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Iskaral Putsch

March 2018 reads: share your latest books read

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Just finished A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge.  This is a SF space opera which received very high ratings on Goodreads and Amazon.  Two human space-faring human cultures simultaneously visit the first live, sentient, developed non-human culture (orbiting a unique star), who have just started broadcasting radio signals into space.  The story deals with the clash of culture story in orbit, while also telling a story of geopolitical tension during the Information Age on the planet surface.

Basically this reads like an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the utopian Federation and militaristic Romulans clashing over an emerging alien culture.  Unfortunately, it is spread over almost 800 pages, resulting in a pretty dull read.  I decided early on that I would see it through to the end and, upon finishing, I derive much more satisfaction from my persistence than from the story. 

The characters lack depth or any dramatic engagement.  There are two unwitting tragic princesses, one brooding tragic prince and one older scheming prince in exile; can you guess how it might play out?  The antagonists feel cartoonish: only two of the antagonists are actually bad, and one is a sociopath manipulator and the other is psycopath sadist; no need for grey characters here; it feels pretty YA.  The principal alien character is an embarrassing fanboy wish fulfillment blend of Einstein, Oppenheimer (and every other major 20th century physicist) and Elon Musk. 

The author's choices in constructing the novel really detract from an interesting scenario.  The story construct requires that the orbital conflict plays out at a glacial pace over decades before suddenly rushing to a climax, and even the climactic tussle lasts almost 100 pages and loses impact by being so drawn out.  The story on the alien planet is relayed in a saccharine, twee style, which receives some token justification in the book but is basically another bad choice by the author.  The unique star is never explained and never really matters to the story other than shaping the alien culture, and the hinted ancestors of the aliens just get waved away.  Space opera and SF can offer epic drama (not here) or else examine thought-provoking questions, but "is slavery bad?" seems to have been tackled elsewhere already.

Overall I would suggest steering clear of this but bigger fans of space opera must disagree.  As I said, it has received very positive reviews from others.

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1 hour ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Just finished A Deepness In The Sky by Vernor Vinge.  This is a SF space opera which received very high ratings on Goodreads and Amazon.  Two human space-faring human cultures simultaneously visit the first live, sentient, developed non-human culture (orbiting a unique star), who have just started broadcasting radio signals into space.  The story deals with the clash of culture story in orbit, while also telling a story of geopolitical tension during the Information Age on the planet surface.

Basically this reads like an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with the utopian Federation and militaristic Romulans clashing over an emerging alien culture.  Unfortunately, it is spread over almost 800 pages, resulting in a pretty dull read.  I decided early on that I would see it through to the end and, upon finishing, I derive much more satisfaction from my persistence than from the story. 

The characters lack depth or any dramatic engagement.  There are two unwitting tragic princesses, one brooding tragic prince and one older scheming prince in exile; can you guess how it might play out?  The antagonists feel cartoonish: only two of the antagonists are actually bad, and one is a sociopath manipulator and the other is psycopath sadist; no need for grey characters here; it feels pretty YA.  The principal alien character is an embarrassing fanboy wish fulfillment blend of Einstein, Oppenheimer (and every other major 20th century physicist) and Elon Musk. 

The author's choices in constructing the novel really detract from an interesting scenario.  The story construct requires that the orbital conflict plays out at a glacial pace over decades before suddenly rushing to a climax, and even the climactic tussle lasts almost 100 pages and loses impact by being so drawn out.  The story on the alien planet is relayed in a saccharine, twee style, which receives some token justification in the book but is basically another bad choice by the author.  The unique star is never explained and never really matters to the story other than shaping the alien culture, and the hinted ancestors of the aliens just get waved away.  Space opera and SF can offer epic drama (not here) or else examine thought-provoking questions, but "is slavery bad?" seems to have been tackled elsewhere already.

Overall I would suggest steering clear of this but bigger fans of space opera must disagree.  As I said, it has received very positive reviews from others.

I'd say you read this book more for the potential science and the concept of human society, trade and culture in the future than for the actual story or characters (though I'm not as down on them as you are). I also think the attitude and outlook of the protagonists are the reflections of younger academics / graduate students, and sometimes the academic and engineering professions as a whole (something I became more convinced of after learning the author was a professor, as well as science fiction writer, for most of his career).

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On 2/28/2018 at 0:11 PM, RedEyedGhost said:

I've spent all month with very little time to read, and have therefore been working on To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey.  It's a wonderfully charming book about a US army colonel surveying a mythical river in Alaska not long after its purchase from the Russians.  It's told mostly as journal entries of the colonel and his wife who remained at the fort in Vancouver Washington.  There's also snippets from "newspapers," letters between the two principal characters and their parents, and letters between a modern times Alaskan museum curator and a great nephew of the colonel's (who sent all of the material we're reading to the Alaskan museum).  All these letters are making me nostalgic for the time before email, and worried about the impermanence of digital media long after we've all passed.  Ivey's first book, The Snow Child, is also highly recommended.  If I had had any free time this month I think I would have finished it in two days, as it stands I'm only 75% through.

I'm now 82% through, and still loving this book. 

After that I think I'll read Valkyrie's Song by M.D. Lachlan, as the final book has recently been released, and earlier today I was thinking I should read a werewolf book.  I think I'm more in the mood for an Urban Fantasy, but I don't think I have any other werewolf books on deck.

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I’m almost done with Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montifiore. It’s a prequel to Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar, covering Joseph Stalin’s life until the 1917 October revolution. 

The book is divided in 5 parts, each part beginning with a poem written by the young Stalin. It’s fascinating to think that one of the most brutal dictators was a poet. He wrote under the pen name, Soselo, and apparently the poems became minor classics in his native Georgia.

The author spent 10 years gathering research from recently opened archives, and also conducted interviews with people who knew Stalin personally. The book goes into great detail about his abusive childhood, education for priesthood, political activities, bank robberies, love affairs, and exiles. Sometimes, it’s a little TOO detailed and gets tedious to read. However, I find it’s easier if I listen to the audiobook. I’ve been listening to Young Stalin while doing physics or maths, but I probably shouldn’t.

Overall, this is a fascinating book. History buffs will appreciate this better, but regular people can enjoy it too.

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I finished N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate which I thought was almost as good as the first book in the series - the two plotlines in this don't mesh together quite as well as the three plotlines in the first book and Essun's story in this moves fairly slowly until the last section of the book. It was interesting to get more answers to some of the backstory where the first book had only hinted at the overall plot of the series, and I think it sets thing up well for the final volume in the trilogy.

I went into town today and bought a few new books including the concluding volume of Jemisin's trilogy, but first I'm going to read one of the other books I bought - The Invasion by @Peadar

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2 minutes ago, williamjm said:

I went into town today and bought a few new books including the concluding volume of Jemisin's trilogy, but first I'm going to read one of the other books I bought - The Invasion by @Peadar

:tantrum: That's not available here until the 27th!

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10 hours ago, williamjm said:

I went into town today and bought a few new books including the concluding volume of Jemisin's trilogy, but first I'm going to read one of the other books I bought - The Invasion by @Peadar

Thanks, William! I appreciate it!

 

10 hours ago, RedEyedGhost said:

:tantrum: That's not available here until the 27th!

Sorry, REG! I'll tell them to swim faster :pimp:

 

As for me, I haven't been very lucky with my reading of late. Even very good books aren't grabbing my attention. I think I'll need to go back to non-fiction for a while.

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10 hours ago, Triskele said:

I am here to confess that I'm reading a Dan Brown book, Origins, and it's pretty entertaining. 

Are you being serious, or are you hate-reading?

 

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20 hours ago, williamjm said:

I finished N.K. Jemisin's The Obelisk Gate which I thought was almost as good as the first book in the series - the two plotlines in this don't mesh together quite as well as the three plotlines in the first book and Essun's story in this moves fairly slowly until the last section of the book. It was interesting to get more answers to some of the backstory where the first book had only hinted at the overall plot of the series, and I think it sets thing up well for the final volume in the trilogy.

I finished it this morning. I think it was good, but a bit weaker than The Fifth Season. I normally like slow books, but I feel like the plot was stalling a bit too much at some points. 

 
Edited by Queen of Procrastination

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6 hours ago, Teng Ai Hui said:

Are you being serious, or are you hate-reading?

 

Confessions are no laughing matter.  

It's still the the same style as Da Vinci Code, so anyone looking to get great prose or have the author not go out of his way to explain everything to the reader will be disappointed.  

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9 hours ago, Triskele said:

Confessions are no laughing matter.  

It's still the the same style as Da Vinci Code, so anyone looking to get great prose or have the author not go out of his way to explain everything to the reader will be disappointed.  

But is the main character still a smug Gary Stu?  It got progressively worse in each book. 

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Ernst Junger's, Storm of Steel was gripping. I did have to laugh at his use of, or the translator's use of the word unpleasant. He or the translator use it to describe terrible things,(he describes the frequent gas attacks that have killed a number of his men as unpleasant for example) but it fits with the rest of Junger's memoirs. His understatement of the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front combined with the belief in the honor and glory of battle is a bit scary.

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Finished Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich, which was recc'd in one of these threads.  It's a hill-billy crime fiction set in the southeast (northern Georgia primarily, but Jacksonville, Mobile and points between feature too), with time and POV switches between different generations of the same family as they progress from moonshine to marijuana to meth, using their isolated, violent fiefdom to keep out law enforcement.  Lots of emphasis on family, inherited culture vs. personal choice, and the consequences of these lives of crime.  Definitely worth a read if the genre sounds appealing.  Some similarity to the works of Daniel Woodrell, although his prose is more lyrical (at his best, he's comparable to Cormac McCarthy). 

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On 3/4/2018 at 1:19 PM, Queen of Procrastination said:

I finished it this morning. I think it was good, but a bit weaker than The Fifth Season. I normally like slow books, but I feel like the plot was stalling a bit too much at some points. 


 

I agree, but keep going.  The Stone Sky was incredible.  

Just finished Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion.  There is some HORRIBLE and DISGUSTING imagery in that book.  Mil-Sci and borderline horror.    Really liked it.

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On 03/03/2018 at 4:01 PM, 4 Eyed Crow said:

I’m almost done with Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montifiore. It’s a prequel to Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar, covering Joseph Stalin’s life until the 1917 October revolution. 

The book is divided in 5 parts, each part beginning with a poem written by the young Stalin. It’s fascinating to think that one of the most brutal dictators was a poet. He wrote under the pen name, Soselo, and apparently the poems became minor classics in his native Georgia.

The author spent 10 years gathering research from recently opened archives, and also conducted interviews with people who knew Stalin personally. The book goes into great detail about his abusive childhood, education for priesthood, political activities, bank robberies, love affairs, and exiles. Sometimes, it’s a little TOO detailed and gets tedious to read. However, I find it’s easier if I listen to the audiobook. I’ve been listening to Young Stalin while doing physics or maths, but I probably shouldn’t.

Overall, this is a fascinating book. History buffs will appreciate this better, but regular people can enjoy it too.

Stalin was a remarkably intelligent man.  He was well-versed in philosophy, history, politics, art, and music.  He had 20,000 books and 2,500 records.  But, an intellectual is quite capable of being a mass murderer.

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21 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

But is the main character still a smug Gary Stu?  It got progressively worse in each book. 

It would be betraying the character to change gears at this point!

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9 minutes ago, Triskele said:

It would be betraying the character to change gears at this point!

That’s the first good argument for artistic integrity by Dan Brown. 

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CAPED: THE OMEGA SUPERHERO and THE SUPERHERO DETECTIVE by Darius Brasher. Love both these books and very much am enjoying these two series set in a superhero world where the superheroes are assholes but for the protagonists. Bad guys are still bad but it turns out fame and power don't make you all that moral.

Good independent fiction.

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