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Garett Hornwood

Second Quarter 2019 Reading

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Another audiobook for my commute, Nancy Isenberg's White Trash: The 400-Year Untold Story of Class in America. Very interesting book

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I finished Adrian Tchaikovsky's Children of Ruin. Considering that Children of Time didn't feel like a book that needed a sequel, I think this has done a very good job of building on the first book by adding in many new plotlines and ideas while still staying true to the themes of the original book. Where the first book focused on the artificially accelerated evolution of a species of spider into an advanced civilisation and their encounter with a generation ship of human explorers/refugees, this time the spiders (and their new Human allies) are the explorers in a new star system. This system has two planets with life, a water world inhabited by octopuses who have undergone a similar evolutionary journey to the spiders in the first book and a second with a far more alien form of life. As in the first book, Tchaikovsky is excellent at making non-human perspectives seem very distinct and different while still being comprehensible at some level, and the new species don't feel like a repeat of the spiders of the first book.

This book has some hugely ambitious ideas (probably even more ambitious than the first book) and it does manage to use them to deliver a compelling narrative that remains coherent despite taking place over millennia. There are some very tense scenes (with the phrase 'We are going on an adventure' gaining some increasingly sinister overtones as the book goes on) and a genuine sense of a journey into the unknown, and despite the density of ideas the book does still seem fast-paced.

If I had a criticism it would be that the characterisation can sometimes feel a bit bland, particularly for the human characters. I think these books may have Tchaikovsky's best ideas, but I think his characters have been more interesting in his other books.

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Posted (edited)

We Cast A Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin, NO attorney and auteur extraordinaire (also a helluva a nice person). Linking an NPR review of his book (beware of spoilers if you click the link). 

https://www.npr.org/2019/01/30/689747338/in-we-cast-a-shadow-the-horrors-are-close-to-home

Edited by Ravenhair

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On ‎6‎/‎2‎/‎2019 at 1:16 PM, Triskele said:

I bought a few non-fictions the other day including Jared Diamond's Upheaval, but I also picked up Tad Williams' first Memory, Sorrow, & Thorn book.  Never read that one and maybe gonna try it out.  Impressive GRRM quote on there.  

I'm also reading (at a glacial pace) the first instalment of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. It's taken over a month to get through 400 pages!

Meanwhile I've started Sally Rooney's Normal People, which has been incredible so far.

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On 6/18/2019 at 10:59 AM, Paxter said:

I'm also reading (at a glacial pace) the first instalment of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. It's taken over a month to get through 400 pages!

Meanwhile I've started Sally Rooney's Normal People, which has been incredible so far.

I was actually come in to say that I am seriously struggling with the first Tad Williams MST book.  I'm about 200 in and seriously meh.  I will probably slog through this one whether it picks up for me or not, but expectations for the series are lowered right now.  

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On 6/18/2019 at 6:59 PM, Paxter said:

I'm also reading (at a glacial pace) the first instalment of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. It's taken over a month to get through 400 pages!

Have you emerged from the tunnels beneath the Hayholt yet? Some parts of the book did feel a bit interminable, but I did think the pace did improve a bit as the story progressed.

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2 hours ago, williamjm said:

Have you emerged from the tunnels beneath the Hayholt yet? Some parts of the book did feel a bit interminable, but I did think the pace did improve a bit as the story progressed.

Haha yes we’ve emerged from the Hayholt. I’m not going to quit the series re-read anyway - I enjoyed the books as a teenager and I’m keen to read the new series (at some stage!) after this. At the current pace I’ll finish the final book in 2025.

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7 hours ago, Peadar said:

I really enjoyed Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It will be on my Hugo Nomination ballot next year, I'm sure.

I think I'll definitely be nominating it next year as well.

I've continued going through this year's nominees. Seanan McGuire's Beneath the Sugar Sky was a fun read, but perhaps a bit insubstantial in terms of plot.

I liked P. Djeli Clark's The Black God's Drums better, it's an urban fantasy/steampunk story set in an alternate history New Orleans where a slave revolt lead to it becoming an independent state in the early 19th century. We were talking in the urban fantasy thread about the importance of setting to the genre, and I thought this did a good job of portraying its vision of New Orleans. The two main characters were interesting as well, there's definitely potential for sequels and I'd be interested in reading more about them. The plot itself is decent, although towards the end it starts to feel a bit rushed, I think the story could maybe have benefited from being a bit longer.

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 I've just read Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence was ok and The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter which I really enjoyed. Limited Wish wasn't bad but it felt a bit too similar to the first book. It probably doesn't help that it's only been a couple of weeks since I read One Word Kill. The Rage of Dragons was just a lot of fun. It's fairly similar to Anthony Ryan's Blood Song before it went off the rails with the second and third books. 

Next up I'm going to read Children of Ruin.

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7 hours ago, ljkeane said:

 I've just read Limited Wish by Mark Lawrence was ok and The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter which I really enjoyed. Limited Wish wasn't bad but it felt a bit too similar to the first book. It probably doesn't help that it's only been a couple of weeks since I read One Word Kill. The Rage of Dragons was just a lot of fun. It's fairly similar to Anthony Ryan's Blood Song before it went off the rails with the second and third books. 

Next up I'm going to read Children of Ruin.

In that case I’ll wait a while to read Limited Wish.

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After a couple of years of pushing, my wife has finally gotten me to tackle Neil Gaiman's Sandman. It didn't hurt that I watched Good Omens and absolutely loved it. Very different of course, but here I go!

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On 6/20/2019 at 6:16 AM, Triskele said:

I was actually come in to say that I am seriously struggling with the first Tad Williams MST book.  I'm about 200 in and seriously meh.  I will probably slog through this one whether it picks up for me or not, but expectations for the series are lowered right now.  

I wouldn't trouble yourself with it. I read all four books on a two week 'sun, sea and sand' holiday in my early 20's. But life is too short for books that don't interest you and you really aren't missing much if you don't read them.

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I just finished The Barbed Coil by J. V. Jones, the first novel I have read by that author. It's her "standalone" fantasy, fitting into the subgroup of fantasy literature where a person from our world is suddenly sucked into a Renaissance-like culture where magic works.

There was much that frustrated me about this book. I disliked about the first third of it. At one point there was a passage describing the evil king character's physical handicap in a way that seemed to imply that the most evil people all have such handicaps. I never got interested in the main character, the woman who's thrown from our world into the fantasy. She had some "Mary Sue" aspects and somehow her emotions weren't believable to me. Though the last two thirds of the book were much better and more compelling, the final chapter after the evil king is defeated wrapped up everything too quickly and neatly, almost in a "happily ever after" manner that didn't fit for me in a story which had a lot of graphic violence.

However, the magic system (the magic wielders in this world are those who illuminate manuscripts, who are able while they are drawing and painting to participate in battles long distance) was unique and interesting, and the characterization of many of the secondary characters was excellent. The inkmaker and scribe's helper Emith, and his mother, are two of my favorite characters in all of fantasy. There also is, of all things, a pet dog to the wife of the evil king who is one of the best "non-magical" animal characters I've run across in a fantasy. Overall I think I'd give it a B+, and it certainly makes me unsurprised that Jones's more recent fantasy series, A Sword of Shadows, has generally gotten excellent reviews. The Barbed Coil is the sort of flawed novel that showed that its author nevertheless had great future potential. :)

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Her Sword of Shadows series is excellent, an improvement over the Book of Words series set before it.

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20 hours ago, Ormond said:

I just finished The Barbed Coil by J. V. Jones, the first novel I have read by that author. It's her "standalone" fantasy, fitting into the subgroup of fantasy literature where a person from our world is suddenly sucked into a Renaissance-like culture where magic works.

There was much that frustrated me about this book. I disliked about the first third of it. At one point there was a passage describing the evil king character's physical handicap in a way that seemed to imply that the most evil people all have such handicaps. I never got interested in the main character, the woman who's thrown from our world into the fantasy. She had some "Mary Sue" aspects and somehow her emotions weren't believable to me. Though the last two thirds of the book were much better and more compelling, the final chapter after the evil king is defeated wrapped up everything too quickly and neatly, almost in a "happily ever after" manner that didn't fit for me in a story which had a lot of graphic violence.

However, the magic system (the magic wielders in this world are those who illuminate manuscripts, who are able while they are drawing and painting to participate in battles long distance) was unique and interesting, and the characterization of many of the secondary characters was excellent. The inkmaker and scribe's helper Emith, and his mother, are two of my favorite characters in all of fantasy. There also is, of all things, a pet dog to the wife of the evil king who is one of the best "non-magical" animal characters I've run across in a fantasy. Overall I think I'd give it a B+, and it certainly makes me unsurprised that Jones's more recent fantasy series, A Sword of Shadows, has generally gotten excellent reviews. The Barbed Coil is the sort of flawed novel that showed that its author nevertheless had great future potential. :)

 

15 hours ago, Derfel Cadarn said:

Her Sword of Shadows series is excellent, an improvement over the Book of Words series set before it.

Agreed with Derfel.  There was an enormous leap in the quality and maturity of her writing.

(and I think B+ is generous for Barbed Coil or the Book Of Words generally)

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The Sword of Shadows series is really good, there’s also a pretty high chance the series isn’t getting finished though.

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6 hours ago, ljkeane said:

The Sword of Shadows series is really good, there’s also a pretty high chance the series isn’t getting finished though.

Um, there’s a very very high chance that it is.

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2 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Um, there’s a very very high chance that it is.

It's been nearly 10 years since the last book. I know she's gone back to trying to finish Endlords but I wouldn't be hugely confident it's going to happen and on top of that finishing the series in one book seems like a stretch.

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48 minutes ago, ljkeane said:

It's been nearly 10 years since the last book. I know she's gone back to trying to finish Endlords but I wouldn't be hugely confident it's going to happen and on top of that finishing the series in one book seems like a stretch.

Last I heard she was about half way done with the next book, not sure how many more there are supposed to be though, There's a topic on it somewhere.

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