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Everything posted by dog-days

  1. In the UK, the banks are always more important than mere human beings trying to have a life. Today I paid £3.65 to sit in a café and drink one coffee. I'm really dumb. (In the recent past, it was £1.99. So I was still dumb, just not to the same extreme).
  2. Long post because I’m meant to be revising for a short test tomorrow morning and naturally found a great way to procrastinate. Finished Robin Hobb's Soldier Son trilogy. The below contains BIG SPOILERS for both it and the Farseer books up to the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. Obviously, I found it very readable since I got through its 2243 pages in about a week. I'm still not quite sure what to make of it, or how much I liked it. It does have some strong similarities to the Fitz books, especially Assassin's Apprentice, and they were at the back of my mind for much of my experience of this her lesser-known fantasy trilogy. I still haven’t read the Rain Wild Chronicles. Having listened to the audio books for the final Fitz trilogy and thus being at least partially spoiled, I’m not sure if I should or not. Any advice?
  3. Just looked up the author. Sounds very promising. I've placed a hold on The Dream of Scipio, since it's the only one by him my local library service has at the moment.
  4. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. I liked it better than the original cosy crime novel The Thursday Murder Club featuring pensioners at a retirement village as the leads, though both books were readable and gently humorous. The characters seemed to have settled into themselves a little more; although they're still very much 'types', they aren't drawn overly-crudely, and the writing has a kind of sensitive, affectionate eye that made me care about them. Of the regulars, Ibrahim in particular was more developed this time around. Middle-of-the-road, but in a very likeable sort of way. A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine. Again, I preferred this to the first novel, putting me in a minority of responses. I remember finding the voice of Mahit in that rather too close to that of an informal-and-slightly-neurotic 21st century blogger. That seemed toned down this time. On the other hand, an ongoing problem I've had with A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace is that a lot of the characters don't seem sufficiently differentiated in voice or personality. So many of them are intelligent, highly functional, rather dispassionate political addicts. There doesn't seem to be anyone with ADHD or autistic characteristics, just as an example. No one plays trombone really badly in the space-faring equivalent of a brass band during their spare time. That might be a feature of the setting. I can't recall the original's world-building now, but it seems quite possible that both the Teixcalaanli Empire and Lsel Station filter their populations heavily either through genetic manipulation or the education system so that only a certain kind of person - rational, ambitious, both social and socially manipulative - makes it into the political and military spheres through which Mahit travels. I continue to enjoy stationer Mahit's conflict about her relationship to the Empire, heightened through her imago Yskandr's own dose of autocratophilia. Particularly well-done was her surprise in finding out (more, seeing confirmed in reality) that her own home Lsel Station has a culture, and is capable even of creating cultural works that her Teixcalaanli almost-girlfriend can appreciate. Martine has said that there will be more Teixcalaan though not direct sequels; I really hope this will include perspectives of people who aren't high-ranking Teixcalaan or engaged in a life-long love affair with the culture. The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison. I did enjoy this, though can't currently remember much about it. The plot around the dead girls was a powerful one, and skilfully interwoven with Celehar's day-to-day life as Witness for the Dead. The setting and denouement of felt as if they should have felt more atmospheric/haunting than the writing allowed them to be. I know Addison excels in being matter-of-fact, but I think she could have afforded to run the risk of purple prose there and draw things out a touch. But that's not a serious complaint. The change in Celehar's status and make me interested to see in what direction the next book goes. I don't want the series to leave is roots completely and go into being high politics all the time, but it would be great if Celehar could be called back to investigate something for Maia at some point. The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. Yeah, this made me happy this week. As others have said, the magic system in the books has got to be one of the best in modern fantasy. The andat are terrifying. In terms of polish, Abraham's definitely come on since writing this series. The characterisation in the Dagger and Coin felt in several cases (Geder, Cithrin, Dawson and Annalise Kalliam) advanced on pretty much anything here; while Age of Ash benefited from having a smaller cast with more focus on each PoV. Some of the plotting is kind of questionable and depends on coincidence, and I wonder if after finishing, Abraham decided he never wanted to write another love triangle again, because there are three on offer here. But I didn't care. If someone said, 'I want an intelligent adventure story with sympathetic characters that will keep me glued to the pages from beginning to end' I'd put Book 1 of the Long Price Quartet in their hands, make sure they had a comfy chair, then leave them to it.
  5. Regeneration by Barker was one of my A-level set texts. Many years on and I still haven't read the rest of the trilogy; not because the first book wasn't good, but because it was perhaps too good at depicting its subject unflinchingly. A great deal of research must have gone into the writing, but it was worn lightly. I have never read Mary Renault. However, fans and even the uninitiated like me might enjoy Daniel Mendelsohn's essay in the New Yorker The American Boy about growing up reading and corresponding with Renault.
  6. Duolingo might be helpful for Ukrainian? I don't use it myself, but quite a few of the Welsh learners I know seem to. I was looking up the rates of inflation by European country (the UK somewhere in the middle, though higher than Germany and France, its closest analogues) and saw that Turkey's inflation rate is at a 79.6%. Apparently, Erdogan has been doing the opposite of most countries and slashing interest rates. Will be interesting to see what happens there over the next couple of years.
  7. By the name of [fantasy god moniker of choice], how does he do it? Is he really identical triplets? Also, is my local library service going to buy it?
  8. [Snip] just lost a fight against my elderly phone. Quoted/replied when I meant to edit.
  9. Didn't mention it in my initial post since I'm pretty sure the man himself wouldn't have wanted it brought up, but a lot of the denizens of the video games thread will of course remember Warner as the voice of Jon Irenicus in Baldur's Gate 2. Another villain, but such a good one. Michael Billington's recollections of him on stage @TheLastWolf I hope your cricketer is as good as my actor.
  10. David Warner's died. I loved his voice. Was lucky enough to see him act live on stage a couple of times around fifteen years ago after he began his live theatre comeback. Guardian obit. Never met him, but was always left with a positive impression from what I heard. He joined the protests against the Iraq War.
  11. I'll finish listening to it then go check out the evisceration.
  12. Have heard very good things about the latter. I went for The Dawn of Everything after seeing an intriguing review of it on dreamwidth a few months ago, which now, irritatingly, I can't find.
  13. Police arrived at 1am to take away my next door neighbour in the shared house I live in. I woke up when the male policeman said he'd kick the door down if she didn't open it, with a loud enough voice to get through my noise cancelling headphones. She'd apparently been threatening to hurt someone else and/or herself. No problem there - it's just frustrating that when this happens they always bring her back after a day or two instead of leaving her somewhere a long long way away from me. My upstairs neighbours have been having enthusiastic (celebratory?) sex on-and-off since then. More power to them. Couldn't get back to sleep probably because of raised stress hormones or something, and have given up on it. Feeling fine now, but work later today isn't going to be fun. Saving for a deposit is a grand idea, but I often wish I could borrow the TARDIS and jump eight months into the future. ETA: Bugger it, she's back. The one person in the world who isn't a politician that I could wish extradited to North Korea. This post probably sounds deeply heartless to people who haven't lived cheek-by-jowl to her for eight months. I just know that I wasn't on beta blockers when I came here, but I am now.
  14. One Day All This Will Be Yours sounds like crazy fun. I'll move it further up my Tchaikovsky reading list. Every time I think I'm making headway with his back catalogue, he brings something else out, or I hear of one of his off-the-beaten-track novellas. I've started listening to The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow. So far so good. I was getting increasingly frustrated that they kept mentioning indigenous sources, and indigenous critiques, but then not specifying them or quoting them at all. However, they have just started to refer to Pierre Biard's account of his interactions with the Mi'kmaq of Acadia/Nova Scotia, and hopefully the trend will continue. There was a brief discussion of how the word 'equality' was used in European languages prior to the Enlightenment with the claim that it was never used politically — it didn't immediately sound wrong, but at the same time, I wish the authors had brought a trained linguist on board to discuss it in more depth. Part of the evidence cited to show how preferable indigenous societies could be as set against those of the European colonisers was that children kidnapped by indigenous groups often chose to stay, or to return to those groups when offered the choice. I'm afraid, being a gloomy person, that this reminded me rather of Gitta Sereny, who before her career as a journalist and writer worked for the United Nations in the difficult business of reuniting 'Aryan' children stolen by the Nazis with their birth families. The children often didn't remember their birth families at all and were distraught. (Note: this isn't me saying that American indigenous societies were like the Nazis, and I'm sure plenty of Europeans chose to stay with the tribes because they were basically fairer, nicer places to be. It was just the particular example of kidnapped children/infants that made me blink a bit.) I'm actually happy to get on board with their overall arguments; their appeal was part of what made me choose to spend my monthly audible credit on the book. Some aspects seem a bit thin at the moment, but then I think the authors are still warming to their subject.
  15. Seen on Twitter. A WW2 map of Ireland to discourage thoughts of invasion: https://twitter.com/135thdegree/status/1550859742414884864?s=20&t=_KmleKUj17-wsn2hP9chgg
  16. The thin silver lining being that at least after this, Alzheimer's research will hopefully now move in different, more effective directions. Sodding awful though. Shocking that it's taken so long for this to come to light. I was going to say "at least the MMR-autism study fraud was debunked quickly" but then checked, and found it actually took twelve years. The original science.org article by Charles Piller
  17. Finished Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I didn't realise until Googling it five minutes ago that this was actually the middle-book of a loosely-connected trilogy. The final part is due in November this year. Enjoyed it a lot more than his sci-fi standalone The Doors of Eden, even though it had a similarly wide range of point-of-views. Of particular interest to me was the civilisation of artificially evolved octopuses that seemed to be riffing partly on the idea of what it would be like if Twitter were a race of cephalopods. Tchaikovsky doing sci-fi seems like a more utopia-minded writer than Tchaikovsky doing fantasy. Apparently it's easier for him to imagine genetically-modified/genetically other species working wisely and kindly together than bog-standard humans. No arguments here.
  18. Couldn't sleep, still can't, and went for an insomniac twenty-minute walk downhill as far as the student pub zone. Everywhere was closed, and the last few patrons, two young men and a woman, were about to head home. Said one of the boys to the other in a ringing voice that carried easily over thirty metres: "I just wanted to take all the chairs away and tell her to sit on my face. Fucking hell, man, she was so hot." If I'm ever dumb enough to buy a flat in an area with nightlife, I hope it has triple glazing.
  19. My forearms got eaten by horseflies as I walked along an overgrown path between two fields on Saturday. I look as if I've got the plague, and the bites are bloody itchy. No suggestions - just sympathy.
  20. I've got a hold on the library's copy of The Grief of Stones, which is on order but hasn't arrived yet. If it takes more than a couple of weeks, I may crack and buy it as a present to myself for *checks calendar* Sarawak Independence Day. In the meanwhile, I read The Second Sleep by Robert Harris. A young priest Fairfax is sent to a remote west country village by his bishop to preside over the funeral of another, older priest. The novel starts with him on horseback, facing difficult weather, a town with an occupied gibbet, and unhelpful locals sitting outside an inn. The book's reception on this board was luke-warm to chilly pace Ordos, but I liked it. It's not a brilliantly original work, but it is a well-told adventure story written in clear, steady prose, one that kept me absorbed for a good part of the weekend. I also finished listening to The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Disclaimer: I was listening to this over the course of a month in my second language often while doing the ironing, so my impressions aren't that fair. Anyway, this was the first Tchaikovsky I've read (of Guns of the Dawn, Dogs of War, Spiderlight and Elder Race) that I didn't much care for. Short summary: a group of beings from parallel Earths are drawn together to try and save the universe. The book is a mixture of plot and essay-like sections about the nature of intelligent life on the other Earths. Oddly, it was the essay sections that tended to be more entertaining since it was clearly Tchaikovsky having fun and letting his imagination out to play. I particularly enjoyed the race of giant felines who control their primate servants through a parasite that infects them with feelings of awe and wonder in the presence of a cat. However, the actual story felt oddly shapeless, and the large cast of characters (including five point-of-views at least) were underdeveloped. It also lacked a strong villain —Rove the evil businessman is a cardboard cut-out with a personality that's basically a series of post-it notes - scarlet post-it notes written in all-caps in black felt-tip. Despite the imminent end of everything, there wasn't much sense of peril. Everyone minus Rove was fairly sensible, and it was pretty obvious they'd be able to find a solution without breaking much sweat or facing any big dilemmas. To my moderate shame, there have been a couple of books that I didn't finish. One was The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip. I bounced hard off the style, which came across as twee and mannered. I seem to have less tolerance for stylistic variation than I used to. The other was Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor. It started with a massacre and went on to FGM. I decided some emergency PG Wodehouse was in order.
  21. I think I could handwave the incestuous vibe between Luther and Sloane because I kind of expect every single Hargreeves to make fucked-up choices to a degree. I didn't feel the show was pressuring me to find it not creepy - just, as you say, less creepy than Luther and Alison. (Have any of the Umbrellas ever managed a completely healthy relationship? There's been so much plot over the last three seasons that I find it hard to keep track). With any other set of characters, I'd have been deeply frustrated that they were hanging around having a drawn-out family spat right before the apocalypse instead of trying to save the universe; with the Umbrellas and surviving Sparrows, I just shrug. It's them being them. They can't do any different. I would have enjoyed finding out more about Christopher. Especially if it turned out that he hadn't always been a giant floaty electric cube.
  22. I agree, though I hope he isn't played as a straight villain - that would be much too boring. He's easily my favourite UA supporting character.
  23. Yes, ditto, already very much wanting Season 4. I've just managed to binge S3 before my Netflix sub runs out. Five and Klaus as usual were brilliant, and I really like Ritu Arya as Lila, though much more when she's being mad than when she's angsting. Also props to Colm Feore as Bad Dad Reggie, and Justin Min as Bad Brother Ben. I feel the writing for Umbrella Academy is snappy when it's having fun and furthering the plot, but often falls down when it tries to play emotion straight without snark, humour or hidden agendas. Partly because it's hard to write that kind of stuff in an engaging way; partly because the plot charges on so fast that it's almost impossible not to just look on everything as a potential plot device. Anyway, I thought this was a strong season. It rarely actually tried to be serious - at least, not without adding an extra helping of weird. Fun, fast, and self-consciously bananas. I approve.
  24. If the vacuum cleaner was anything like this, it deserves excitement and possibly worship. If I ever get one, I know I'll have made something of my life.
  25. Interesting-sounding book, albeit more difficult than the kind I'm used to reading these days. Still, I should maybe give it a go. It reminds me of the recent discovery of slave living quarters in Pompeii. I think that lupa (female wolf) was a common term for prostitute in Latin, not just in Pompeii. Hence one interpretation of the Romulus and Remus myth, that the boys weren't suckled by a wolf, but adopted by a woman who worked in the oldest trade.
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