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Plessiez

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  1. I bounced off Discovery pretty hard when it first came out (I think I managed all of three episodes) and nothing I'd read about it since had made me regret that. While (unlike JMS) I have fairly fond memories of watching Deep Space 9 in the 90s, two things I really didn't like about DS9 were the frequent Mirror Universe episodes and Section 31. And, from what I could tell, the first two seasons of Discovery seem to feature both pretty heavily (as well as it being yet another prequel series). But I watched the first two episodes of Season 3 over the weekend and I actually quite liked them. They're pretty silly at times, but the characters seem mostly likeable and I think the post-Federation setting looks interesting (though it's obviously somewhat reminiscent of Andromeda). It definitely feels that the writers have used the jump forward into the future as a soft reset, and are trying to make things understandable to new viewers. The only time I felt the need to consult a wiki to understand something was actually because I'd watched more than zero previous episodes... But is there any word (official or otherwise) on how permanent the change is? I'd prefer not to start watching again if they're only going to jump back into some sort of 23rd century Section 31 conspiracy stuff halfway through the season.
  2. I enjoyed Dispersion, though as @Luzifer's right hand said it's very mainstream by Egan's standards. The main characters talk a lot about trigonometry and twelve-dimensional space, but there's not a single diagram or formula shown. And in fact, unlike some of Egan's other work, I'm not even convinced there's any substance to the mathematics that the characters discuss. This felt like a story where the strange physics was less of the focus than is usual for Egan (so closer to Perihelion Summer than The Clockwork Rocket). It definitely feels like something written in 2020: there's a mysterious plague, and arguments about how to respond to it, and in an early chapter the central character wanders through a (seemingly) deserted town. But yeah, mostly enjoyed it (though I thought the ending was a little abrupt). Feeling motivated to go and read some more Egan now, anyway, which isn't a bad thing. Heard quite a few good things about this. Haven't read your spoilers, but your description of Hilo's POV reminds me of what Chakraborty did with Ali's POV in the Daevabad trilogy, which I was definitely a fan of. I think I'm going to try to pick it up soon. Fantasy crime fiction feels like it should be a sizeable subgenre, but the only examples I can think of right now are Steve Brust's early Vlad Taltos books.
  3. I really like Greg Egan, but I'm always a bit surprised when I check his bibliography and realise how much of his fiction I've still not actually read. As well as Dispersion, I've still got to read Instantiation (I have read "3-adica", but nothing else in the collection) and I think I've missed at least one other recent-ish novel as well (probably Zendegi, but I'm honestly not completely sure). But I'm pretty tempted to try this, now: I actually think "weird physics but human characters" is Egan's strong point (well, for values of 'human' broad enough to include the cast of Orthogonal, anyway, who obviously aren't technically human at all). I've often seen it claimed that Egan can't write convincing or likeable characters, but I've never really thought that was true at all.
  4. Digging around a bit, I think James Thurber's short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1939) must be the original precedent.
  5. I think that The Dark Forest is my favourite volume of the trilogy, but I'd agree that the prose is rather dry (I'm not sure if that's a result of the translation or not, but I think it might be). As I recall, the narrative deliberately avoids dwelling on character's internal thoughts, which is definitely a deliberate choice but one that can make it hard to relate to the characters. It's also an incredibly depressing book, to the extent I find it slightly hard to recommend (especially because I think the third volume doesn't really do the trilogy justice). As I said in the dedicated thread, I just finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. (Is there a precedent for titles of the form The [Adjective] Life of [Full Name] other than Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? It feels like both titles are references to something I'm missing.) Now started Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas and Electric, one of several books that's been somewhere on my nebulous "I should probably read this one day" list for a bit more than twenty years. Once that's done, I'm either going to finally force myself to finish A Sword from Red Ice or admit that it's just not working for me.
  6. Yes, now that I've followed the link to Time's explanation of how they came up with the list, it doesn't really feel fair to blame the panel for it at all. As you note, the panel didn't choose the initial long list and it sounds like they didn't have much of a say in the final list either. In particular, I imagine it was the editors who wanted to make sure that all of the panel had books included. I also think it would have been a sensible idea to limit to one book per author, as @polishgenius suggested. And probably just explicitly limit it to novels written in English (or even novels written in English in the last hundred years), since that's effectively what this list is anyway, barring some odd exceptions. I'd quite like to see somebody organise a board-wide vote for top fantasy novels, even though I suspect I'd disagree with it almost as much as this list (or indeed, almost as much as any list). I mean, I don't especially care about the results, but I do like arguing about voting systems. Book of the New Sun is much closer to fantasy than science fiction, surely (though I think I remember that it appeared both as part of the 'Fantasy Masterworks' series and the 'SF Masterworks' series when Orion were publishing those). I'm honestly not sure it's sensible to make any firm distinction between science fiction and fantasy and magical realism though; they're ultimately more marketing labels than anything else. (Anyway, if we limited to one book per author, none of those would be on the final list because they're not Peace...)
  7. I just finished this today, actually. Quite enjoyed it. The initial premise is very close to Claire North's The Sudden Appearance of Hope, but the story goes in a pretty different direction with it. I might have liked more of a focus on the historical elements than we actually get, but ultimately that wasn't the story the book was about, which is fair enough. The two nagging thoughts I had (one mildly spoilerish, one utterly trivial, both spoiler protected just in case):
  8. Yeah, this isn't a great list. (It's not even bad in a particularly interesting way.) Also, the suggestion that The Wee Free Men is the best Discworld book is a very strange one. By my count 14 of the 100 "best" fantasy novels were written by members of the judging panel, and every member of the panel wrote at least one novel that appears on the list. Funny that.
  9. Yeah, I'm not really seeing the controversy here either. It seems a lot more like working on a programming project as a student and not getting paid for it. Which ... is true for every programming class I ever took as a student? Or, indeed, writing without being paid. Which is true for every essay I wrote as a student. The article brushes over the fact that the project might have some "pedagogical benefits", but doesn't mention that ExoTerra is an integrated component of a number of courses run by the university. In other words, the educational element is the point, not just an incidental side effect. (Maybe this is a cultural thing, but the mantra of "students deserve to profit from their ideas" makes me kind of depressed, to be honest. Surely that's not why people go to university?) The basis of the article appears to be that ExoTerra is going to eventually make somebody money, and that when it does the people who benefit should be the students. Which, yeah, okay, maybe -- if it does ("maybe" because it's not clear to me how much work Palmer and others have put into establishing the broader setting/narrative). But I'm pretty dubious about the starting assumption: the internet is full of collaborative writing exercises that people voluntarily enter into that haven't made and won't ever make anybody any money. It's not clear to me why this one would be any different. Rather than a way of trying to steal student's IP, this seems to me much more like Palmer trying to protect herself from any subsequent attempts by participants to try to claim that something she wrote is actually stolen from them. Which, since Palmer is a professional writer, seems like a fairly sensible (if depressing) precaution to take.
  10. I finished The Poppy War. Not really sure what to make of it. Ostensibly, the book is the story of Fang Runin ("Rin"), a war orphan in a loose fantasy analogue of Qing dynasty era China, who surprises the leaders of her rural village by passing the examinations necessary to enroll in the Empire's elite military training academy. And the first third of the book proceeds much as that description (or the book's blurb) suggests: Rin has to cope with the cultural and racial prejudices of her more affluent classmates and instructors, makes friends and rivals, begins learning possibly magical arts from an inscrutable mentor figure ... nothing really that surprising, though I think the execution is done rather well. But there's a very big tonal shift about two hundred pages in which completely changes the book: So ... yeah, I don't know. The switch is certainly effective, and Rin's character arc is well done (she's consistently sympathetic despite making a string of increasingly bad choices) but I'm not sure I'm in a hurry to read any of the sequels.
  11. Not really the important point in all this, of course, but something about the idea of publishing (as an original work) something that can be traced back to previously published fanfiction seems somehow ... inappropriate? (I'm not sure what word I want here, really.) I mean, I don't have any particular animus against fanfiction as such, and I know Novik's been involved in things like OTW/AO3 for decades. But it seems like there's a big difference between, on the one hand, writing fanfiction as a way of engaging with or commenting on other people's work and, on the other hand, writing fanfiction which you'll later use as material for things that you intend to profit from. Of course, nothing's ever stopped writers from basing their "original" works on that of other authors, just changing enough names and details for plausible deniability. One could probably could point to half a dozen well-known novels that appear to do this just for The Lord of the Rings. And it's probably impossible to write anything about a school for magical children in the 21st century that doesn't get compared to Rowling, one way or another. So I guess it's just the intermediate stage of actual having released the fanfiction to a wider audience that bothers me? But even ignoring the fanfiction element as such, publishing something as "original" when it's actually not just seems wrong to me. Maybe it's just a side-effect of spending too much time in academia, but ... yeah, I don't know. Self-plagiarism is still plagiarism. If you've written and released something once, you shouldn't do it again (without, at least, acknowledging the previous publication, which would obviously be a bit difficult here). To be fair, I've not actually seen the fanfic in question (the number of Harry Potter fanfictions I've ever read is one, exactly one more than the number of Harry Potter books I've read, and I plan to keep it at that). I don't even know for a fact that it exists, or that it's as similar to the book (which I've also not read) as people on Twitter claim. But it doesn't take more a than a couple of minutes on Google to see that Novik (or, to be exact, an online account belonging to somebody who claims to be Novik) has written quite a lot of HP fanfiction, largely of the type described, so the claim seem pretty credible to me.
  12. I finished Exhalation yesterday. I liked it a lot, though I did feel that the stories varied a bit in quality. In particular, I thought that the title story, "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" and "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" were all really good, but both "The Great Silence" and "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" didn't really work for me. I don't think this is because the latter two are badly written (although in hindsight it makes sense that "The Great Silence" wasn't originally written to stand on its own); I think my problem was more not really being persuaded by the central conceits of either of those stories. Overall though, I'm definitely happy to have read it. It was a nice change of pace from most of what I've been reading these last few months. Now starting R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War, but I do plan to go back and finish A Sword from Red Ice sooner or later.
  13. Don't think anybody has started a new thread yet... I finished Kate Elliott's Unconquerable Sun yesterday. I thought it was really good, and that it managed to have quite a bit more going on than the basic premise (of "Alexander the Great in space") would initially suggest. None of the various space opera elements added is particularly original on its own, but all those different elements work really well together. After a slightly slow start the plot moves at a pretty relentlessly fast pace too, jumping between two main POVs (one third person and one first, which I think shouldn't really work but does) and a handful of others. Not sure it's the best book I've read this year -- I think that's still probably Kameron Hurley's The Light Brigade -- but it's definitely the book I've most enjoyed reading. It's the first in a planned trilogy but apart from a few sequel hooks I think it stands reasonably well on its own. Now moving on to Ted Chiang's Exhalation
  14. Plessiez

    Top 10

    Anyway, my current ten favourite books (limiting myself to one entry per author and counting a "book" as anything I read in a single volume): The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) The Player of Games (Iain M Banks) The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester) Ash: A Secret History (Mary Gentle) The Dispossessed (Ursula K. Le Guin) A Place of Greater Safety (Hilary Mantel) Small Gods (Terry Pratchett) Midnight's Children (Salman Rushdie) A Suitable Boy (Vikram Seth) Litany of the Long Sun (Gene Wolfe) ... on reflection, this is basically just a list of books I liked in my early twenties, so "current" might not be the right word. Of books I've read more recently I'd be tempted to find a place for Jemisin's The Fifth Season or Palmer's Too Like The Lightning, but not really sure what else. Maybe VanderMeer's Shriek: An Afterword (which came out in 2006, but I only read in 2016) or Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.
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