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Garett Hornwood

First Quarter 2019 Reading

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I didn't complete my reading challenge last year (only about 14/25) but this year I will! My target is still 25 and so far I have read: 

1. Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

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Finished To Die In Vienna by Kevin Wignall, a spy novel that is thankfully restrained — no Ethan Hunt type marauding around — with a cat & mouse game of surveillance unfolding along with an existential crisis.  Enjoyable.

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Dogs of war by Adrian Tchaikovsky was just as great as many others have claimed. It reminds me of classic SF that gets across loads of ideas/concepts in as few pages as possible. 

I think Max Hastings "Vietnam" is next up as he gave an interesting interview on Dan Carlin's podcast recently and he covers from 1945 to the end of Vietnam war.

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I finished Harari's Sapiens which I largely loved though I though the later parts on where are we going were less novel or interesting to me than the first bulk of the book about where we've come from.

I have Fire and Blood and will probably just dabble in and also have the final book in Jemison's series which is likely next up for fiction.  With non-fiction I have Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom 

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I finished Commonwealth. It was okay. Well-written but it just missed the mark a little bit to me. I think it focused on either too many characters or too few. Felt like it couldn't decide between being Franny's story and being the Cousins' story. Also the non-chronological order and the whole "slowly revealing bits and pieces of What Really Happened" actually robbed the story of a lot of its tension. Just felt like a novel full of vignettes. But still, interesting and not bad.

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18 hours ago, Triskele said:

I finished Harari's Sapiens which I largely loved though I though the later parts on where are we going were less novel or interesting to me than the first bulk of the book about where we've come from.

I have Fire and Blood and will probably just dabble in and also have the final book in Jemison's series which is likely next up for fiction.  With non-fiction I have Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom 

Probably best to avoid the follow-up book by Harari as almost the entireity of it is in speculative forecasting. The best bits are probably the opening chapters concerned primarily with things that have happened/are happening. But that's the minority of the book.

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I've started reading an anthology of some of Ursula Le Guin's Hainish novels. I've just finished the first novel, Rocannon's World. It doesn't have as much depth to it as her more famous later works, but I did enjoy the story. In some ways it is a bit reminiscent of The Left Hand of Darkness, in that both feature a lone representative of a space-faring civilisation forced to go on a long and dangerous journey on a comparatively primitive planet accompanied by a small number of locals. The world does have an almost mythical feel to it - in her notes Le Guin says she was heavily influenced by Norse mythology - and at times it feel more like fantasy than science fiction. It's also a fairly typical fantasy quest narrative, even if the object of Rocannon's quest is an interstellar communications device. The world they travel through on the quest is interesting, particularly the various sentient species that are native to the planet, and Le Guin is able to pack what feels like a lot of detail in a small number of words. I thought Rocannon was a likeable protagonist (more likeable than Genli in The Left Hand of Darkness), although the other characters sometimes feel more like archetypes than fully-developed characters. Overall, I'd say it's a good debut novel, even if it is overshadowed by Le Guin's later stories.

Next up is the second Hainish novel, Planet of Exile.

Edited by williamjm

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I finished The Tiger and the Wolf last week.  Really enjoyed it, but it did get a bit repetitive and the ending wasn't too surprising.  Still a good ride.  Good enough that I moved right along into The Bear and the Serpent.  I thought I knew what was going on, but then around 30% in

the reveal a captured "small person" with shimmery wings...  I was thinking the Plague People were just regular humans that couldn't shape shift

  Now I don't know what is happening, and I like it.

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2 hours ago, RedEyedGhost said:

I finished The Tiger and the Wolf last week.  Really enjoyed it, but it did get a bit repetitive and the ending wasn't too surprising.  Still a good ride.  Good enough that I moved right along into The Bear and the Serpent.  I thought I knew what was going on, but then around 30% in

  Hide contents

the reveal a captured "small person" with shimmery wings...  I was thinking the Plague People were just regular humans that couldn't shape shift

  Now I don't know what is happening, and I like it.

I remember getting to that bit as well and realising that the Plague People were something else than what I was expecting. In retrospect, I'm curious whether there were hints in The Tiger and the Wolf that I didn't pick up on.

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Rediscovery of Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition in my iOS app catalogue has seriously eaten into my reading time, but I managed to finish "The Poppy War" by R.F. Kuang. I had hopes for it, given that it borrows from Chinese history, for a change, but it displays many of the things that tend to irritate me in novels with female protagonists - the protagonist had supposedly had a hard upbringing by cruel foster-parents, but often reacts like a usual western middle-class kid, bursts into tears a lot and, for all her supposed talents and training, tends to tag along after various male characters and provide us with a detailed insight into _their_ plans and intentions, rather than has any of her own. It hints at nascent multi-angled romances, though the book is fairly grimdark, so that presumably not all of them will be played out in all their gory glory in the sequel. She does get to be "feisty" too, of course (yawn), and has her (somewhat undeserved, IMHO) moments of awesome. Oh, and also the heroine is not quite a queen bee, but is mostly surrounded and influenced by men. I understand that depicting a female protagonist distinctly from a male one is an elusive quest, but that's not the direction that feels fulfilling to me, though it is distressingly common.

The worldbuilding is also inconsistent in many aspects, but what feels most jarring to me is it's erratic depiction of privilege that suddenly stops mattering when it is convenient to the plot. The antagonists are also so evil and relentless that the supposed dilemma of not sinking to their level (how novel!) feels rather fake. Still, I'll probably borrow the inevitable sequel from the library because there are other interesting aspects of woldbuilding which are spoiler and the book does leave the protagonist in an interesting place. Also, there is still hope that some of my complaints about her character arc are due to low-burn developement through the projected trilogy/series. Even if so, it was, IMHO, a mistake to do it that way when there is just the one PoV, but there is still hope for improvement.

I have also finally read "The Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley and like many other SF classics it is difficult to read because the author clearly didn't envision any other function for women in his world than to be sex objects, expects us to empathise with the hugely jerky male protagonists whom he obviously considers to be deep and conflicted and also smugly and hipocritically proclaims the superiority of how things used to be in good old days over his future dystopia of obligatory free love - and, admittedly, mind-control. Having said all that, it is surprisingly insightful in it's foresight for it's time in certain ways, but just isn't well enough written to be of more than historical interest, IMHO.

On to "The Fall of Gondolin", though I likely have read all it's constituent parts at one time or another - but it is nice to have them all in the same place.

Edited by Maia

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