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Maia

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  1. I go through periods of a few weeks of playing obssessively and then go on hiatus from gaming for months or even years. And for some bizarre reason while I had "Skyrim" for half a decade, I didn't start it until a few days ago. And I am obssessed again! Playing a stealthy character and it was huge fun so far. I am playing "naturally" - i.e. no training strategies, in fact no training until now, discovering alchemy recipes strictly in-game, etc. I am really impressed by the improvements to archery, stealth and the Thieves' Guild missions. And the atmosphere, of course, is really great, though this last is nothing new for the Elder Scrolls. Too bad that this is likely their last single-player installment in the series, what with the MMO apparently flourishing.
  2. You don't think that a mass die-off would have also nuked the economy? Particularly, given the fact that even routine medical intervention would have become inaccessible during it. Let's not go all doomsday - there are already promising leads on drugs that could be used to cure it. Not the vaccine, which is a year away at best, not new drugs that need to be extensively tested for side-effects, but stuff that has been around forever as treatments for other diseases and which is pretty cheap. So, what is needed now are bigger trials and then rapid ramping up of production. Ditto with tests and protective equipment. Getting a handle on this relatively quickly is very doable, as long as people in power aren't stupid about it. Frankly, I am shocked that military-industrial complex is so unprepared - it looks like if anybody had used a biological weapon at any point, US and NATO would have been complete sitting ducks. Puts all the terrorist hysteria of the 2000-ies in a new light... Also, this demonstrates that countries need to have their own production of certain basic medical supplies, if at all possible. Viruses can potentially be so much worse...
  3. Just finished "Prosper's Demon" and it was kind of "eh"? His shorts/novellas are normally more interesting. Is "Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City" better than "Savages"? Because I was lukewarm about the latter.
  4. I liked it, but I remember thinking that the eventual resolution was not entirely satisfying and some more intriguing things remained unexplained, like Another thing to keep in mind is that female characters are very much marginalized in it, IIRC. OTOH, the setting was very inventive and I remember that writing and characterization were pretty good. The new covers are gorgeous. P.S. Do I recall correctly that it was hinted that
  5. I am a huge fan of Hobb, but I dropped this one series after the first book. The worldbuilding was too stupid and neither plot nor characters engaged me. De gustibus and all that. Anyway, I have read some YA lately: "The Witchlands" series by Susan Dennard, consisting of "Truthwitch", "Windwitch", "Sightwitch" (novella) and "Bloodwitch" so far. Picked it on a whim from my library. They are swashbuckling fun, nothing extraordinary, but lacking most of the annoying YA tropes and featuring such welcome plot points as female friendships, along with male ones. I do find the break-neck pace where they constantly jump from the frying pan into the fire and moving across the continent a bit overdone, and the series isn't finished, but it was such a welcome change of pace from disappointing "Children of Virtue and Vengeance" by Adeyemi and "Graceling" by Cashore. "Ship of Smoke and Steel" and "City of Stone and Silence" by Django Wexler, from his "Wells of Sorcery" series, also unfinished. I have been hearing about the author for some time here and elsewhere and wanted to try something of his - conveniently, my library obliged. I didn't expect to ever say it - I like a good fight in my fiction as much as anybody, but there was too much fighting and as the author's "go-to" for plot advancement it became rather repetitive. Also, certain aspects of worldbuilding and plot didn't seem internally plausible. But I liked the characters and other aspects of worldbuilding, so I'll certainly read the next installment when it reaches the library. "Deeplight" by Frances Hardinge. This is the third book of hers that I read and I loved all of them! Refreshingly different from most YA. Yes, it is another "coming of age" story, but it has such inventive worldbuilding and such engaging characters that it doesn't matter. The plot was also twisty and interesting. I really hope that she does more with this setting. And here is some not-YA that I forgot to mention in my previous post: "Stormsong" by C.L. Polk. I liked her previous book "Witchmark", with some reservations, and unfortunately this sequel justified all of my concerns. Basically, the author abandons any pretence that the faux-Edwardian atmosphere of the series is more than cosmetic in order to cut corners and provide simple solutions to complex problems. Also, while the PoV character of the previous book (they are single-PoV) came across as competent in his field and his relative isolation made sense, none of it works for the current PoV. She just appears incompetent due to Polk ham-fistedly applying the same romance formula to her and wanting to short-circuit the central problem of the setting - the problem which made me interested in it in the first place. It doesn't help that each of the books only covers, like, a week.
  6. Bayaz, in retaliation for her refusal to become next in the chain of his puppets and/or in an attempt to bring her to heel. Glokta is toast, I assume, either from natural causes, due to Bayaz or assassinated by one of his many enemies.
  7. After hearing about it for years I have finally read the "Steerswoman" series by Rosemary Kirstein, and really enjoyed it, except for the part where I thought that it was finished in 4 extant volumes: "The Steerswoman", "The Outskirter's Secret", "The Lost Steersman" and "The Language of Power" and it is not. The books follow a member of the wandering scholastic order specializing in the gathering and dissemination of information. Rowan getting interested in a seemingly obscure little mystery and her attempts to solve it via good old scientific method lead to unexpected reprecussions and deeper insights into the nature of the vaguely medieval world she inhabits. Some really neat worldbuilding and each installment does have a largely satisfying ending, tying most of the imminent plot-lines from within the volume itself. Which is why I didn't much mind it's unfinished state and whole-heartedly recommend it. Also, thankfully, as far as relationships go, the series very much prioritizes friendship. Ditto "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison. Which I liked, but expected to love and didn't. In part due to the fact that "elves" and "goblins" are called that merely because of their appearance and otherwise function and behave like bog-standard humans. In part due to the fact that But still, coming to terms with trauma was depicted in a very believable way and yay for the power of decency! "Arrival" anthology, which used to be "Stories of Your Life and Others" by Ted Chiang, which, again, I expected to be blown away by and wasn't. The stories are well-written and I admire his approach of taking an interesting premise and following it to the logical end, but I dunno, something doesn't quite work for me. The stories are good, but from the buzz I expected more. Maybe it is the characters' motivations that are lacking for me. For instance, I really don't understand why the protagonist chose to go through with things without even attempting any changes in the titular story. At least, the movie gave her an actual reason... I am still very much looking forward to reading his other anthology, though.
  8. I hope that there is a satisfying explanation regarding who wants the products of such an education and why. Grossman's "The Magicians" never managed to do so, since it depicted the lives of graduates as a state of terminal, idle ennui, which made it really hard to care or understand why the school even existed. Nobody seemed to get anything out of it except for the students during their enrollment and, arguably, the faculty.
  9. Yes, and I loved it. It perfectly captured that complex and contradictory mixture of feelings that culturally widely influential and intermittently conquest-minded empires tend to inspire in their neighbors.
  10. So, here is a whole slew of stuff that I have been reading for the last month and change: I DNFed from "Children of Blood and Vengeance" by Tomi Adeyemi about halfway through. I liked the first book of the trilogy well enough, despite it's plot being uncomfortably closely inspired by the excellent "Avatar, the Last Airbender" cartoon series, which I can't recommend enough. Specifically it felt to me very much like a Still, the setting's magic drawing from various African mythologies was interesting and refreshing and the book seemed to eventually take an original and intriguing tack on certain things. Only for this second volume to throw it away in order to indulge in standard YA tropes, which I am becoming very tired of. Urgh. Then I finally read "Vallista" by Steven Brust and it somewhat let me down as well. I mean, it was nice to spend time in that world and in Vlad's head again, but he was basically wandering through a labyrinthine haunted mansion trying to understand what was going on with it. It didn't quite work as a mystery it was seemingly intended to be because there weren't enough clues for the reader to figure it out themselves, IMHO. And limited interactions with other characters didn't play to Brust's or Vlad's strengths either. Still, it revealed a very important bit about where the series is intended to go in the end. I do have a significant quibble with it, however: "One Word Kill" and "Limited Wish" by Mark Lawrence. These are the first 2 parts of a novella trilogy and I know that some people liked them a lot, but they didn't work for me. A 15-year-old mathematical super-genius plays DnD, gets cancer and romances a beautiful (of course!) girl, which has world-shaking consequences. Eh. After this I decided to take a break from SF to cleanse my palate a bit and read: "The Nickel Boys" by Colson Whitehead. "The story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida... Based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children." Brilliant and devastating. "My Brilliant Friend" and "The Story of a New Name" by Elena Ferrante , which follow 2 talented girls, one of them a troubled genius, born in the poorest suburb of Naples as they grow up and struggle in post war Italy. An excellent and captivating look at a complex friendship and intriguing personalities against the backdrop of and molded by the very specific time and place. "Sarah Jane" by James Sallis. I picked this on a whim from the library, vaguely confusing the author with H.H. Hollis(!) from "Again, Dangerous Visions" anthology, who wrote a highly original and entertaining SF story about court battles in the future being fought out via shared drug-induced hallucinations. Alas, this isn't him. This is a very odd book about a woman who ran away from home as a teenager after the pregnancy that ended with stillbirth, had to do a stint in the army to avoid conviction, which included a tour in (probably) Afganistan and after getting out drifted across the US working as a cook and never staying in one place/relationship for more than a few years. Eventually she fetches up in a small town and almost by accident becomes first a deputy and then a sheriff. All of this is gradually revealed via snippets of her "stream of consciousness" journal. This book is billed as a mystery, but there isn't any involved case for the protagonist to investigate - personally, I couldn't decide if the real mystery was if certain statistical anomalies happening around her were (too) subtle hints of some deeper significance, i.e: or just bad plotting. The author never bothers to make it clear.
  11. Has it, though? IMHO, the story of Euz and his sons closing the doors to Hell which was the source of all magic wasn't entirely satisfying and struck me as about as historical as the Bible, despite the Magi still being around. It isn't like they are interested in spreading the truth about the past. For one thing, is there any reason to think that these doors can't be opened again? For another, why are there tons of Eaters running around, whose numbers or strength don't seem to be diminishing? I mean, you have to have magical aptitude to become one, right? A normal person just practicing cannibalism wouldn't do it. Anyway, magic diminishing as rational thinking and technology evolve isn't a particularly original premise - it used to be one of the staples of the fantasy genre, particularly of the books utilising well-known RL myths and legends as inspiration or positioning themselves as our fictional past. Even LOTR is presented as the last hurrah of magic. Abercrombie does it very well, granted, but I don't think that it would spoil anything or take anything away from his take on Industrial Revolution if he chose to increase the supernatural element. Mass production and bespoke, unique creations can and do coexist iRL. And I 100% agree with @Varysblackfyre321 that Bayaz's apparent immortality should excite imaginations. Think about the longevity of the alchemy craze iRL without any evidence that philosopher's stone actually existed!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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:
  15. "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.
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