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aceluby

September '18 Reading - A Labor of Love

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Happy labor day!  Time to start a new thread methinks.

Finished up Fall of Dragons and really enjoyed the ending of the series.  The Red Knight was pretty good, but I feel like the series just got better and better as it progressed.  Really stuck the finish on that one.

Started up The Gunslinger and am still making my way through Eye of the World.  Enjoying both a lot right now.

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I'm reading Twelve Kings by Bradley Beaulieu after seeing a few positive endorsements here. I read The Winds of Khalakovo years ago and I remember liking it but by the time I looked at the next book I'd completely forgotten what happened in the first book so I just left it. Hopefully this one will stick with me a bit better.  

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I'm reading Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies. A book about European states that have almost been completely forgotten by history. Interesting so far.

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I finished Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames,   I think I liked Kings of the Wyld  a little more, but that may have been the novelty wearing off for the second book, or liking Clay's perspective a little more than Tam's,  but it is still a very fun read.

Diving back into the Vlad Tatlos books by Steven Brust.  Read a bunch years ago, so picking up about where I left off, read Athyra and now onto Orca.  Athyra was an interesting place to return, as Vlad isn't narrating, so kind of eased into my reintroduction by seeing him through another's eyes.

 

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I’m halfway through Rivers of London. I’m enjoying the world building, the characters’ interactions, and the apprentice wizard’s scientific exploration of the magic system, but I feel little interest in the murders that the wizards are trying to solve.

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Reading wild cards. Pretty good so far. I like the pulp comic feel to it.

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5 hours ago, Teng Ai Hui said:

I’m halfway through Rivers of London. I’m enjoying the world building, the characters’ interactions, and the apprentice wizard’s scientific exploration of the magic system, but I feel little interest in the murders that the wizards are trying to solve.

I don't think the crimes are ever more than background in that series. It's like saying you have little interest in who killed Jon Connington in AGOT, it's not the point. At least for me the interest was in the supernatural growth of PC Grant and the meshing of supernatural and mundane in modern London. For my money, in the same vein, Mieville's Kraken was better on all fronts this being said.

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Finished up The Gunslinger, which was surprisingly short.  Can tell it's just a set-up book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  Now on to book 2.

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18 hours ago, Teng Ai Hui said:

I’m halfway through Rivers of London. I’m enjoying the world building, the characters’ interactions, and the apprentice wizard’s scientific exploration of the magic system, but I feel little interest in the murders that the wizards are trying to solve.

The worldbuilding is pretty good but very strongly inspired by/stolen from Gaiman's American Gods and Neverwhere (both far better than Aaronovitch's) and Harry Potter. I read the first 3 or even 4 of this series and was overall rather disappointed. The different aspects hardly come together convincingly in any of the books, in fact they seem to become less coherent and at least two also bored me by relying too much on pet peeves of the author (Jazz and architecture) that were recruited into the plots.

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Currently reading through the collected works of Kurt Vonnegut, since I've never actually read him before. Here are my thoughts so far:

Slaughterhouse 5 - Overrated IMO. I can see why its pacifistic sentiments would appeal to the generation which lived through the Vietnam War, and there are some powerful scenes, but overall it did not live up to the expectations I had.

Cat's Cradle - His best work I've read so far and a genuine masterpiece.

Player Piano - Shows its age in many ways, but is surprisingly relevant in other. My dislike of the protagonist kept me from fully enjoying it.

Deadeye Dick - Started off promising, but lost focus and sort of fizzled out toward the end.

Bluebeard - I'm currently about 2/3 through it, so far it is remarkably similar to Deadeye Dick in its structure, and even with some almost carbon-copy characters. I hope it has a better ending.

In general, most of his books are very similar in terms of structure, characters, protagonists and their thoughts and worldviews, so I'm starting to wander if it is worth it to read them all.

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I read a different subset of Vonnegut's but I agree that Slaughterhouse 5 is somewhat overrated (although still not bad) and that Cat's Cradle is (by some margin) the best. I also read "Breakfast of Champions" which was a little too weird for me (I don't remember much, though), and "Sirens of Titan". The latter is an early work but worthwhile (and closer to "normal/classic" SciFi than later KV).

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On 9/5/2018 at 2:06 PM, Teng Ai Hui said:

I’m halfway through Rivers of London. I’m enjoying the world building, the characters’ interactions, and the apprentice wizard’s scientific exploration of the magic system, but I feel little interest in the murders that the wizards are trying to solve.

That's exactly how I felt about the books.

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8 hours ago, Gorn said:

In general, most of his books are very similar in terms of structure, characters, protagonists and their thoughts and worldviews, so I'm starting to wander if it is worth it to read them all.

I agree that Cat's Cradle was his best and the others somewhat blurred together.  He always felt over-rated to me, perhaps because I did not read them in their era.  Just like Citizen Kane doesn't seem stupendous if you have watched hundreds of films produced since then.

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I started the Theft Of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, first book of the Riyria Revelations, but dropped it halfway through.  It felt too generic/cliche and did not have particularly compelling quality of writing.  Usually I really like the idea of cultures whose flawed passing of history through many generations has twisted or distorted the memory of what really happened (WoT did this really well), but this just doesn't have enough quality to make it worth reading.

Next I read a non-fiction history Genghis Khan And The Making Of The Modern World by Jack Weatherford, which was good but felt longer than it actually is.  I already knew the personal history of Genghis and his military campaigns, but this book offered more detail on the tribal politics of the "Mongols" (actually many diverse tribes in the region now called Mongolia. who were unified by a relative small tribe called Mongols) and more detail on the imperial governance and administration by the Mongols in subsequent generations.  The central thesis of this book is that the Mongols were the genesis of the modern world, including the Renaissance leading to the Enlightenment, because of their secular, meritocratic, statist, internationalionist paradigm of building a single world order reinforced by trade and exchange of knowledge, while conveniently downplaying the mass murder, rape, and parasitic exploitation of developed cultures to provide a vast quantity of luxury goods to an ethnic ruling class who themselves never produced anything more complicated than fermented mare's milk.  It also provides an interesting contrast of nomadic pastoralists versus (necessarily) sedentary agrarians: why the former can militarily dominate and why the latter will always have much greater wealth and knowledge.  My only criticism here is that the author was clearly influenced by his years living among the modern Mongolians, to the extent that the opening and closing chapters felt unprofessional for any historian.  Agrarian societies develop greater wealth and knowledge because of their population density and the accumulated virtuous cycle of growing knowledge improving food surplus allowing more specialists to grow knowledge.  Agrarians do not make make nomadic pastoralists poor and ignorant; that is just their default state unless/until they can pursue the virtuous cycle of knowledge growth.  And no-one, absolutely no-one, still believes the 19th century and Nazi characterization of chromosomatic disorders as "Mongoloid" resulting from regressive genes from 13th century rape by Mongol conquerors; was it really necessary to refute this so thoroughly?

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I read The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois. I thought it was a decent collection of short stories, it was consistent throughout but without any of them really excelling. I would say there is a bad story among them (the Lavie Tidhar story was probably the weakest but even that wasn't bad), but while there are a lot of authors I really like in it (Abraham, Lynch, GRRM), I wouldn't say this was necessarily their best work.

After that I read Leigh Bardugo's The Language of Thorns short story collection. It's a bit different in tone to her novels, despite being in the same setting as her Grisha novels these are fables that feel like the sort of faerie tales that exist in such a setting. The original Grisha trilogy could be a bit hit-and-miss with long stretches where nothing much of interest happened, the shorter stories have the advantage that this doens't happen. I thought it was a good collection, The Duva With and When Water Sang Fire were the highlights. I also thought the illustrations added a lot to the book, I liked the way they build up and gradually become more complex on each page of a story.

Next up I think I'll start Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver. I really enjoyed Uprooted so hopefully this will be as good.

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Finally got round to The Library at Mount Char. The hype is justified. I've never read anything like it. Utterly bonkers, yet quite brilliant. Hope we get a sequel.

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Okay a full week into September I've completed two books so far.  The first was Lamarck's Revenge: How Epigenetics is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution's Past and Present by Peter Ward, I got this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program and after I finished it I wish I hadn't won.  When Ward basically had an agenda to lionize one scientist (Lamarck) and demonize others (particularly Charles Darwin) to the determent of actually explaining what epigenetics is to a readers satisfaction.  The second book was Pacific Vortex! by Clive Clussler, this was the first Dirk Pitt story Cussler wrote but the sixth published.  I listened to several audiobooks featuring Pitt but this was my first one actually reading through.  There are several cliches and some plot holes, but it was a nice quick read that kept me entertained.

As my primary book I'm currently rereading When Time Began by Zecharia Sitchin, this is the fifth book of his Earth Chronicles series about his ancient astronaut theory.  My home-only read is Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives edited by Margaret Weis, which I started last month am about 40% because I'm currently in a funk while at home when I try to read else I would have been finished with this book already.

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