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Maia

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  1. I read the Striga story and played about half of the first "Witcher" game and was indeed very confused for the first couple of episodes, particularly since they didn't visibly age Jaskier from appearance to appearance to give me a hint of what was going on. I understood what was happening by the third episode, though. Having watched to the end, I have now googled some of the characters and honestly, it seems that in many cases their stories are super convoluted, contrived and corny even in the source material. Constantly invoked "Law of Surprise" and "Destiny", really? I enjoyed what we were shown of the mages, who seem to be a lot like Aes Sedai from WoT, but their powers and limitations seem to fluctuate wildly according to the needs of the plot. I also liked Geralt, with his library of grunts and Yennefer's Buildungsroman. Cintran plotline was the weakest, though I liked Calanthe (though her last battle seriously undermined her credibility as a warrior-queen) and Ciri was alright, too. All in all, there is lots of room for improvement, but I was entertained.
  2. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    So, what did you think of it? Yea, I very much hope for at least one more in this world, because some important things fundamental to the setting remained unexplained. A weird thing happened with my reading - you know how sometimes certain ideas kinda permeate the air and a number of books/movies with similar premises gets conceived at the same time independantly of each other? In my case, I picked 4 books where I knew nothing about the premises of the 3 of them except that they were supposed to be SF and it somehow turned out that all 4 of them deal with similar concepts. "Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O" by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. Takes on a hoary trope which I normally despise - the conflict of magic and technology and why they can't coexist, in an interesting way. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a slog that is twice as long as it needed to be and also commits the sin of carefully establishing limitations on it's time travel only then to gleefully throw them all away for the sake of some dubiously humorous action. Limitations on what can and can't be changed without causing a catastrophe are arbitrary and don't make much sense, IMHO. Also the ending is unsatisfying because they seemingly want to write a sequel. "Permafrost" by Alistair Reynolds - more time travel! Also, surprisingly, even more badly justified and logically flawed than in the above. The problems they have either could have been solved with means much simpler than the time travel or couldn't be helped even with it. What is more, the ending just doesn't work at all. Massive disappointment, since I really liked his "Revenger". "The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August" by Claire North - the only one of the bunch where I knew the premise in advance - basically "Groundhog Day", only stretched to a whole life - and kinda resisted picking it up until now because of it, in spite of all the praises. Needless to say, I was a fool and it was excellent. "Dark Matter" by Blake Crouch. 2/3 of it is a forgettable "Sliders" imitation, then there is an interesting twist which is ultimately dealt with in a problematic manner IMHO. Also, this is touted as a story about love, among other things, but it really is more about a dangerous obssession, IMHO, only the author doesn't realise it.
  3. Maia

    Young Adult Books: Discuss!

    To be fair, that's par for the course for Black's novels featuring Fae, which I blew through a few months back - they are quick and entertaining reads, but the formula becomes ever more evident the more of them you read. They Fae are initially presented as inhuman and dangerous, but then, of course, there has to be romance and that special someone has to be relateable and a wholesome match for the heroine, so... I really hoped that this series would try something else, given how different the first 2 books were and what an unusual protagonist Jude was, sigh. BTW, isn't the widespread YA/romance trope of somebody who bullies and threatens the heroine turning out to be a weebo with a tragic background who is secretly attracted to her, really toxic? I couldn't agree more with the rest of your criticisms, but I wanted to add something re: Madoc:
  4. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    "The Queen of Nothing" by Holly Black. A disappointing conclusion to a very promising YA trilogy, the first 2 books of which took interesting chances with the formula only to gleefully jump back into it's embrace in the 3rd and to tie quite a few plotlines in a very perfunctory and unsatisfying manner. I do like her take on the Fae and how their lives intersect with and affect (and endanger) those of modern(ish) people, but she needs to take more risks with her characters and overall plots, IMHO. "The Secret Chapter" by Genevieve Cogman. Another installment in her "Invisible Library" series - this time a heist novel. Loved it. "Storm Cursed" by Patricia Briggs. Another installment in her "Mercedes Thompson" series. This is N°12 and I am getting fed up with the "Queen Bee" syndrom, which she seemed to be easing up on, but now returned to with a vengeance. I am tired of (nearly) all women hating/snubbing the heroine because they are jealous of her romantic relationships and friendships with various men or because they think that she is not worthy of/good for her male love interests/friends or whatever. It doesn't make her cool, it only exposes the self-hating sexism of the respective romance tropes. Ditto, very uneven and gender-dependant application of moral judgement, where evil men are always more redeemable. "Full Throttle" short fiction collection by Joe Hill. I don't like pure horror as a rule, but I guess that he has something that kept me interested enough to finish it. Now listening to "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky and liking it, and reading "Permafrost" novella by Alistair Reynolds - which seems rather similar to GRRM's "The Fortress" so far.
  5. Maia

    The books coming out in 2020

    @AncalagonTheBlack : would you recommend John Gwynne's "Of Blood and Bone" books? The first 2 have arrived in my library, but I didn't know whether to try them or not.
  6. Maia

    The books coming out in 2020

    Most anticipated SFF books in 2020 according to tor.com: https://www.tor.com/2019/11/26/the-25-most-anticipated-sff-books-of-2020/#more-524115 The recommendation text snippets are rather cringeworthy, for some reason, but all in all a decent overview. I am interested to various degrees in maybe half of the featured books.
  7. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    "Gideon the Ninth" by Tamsyn Muir - space necromancers and swordspeople get embroiled in a deadly mystery. Swashbuckling tale with the unusual imagery/setting and snappy dialog. Loved it. I still have quite a few questions, though, some of which will hopefully be answered in the sequels: "The Ninth House" by Leigh Bardugo - her answer to Lev Grossman's "The Magicians", I guess, except that she doesn't go for secondary world setting and puts the magical societies into Yale directly. So, not quite urban, but college-town fantasy, I guess? Our protagonist Alex Stern has a very chequered past, but for once her ability to see and interact with ghosts that ruined her youth works in her favor and gets her a full-ride scholarship to the Ivy-league university, where she is supposed to ride herd on the use of magic. Hijinks ensue. I liked it well enough. "La Belle Sauvage" by Philipp Pullman - really liked about 2-3 -3/4 of it, but then it turned into a slog with a helping of unnecessary unleasantness.
  8. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    Is it a different series than the one about a boy becoming an apprentice assassin? And if so, is it a significant improvement? Because I remember skimming the first book of the assassin one and feeling that it was very clichéd. Yea, my 8-year-old niece, who is burning through the audiobooks like there is no tomorrow (luckily, our library system is pretty good) couldn't get into it. Admittedly, she was listening to the German version, which I didn't try. I don't think that she got to the Toad-heavy parts, which she might have liked more, because of all the action and humor. Anyway, onwards to book impressions: "Memory Called Empire" by Arkady Martine, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The narrative deals with the complex mix of fascination, cultural admiration/emulation, resentment and terror which the titular space empire - which seems to be the mixture of the Roman, Chinese and Aztec influences, inspires in it's neighbours. All filtered through the experiences of a new ambassador from a small polity which finds itself uncomfortbly close to the empire's ever expanding borders. Some things are still unclear to me, though: "Walking to Aldebaran" by Adrian Tchaikovsky - a disappointment. The story was appropriately a slog, but also pointless in the end, IMHO. Also, it is a pet peeve of mine, but how difficult is it to google appropriate Russian names, if you have allegedly Russian characters in your book? Even though Adrian wisely left out the patronymics, spending a minute or so on checking the most popular Russian baby girl names, leave alone how female family name endings work, seems to have been beyond him, which is why there are such pearls as Magda(!!) Proshkin(!) and Kathrin(!!) Anderova. P.S. forgot to mention that the plot is about an incompetent expedition attempting to research a mysterious alien artefact beyond Pluto.
  9. It also means that he increasingly needs to worry about the non-Magi too, if he can be killed by normal means. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if in the first trilogy somebody knew enough to hack off his head while he was unconscious. Judging by his very cocky attitude and the fact that he continues to travel through troubled regions by his lonesome, presumably not much. Khalul and plenty of Eaters apparently still being around confirm my suspicion that it is very difficult to actually kill active mages, waning of magic or no. Even if he can't be killed, though, widespread technology would eventually put a stop to his ability to dominate the whole region.
  10. I thought that there was a very definite and satisfying closure and that it was perfectly clear that he was about to die? In fact, I was surprised that he lived for as long as he did. I really hope so, because otherwise it looks like Glokta inexplicably got pretty dumb almost as soon as he took over the actual running of the Union. But the way he didn't prepare Savine (or Ardee) for what is surely coming and didn't stop her from going to Valbeck worries me. But the orders to execute the Breaker leaders ASAP did come directly from Glokta himself - and it should have been clear to him how it would bolster the Burner position in the future, so I dunno. Also, there is something very odd going on with Resenau(?), Valbeck's traitorous Inquisition Superior and his staff. The man acts almost hypnothised and how likely would it have been for all of his underlings to loyally follow him into sedition, rather than rat him out? Yet, his Practicals somehow remained his devoted bodyguards throughout and we didn't hear anything about his subordinate Inquisitors at all. However we look at it, Valbeck's Inquisition presence was suspiciously light. And then, there is the way Glokta handled Leo dan Brock, which was almost calculated to get the latter's hackles up... Honestly, if not for how a massive societal explosion would put Ardee and Savine directly into the line of fire, I'd have been convinced that Glokta is orchestrating things in order to try to get rid of Bayaz. But maybe he is counting on this very issue to deflect suspicion and is cold-blooded enough to sacrifice them, in the end. Is there any reason for Bayaz to think that alternate forms of governance are viable? And sufficiently stable for his purposes in the long term? Also, I disagree that it is easier to rule a republic/democracy behind the scenes than a monarchy or a dictatorship. In the latter case, you'd need just a couple of key figures to run things according to your plans, while the former could be fairly unpredictable. Getting rid of powerful aristocracy doesn't require a revolution, BTW. I have been listening to the "12 Byzantine Rulers" podcast and Basil II did exactly that in Anatolia via the land ownership reform. Isn't it the other way round, though? That technological development should eventually give people means to eliminate Bayaz once and for all? It is odd that he doesn't seem to see it. But maybe he just can't be properly killed by conventional means at all. Because otherwise his enthusiasm for the firearms is very misplaced, so say the least.
  11. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    Thanks! I remembered corporal punishment for the cadets and middies and the bullying, but not the educational situation. Frankly, in aggregate it makes things worse for the sailors than in Napoleonic era navy! Because not only did at least some schools for poor people exist, but also the sailors could aspire to reach the position of a bosun or even a sailing master (if literate, numerate and gifted at mathematics), but also they could apply their professional skills in the merchant marine between and after the wars. Not to mention, why would you want lots of people who aren't highly technically skilled on a spaceship? Oh, well... Anyway, to continue about my reading in september - october: I listened to the audiobooks of : "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Graham, which is quaint and which I mostly liked, but I have to wonder how accessible to modern children it still is, since so much of the humor is going to go over their heads due to how our society changed (thankfully). "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho - pretentious claptrap slightly redeemed by the excellent reading of Jeremy Irons and "The English Patient" by Michael Ondaatje which I mostly enjoyed a lot, except for the contrived ending and somewhat overwrought romantic entanglements. But it is beautifully written and read by Ralph Fiennes. and also read Circe by Madeline Miller - which was good, but not quite as good as I expected. I like the re-imagining of Greek and Roman mythology from female PoVs, but I feel that while working against certain negative tropes, Miller fell into others. And also, while the myths are somewhat contradictory in whether they treat the 4 children of Helios and Perse and some of their children as divine or mortal, they have the excuse of coming from different sources, while she really should have picked a consistent vision. Immortal beings don't need heirs, particularly not mortal heirs. Still well-written and engaging and absolutely worth reading, though.
  12. This. In hindsight FaB's treatment of female characters looks hugely problematic to me and makes me really disappointed in GRRM, to be honest. Because if Dany's ending is in any way or form what he intended, then it looks like his plan all along was to prove all the sexist bigots in his Targaryen history right. Not to mention how incredibly hypocritical it is to claim that Dany was corrupted by the power of WMD at her disposal when various dragonless dudes repeatedly dismiss and discount female dragonriders and even diss them to their faces with no reprecussions in FaB. In fact, it is quite implausible how little clout having a dragon gave most of these women - but then it somehow morphed into "absolute power corrupts absolutely" for Dany? Eh. Too bad that they are going ahead with this and not with "last years of Valyria", as long as they are game to do the CGI dragons anyway.
  13. Maia

    Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

    Angst and moping are integral to Nick's personality throughout the series. Nevertheless, I kinda liked it. BTW, could you please remind me if position of the sailors is explained in the first volume? Because - this is not a spoiler as it is mentioned in the first few pages, IIRC - middies had to go to space as young adolescents to gain immunity to cancer caused by the handwavy fictional radiation produced by interstellar travel, but simple sailors were adults. So, could they only fly for a limited amount of time, like with lifetime radiation exposure limit iRL? And that's why this navy never could have officers rising from the ranks? Or was everybody just OK with them eventually dying horribly? Anyway, some of this stuff is from september: For some reason I really got into anthologies and collections of short fiction and blew through "Running with the Pack" edited by Ekaterina Sedia, which was sadly forgettable, "I have no Mouth, but I must Scream" and "Again, Dangerous Visions" by Harlan Ellison - the former his short story collection of the best from his 50-ties and 60-ies output and the latter an anthology of the most interesting and fresh SF authors of late 60-ies according to him. And I have to say that for the most part I enjoyed the copious and witty framework texts - both by Ellison himself and by the authors represented, more than the stories themselves. Some ideas and attitudes didn't age well, others have since thankfully become common place and were better written and utilised by later authors. Le Guin's "The Word for the World is Forest" is sadly still very much topical and there were some other interesting and well executed pieces, but on the whole I expected more. "Brief Cases" by Jim Butcher - entertaining Harry Dresden short fiction, with all the attendant quirks. "A Little Hatred" by Joe Abercrombie, which I loved.
  14. Yes it has. They had all the industries mentioned in ALH at the same or greater level of mechanization plus mass production of firearms and cannon. This last was the reason for mass conscription working so well for them militarily during the Revolution. They even had printed cloth and wallpaper production. Now, it can be that the situation of the workers wasn't all thast bad at the time, compared to the peasants or something along these lines, and, of course, the nobility wasn't involved in manufacturing like it is in the Union. But there was nothing like the indiscriminate attack on all half-way prosperous people like in Valbeck during the French Revolution. Also, it seems like iRL personalities involved played fairly defining roles in the shaping of the events . If Louis XVI had been more intelligent, more decisive and didn't whole-heartedly believe in the divine right of kings, things could have been streered in a less explosive direction or even perhaps forestalled entirely. I hope that Abercombie doesn't succomb to the temptation that many fantasy authors unfortunately can't resist of just plugging in a facsimile of a RL historical event into their secondary world, when the societies they imagined don't provide the same foundations for such developments. I mean, some kind of unpheaval is obviously being set up, but without the Enlightment, without the legacy of Athenian "democracy" and Roman republic, copying the French Revolution would feel quite contrived, IMHO. Not to mention that Orso is nothing like Louis XVI. Though, the more I think about it, the more I wonder what Glokta could have been about for the almost 3 decades. Yes, he is now old and ill and could be slipping, but honestly, in hindsight he seems to not have been very competent throughout. I kinda hope that at least some of it was on purpose, in a long-running plot to get rid of Bayaz, but we'll see. The fact that he didn't prepare Ardee and Savine for what is surely coming seriously worries me. The Judge has some really interesting blue tatoos on her legs, IIRC, or maybe on only one of them? And those black eyes? She reminds me of Bethod's sorceress. I hope that Carlot dan Eider is out of it, either moved further away from the Union or quietly dead of natural causes. She has suffered enough. I did notice one of the rioters at the factory that Savine was visiting conspiciously eating an apple, as Joru Sulfur later also does - could it have been him? Is the time-table for him then turning up in the North and coming back in time for the executions of the Breakers remotely feasible? And it seems that the orders did come directly from Glokta, so it isn't like he could have been unaware. I mean, this would give the Burners that much more clout in the future. Rikke's vision about great doors opening and revealing empty dusty space beyond them - I wonder if it could allude to somebody opening the Gates again and discovering that the demons which were supposed to be locked behind them are gone? I wonder if Savine can't be "an owl eating the lamb", somehow. How is her name pronounced? I'd say that normally she wouldn't have been considered, but there is a lot of anti-Styrian sentiment, not to mention anti-Orso one and, of course the leading nobles could see marriage to her as an opportunity to gain the throne for themselves.
  15. I really enjoyed the book - the return to this world was certainly worth it! Like all the new characters and also how the old ones are being handled, despite the strong feeling that those who managed to peacefully die are the lucky ones, heh. I have to say that after some reflection, I can't agree that the Valbeck uprising can be compared with the French Revolution, because the latter was aimed at the first 2 Estates and their many privileges, but particularly those concerning taxation and land ownership. It was by no means a "workers revolution", nor was it aimed at industrialists or the wealthy in general. Enclosures didn't play a role in it - they were more of a British thing, which the crown actually tried to oppose, but the Parliament and the more allfluent farmers supported, as well as the noble landholders. And then, there is the big question when stuff like that comes up in SF - is something like a French Revolution (or an American one, for that matter) really feasible in a world where Ancient Athens and Ancient Rome weren't such deeply embedded cultural touchstones and inextricable part of education? Is the Weaver Bayaz? Because if he wanted to get rid of the nobility, but retain and boost the industry, this wasn't the route to take. It certainly seems like he killed Jezal too. I disagree that Bayaz would profit from establishment of a republic in the Union, since it is much easier to be the puppeteer behind a few key figures, than behind an ever shifiting and fairly chaotic political landscape of an elective government. And besides, see above. Where would Bayaz even get an idea of a republic/democracy from? It does seem odd how the Union has jumped into Industrial Age without Enlightment or even adoption of firearms. Though that last seems to be imminent. In fact, I fully expect to see the floundering of northern warrior culture in this trilogy, in some doomed last war against a "modern" army, like in "The Last Samurai" movie. And what better folks to preside over it than Stour and Leo, who are totally going to team up and attack the Union? Poor Finree... I am a bit confused by Glokta's governance, though. Were those 3 disastrous wars with Styria ordered by Bayaz? Because otherwise, why? And surely he is too intelligent to think that just keeping a tight lid on things is enough to prevent an eventual explosion? What is more, I really don't understand his handling of his family, which he seems reasonably fond of. He is the most hated man of the Union, which could easily make his wife and daughter the targets of revenge once he is gone. You'd think that he would have prepared them for it and provided some exit strategies. Instead, he allowed Savine to ruffle enough feathers to also become hated and acquire a number of enemies in her own right. She even is prancing around without any bodyguards! Now, I did think that "Zuri" who returned with her brothers was an Eater, but maybe there is something to the idea that Zuri wasn one to begin with and that's why Glokta introduced her to his daughter and also didn't insist on bodyguards. Because if anyone in the Union knows how to detect an Eater it is him. He still goofed when he didn't prevent Savine from going to Valbeck without Zuri and bodyguards) in this case. to be continued.
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