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Plessiez

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  • Birthday 10/26/1984

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  1. Eh. "Build Back Better" is a pretty good slogan, I think. It's short, alliterative, almost impossible to disagree with -- I mean, what, you want to build back worse? -- and it manages to suggest a vague sense of aspirational positivity while promising absolutely nothing of substance. It's not amazing, sure (it's slightly too generic for that) but it's perfectly fine. "Keep Calm and Carry On", on the other hand, is a terrible slogan ... and one which was sensibly never actually used for its intended purpose. (I mean "carry on..." what? Being bombed by the Nazis?) Its current popularity, which I'm fairly sure only really started after the 2008 financial crash (so more than sixty years after the war it was coined for had ended), is a bizarrely ahistorical bit of faux-nostalgia. Everything I've read about this suggests that test audiences at the time hated "Keep calm..." and the other similarly-worded trial posters the Ministry of Information produced alongside it before the war began, which is why almost all copies made were soon pulped. (And they were right to hate it. It's shit.)
  2. I enjoyed Greg Egan's The Book of All Skies quite a lot. It's rather similiar to a lot of recent Egan (particularly Dichronauts and the Orthogonal trilogy) in that only so much of the book is concerned with trivia such as plot and characterisation, leaving plenty of space for the protagonists to lecture each other about the non-standard physics of the universe they live in. In this case (spoilers, I guess, since figuring this out is part of the fun of the book): My only real criticism is that the ending of the book feels pretty jarringly abrupt (to the extent the book has a real plot, there are a couple of key elements that are just ... not ever resolved, unless I missed something vital somewhere).
  3. Quite enjoying the current series two episodes in, at least in part because nobody seems to be either taking things too seriously or obviously regretting their agent talk them into taking part (and I think most series have usually got one or two people in either group). Would be pretty happy to see any of the contestants win (and, perhaps apart from VCM, I don't think I'd be surprised by any of them winning at this stage).
  4. I really like The Wire a lot. I don't know if I'd say it's the best TV show I've ever seen -- honestly, I've never been able to get into any of the other shows people tend to mention as competition -- but it definitely made a big impression on me when I first saw it and I've rewatched it quite a few times since. I think Season 4 is probably the best season, but it's been a long time since I rewatched it in full because it's pretty brutal at points. And while I remember reviewers being pretty critical of Season 5 when it came out (and I'd agree that the serial killer plot is a bit weak), it has some of my favourite moments of the whole series ("That was for Joe" / "... this sentimental motherfucker just cost us money.")
  5. Thanks for the recommendations! Will definitely check some of these out. I read Ninefox Gambit soon after it was published and I think liked it well enough. But I'm not sure I can actually remember anything about it and for some reason I never picked up the sequels. Sounds like maybe I should give the series another try though. I like what little VanderMeer I've read quite a lot (I think that's just City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword and Annihilation, plus maybe some shorter stuff in various places?). But for some reason I seem to only read his books several years after they're published, which is probably why I've not got around to Borne yet. Will try to fix that. Hunters and Collectors sounds really interesting but (at least in the UK) it also seems to be out of print now. I'm a big fan of the Terra Ignota series, but I'd agree that I don't think it's "weird" in quite the same way I was thinking of. (Though I'm not exactly how best to express what I was thinking of, really. Horror-adjacent, maybe? Characters confronted with a universe which is fundamentally alien and unknowable, though perhaps not actively hostile? As I said, some of Adam Roberts stuff comes close to what I have in mind, and probably more overt horror stuff would too, if I had the stomach for it.) Will definitely try Gnomon at some point soon.
  6. Finished this today. Think my take is basically the same as yours (but maybe slightly more positive?). I enjoyed the premise. I liked both the main POV characters and (most of) the supporting cast, and I thought some of the more mystical/nihilistic passages when Yasira experiences the Outside were really nicely done (I'm thinking in particular of the start of Chapter 17, but there were other similarly evocative moments). But at the same time I was slightly disappointed by the direction the plot went in towards the end of the story. I think I was hoping for either something weirder or, alternatively, some more concrete revelations about the backstory. Still, I see that the sequel is already out, so I might try that soon. What other weirdness-infused sci-fi would you recommend instead? (I couldn't find the other post you mentioned.)
  7. I recently finished Aliette de Bodard's The House of Shattered Wings, which I enjoyed well enough but perhaps not so much that I'm going to be rushing to buy the sequels. I think it has a certain New Weird energy to it, in some respects, though apparently it came out in 2015. Now reading Ada Hoffman's The Outside, which I've been meaning to start for a while. I'm a little bit over a hundred pages in now and liking it a lot so far: it's a nice mix of space opera and philosophical horror (it reminds me a little bit of Adam Roberts' The Thing Itself in that regard). Without going into spoilers, it feels at the moment that there's an obvious twist the book is pointing towards, though I'm sort of hoping that that's a red herring. But I guess I'll find out soon...
  8. It's been a few years, but I remember really liking this when I read it. (As I recall, it's not just a collection of the previously published novels but also a slight rewrite/edit, although I didn't ever read the originals so I don't know how big any of the changes made were.) There's a sequel series in progress too (the third book of which comes out this month, I think?), but for some reason I found that I didn't like the first book of that quite as much as I was hoping to, and I've not got any further with it yet.
  9. I'm starting to come around to the idea that the current (second) season of Taskmaster NZ is, in fact, the best season of Taskmaster in any iteration. Jeremy Wells is no Greg Davies, but in almost every other respect I think this season has been as good as (or better than) any season of the original show. (I think it actually helps quite a bit that I have no idea who any of the contestants are other than 'people on Taskmaster NZ'). And belatedly joining the Alan Davies discussion: I think it's worth noting that on QI Davies is very much playing a role (of "bumbling idiot who says the obvious wrong answers a lot"), which isn't necessarily how he's going to approach Taskmaster. (I'm old enough that my subconcious insists that Alan Davies is really Jonathan Creek, eccentric genius and occasional detective, which makes watching him on QI slightly confusing for me.)
  10. I read Katherine Addison's The Goblin Emperor recently and it was ... fine? @dog-days compared the semi-sequel to Bujold's fantasy work, which I'd agree with: but I think I mean that in a somewhat more negative way. The main character was certainly sympathetic (and there's a scene around 400 pages in that I'll admit to finding surprisingly moving), but despite the nominally high-stakes I never really felt particularly worried that anything bad or surprising would happen. I'd agree that Stardust isn't Gaiman's best work (I think his best work isn't found in any of his novels, really, except maybe Coraline: I like his work on Sandman and some of his short stories a lot more). But it's perhaps worth noting (if you didn't know already?) that Stardust wasn't orignally written as a conventional novel. It's a bit like Pratchett's Eric in that the original version was written to be illustrated (and the illustrations are, I think in both cases, about as important as the actual text alone); and a bit like Eric too in that it was later released in a version without the illustrations.
  11. Finished this today and I liked it a lot (and I suspect I'd have liked it even more if I'd remembered more of the previous book). Only slight criticism I have is that the ending is, I think, a little too neat (or perhaps just that the major crisis of the story is resolved a little too abruptly). On a couple of occasions I assumed that the book was dropping hooks for a sequel, but I then read this interview with Martine from 2019 which implies there might not be one (Martine states that she'd like to write other books in the same universe, but implicitly not with the same group of characters). Which slightly surprised me, though on reflection it probably shouldn't have: it's not as though this volume ends on any sort of cliffhanger.
  12. I finished The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox. Not entirely convinced by this one either, but I did mostly enjoy it. As far as I can tell it's being pretty heavily marketed towards people who don't really read much traditional SF, and in particular to people who liked Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Which I think is a bit unfortunate for a couple of reasons: one being that it's not (in my opinion) quite as good as Clarke's book, but the other being that (mild spoilers): I definitely don't regret reading this, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it either. Now moving on to Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace. Her previous novel A Memory Called Empire was one of the last books I read before the pandemic hit and (perhaps relatedly) I can't really remember anything about it, although I do think that I liked it.
  13. Briefly resurrecting this thread to note that Jan-Krzysztof Duda just won the Chess World Cup, beating Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in the last two rounds. Looking towards the 2022 Candidates Tournament (which, apparently, is still scheduled for next year, though logistically I don't quite understand how that is going to work: presumably the Grand Prix will be played at some sort of hyper-accelerated rate?), that means that four places are already filled: Karjakin and Duda, as the top two finishers of the World Cup; Teimour Radjabov (who basically takes the place of the wildcard this year, as I understand it); and the loser of the Carlsen-Nepomniachtchi match to be played this year. It's no longer possible to qualify for the Candidates by rating alone, so I have no idea who will take the other four places. According to Chessbase, there are two places up for grabs in this year's coming Grand Swiss Tournament and two more in the Grand Prix event. Not personally thrilled by the Grand Swiss side of things, which feels like a bit of a regressive step (and I don't think Wang Hao's presence in the Candidates made a great case for this method as a way of selecting candidates either). But at least we're not back in the dark days of FIDE pretending the world championship could be decided by a single knockout tournament.
  14. I've just finished Paul McAuley's War of the Maps and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. It's certainly quite different from the only other books by McAuley I've read (Something Coming Through and Into Everywhere), although I'm not sure I enjoyed it as much as I did those two. Without going into spoilers, I had some issues with both the pacing of the narrative and of the directions that the plot went in towards the end. I certainly didn't dislike it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. It's a shame, because I really like the idea of the setting, too. Perhaps I'm being influenced by the discussion of China Mieville earlier in this thread, but I think War of the Maps wouldn't have been out of place in the early 2000s New Weird in a lot of ways (although maybe Vance's Dying Earth books or Wolfe's Book of the New Sun are the more obvious comparisons).
  15. Midnight's Children is the only Rushdie I've read, too; about a decade or so ago now if I had to guess. I actually liked it a lot (but then, I liked Günter Grass's The Tin Drum too, so maybe that's not much of a surprise...). But for whatever reason I've never really felt much of an urge to read anything else by Rushdie. I finished this the other day. Liked it quite a bit, though I'm not sure when I'll be picking up the sequel. It was, strangely, a lot less depressing than I thought it was going to be (there were a couple of scenes/plot developments I found unpleasant, sure, but not necessarily depressing). Though I have a feeling that Parable of the Talents might make up for that. And yeah, it felt surprisingly modern in a lot of ways. (Werthead's review from back in March is, I think, what finally prompted me to pick this up after years of having it on various to-read lists. His review talks about the decline of the USA in the book being the result of the accumulation of a number of different issues, but -- maybe just because I'm reading it in 2021 -- the collapse seemed to be pretty clearly the result of climate change to me.) (Pointless pedantry on my part, but:) it's Common Era, isn't it?
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