Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

mashiara

February 2016 Reads

Recommended Posts

I'm a big fan of Gladstone's Craft Sequence. 

 

Finished Poseidon's Wake by Reynolds.  It was all right and a decent finish to the trilogy.  Endings have always been sort of his weak point.  Revelations to some of the mysteries were kind of a letdown, but the biggest issue I had was the same as some of his other books, namely characters acting stupidly and/or antagonistically for plot reasons.  Still, had some nice ideas and not was not as grim as the Revelation Space books. 

Also finished Buckell's Xenowealth.  I had read more of the stories then I remembered, but it was still a lot of fun reading them again.  One of the few I hadn't read, and also one of the best, was "The Rydr Express", which Buckell says will probably be the closest we get to a fifth novel for now. 

Now reading The Labyrinth of Flame by Courtney Schafer and Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished Foundation trilogy. Really underwhelmed from this. I was expecting something like the best sci-fi ever, but found it painfully average. Not only that I found Robots better, but I even found Foundation's prequels slightly better.

Not going to continue with the Foundation sequels, for now. Maybe sometime later, but I am a bit fatigued from Asimov.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So I spent the last three months of the last year to actually finish the mammoth book that is Parallel Stories by Peter Nadas.

At 550k words and 1130 pages in big hardcover it is probably the single biggest book I own and that I've read. There's Infinite Jest too, but even with all the footnotes it just gets to 545k.

It's interesting because while in tone and themes they couldn't be further apart, it still feels like Peter Nadas is trying to mimic Infinite Jest down to the smallest details, while trying to surpass it as a "literary" work. It's a restless effort of mastering of form.

But while Infinite Jest was an absolute pleasure to read, often funny and always bursting with invention and genius, Parallel Stories instead is the dullest thing that can be possibly created, and when it's not dull it's filthy and disgusting. It can spend 60 pages on a taxi going down a road, then 80 pages on a sex scene, then 40 with a guy going in a shop to buy some pants. With multiple PoVs and that kind of pacing you can imagine that in 1100 pages absolutely nothing happens and it STILL feels like you read a 1100 pages PROLOGUE to a book that never happened. It's incredible. If Infinite Jest doesn't have a real end, and forces you to speculate, Parallel Stories it doesn't have even an actual plot, and make you speculate about what the hell you've actually read.

...yet it is amazing. The writing is sometimes blissful, the characterization is completely implausible but also of a depth that just can't be matched. It's 1100 pages that demand very careful reading, packed with meaning, and yet the great majority will still defy comprehension. And it also reaches heights, here and there, that are amazing. There are a few moments in the book where PoVs collapse within each other, the scene builds a incredible momentum even if NOTHING HAPPENS, and yet the tension rises and rises and everything is pulled together as in a whirpool of tremendous strength (the chapter is aptly named "ANUS MUNDI"). It's absolutely incredible. But then nothing. It's a build up that just goes nowhere. But the thing is that the writing can achieve all that without relying on sympathetic characters or compelling plot. It's just incredibly good writing, and it almost touches Philip K Dick themes, but without any trace of science fiction. Reality almost falls apart and melts. Just the writing.

By the time you reach the last 200 pages you feel like the book would need at least 500 more to even approach some form of satisfying closure with everything it presented. Then some 150 pages from the end the book simply switches to something completely different and essentially unrelated. So it completely robs you of an actual ending. It's like the book taunts and teases you that you made that far.

So it's both a book I despised reading and something so good at the same time. That I read because no one else does. It's not something that deserves to be read or tries to. So it's just a discarded thing that requires way too much effort than it's worth. And that's why it's important to dig it out because, simply, there's nothing like it. Because it's like a relic of literature that will probably disappear into irrelevance and yet it's so excellent and important in its own way.

Like Infinite Jest, it demands to be read more than once to make sense of it. But it certainly doesn't and won't earn it. Not even REMOTELY. More like it spits in your eyes and expect you enjoy the experience and ask for more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished Simmons' Hyperion and thought it was fantastic. Was a little disappointed that it:

Spoiler

ended on a cliffhanger

but apart from that I could hardly fault it. Great characters, strong themes and a fascinating story. The poetry allusions were also fun.

Now onto Dickens' David Copperfield.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Carey's Kushiel's Dart.

It's very uneven. There are some neat ideas in there, and the characterisation is decent. Plus I'm fond of purple prose. On the other hand, the pacing is screwed up, taking some 300 pages for the story to actually start. It also strays into France-wank at points too. I realise there's an in-story explanation for France being so much superior to everyone else, but the way Carey rubs your nose in Terre D'Ange's awesomeness borders on having an entire country as a Mary Sue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, TheRevanchist said:

Finished Foundation trilogy. Really underwhelmed from this. I was expecting something like the best sci-fi ever, but found it painfully average. Not only that I found Robots better, but I even found Foundation's prequels slightly better.

Not going to continue with the Foundation sequels, for now. Maybe sometime later, but I am a bit fatigued from Asimov.

Foundation is the definition of a classic, in that it's something everyone wants to have read but no-one wants to read. It hasn't aged well, unfortunately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd actually read her second (Imriel) trilogy already, so I largely knew what I was getting beforehand (it's a library book, so I'm not spending money on it). 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am mixing probably several Asimov stories up in recollection, but I was also underwhelmed by some books with "foundation" in the title (I have four such volumes on my shelves but cannot even say whether I have read all of them or not). But most are not too long and readable I think so one of the complaints against many other classics will not apply. One problem is that Asimov is super-smart and has great ideas but he is at best only a decent writer as far as prose style etc. go, often rather wooden. And in Foundation the psychohistory idea gets somewhat old after a book or two.

I am about halfway through "The claw of the conciliator" and I am slightly disappointed. It's still often confusing but not as mysterious and atmospheric as the first book. (Very confusing is the lack of explanation why the travelling party split up "between the books" the way it did.) Still, it's very good. (How superior and far more jarring for the reader's sympathies is it to have a sympathetic torturer as hero, as opposed to a Glokta)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm reading Black Arts by Prentice and Weil. Good stuff so far -- YA fantasy set in Elizabethan London among thieves. Nice that there are horrible consequences for mistakes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished Morning Star by Pierce Brown and thought it was a fantastic end to a great trilogy. Highly recommended.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love reading how our minds work, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell fit the bill.

I finally got my hands on The Magician King by Lev Grossman from the library.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished reading To Ride Hell's Chasm by Janny Wurts.

Its an excellent book. Since it is a true standalone the intensity of the events and the heady pace can sometimes feel like an adrenaline rush. In fact after the first bit of setup the book takes off and never looks back.


The emotional quotient in this book is very high as several pretty major events happen in a relatively short time.
The author puts detail in the strangest things. This is the first time I was genuinely worried about a horse.
The way the worldbuilding takes place is very interesting. The story takes place in a relatively small area which is easy enough to construct, but the way the wider world is portrayed through memory and the way the sorcerous threat is built up is very interesting. The juxtaposition of scarred veterans and brutal sorcery against the rather bucolic insular society of Sessalie made for a very interesting contrast. 

I have read in multiple places about Wurts' style of writing - her tendency to use the occasional archaic word or phrase. To me this did not detract from the story at all. After I took a couple of chapters to get settled in, the narrative moved fast and smoothly.

On the other hand I could not help but feel that the characters of the Anja and Mykaael were somewhat exaggerated. Of course this may have been a side-effect of the book focussing so much on them. Also I would have liked to know more about how things worked out in Sessalie and the Empire at the end really merited more explanation. 

Overall, a very enjoyable book which I would recommend. 
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished Sorceror To The Crown. It was only ok. The Regency mannered style of language, dialogue and prose (more Austen than Dickens) was fun and entertaining but the plot, themes, characters, magic system and climax were all pointless fluff -- which was probably a stylistic choice to match the light-hearted Austenish style but Patrick O'Brian and many others that great characters and plots can be written in that period style. It was a weaker facsimile of Susanna Clark's Norris/Strange. And I generally don't enjoy stories that rely on fairy/faery magic systems with no internal consistency and implausible relation with the world around it.

Have now started Morning Son to finish the Red Rising trilogy (which got better and better after the opening few chapters of the first book). Just the right kind of book for sitting here by the pool. But I do wish I had read all three closer together because the shifting web of alliance and betrayal and family connection is hard to recall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/14/2016 at 9:51 AM, TheRevanchist said:

Finished Foundation trilogy. Really underwhelmed from this. I was expecting something like the best sci-fi ever, but found it painfully average. Not only that I found Robots better, but I even found Foundation's prequels slightly better.

Not going to continue with the Foundation sequels, for now. Maybe sometime later, but I am a bit fatigued from Asimov.

The Foundation Trilogy is pretty bad in terms of basic writing craft. I suspect the right age for it is 12, like a lot of that golden age SF.

But I must admit, I found the first book kinda fascinating, as a novel caught in amber. You could really see its birth in magazines, and how it was assembled after, for print. The thrust of its ideas over anything resembling narrative. As an artifact of a bygone time it's a bit like piece of stone spears found in the ground - doesn't make it particularly good to what you can use to kill someone now, but it's interesting on that level.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read David Mitchell's short novel Slade House. I thought it was a good haunted house story, as usual with Mitchell's work I thought the characterisation was the highlight, he's good at making characters interesting even when they're not around for long. To a large extent it's a companion story to The Bone Clocks, in that book I felt the supernatural fantasy elements of it were the least convincing parts of the book, particularly when they take centre stage, but in Slade House I thought the supernatural parts of the storyline worked much better, perhaps because they were more integral to the entire book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just started Dune and quite enjoying it. The writing is quite good, and the story seems quite mysterious. It gives that Wheel of Time feeling (and yes, I know that WoT copied it) but it gives less information on the beginning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/13/2016 at 2:28 PM, Roose Boltons Pet Leech said:

(IMHO) Night's Watch is the last great one. Going Postal is the last above average one. Thud! is the last average one. After that it's either Tiffany Aching or stuff best forgotten.

I think we start in different places but I agree with their placement.  But Pratchett is my favorite; I would call a dozen of his books great.  The Aching books became the only ones with any consistency toward the end.

Finished the Warrior Prophet.  Took two damn weeks.

Now I am caught up in Hamilton fever and have started reading his biography.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lermontov's, A Hero of Our Time. The first two stories were a little slow, but once the narration switches to first person and the reader is inside Pechorin's head, it is very good. Pechorin is a complete scoundrel, but I found it difficult to despise him. He was completely believable. Still a scoundrel, but dare I say, sympathetic. The Princess Mary short story was my favorite.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

×
×
  • Create New...