/Stay Night as well, since it also had clearly explored themes.

PS. Orson Scott card is good, but he doesn't know when to quit. Like a Tv show that runs too long and has a couple of crappy seasons that no one really enjoyed. He lost me after Speaker for the Dead. (though I kept reading until children of the mind anyways). The same thing happened with the Shadow series. The first two were good... third one made me lose interest half-way through.
#19 by albedo
2013-10-13 at 20:42
< report >@18 How did MLA deviate from its theme of manning up at the end? They did invade the original hive knowing that it was very likely that they were going to die. They died. They also had an out before, which they didn't take.

As for Nasu, sure, there are lots of themes in F/SN. There are also lots of themes in the latest DCU crossover and even in your run-of-the-mill sitcom! Themes everywhere! But in the end, it's not only about merely exploring those themes; instead it's about execution and this is exactly where Nasu fails, badly at that.

Anyway, since it seems that this turned into the book recommendation thread, I'd add 2666, The Name of the Rose and The Aleph (the short story collection, not just the short story.)
#20 by katzy07
2013-10-13 at 21:07
< report >@19 Muv-luv Alternative spoilers -> The whole story was about manning up and accpeting loss and pushing forward up until the very end. When the job is done and the main hero has lost almost all the people he cares about, instead of showing us how he accepts this and move forward, the author cops-out and sends him to an alternate reality where all of the pain and loss he had to deal with simply doesn't exist. The lesson which is being imparted is damaged by this. "Instead of bad things happen and you must rise above them despite the pain and suffering" it turns into "Bad things happen and you must rise above them... but then in the end everything gets fixed by magic". It was entirely too convenient for a story that had it's main focus being about realistically learning how to deal with hardships

Your argument against F/SN as literature is kinda weak. It's not just the fact that it has themes... almost all fiction has themes. It's the fact that it has interesting themes that are well explored in a realistic manner (Realistic within the universe in any case). It loses points by sometimes having the solution to its problems being "Be more awesome", but even still "being more awesome" usually comes at a price.

Also, maybe some aspects of the DC universe can be considered literary, if they are well written and explore their topics in depth. Look at Watchman.

The point I'm trying to make is that a story with literary merit rises above simply entertaining in an attempt to fully express an ideal. That's what I qualify as literature. Muv-Luv came really close to doing that for me... but I feel like it pulled some punches at the last minute.Last modified on 2013-10-13 at 21:08
#21 by albedo
2013-10-13 at 21:20
< report >@20 Regarding F/SN, I didn't say it wasn't literature, nor do I care. All I said is that it presented some interesting themes but merely presenting them is not enough. Rather, themes need to be explored in an interesting way, which in my opinion it failed to do.

Watchmen is really an exception, although I can see that some comics (yes, even mainstream superhero ones) could be more interesting than the usual. But I was thinking more along the lines of, I dunno, Flashpoint or Blackest Night.

Finally, I don't think that one character having a happy ending in MLA invalidates it. Also, the ending could be interpreted differently for maximum despair (see tvtropes).Last modified on 2013-10-13 at 21:22
#22 by ganz
2013-10-13 at 21:30
< report >I lol at this arguments.
#23 by katzy07
2013-10-13 at 21:42
< report >@21 oops, sorry. I misread your original comment.

I suppose that's a fair opinion. To an extent I agree with you, which is why I didn't put F/SN up there with Cross Channel and Swan Song. I think certain routes did a much better job at exploring their themes than others. But overall it tries to be more than just thoughtless entertainment, which is why I would consider it. And yeah... the way he writes can be kind of polarizing, so it's hard to back him 100% on the literature front.

Also you're right - the ending of muv-luv doesn't completely invalidate it, but it is a step in the exact opposite direction. It's not that it has a happy ending, it's that that happy ending doesn't support the lessons learned along the way. Because of that, I can't back it 100% as literature either. It doesn't work with its theme until the end.

I'll have to check out the TV tropes stuff, though.Last modified on 2013-10-13 at 21:47
#24 by gerardlonewolf
2013-10-13 at 21:50
< report >
the way he writes

You aren't talking about the translation, right?
#25 by katzy07
2013-10-13 at 21:57
< report >Well actually I am a bit, so perhaps that's unfair.

But I'm also referring to the repetition, and the sometimes seemingly pointless slice of life.