RedEyedGhost

What you're reading - July 2017

115 posts in this topic

On Invalid Date at 0:19 PM, unJon said:

I will be interested in hearing whether The Big Sleep book makes more sense than the movie. It's a great movie but with some gaping plot holes. 

Nope. The reader has to take a few mental leaps.

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I finished The Shadow Rising. I like this one a lot. We get more Rand, the Aiel, Rhuidean, Mat gets his "tools", the breaking of the Tower--there's a lot here and the epic scope really starts to come into focus. The weakest part for me is Nynaeve and Elayne in Tanchico, where they are generally insufferable and stupid and drag down the rest of it.

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I have just started a non-fiction about gods etc. called Ireland's Immortals. Author is Mark Williams. Interesting so far!

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On 15.7.2017 at 8:35 PM, Starkess said:

That book is a slog, but a good one, sort of? It's hard to explain. I definitely think that reading the entire trilogy makes a more enjoyable arc as the first one is so mired in Q's depression. But I found that interesting even if difficult to read because I am someone a lot like Q.

Having now finished it - not really? I have no problem with Q's character or with depiction of depression, but Grossman's extreme laziness with the setting kinda undermined everything that he was going for with Q for me. Because sense of wonder has to be earned - and the author didn't bother. As it is, it is no mystery why Q's is unhappy - almost anybody would be - and is.

I have read on the net that Grossman was really going for how the pressure cooker atmosphere of Ivy League schools tends to select for damaged individuals and damage them further - which is well and good, but there are also interactions with the world at large for them, outside influences, more or less meaningful. There is no equivalent in "The Magicians", because it would have required world-building and the author wasn't interested in providing one. 
 

Spoiler

 

And Fillory? Let's not go there, it is a silly place. At some point Alice asks Q: "Do you want to be the asshole who went to Fillory and was miserable there? Even in Fillory?" and I can only answer - why would anybody be happy there? It is boring and paper-thin as far as portal worlds go. Mind, I liked the twist with the Chatwins, but it was over far too quickly.

They could have used their magic to go to much more interesting places - though here, again, Grossman conveniently neuters the magic whenever it could be really useful/help matters. But then it is hypocritical to claim that Q can't be happy despite all the magic, isn't it? In fact, it is not very believable that after all the intense, mind-altering experiences that magic can provide, booze and drugs would be all that attractive. Or, given how dangerous the magic was depicted to be, that Brakebills graduates who chose to live wasted like their group did in New York  wouldn't go up in flames in a short order, taking considerable collateral casualties with them.

IMHO, while Brakebills does have some interesting story segments, it's inclusion was a mistake if the author was unwilling to follow up on the consequences of there being a magical world with it's community, career/life choices for the magicians, etc. He should have just written about what he really wanted to  - i.e. humanities majors from an Ivy League school going on a portal world adventure. And above all he should have imbued Fillory with genuine sense of wonder, so that  inability to be happy there would genuinely strike one as sad.

BTW, all the female characters providing sexual tension, however briefly, also struck me as slightly skeevy. Even among the profs, the only woman who gets some screen time is the youngish attractive one that Q briefly lusts after. And Julia as a sort of consolation prize? Hm...

 

 

On 16.7.2017 at 8:43 PM, Starkess said:

I finished The Shadow Rising. I like this one a lot.

My favorite WoT installment that also has my favorite WoT sequence - Rand in the glass columns. It was all downhill from there, sigh...

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8 hours ago, Maia said:

Having now finished it - not really? I have no problem with Q's character or with depiction of depression, but Grossman's extreme laziness with the setting kinda undermined everything that he was going for with Q for me. Because sense of wonder has to be earned - and the author didn't bother. As it is, it is no mystery why Q's is unhappy - almost anybody would be - and is.

I have read on the net that Grossman was really going for how the pressure cooker atmosphere of Ivy League schools tends to select for damaged individuals and damage them further - which is well and good, but there are also interactions with the world at large for them, outside influences, more or less meaningful. There is no equivalent in "The Magicians", because it would have required world-building and the author wasn't interested in providing one. 
 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

And Fillory? Let's not go there, it is a silly place. At some point Alice asks Q: "Do you want to be the asshole who went to Fillory and was miserable there? Even in Fillory?" and I can only answer - why would anybody be happy there? It is boring and paper-thin as far as portal worlds go. Mind, I liked the twist with the Chatwins, but it was over far too quickly.

They could have used their magic to go to much more interesting places - though here, again, Grossman conveniently neuters the magic whenever it could be really useful/help matters. But then it is hypocritical to claim that Q can't be happy despite all the magic, isn't it? In fact, it is not very believable that after all the intense, mind-altering experiences that magic can provide, booze and drugs would be all that attractive. Or, given how dangerous the magic was depicted to be, that Brakebills graduates who chose to live wasted like their group did in New York  wouldn't go up in flames in a short order, taking considerable collateral casualties with them.

IMHO, while Brakebills does have some interesting story segments, it's inclusion was a mistake if the author was unwilling to follow up on the consequences of there being a magical world with it's community, career/life choices for the magicians, etc. He should have just written about what he really wanted to  - i.e. humanities majors from an Ivy League school going on a portal world adventure. And above all he should have imbued Fillory with genuine sense of wonder, so that  inability to be happy there would genuinely strike one as sad.

BTW, all the female characters providing sexual tension, however briefly, also struck me as slightly skeevy. Even among the profs, the only woman who gets some screen time is the youngish attractive one that Q briefly lusts after. And Julia as a sort of consolation prize? Hm...

 

 

I don't really disagree with anything you've said here, and yet I think it kind of works. The filtering from Q's POV explains most of that and it's all very intentional as opposed to laziness on Grossman's part.

Also, I knew almost nothing about the book before reading it, and only later discovered some of the author's interviews and such and he basically comes across as a huge douche. I think not knowing that definitely improved the reading experience.

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Ancillary Justice re-read. Still terrific. Ancillary Sword re-read: Well, there's...<i>tea</i>.

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I finished Francis Spufford's Golden Hill literally just a few minutes ago (I started reading it and read it all the way through). It is so very good, easily the best fiction I've read this year, and some of the best historical fiction I've ever read. If you haven't read either that or Spufford's Red Plenty, I strongly recommend both. 

Now I'm on to Confronting the Classics by Mary Beard. I read her most recent book (SPQR - it's a history of Rome from the earliest days to the late 2nd century CE), and was very impressed. I'm hoping this is good too. 

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Starkess said:

 The filtering from Q's POV explains most of that and it's all very intentional as opposed to laziness on Grossman's part.

 

It doesn't work for me, because

Spoiler

it is not just Q, it is pretty much everybody. And we are very much supposed to sympathise with Q for not even magic being able to make him happy... except that without sense of wonder or some idea about what constructive things they could do with it, how can it be assumed that it might make anybody happy? In fact, what we see is that it deepens everybody's unhappiness.  

 

Quote

Also, I knew almost nothing about the book before reading it, and only later discovered some of the author's interviews and such and he basically comes across as a huge douche.

I didn't read any interviews of his and had no idea about his personality, I just randomly stumbled on some internet discussion about the "Magicians", after getting stalled, and what they suggested there re: connection to Grossman's background and his goals in writing it, actually helped me to persevere. Except that even seen from that angle, it doesn't really work for me, in the end, because of the lazy worldbuilding and lack of the sense of wonder.

In realistic fiction, it would be easy enough for the (western?) reader to fill the missing stuff in - we all know what the world has to offer, more or less. What somebody like Q and Co. is missing.  Not so in a work of speculative fiction, that has this extra dimension, which Grossman completely ignored the implications of and just used as a cheap decoration for his story about Ivy League grads.

Honestly, it is not that I don't like literary SF, magical realism, etc., or can't enjoy sketchy worldbuilding - as long as it conveys what it set out to convey. Which "The Magicians" doesn't, IMHO,YMMV. 

Edited by Maia

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Finished The Witchwood Crown (Last King of Osten Ard #1) by Tad Williams.Great start to the new trilogy.Hopefully we get book #2 next year,cause i can't wait longer than that!

Also finished the epic fantasy debut, The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark.Unique voice and some pretty prose.She managed to pack a lot into a 400 page book.Reminded me of Mark Lawrence's debut in some ways.Definitely in my top 5 fantasy debuts of the year.

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Slowly slowly getting through Sexing the Body.  This is a really dense academic work about gender and sexuality.  I've been reading it a chapter at a time interspersed with other stuff.  There's a free pdf available online if anyone's interested.  Yes, tiny font formatting on your kindle.   I broke down and bought a proper e-book.  

On Lev Grossman, my brother made me read The Magicians because we both LOVE the show, but good God, Q was the most insufferable Nice Guy.  Glad I read it, my brother and I had a long chat about our problems with the text.  Neither of us wants to read the other installments.

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On 7/16/2017 at 8:43 PM, Starkess said:

I finished The Shadow Rising. I like this one a lot. We get more Rand, the Aiel, Rhuidean, Mat gets his "tools", the breaking of the Tower--there's a lot here and the epic scope really starts to come into focus. The weakest part for me is Nynaeve and Elayne in Tanchico, where they are generally insufferable and stupid and drag down the rest of it.

The Shadows Rising is my favourite WoT book.... Nostalgia...

 

7 hours ago, AncalagonTheBlack said:

Finished The Witchwood Crown (Last King of Osten Ard #1) by Tad Williams.Great start to the new trilogy.Hopefully we get book #2 next year,cause i can't wait longer than that!

Also finished the epic fantasy debut, The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark.Unique voice and some pretty prose.She managed to pack a lot into a 400 page book.Reminded me of Mark Lawrence's debut in some ways.Definitely in my top 5 fantasy debuts of the year.

I really enjoyed Court too. Just bought The Witchwood Crown.

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On 7/16/2017 at 5:11 AM, Triskan said:

I think it's darkly humorous to think something called "Warbreaker" can be the "something lighter."

I finished Denis Johnson's The Laughing Monstors which was like a weaker John Le Carre novel.

I'm almost done with EL Doctorow's City of God which is up there for the least accessible book I've ever read.

 

Come on, it's Bakker we are talking about ;)

Also see @Damelon reading The Quarry as a palate cleanser from Bakker.

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On 7/16/2017 at 5:11 AM, Triskan said:

I think it's darkly humorous to think something called "Warbreaker" can be the "something lighter."

I finished Denis Johnson's The Laughing Monstors which was like a weaker John Le Carre novel.

I'm almost done with EL Doctorow's City of God which is up there for the least accessible book I've ever read.

 

Come on, it's Bakker we are talking about ;)

Also see @Damelon reading The Quarry as a palate cleanser from Bakker.

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Warbreaker - Gosh, this was awful. Arguably the worst piece of shit I have ever read (and I have read Queen of Fire from Anthony Ryan). Terrible writing (like real terrible even for pre-Stormlight Sanderson's standards), the most unfunny humor I have ever seen, and absolutely no redeeming quality.

And how on Earth, 'certain parts of her anatomy' for 'her tits' passed an editor?

Rating: -infinite out of 5

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2 hours ago, TheRevanchist said:

Warbreaker - Gosh, this was awful. Arguably the worst piece of shit I have ever read (and I have read Queen of Fire from Anthony Ryan). Terrible writing (like real terrible even for pre-Stormlight Sanderson's standards), the most unfunny humor I have ever seen, and absolutely no redeeming quality.
 

Isn't it amazing how much he's gotten better? And Warbreaker is a must-read-once simply because its tie to later books.

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3 hours ago, TheRevanchist said:

Warbreaker - Gosh, this was awful. Arguably the worst piece of shit I have ever read (and I have read Queen of Fire from Anthony Ryan). Terrible writing (like real terrible even for pre-Stormlight Sanderson's standards), the most unfunny humor I have ever seen, and absolutely no redeeming quality.

And how on Earth, 'certain parts of her anatomy' for 'her tits' passed an editor?

Rating: -infinite out of 5

I read this as "Windbreaker" which was even funnier after reading your review.

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On 7/16/2017 at 7:43 PM, Starkess said:

I finished The Shadow Rising. I like this one a lot. 

It's been a long time since I last read the Wheel of Time, but I definitely remember thinking that this and Fires of Heaven were where the series peaked.  If I started rereading I think I'd be tempted to stop around this point...

(Nynaeve and Elayne's subplot in the next book isn't much better, if memory serves.)

13 hours ago, Summer Bass said:

I finished Francis Spufford's Golden Hill literally just a few minutes ago (I started reading it and read it all the way through). It is so very good, easily the best fiction I've read this year, and some of the best historical fiction I've ever read. If you haven't read either that or Spufford's Red Plenty, I strongly recommend both. 

I really like Red Plenty a lot, though it's a rather strange not-quite-novel and it's hard to explain what makes it so interesting.  Somehow I hadn't realised that Spufford had ever written anything else. Sounds promising though -- I'll look out for this. 

12 hours ago, AncalagonTheBlack said:

Also finished the epic fantasy debut, The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark.Unique voice and some pretty prose

I've also started reading this recently but I suspect it might not really be for me..  Would you say that it was self contained enough to be worth carrying on with even if I'm not sure I'd be interested in reading any of the sequels?

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3 hours ago, brunhilda said:

Isn't it amazing how much he's gotten better? And Warbreaker is a must-read-once simply because its tie to later books.

That's funny, cause I think he's gone downhill since then.

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1 hour ago, Plessiez said:

It's been a long time since I last read the Wheel of Time, but I definitely remember thinking that this and Fires of Heaven were where the series peaked.  If I started rereading I think I'd be tempted to stop around this point...

(Nynaeve and Elayne's subplot in the next book isn't much better, if memory serves.)

I'm too much of a glutton for punishment to stop now! I've read the series through a couple times so it's kind of just a nice meandering tale that I don't mind getting lost in. Especially since it's been a few years now, so I've forgotten enough to make it somewhat fresh. Although yeah, Elayne and Nynaeve subplot in FoH so far does get worse. I don't think they're a great pairing! 

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