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Garett Hornwood

Second Quarter 2019 Reading

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Just finished Suyi Davies Okungbowa's David Mogo, Godhunter. Like most SFF debuts, it's far from perfect but quite original.

If you're in the mood for Nigerian god-punk, check out my review.

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4 hours ago, RedEyedGhost said:

You're one of those optimists aren't you?

Bingo! 

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Recent reads...

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. It's definitely one of the strangest books I've ever read. Coming to the end of it, I can say that I enjoyed most of it, and loved how the formatting of the book itself was used to tell the sometimes spooky story (or rather, an academic description of a movie that doesn't exist about a haunted house that doesn't exist, interspersed with footnotes by a hard-partying tattoo artist). After finishing it, I have no idea what the hell any of it means, or even if it means anything. But I'm glad I read it, and enjoyed the satire of academic writing.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A harrowing and deeply depressing book about the Biafran/Nigerian War of the 1960s. It's beautifully written and depicts the horrors of war from the perspective of refugees and civilians. It's a very good book, but the characters (with a couple of exceptions) come off as pretty flat.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. A recent sci-fi debut, in the vein of Cherryh's Foreigner books with some Ann Leckie thrown in, about an ambassador to a space empire with hints of Rome and Byzantium. I thought it was an excellent debut; the worldbuilding is great, the prose can be beautiful (although the more casual dialogue doesn't mesh well with it) and interesting exploration here about empire, imperialism, memory, identity, and cultural interaction. The plot could be tighter (parts of it don't go much of anywhere) and I wish the main and just about only POV character was more interesting, but this is one of the most promising debut novels I've read recently.

Now reading Nemesis Games by Corey, aka Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. I'm a quarter of the way through and enjoying this one much more than the other novels in this series (though I did skip book 4, Cibola Burns). The book is finally fleshing out the other crew members of the Rocinante, something the authors really should have done a long time ago, and which the TV series, to its credit, did much earlier in the story. Having the insufferable Holden be a more minor character helps a lot, as does the absence (so far) of antagonists as stupid and silly as Ashford in Book 3. It's still pulpy, but it's the kind of pulp I was more hoping for when I first began this series, and which (imo) the TV show has done a much better job of delivering. Here's hoping it keeps it up!

 

 

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I've been struggling to find something to read recently, and I was scrolling through my library's ebooks I noticed they had Black Powder War by Naomi Novik, book 3 of the Temeraire series. I started this series a couple years ago, was lukewarm on book 1 but enjoyed book 2. I think I just needed a break from the series at the time, can't remember exactly, but then I just forgot to go back to it. So I was happy to get that, and spent a while reading some plot summaries of the first 2 to get myself back up to speed. Just a few pages in now but glad to have something to read again.

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Plutarch's "Parallel Lives". I am almost done, and I recommend it to anyone. It's a long ride, 1700+pages, but, you don't have to read from the beginning, since every life has its own chapter, containing 50 characters from antiquity, and comparison between some of them.

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On 5/8/2019 at 2:24 PM, Peadar said:

I enjoyed an Adrian Tchaikovsky novella, Walking to Aldebaran. I'm not sure where my reading adventures will take me next...

Also just finished. I wonder how many references I missed. Here’s what I found:

 

Spoiler

Beowulf (G Rendell, Mother, sounds.) Cthulhu mythos. Expanse (ship is called Quixote).

 

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Happy Ent's back! :)

On topic, my quest to plug some holes in my knowledge of major texts continues. I've finished Thomas More's Utopia (basically an intermediary between Plato and Swift, with some serious headscratchers about the divorce and euthanasia thing). Now onto Great Expectations, by Dickens. Yes, I've never read it - though I have seen adaptations.

 

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I’m currently reading The Priory of Orange and enjoying the hell out of it. The world building in particular I’m enjoying. I neither know nor care how plausible it is but there is clearly a lot of creativity gone into writing this world and it makes the whole novel very vibrant and enjoyable. The characters are also very interesting and i’m curious to see how the plot threads tease themselves out over the course pf the novel.

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I've read quite a bit in the last quarter.  The last two volumes of the Macht Trilogy, by Paul Kearney, which then prompted me to read Robin Waterfield's account of the Anabasis.

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams, and  A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay.  The Dagger & Coin quartet by Damiel Abrahms, and Catastrophe by Max Hastings.  Plus a load of rereads. 

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I've been going through more of the Hugo novella nominees.

I read the first two Murderbot Diaries stories by Martha Wells (the second of which is nominated). I enjoyed them both, I don't think the stories are necessarily doing anything particularly innovative, but they're a lot of fun to read. I think the title made me think it would be more military SF based, rather than the Murderbot of the title being more of a security guard (albeit a very well-armed one) who would much rather spend their time watching soap operas rather than trying to save humans from the consequences of their own recklessness. I think the first story had a stronger plot than the second and more of a mystery about what exactly is going on, but they were both good.

I also read the second and third Binti novellas, having read the first a couple of years ago. I had mostly liked the first novella when I read it, despite some misgivings about how quickly Binti forgives and moves past some of the events that happen to her. To be fair, the second story does address some of those misgivings by trying to show how she is still haunted by the events of the first story. The initial premise was good, but I don't think it was well executed. It feels like there are far too many plot points and world-building concepts packed into two relatively short stories, while Binti does get some decent character development it feels too accelerated and most of the supporting characters don't really come alive. The third story was particularly weak with some really lazy deus-ex-machina plotting.

I've now taken a break from the novellas to read Adrian Tchaikovsky's latest novel, Children of Ruin. It's a bit early to say whether it will live up to Children of Time, but it's off to a good start.

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On 6/10/2019 at 5:51 PM, williamjm said:

 

I've now taken a break from the novellas to read Adrian Tchaikovsky's latest novel, Children of Ruin. It's a bit early to say whether it will live up to Children of Time, but it's off to a good start.

Read Children of Time and really enjoyed it, started Holy Sister but couldn't quite get into it, went on a reread of Lois Mcmaster Bujold 5 Gods trilogy, i had skipped Hallowed Hunt before as i could not get into it, persevered this time, was ok, not as strong as the previous two though. Might read something else by Tchaikovsky.. 

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On 4/14/2019 at 9:32 AM, Iskaral Pust said:

I finished Kings Of Paradise by Richard Nell, first in his Ash And Sand series.  Setting is unusual with early medieval versions of Indonesia/Polynesia, China and Scandinavia-ish (located in the Southern Hemisphere), all quite distant from each other but on a collision course.  It was a decent read.  Character arc is pretty conventional, tone is slightly grim-dark, magic is very light and largely based on meditation and mind palaces, world building is good and prose is pretty well written.

Thanks for the mini review, i plan on picking this up soon.By the way, have you read the sequel yet?

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3 hours ago, AncalagonTheBlack said:

Thanks for the mini review, i plan on picking this up soon.By the way, have you read the sequel yet?

Not yet.  I’m meandering through my TBR pile.  Hope you enjoy it.

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Just finished Peter McLean's soon-to-be-released Priest of Lies and it was pretty good. If you like your grimdark gritty and bloody, this one's for you!

You can read my review here.

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For a little light summer reading I thought I would read the new duology out, THE MUELLER REPORT.  I'm well into Vol I and am finding it fascinating and easy to read.   Unfortunately, it's not a fantasy and that's too bad because some of it is scarier than shit (the Russian cyber attacks.)  It does have a lot of footnotes and these weird blacked out sections, but I'm sticking with it anyway and would recommend it to everyone.  I got my copy at Amazon.    

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I’ve lost track of what I’ve shared here.  Recent reads include Fat Chance by Nick Spalding and Fallout by Sara Paretsky.

Nick Spalding, new to me, is an English author who uses a lot of humor to explore contemporary life challenges, usually faced by a married couple together.  Perhaps a bit like Jonathan Tropper combined with Rob Grant (co-author of Red Dwarf).  Fat Chance is about an English couple participating in a Biggest Loser-style competition with their local radio station, told in the form of a journal kept by both spouses in first person POV.  It contains a homorous but very kind impression of the two protagonists as they decide they are ready to lose weight, offering a very understanding perspective toward people who feel judged for being overweight.  And it’s overall an upbeat story with a positive message.  But it’s also deeply problematic at times: the innocent naivety of the obese is a little too generous in removing all accountability; the one-note “chav” characters are a cringe-worthy stereotype; anyone not obese is simultaneously viciously judgmental, patronizing, superficial, shallow, stupid and has no other character trait than their relationship toward obesity; the experience of the two main protagonists with weight loss is extremely unlikely and thereby kind of insulting to people in that actual situation.  Other implausibilities abound but can be waived in a light novel.  Overall I enjoyed the humor and the characters.  Obviously I had some problems with how the topic was handled.  I’ll try another of his novels for a light alternative to grimdark. 

Fallout is a detective novel, which caught my eye because the character is based here in Chicago, although most of this novel takes place in Kansas.  What I really enjoyed here was an understated character: a PI encounters a plausibly small request to help when someone may be unfairly implicated in a minor crime.  And it expands from there, not at a break-neck, global-consequences kind of way (with ex-special forces fighting against conspiracies at highest level, dum-dum-duuuuummmm), but in a meandering, peeling back of layers as possibilities and uncertainties are uncovered, researched and weighed.  The first person POV of the female detective is well written without ever trying to be super-human.  So I enjoyed the lack of cliched exaggerated stakes, which should not sound like I am damning with faint praise.  I enjoyed the writing and characterization, and I’ll definitely try another by this author.

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Children of Ruin is up next. I swear, I can read these things almost as fast as he can write them...

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Posted (edited)

Alright since my last post, I completed three books.  So here we go...

My first completed book was a biography of Lewis C. Sheafe by Douglas Morgan, an African-American preacher of the Seventh-day Adventist church who was forgotten (because he left the denomination twice) but had a lasting impact among African-American in the denomination up until today.  The second complete book was English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-1689 by J.R. Tanner, this focused more on political developments and only related to other matters like civil wars or foreign policy when it concerned the creation of a political conflict.  The last book I completed was Frank Herbert's Dune, honestly I enjoyed reading the book because the story was good and interesting.  However Herbert's writing style didn't endear itself to me and I really didn't care about any of the characters that weren't Paul Atreides though to be honest I barely cared at about Paul.  I will definitely reread this book in the future, but I won't read any more in the Dune sequence.

I'm currently rereading ruthless.com by Jerome Preisler, the second book of Tom Clancy's Power Plays series.

Edited by Garett Hornwood

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Recently I've read Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton, A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine and Ship of Smoke and Steel by Django Wexler all of which I've enjoyed.

Salvation does have a lot of the familiar notes that tend to crop up in Hamilton's books (very rich people, a lot of detail on how the economy of the future functions and awkward sex scenes) but it was toned down a bit so I found it less irritating than I have in some of his other books. Other than that I thought it was a decent read with an interesting premise although it does cut off just as the action starts to heat up. I'll certainly read the next book.

A Memory Called Empire is a court intrigue themed space opera with an usual focus on poetry but it's a surprising amount of fun. I'd definitely recommend it.

Ship of Smoke and Steel's not quite as good as Wexler's Shadow Campaigns books but overall it's still pretty good.

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