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Garett Hornwood

August '18 Reading- (Insert Clever Subtitle)

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I'm starting the month by reading a biography about Seventh-day Adventist pioneer Joseph Bates by George R. Knight, this book is a part of a series on Adventist Pioneers and Knight is the preeminent Adventist historian and Bates is someone I've never learned much about except connected with others.

I'm also continuing my reading of Tacitus' The Histories, which covers the 'Year of the Four Emperors' aka 69 AD...well that's what has survived because only the first four books survived whole along with a part of Book 5.  Most likely the entire piece was a history of the Flavian Dynasty (Vespasian, Titus, Domitian), but the events of how the Flavians got into power survived through history.

Anyways I'll have both books finished Saturday at the latest, next week I'm on vacation and I haven't decided on what exactly I'll be reading but it'll probably be short books that I've had on TBR pile for a while just to get out of the way.

So that's how I'm starting the month reading, what are you up to?

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I'm getting ready to crack open ROYAL ASSASSIN by Robin Hobb.  The thing about this series is my library has a pretty lame SFF section, and this title isn't in the collection.

However, the library recently became part of an interloan program that has streamlined interloans so now I can read this series and continue on with Hobbs' other series.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I must see what Fitz has been up to. 

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I saw Ace Atkins recommended somewhere in a list of summer thrillers to read so I thought I'd give the first book in his Quinn Colson series The Ranger a try. It's pretty good, sort of a Southern Jack Reacher style book.

 

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I'm about 45% into Spinning Silver and am enjoying it. It has a different sort of charm from Uprooted, which I thoroughly loved.

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I ran across a Bruce Sterling anthology (in German translation, the original title is Crystal Express, I think) which was mixed but overall pretty good. Interestingly, I did not prefer the shaper/mechanizer stories which felt somewhat confusing without a background in that universe.

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Posted (edited)

I'm about 40 or so pages into Donaldson's The Seventh Decimate and I haven't been hooked yet. For an author who has always given me other reasons to keep reading, even when I didn't want to, this is a very strange place for reader-me to be.

I'll probably be dropping it [to try again, eventually] when Anna Smith Spark's much anticipated [by me] The Tower of Living and Dying drops later tonight.

Edited by JEORDHl

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Finished Revenge of the Sith by Matt Stover.  Much better than the movie, he definitely should have written the script.

Think I might give Wheel of Time a 2nd try next.  Have a few other Stover books, but I've just read 5 in a row and want to save those for later.

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I'm about 25% into Snow Crash, and I am enjoying it, but it's not clear to me yet what the plot is or if there is ever really going to be one.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, JEORDHl said:

I'll probably be dropping it [to try again, eventually] when Anna Smith Spark's much anticipated [by me] The Tower of Living and Dying drops later tonight.

I'm about to start this as well. :)

Edited by AncalagonTheBlack

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I finished Becky Chambers' Record of a Spaceborn Few. Even more so than her two previous books, this is a Science Fiction novel that's very focused on exploring the characters and the society they live in and there's very little in the way of action. The setting is the Exodus Fleet mentioned in the previous novels, a group of generation starships once used to escape from a dying Earth but now just a small part of a multi-species galactic civilisation, with the question of whether the fleet still serves a purpose being one of the main themes of the book. I found the setting interesting, and I thought Chambers did a good job of showing the differing perspectives and instincts of those who live in the fleet compared to humans who had grown up on planets. I thought the characterisation was good as well, and while the character arcs sometimes don't involve decisions that would be of great importance in the grand scheme of things, I thought the book did a good job of showing why they were important to the characters.

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Just picked up Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates.  It will be my third time reading a Yates novel.  I assume alcohol and a loveless marriage will be part of the plot.

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12 hours ago, Starkess said:

I'm about 25% into Snow Crash, and I am enjoying it, but it's not clear to me yet what the plot is or if there is ever really going to be one.

I promise there is a plot!

(Certainly a more coherent one than some of his more sprawling, epic works.)

 

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I very much enjoyed my reread of Abercrombie's "Best Served Cold". My new kindle arrives tomorrow, so I can get back to the Adrian Tchaikovsky I was in the middle of when I lost the other one :(

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Reading Thread of the Silkworm by Iris Chang. Chang was such a brilliant researcher, and this book is more relevant now than it's ever been. This is usually a cliche, but in this case she really was gone way too soon :(

Edited by Let's Get Kraken

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On 8/7/2018 at 12:01 PM, AncalagonTheBlack said:

I'm about to start this as well. :)

That first book of hers was one weird read, so I'm interested in whether this one gets more coherent or keeps that driftiness.

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9 hours ago, Peadar said:

I very much enjoyed my reread of Abercrombie's "Best Served Cold". My new kindle arrives tomorrow, so I can get back to the Adrian Tchaikovsky I was in the middle of when I lost the other one :(

What kind did you get?  The waterproof feature of the Oasis sounds nice, but I'm not sure it justifies the price jump, and I'm not sure how I feel about the lopsided nature of it.

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I am making my way through Adrian Tchaikovsky's oeuvre and have finished his "Echoes of the Fall" trilogy, which, after having been somewhat luke-warm towards the first book, I greatly enjoyed. The resolution was particularly ingenious, I thought, but I still have so many questions (see below. Too bad that the author doesn't have any kind of dedicated discussion boards)! Also, the solution arrived at, however clever, seems to be a strictly short-term one, IMHO. So, I really hope that he returns to this world.
 

Spoiler

 

So, what was it that caused the Terror? It was not Aptitude, because the Moth radiated it particularly strongly. It wasn't just a different "dream" imposing itself on reality because the ex-pat Spiders didn't have that effect on the Jaguar even when they were just newly arrived.  And, for that matter, what is Stepping? It is kinda treated like magic, in that disbelief can affect it, but it is also as ubiquitious as Art among the "true people". More, actually, since Arts have to be purposefully learned and some few never manage to do so.

I also don't understand why it didn't occur to anybody to wear collars to prevent involuntary (last) Stepping and why nobody tried to put collars on people newly locked in animal shape, whose humanity was still somewhat present. I mean, sure dying in human shape is supposed to be very bad, but if the invaders won, it wouldn't have really mattered. And the advantages of Stepped forms were very much outweighed by the terrible risk of being locked into them. Also, Lone Mountain's example showed that some people could still be rescued even after lock-in, but nobody ever tries with anybody else, not even Manye with Sathewe.

What does it mean that none of the mixed Spider-Jaguar offspring ever inherited Jaguar souls? Is the arthropode kinden heredity so dominant? In this case, the perspectives for the "true people" are even less rosy than massive technical superiority of the invaders (who, people being people are, of course, going to come back) would suggest. And if so, what was Kailovela's deal? Galathea obviously thought that she was a Spider descendant, but she only ever had a Hawk soul?  For that matter, it does seem that some of the "true people" do have Arts, even though they don't call them that or even realise what they are. For instance, the Hidden Ones (aka Chameleon People)  camouflage in human form is clearly more than skill or concealing paint. Not to mention the Serpent people's Dr. Who-like regeneration.

Why were the Owl, the Bat and the Serpent people immune to the Terror, while everybody else wasn't? It is hinted that even the Champions would be ground down eventually. I mean, sure, some species of the 3 are insectivores, but so are Toads, for example, and their people aren't immune. What is the secret truth hidden in the legend of the Three Brothers?

And finally, how is that the Beetles learned to transform even before Manye opened the way for arthropode souls, when the Spiders have been trying for a millenium without success? And how is it that the invaders learned to control their Stepping so quickly and weren't as affected by the cold in their Stepped forms as giant insects/spiders should be? Also, their ability to incorporate clothes/equipment into Stepping shouldn't extend to items made of steel, surely? Or is Tchaikovsky playing favorites with his beloved invertebrates, after showing in detail the difficulties involved in and ordeals required for the "true people" to do the same?


 

 

I am also on book 8 "The Air War" of his "Shadows of the Apt" series and while I continue to enjoy the imaginative world-building, the fact that evolving technologies play an important role in the conflict, the many different localities and PoVs, etc. at the same time I began to feel that the narrative spreads itself too thin, that technologies progress too quickly - they go from swords, crossbows and catapults to something comparable to and in some cases even superior to WW I tech in what, five years?; and that some installments have a distinct feel of "side-quests" in an RPG campaign. Power-inflation spiral is very reminiscent of one too. I am very curious where it is all going to lead, though. 2.5 books to go!
 

Spoiler

 

One of the things that interferes with my enjoyment is that Sten is _so_ unbelievable as a spy-master. I mean, when first introduced he has supposedly been doing it for what, 18 years or so? Yet it then turned out that he only had active agents in Helleron and lapsed ones in Sarn - the 2 city-states both geographically nearest and  most closely connected to Collegium. That's a pitiful showing - what happened to the groups of students whom he supposedly recruited every year and sent into the world? We never heard of them again, not a single person of them. Heck, he didn't even have any agents in his native Collegium and so had to repeatedly find some randos when need arose! How was anybody supposed to believe that his information about the Empire was reliable, when he didn't even have any first-hand accounts apart from the fall of Myna those many years ago?  I mean, I like him as a character, but his sub-plots are often terribly contrived and authorial insistence on keeping him and his adopted daughters separated using the thinnest of excuses kinda gets on my nerves.

Speaking of which - I am not happy how Che appears to be doomed to remain a dilettante in whatever she shows talent in, because Tchaikovsky carefully removes any possible mentors from her path, after teasing the possibility. I guess that it is going to be ye olde "by the seat of her pants" all the way through, which is boring and, again, terribly contrived. And Tynisa's character arc is kinda pointless so far and unnecessarily repeats Tisamon's (great!) one. What is more, I fear that it is going to be sacrificed in service of her father's arc, that looks to continue posthumously. I am also more than a little miffed that Stenwold raising her since birth and having been her real father in all but blood is decisively swept aside in favor of more Tisamon-drama. IMHO, there was great potential in Tynisa, as a character culturally standing between worlds of Apt and Inapt and as such her going all Mantis was disappointing, particularly since we have already had a very detailed look at Mantishood.

I'd have preferred more insight into Spiderhood, frankly. There were some very tantalising hints through Teornis (RIP), but his plot _also_ turned into a Mantis tragedy, heh. I sense a definite trend there.

Finally, romances. So many romances between between older men and women young enough to be their daughters! And Thalric - Che is creepy, though definitely in line with pernicious romance tropes, where the heroine is often initially terrified of the hero with good reason and is or comes close to being tortured by him before transforming him by her "love of a good woman" power. Urgh. The whole Sten - Arianna thing and how it gets perfunctorily swept aside later so that he can be free for other gorgeous women to throw themselves at him is also...  sigh. Taki had a close escape - but only because Nero wasn't a pilot! And IIRC she regretted it afterwards. So, lots of wish-fulfillment.

There is one other thing that I wonder about setting-wise - can the kinden biologically control their fertility to greater degree than RL humans?  Because there is an odd combination of mixed romantic couples being completely socially acceptable and common, whereas the halfbreeds are almost universally despised and discriminated against. And, of course, there are also slavery, prostitution, etc. And yes, all of the above does produce occasional halfbreed children, but somehow far fewer than one would expect under the circumstances.  

No, I actually have more - why Slug-kinden? How did they become so powerful? I mean, isn't the explanation for kinden-hood that the giant invertebrates were just too dangerous and strong to fight and so humans had to forge connection with them for self-protection? But how would giant slugs be so threatening? Why would they be so strongly associated with magic? Not to mention - shouldn't the Slug-kinden speak a different language, being of Mollusca rather than Arthropoda? Ditto various sea-dwellers? And how is it that they were able to design their cities and castles, while being Inapt? Sure, those were built by their slaves, but even Beetles used to be Inapt back then and in Commonweal the castles must have been built by the local labor... There is also a bit of a problem with Spiders being great sailors and having superior sailing ships, when they shouldn't be able to use block and tackle or levers...

 

 

And I just finished his SF standalone(?) "Children of Earth". I thought that non-human part of the narrative was very good - inventive, full of interesting extrapolations, original world-building and compelling characters, whereas the human one seemed rather familiar from many other SF books. I liked it a lot on the whole, though.

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