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  • Birthday 10/26/1984

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  1. I think that the last time I posted in this thread (or maybe in its predecessor?) I was talking about starting Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren "soon". Still haven't actually done that (which I'm choosing to blame on the fact I've been sick for most of the last month), but in the meantime I've read the first two books of Naomi Novik's Scholomance trilogy (A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, which are both fun and move at an engaging pace but don't really feel particularly deep), Tasha Suri's The Jasmine Throne (this is the first book in a trilogy, I think; I liked it enough that I'll be reading the sequel), as well as rereading the first couple of Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence (Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise). I originally read the first five Craft Sequence books a few years ago (back in spring of 2017, according to Goodreads) and liked them quite a bit, although for some reason I never got around to reading the sixth one when it came out a few months later. But I enjoyed rereading the first two enough that I'm now about 75 pages into the sixth, The Ruin of Angels ... which, it turns out, heavily features a returning character from one of the books in the series I didn't get to in my reread. But hopefully I'm not forgetting anything too critical. And after I finish this, I'm definitely going to start Dhalgren. (Well, maybe.)
  2. As somebody who quite liked the book myself, I'd say that if you're not interested within the first hundred pages or so (and arguably sooner) you're probably not going to find the rest much of an improvement. There's definitely a wider plot happening in the background that the POV characters aren't fully aware of yet, but the book is really about those characters more than anything else.
  3. Yeah, that's official now. So the more interesting part of the Grand Prix's over already. I feel rather sorry for Aronian, given how close he got. Have to admit that it looks very unlikely that he'll be qualifying by rating either (despite my earlier guess). Even if there's no special exemption made for him, Ding Liren has now scheduled a lot of games over the next month and is already back up to number two in the world on the live rating list after winning the first few. Specifically, he's more than 35 points clear of Aronian, so he'd have to have some unbelievably terrible results in April to let himself be overtaken. At 39 years old, I really think this must have been Aronian's last chace to reach a world championship match. Although looking at the rating list, I'm surprised at how (relatively) old everyone on it seems. Other than Firouzja, Duda is the only player under 25 years old in the top twenty, and there are only three others in the top thirty. Feels like a few years ago that was very different (mostly because it was the same people on the list a few years ago, I guess?).
  4. Finished Startide Rising a few days ago. Not much to add to my earlier comments. There's some interestingly weird stuff in it - not surprisingly, really, given how much the setting clearly owes to the work of people like John Lilly in the 1960s and 70s - and I am glad I stuck with it, but I won't be investigating the sequels. I quite liked Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash. Agree with people who've said it's not hugely original, but I thought it was well done. That said, I wasn't entirely sure what the point of But presumably there's some other point to it that I'm just not getting right now.
  5. Yeah, I think Rapport must be safe now. The other big recent development is that Karjakin looks to have been disqualified (I think he could technically still appeal, but that doesn't seem likely). Apparently his place will be taken by whoever has the highest rating of the not-already qualified players who has also played at least 30 games since June 2021. (The 'played at least 30 games' clause seems to be there just to stop the spot automatically going to Ding Liren. Honestly, it seems to sit rather oddly with FIDE's gifting of a place in the Grand Prix to Nakamura, when he hadn't played any rated games in years.) But I think the upshot is that Aronian is probably going to the Candidates too, one way or another. He's up to #4 in the world now and Firouzja has of course already qualified. I don't think DIng Liren is going to play the 20-odd games he needs to before May 1st to qualify by rating, but I suppose he could if he really wanted to.
  6. I read Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni last week. It wasn't bad by any means, but it honestly didn't ever really grab me and I'm not entirely sure why. Though having said that I finished it pretty quickly, so I can't have disliked it that much. And in an odd coincidence I am also currently reading Brin's Startide Rising. I bounced off this pretty hard when I first tried it (sometime last year, I think), but I'm making better progress on my second attempt. About a third of the way in this time around and my take would probably be the same as Ormond's (the almost endemic sexism -- especially the way the Dennie/Sah'ot subplot is being handled so far -- is pretty offputting, and I'd rather be spending more time with the aliens). Next up after this I'm going to either read Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash or finally persuade myself to try Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren (or try to read beyond the first page, anyway).
  7. Richard Rapport just beat Dmitry Andreikin in the final of the Belgrade GP, which (when combined with his semi-final place in the first Berlin GP) seems to put him in pretty good place to reach the Candidates. But Rapport's qualification is not guaranteed yet: there are six players left who've only played in one leg so far and at least reached a semi-final, and any one of them could match or overtake him after the second Berlin GP. And -- for example -- if Nakamura reaches the final but loses to Andreikin, I believe that both of them would qualify ahead of Rapport (each would have a total of 23 GP points to Rapport's total of 20). I'm pretty torn on who I want to qualify. On the one hand, Nakamura hadn't played a rated game for two years before being handpicked by FIDE to take part, so him qualifying ahead of somebody like Giri or MVL would seem pretty unfair. But on the other hand, it would be very funny.
  8. Finished Seth Dickinson's The Tyrant Baru Cormorant. I liked it a lot. Of course, now that I'm caught up I get to enjoy the ongoing wait for the (still to be named, I think?) fourth book in the series. I'm sure I remember somebody starting a discussion thread for this series when the book first came out, but after avoiding it for fear of spoilers at the time, I'm now unable to find it again...
  9. The discussion of Marlon James above has reminded me that I only made it about halfway through A Brief History Of Seven Killings last year before giving up on it. To be fair though, that was at least partly for reasons wholly unrelated to the book itself. Might try to go back to that later this year. Meanwhile I've just finished She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan: Zhu Chongba is born into an impoverished peasant family during the final decades of the Yuan Dynasty. Despite his background, and the famine and bandit raids plauging his village, a local fortune teller confidently predicts that he is destined for greatness. Then Chongba suddenly dies, and his younger sister decides that in order to survive she has no option but to adopt both her brother's name and his destiny. This is a retelling of a period of conflict and civil war set in a fantasy analogue of China, in which the role of one of the leading historical figures is taken up by a woman. And it's a book in which the hard-working orphan protagonist is initially presented very sympathetically but takes increasingly hard-to-justify actions in pursuit of what they see as their destiny. As such, it's perhaps not surprising that it's been compared to R. F. Kuang's Poppy War series. Honestly though, I think I preferred this. Zhu is rather more sympathetic than The Poppy War's Rin, and also a little less central to the narrative; as well as Zhu, the book focuses quite a lot on the secondary protagonist, the eunuch General Ouyang, and other characters also get multiple POV chapters. And overall the story is rather less bleak in general, at least so far. (For reference, my take on The Poppy War is that I liked it quite a bit but have absolutely no plans to read the sequels.) This is the first of a planned duology; I'm not sure when the second book is out. Next: on to Seth Dickinson's The Tyrant Baru Cormorant.
  10. Finished The Monster Baru Cormorant yesterday and I liked it a lot; I'll be reading the next book in the series soon. It does feel very obviously the middle book of a sequence though and it didn't have quite the same emotional impact as the first book did. (I think I've read somewhere -- possibly on this board? -- that this book is based on only the first half of the original draft for the second book, which seems plausible although I don't know whether it's true.) I thought that the annotated map at the start of the book was really well-done as well. It's been several years since I read The Traitor Baru Cormorant, but reading Baru's scribbled notes really helped remind me of what happened in that book. This week I also read Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and its sequel Crooked Kingdom; these are both very solid YA fantasy heist novels, though I slightly preferred the former, I think.
  11. Last month I read Jade Legacy - the concluding volume in Fonda Lee's Green Bone trilogy -- and I liked it a lot. The focus of this book is a bit different to the previous two: it spans a couple of decades, and as a result introduces quite a few new characters, largely the children of the main characters from the first two books. Unavoidably perhaps, these characters aren't quite as developed as the original cast. The time period covered also means that some plot threads move at a slightly unexpected pace. In particular, the central conflict teased by the end of the second book is dealt with much sooner than I'd have guessed. But overall it was a very satisfying conclusion to the series, and probably the best thing I've read so far this year. The other books I read in January I didn't like quite as much: Cold Steel by Kate Elliott was ... fine, but not really one of her best. (I read the first two books in the Spiritwalker trilogy back in autumn 2017 but for some reason hadn't got around to the last book until now.) I think I found a lot of the background elements more compelling than the central plot. Towing Jehovah by James Morrow never really lived up to its opening premise (as the blurb puts it: "God's body is adrift in the mid-Atlanic, a menace to navigation and faith alike..."). This won the World Fantasy Award in 1995, and as I read it I was reminded quite frequently of Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas & Electric (which I read last year); largely because I think both books demonstrate that mid 90s' attempts at satire have not necessarily aged well. The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman is the latest -- and, I would assume, final -- book in the Invisible Library series. This one wasn't bad, but it definitely felt like the eighth book in a series that's had a book published every year since 2015. (And it seemed to really rush through some of the plot hooks that were shown in the previous entry.) Next up I'm going to (finally) read Seth Dickinson's The Monster Baru Cormorant (or just The Monster, to give it the far less interesting title it's lumbered with in the UK). (One book I've not read yet, despite getting hold of a copy a while ago, is Ada Palmer's Perhaps The Stars. I'm a big fan of the Terra Ignota series and in particular I think the first book, Too Like The Lightning, is one of the best SF novels I've read in the last decade. But I read the first couple of pages of this one last year and realized I had almost no memory of what had happened in the previous two books. So I think I'm going to have to reread before I can pick that up.)
  12. Well, the second half of this match was certainly something. Hard not to feel sorry for Nepo (especially with some of the press conference questions he's been asked). Assuming game 11 is yet another Carlsen win, which is looking pretty inevitable some thirty-odd moves in, this match is going to be over with three games to spare. Somewhat ironic that, after FIDE changed the regulations to make this match potentially longer than the last few, it's actually going to be the shortest world championship since the Carlsen-Anand rematch in 2014. (I hope that doesn't persuade FIDE to change back to 12 games in the future though.)
  13. Yesterday's game was a lot of fun, yes, even if it was a bit sad not to see a Grunfeld. (Though not exactly surprising, of course.)
  14. I really enjoyed this series. I think it was my favourite in quite a long time, maybe even since series 7. And definitely the best of the Channel 4 era. A few of the tasks didn't quite work, I thought (the studio tasks especially: the very final one was brilliant, but a couple of the others were kind of a mess), but the contestants were all great, which really is the key for me. Has it been announced whether the second Champion of Champions special is airing this year?
  15. And he did it (though it looks like he was a bit lucky to escape with a draw against Grischuk on Saturday: White seemed to have a close to winning position before Grischuk swapped Queens). Youngest ever player to reach 2800. Ah, fair enough: shouldn't have jumped to conclusions there. (Next year's Grand Prix is going to be the last world championship cycle event to be organised by Agon/World Chess, right? Whoever that actually is these days.) Dubov and Esipenko both sound like good bets, yes.
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