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Fourth Quarter 2020 Reading

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I just finished book #4 in the Bobiverse series by Dennis E. Taylor. I enjoyed it, but I would rank it far below the first 3 books because it spent too much time on worldbuilding.

Also, the book worked well as a standalone bookend for the original trilogy, or it could be used as the start of a second trilogy. As such, I won’t be mad if there is no book #5 nor do I have to wait several years to discover the resolution of a cliffhanger.

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After working my way through a Stormlight Archives reread in preparation for reading Rhythm of War I've kind of had enough of Sanderson's writing for a while so I'm actually going to leave Rhythm of War for a bit. So instead next up I'm going to read Christian Cameron's The Last Greek.

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1 hour ago, ljkeane said:

After working my way through a Stormlight Archives reread in preparation for reading Rhythm of War I've kind of had enough of Sanderson's writing for a while so I'm actually going to leave Rhythm of War for a bit. So instead next up I'm going to read Christian Cameron's The Last Greek.

Ooh, I didn't know about these. Holy crap, that guy is prolific. Maybe too prolific -- some of his books have had appalling continuity errors, but still...

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20 minutes ago, Peadar said:

Ooh, I didn't know about these. Holy crap, that guy is prolific. Maybe too prolific -- some of his books have had appalling continuity errors, but still...

Ha, yeah, I do like Cameron's books but he's churned a lot of them out over the last few years. He does tend to start his series out strong and then peter out a bit. Having said that The Last Greek was apparently the only book he's released in 2020 so maybe he's slowing down a bit.

Edited by ljkeane

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21 hours ago, Argonath Diver said:

... and so I pulled out my Otherland paperbacks.

One of my favorite all-time series and one I want to reread at some point.

Positive thoughts that you remain asymptomatic, Argonath. 

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Finished A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. It was only loosely tied tot he previous book, but liked it.   Delves into a few more alien cultures and also looks at AI trying to find it way in the world and adjust to circumstances outside its programming.   Based on the comments earlier, and the fact there is no really overarching plot to this series, see no need to immediately rush to the next book.

Then read Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.  Started off slow as we are introduced to the bleak world of the Ninth House, then picks up when they gather with the other Houses and it turns into a quest/race and a murder mystery. 

Then read The Green Man's Silence by Juliet E. McKenna, her third book about the half-human dryad's son who becomes involved in another mystery revolving around myths, folklore, and faerie creatures in Modern England.   This time he is dealing with slyphs and hobs and swan-maidens in the Fens of East Anglia.

Next up is the second Locked Tomb book, Harrow the Ninth.

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On 10/26/2020 at 2:29 AM, Inkdaub said:

I am a huge fan of the Charlie Parker series and I hope you like it.  Every Dead Thing is sort of a strange book.  I'm not sure Connolly knew where he was going at that point...not unusual for a first book...so the plot is a bit different in pace or maybe construction.  If you end up reading them all you will see what I mean.  It's still a good book and it introduces the major characters.

I really enjoyed it. Blasted through the next one the Dark Hollow as well before taking a breather from the series. Thought Id be done with mystery thrillers for a while but found a copy of the Psalm Killer by Chris Petit this weekend in a used bookstore. I'd never heard of the book or the author before, but I'm a sucker for 20th century Irish history, and its set in 1980's Belfast. 

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A forum member recommended David Gemmell's Troy series to me, so I got through them this month, including Lord of the Silver Bow, Shield of Thunder, and Fall of Kings.

The concept, a retelling of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, with a re-ordering of events and episodes and a re-telling with more realistic set of motivations and interactions, works quite well.  With different characters from all three stories interacting in a non-magical or non-mythical fashion, the myths are given real-world reasons for existing, and the political decisions of the Trojan War are also given realpolitik reasons.

The language and historical background are not as rich as the Christian Cameron (writing as Miles Cameron) series The Long War, but otherwise I found all of these reshuffled elements to flow nicely, and the myths emerged as interactions between characters you could care about.  I also found that the tragic elements were more human and less predestined as a result of the clever intermixing of the traditional story vignettes.

The handling of the Mycenaean Collapse follows traditional historical/economic thought, but the foreshadowing of the outcomes of the Trojan War both on the Hittites, the Greeks, and the inhabitants of Ilium is tasteful.  In other words, if you know what comes after the way, the signs are present, but the author doesn't hit you over the head with it too obviously.

My favorite aspect of the books was the real humanity that a realistic portrayal gave to female characters like Cassandra, Andromache, Pyrrhe, Hecuba, etc.  On the other hand, the works also show what terrible moral failures were kings like Priam, Peleus, Agamemnon, etc.  Finally, several non-historical characters really shine and propel the plot positively, especially in the second book, which I found to be the best of the three.

The one drawback was unnecessary inclusion of explicitly Jewish characters, including Biblical characters, into these classical Greek myths.  And these characters had regular, major input in the outcomes of the Trojan War and the founding of Rome in this retelling, as if major plot points could not be achieved without Jews.  This was a minor nit in the first book, grew to be noticeable in the second, and was so prominent as to the point of jarring the reader out of the story in the third.  And none of these characters needed to be Jewish to further the plot, so it was a real head-scratcher.  It put me in mind of British Isrealism because it was so out of place.

Finally, the strongest aspect of the books is that, by re-ordering the episodes that make up The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, and by positioning them within the story above realistic political and interpersonal decisions, the story removes the greatest drawback of all historical fiction.  That great drawback is that the reader already knows the outcome of the story, so usually the conclusion of any historical fiction is something of an anti-climax.   But in these books Gemmell re-casts the episodes into new postures, and indeed takes the classic names of key elements of the stories and reforms them into other metonyms or homophones very cleverly.  And in doing so, as the works progress, the reader has hope that the outcomes will be similarly changed to less tragic endings.

This building of hope really enhanced my enjoyment of these books, and despite the limited vocabulary, the limited historical furniture, and the intrusive Israelite interventions, I give these books a strong recommendation as historical fiction because of this hopeful invigoration of the stories.

Edited by Wilbur
book titles, hope

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I finished listening to The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I picked up the audiobook from the library and had very little idea what it was about, so needless to say the start of Day 2 was quite the surprise for me! I enjoyed the book a lot, but it slumped a bit in the middle, taking a bit too long to find its way through the muddied mid-book wilderness. I also found the ending a bit strange. Not the mystery itself, which was excellently done, but the surrounding trappings 

Spoiler

of the world that Aidan/Anna are returning to. It felt so jarring when it was introduced and it never melded well with the aesthetic of the time period. I get the idea that it's a futuristic setting on Earth? But maybe not. This is never made clear and trying to switch the climax of the book from saving Evelyn to saving Anna didn't fully work for me.

 

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20 minutes ago, Starkess said:

I finished listening to The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I picked up the audiobook from the library and had very little idea what it was about, so needless to say the start of Day 2 was quite the surprise for me! I enjoyed the book a lot, but it slumped a bit in the middle, taking a bit too long to find its way through the muddied mid-book wilderness. I also found the ending a bit strange. Not the mystery itself, which was excellently done, but the surrounding trappings 

  Hide contents

of the world that Aidan/Anna are returning to. It felt so jarring when it was introduced and it never melded well with the aesthetic of the time period. I get the idea that it's a futuristic setting on Earth? But maybe not. This is never made clear and trying to switch the climax of the book from saving Evelyn to saving Anna didn't fully work for me.

 

Maybe not knowing anything about the premise would be the best way to read it, you probably then got the same surprised out of Day 2 that the protagonist did.

I also enjoyed the book a lot and I agree the weakest part was the explanation for the overall scenario. I did wonder if maybe Turton came up with the idea of the time loop murder mystery first and then later had to try to come up with a plausible reason for it to happen and struggled a bit to do that. On the other hand, the way the murder mystery was constructed was very cleverly done.

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21 hours ago, Ser Rodrigo Belmonte II said:

republicans bad" narrative. 

Don't worry about that because that narrative is 100% correct, factual and even scientifically proven -- despite them refusing to believe in facts and science, which is a big part of why they are bad.  And lordessa how they makes ducks and drakes of numbers and math -- well, all I can say, don't ever put your trust in anything designed or engineered by a republican -- as my brother, an aeronautical engineer who is the supervisor of the mechanics that keep planes flying in the air.

 

 

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Anyone here read City of Brass?  GRRM mentioned in his Not a Blog recently & recommended it.  Just wondering if there were any opinions here from anyone if I should pick it up.

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On 11/23/2020 at 9:52 PM, Ser Rodrigo Belmonte II said:

Started reading Obama's promised land... Pretty informative narrative on the economic state of the late 2000s despite occasionally descending into " republicans bad" narrative. 

"descending"? It's the most important political fact of our time!

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8 hours ago, mushroomshirt said:

Anyone here read City of Brass?  GRRM mentioned in his Not a Blog recently & recommended it.  Just wondering if there were any opinions here from anyone if I should pick it up.

We had a bit of discussion about this book (and the trilogy as a whole) in the Third Quarter Reading thread during the summer, and there's a (spoiler heavy) thread from around then too.

I thought City of Brass was quite good, and that the sequels (especially Kingdom of Copper) were definite improvements.  So yeah, I'd recommend it.

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