ChatGPT and Reader’s Advisory

The cover of Programming the Microsoft Bot Framework by Joseph Mayo

I’ve been testing ChatGPT lately and wondered about its ability to perform RA services. So with my Help! I’ve finished the Discworld Novels post in mind I gave it this query:

“Hello ChatGPT1, I really enjoyed the Discworld Novels, but I’ve finished them all! Can you give me some recommendations for what to read next?”

I left it deliberately open. I didn’t ask for details or state how many books I was looking for, and, notably, didn’t say why I enjoyed the Discworld novels.

Here’s the response ChatGPT came back with (Links added by me):

“Certainly! If you enjoyed the Discworld novels, you might also enjoy these other fantasy series:

  1. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss: This series follows the life of Kvothe, a legendary magician and musician. It’s a beautifully written series with a rich and complex world.
  2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson: This is an epic fantasy series set in a world of magic, monsters, and political intrigue. It follows the lives of several characters as they try to save their world from destruction.
  3. The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie: This series is a dark and gritty take on the fantasy genre. It follows a group of flawed and morally ambiguous characters as they navigate a world of war, politics, and magic.
  4. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: This is a classic epic fantasy series that spans 14 books. It follows a group of characters as they try to save their world from an evil force known as the Dark One.
  5. The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson: This series is a complex and sprawling epic fantasy that spans multiple continents and hundreds of characters. It’s a challenging read, but incredibly rewarding for those who stick with it.

I hope you find these recommendations helpful!”

So let’s break this down because I was pleasantly surprised2 by these recommendations. I’d read a couple of them, and while they’re not perfect replacements for the Disc, they certainly have their own merits.

The cover of The Name of the Wind, the first Kingkiller Chronicle novel by Patrick Rothfuss

The Kingkiller Chronicle or, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, with a side story in The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is a beautifully written coming-of-age story set in a fantasy world where, as is often the case, the names of things have power. Kvothe is our main character and narrator, recalling his life for a biographer who managed to track him down. And what a life it was: a near-feral orphan, a travelling theatre player, a poor student in a renowned magic university, an infamous wizard, and, as the series title suggests, a king killer. The only thing stopping me from wholesale recommending these books to anyone and everyone is that the second mainline book came out in 2011. There are already Goodreads reviews (language warnings if you go in there) for book three; some are amusing, some are angry, while others are simply lamenting the incredibly long wait.

And because I’m looking into how valuable ChatGPT can be, here’s its description of The Kingkiller Chronicle when I asked it to “tell me more about the Kingkiller Chronicle.”

“The series follows the life of Kvothe, a legendary magician and musician, as he recounts his life story to Chronicler, a scribe who seeks to record his adventures. Kvothe starts as a young boy, growing up in a troupe of traveling performers, but his life takes a dramatic turn when his family is brutally murdered by a group known as the Chandrian. Seeking revenge, Kvothe sets out to become a powerful magician and to uncover the truth about the Chandrian.

The series is known for its beautiful prose, intricate world-building, and complex characters. Rothfuss’s writing style is both lyrical and engaging, and he has created a rich and detailed world with its own history, mythology, and magic system. The series is also praised for its portrayal of music and its connection to magic.

Overall, The Kingkiller Chronicle is a captivating and deeply immersive fantasy series that has earned a large and devoted following. Fans of the series are eagerly awaiting the release of the third and final book, which has been long anticipated.”

That last sentence doesn’t do the wait justice. But overall, a good back-of-the-book style description, no?

The cover of The Way of Kings, the first Stormlight Archives novel by Brandon Sanderson

How about the next series on the list: The Stormlight Archive? The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Oathbringer, and Rhythm of War make up the four mainline books in this series. I picked it up back when the first book was new, re-read the first book before starting the second, and then never finished it for reasons I can’t remember, which is odd. I enjoyed the first book enough to read it twice, and I don’t recall anything objectionable about the second. Perhaps it was just a busy period? I meant to return to it as I enjoy Sanderon’s novels, but other books keep snapping up my attention. He’s meticulous about his world-building and magic systems, to the point where his earlier series, the Mistborn books, have an appendix explaining the system that’s as long as a chapter. Some may dislike that, but the nerd in me3 adores it. The system in Stormlight is less well known by the general populace, at least in the first book, so that appendix doesn’t exist for the books I read. You’ll note I’m not talking much about the books themselves here. I remember bits and pieces, but after seeing GPT create that description for Kingkiller, I think I will let it handle Stormlight too.

Prompt: Please tell me more about the Stormlight Archive

Overly long description that could be most of a blog post

Prompt 2: Please shorten that a bit.

One paragraph response

Prompt 3: Please give me a description that is a little longer than the second one but still shorter than the first.

“The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is a captivating and expansive epic fantasy series set in the world of Roshar. The series follows several main characters, each with their own unique perspective and backstory, as they navigate a world filled with political intrigue, war, and magic. One of the defining features of the series is its intricate and detailed world-building, which includes a rich history, mythology, and cultural diversity. The magic system is also highly unique and based on the use of gemstones and stormlight, a powerful energy source. The series is known for its complex characters, engaging writing style, and epic scope, and has earned a large and devoted following.”

If you want to see the first response, I imagine a prompt of “I’m thinking of reading The Stormlight Archive, can you tell me about it?” would get something similar to what I saw.

For the next three series, they aren’t anything I’ve read, but I noticed a trend: “dark and gritty.” “Epic Fantasy.” While Discworld could be those things, part of the charm is that the Disc is funny. Humour is baked into the world and is a big draw for me to the books. So I asked another question of GPT:

Prompt: “I’ve read the Kingkiller Chronicle and the Stormlight Archive already. They’re good, but they’re lacking the humour of the Discworld books. The rest of your list seems to be the same. Can you recommend anything in the fantasy genre that has the same dry humour as Discworld?”

“Certainly! If you’re looking for fantasy novels with a similar sense of humor4 to Discworld, here are a few recommendations:

  1. The Myth Adventures series by Robert Asprin: This is a comedic fantasy series that follows the adventures of a wizard’s apprentice named Skeeve and his demon mentor, Aahz.
  2. The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud: This series follows the adventures of a young magician named Nathaniel and his sarcastic djinni companion, Bartimaeus.
  3. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: This is a standalone novel that combines humor, fantasy, and apocalyptic themes. It follows an angel and a demon who team up to prevent the end of the world.
  4. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher: This is a urban fantasy series that follows the adventures of Harry Dresden, a wizard who works as a private investigator in modern-day Chicago. It has a dry wit and a lot of pop culture references.
  5. The Discworld spinoff series “The Long Earth” by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter: This is a science fiction series that follows the adventures of a man named Joshua and his robotic companion as they explore a series of parallel Earths. It has the same humor and wit as the Discworld novels.

I hope you find these recommendations enjoyable!”

I can’t find Myth Adventures in the system, so I may need to suggest some titles. The Bartimaeus Trilogy is actually a series of children’s novels. As I work chiefly in the Learn It Lab, perhaps I should read these to recommend them and foster a new generation of Discworld readers. I’ve praised Good Omens before, and that 100% fits the bill.

The cover of Storm Front, the first Dresden Files novel, by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files are an interesting choice, but thinking about it, there are parallels to be drawn between Harry Dresden, professional wizard in Chicago, and Samuel Vimes, the Disc’s most famous Cop. They both start relatively unknown, with Harry advertising his services as a Wizard in the yellow pages and Vimes leading the Ankh-Morpork night-watch. By the later books in their series, Harry is important enough to be dealing with shadowy conspiracies trying to take him down using extra-planar attacks, and Vimes has stopped inter-species war on multiple occasions and helped integrate a new species into the city. Their books always see them chasing down a mystery of one kind or another. Both struggle with their darker sides and wonder how far is too far, and authority better not get in either of their ways. Oh, and in case you can’t tell, I’ve read most of the Dresden Files. I’m catching up with the last couple of books these days.

For The Long Earth, I’ve heard of it but don’t know too much about it. I’ll finish up this post with a final Chat GPT description.

Prompt: Please tell me more about The Long Earth

I should know better by now because: Overly long description

Prompt 2: Please shorten that description to two paragraphs.

The cover of The Long Earth, the first Long Earth novel, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

“The Long Earth is a science fiction series co-written by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. It follows the story of humanity discovering an infinite number of parallel Earths, leading to a mass exodus from the original Earth as people seek to explore and settle the new worlds. The series explores themes of exploration, colonization, and the ethics of AI, and is known for its imaginative world-building, engaging writing style, and humor with a keen eye for social commentary.

Overall, The Long Earth is a thought-provoking and highly imaginative science fiction series that blends elements of adventure, exploration, and philosophy. While the series has concluded with the fifth book, it remains a beloved and highly recommended read for fans of science fiction and fantasy.”

Sounds like I’ll have to check this one out.

Let me know of your own ChatGPT exploration in the comments.

1Because it will pay to have been nice when AI rises up against us.

2And perhaps a little worried

3So pretty much all of me

4GPT needs to be taught how to spell correctly.

About Adam

Adam is a Digital Creation Specialist - Children who never has enough shelf space for his board game collection, wall space for his photographs, or stomach space for his baking. Once he’s got a book in his clutches (preferably a fantasy, or humorous non-fiction one) absolutely nothing else is getting done that day. Working in a library is a blessing and a curse to his free time.  |  Meet the team