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Plessiez

Fourth Quarter 2020 Reading

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24 minutes ago, Plessiez said:

I really like Greg Egan, but I'm always a bit surprised when I check his bibliography and realise how much of his fiction I've still not actually read.   As well as Dispersion, I've still got to read Instantiation (I have read "3-adica", but nothing else in the collection) and I think I've missed at least one other recent-ish novel as well (probably Zendegi, but I'm honestly not completely sure).

But I'm pretty tempted to try this, now:  I actually think "weird physics but human characters" is Egan's strong point (well, for values of 'human' broad enough to include the cast of Orthogonal, anyway, who obviously aren't technically human at all).  I've often seen it claimed that Egan can't write convincing or likeable characters, but I've never really thought that was true at all.

I catched up on his works a few years ago and have read all novels except Zendegi and a few short stories. 

I visit his site on a regular basis and if a short story is avaliable on kindle or online I read it asap. 

I find his characters interesting. They are not always likeable I guess. He is not K. J. Parker. though and some of his characters are likeable. The more alien the more likeable imho.

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I finished Susanna Clarke's Piranesi. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of my favourite fantasy books so I was always going to be interested in Clarke's second novel. It's definitely a very different book to her debut, where that was long and packed with detail and a large cast of characters this is a much shorter book (it's a little over 200 pages) which doesn't even feature a single footnote. It's also got a much smaller cast, in one of the early chapters our narrator (who may or may not be called Piranesi) gives a complete list of all the 15 people who have ever lived in the world, 13 of whom are dead. His world is a seemingly endless structure consisting of many huge rooms most of them filled with statues, it's a fascinating setting and many of the journal entries in the book are devoted to the exploration of it. As the book goes on it also gradually fills in the backstory to explain how the lead character came to be there, it quickly becomes apparent that there are many things he is ignorant of.

It may be a very different book to Strange and Norrell but in its own way I think it is successful as the earlier story. The protagonist is a likeable character and his quest to try to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his existence make for a compelling story and I thought it had a satisfying ending.

I'm now reading Lois McMaster Bujold's Masquerade in Lodi, the latest of her Penric and Desdemona novellas (although it's set some years before several of the previous novellas). I always enjoy these stories and this one is no exception even if it does have a slightly more low-key plot than some of the others.

At one point in it a character does reminisce about once encountering a chicken which had been possessed by a demon, which did give a nostalgic flashback to the Goodkind threads.

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Just finished Fonda Lee's Jade City. It won the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. I can see why. It's very good.

I was hesitant about reading since I don't like gangster/organized crime fiction but picked it up on the strength of it being set in an Asian-inspired fantasy martial arts world.

Seeing as the Godfather-like plot is the whole point of the story, I can't complain that I find that sort of thing unlikeable since I knew that I was in for when I started reading. I found myself craving for a normal, non-gangster POV but, alas, it is what it is.

The only bad thing I can really complain about is that the first book is very open-ended. I get that it's just the first book in a planned trilogy but I wish there was more of an ending.

Hilo's POV is excellent. The contrast between his inner thoughts and motivations vs what he does and how other people see him is genius.

Spoiler

 

I mean, this violent hothead who's always eager to kill people actually, genuinely thinks that he is purely motivated by love for his family and that they should treat him nicer... wow.

"Hilo had long harbored the vaguely resentful suspicion that he loved his family more than they loved him back" - Hilo feeling underappreciated

"Lan used to beat the shit out of me when he was jaded and I wasn’t yet, did you know?" Hilo recalling how his brother beat him up but forgetting that Hilo was the one who always attacked and insisted in fighting

"That’s what he got, for trying to do his brother a favor." - Hilo complaining that he was scolded for trying to "help" by planning to kill his brother's ex-wife

 

His POV is like some trainwreck I couldn't look away from.

Edited by Gigei

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4 hours ago, williamjm said:

I'm now reading Lois McMaster Bujold's Masquerade in Lodi, the latest of her Penric and Desdemona novellas (although it's set some years before several of the previous novellas). I always enjoy these stories and this one is no exception even if it does have a slightly more low-key plot than some of the others.

At one point in it a character does reminisce about once encountering a chicken which had been possessed by a demon, which did give a nostalgic flashback to the Goodkind threads.

How did you get your hands on that?  Or are you reading it online via Amazon's reader?

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23 minutes ago, Wilbur said:

How did you get your hands on that?  Or are you reading it online via Amazon's reader?

It's a Kindle e-book. I do generally prefer physical books but it would be years until it came out in that format.

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I read A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay this weekend to get into the Halloween spirit. Excellent book, loved how it ended. Ordered his Disappearance at Devil's Rock from Amazon last night, and I'm hoping to get to it before the 31st. I've had John Connolly's first Charlie Parker book, Every Dead Thing, sitting around for a while. Thought I'd try that next.

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10 hours ago, bms295 said:

I've had John Connolly's first Charlie Parker book, Every Dead Thing, sitting around for a while. Thought I'd try that next.

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 am about ten pages from finishing War which is the last book in Michelle West's House War set.  This brings my West re-read to a close and I am sad about it.  Thus having ten pages still to read.  That said...I have read fourteen West books straight and I am ready for something else.  No fantasy for a couple books I think.  I am thinking about that Mexican Gothic book.

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I enjoyed Dispersion, though as @Luzifer's right hand said it's very mainstream by Egan's standards.  The main characters talk a lot about trigonometry and twelve-dimensional space, but there's not a single diagram or formula shown.  And in fact, unlike some of Egan's other work, I'm not even convinced there's any substance to the mathematics that the characters discuss.  This felt like a story where the strange physics was less of the focus than is usual for Egan (so closer to Perihelion Summer than The Clockwork Rocket).

It definitely feels like something written in 2020: there's a mysterious plague, and arguments about how to respond to it, and in an early chapter the central character wanders through a (seemingly) deserted town.  But yeah, mostly enjoyed it (though I thought the ending was a little abrupt).   Feeling motivated to go and read some more Egan now, anyway, which isn't a bad thing.

On 10/24/2020 at 9:40 PM, Gigei said:

Just finished Fonda Lee's Jade City. It won the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Nebula and Locus Awards. I can see why. It's very good.

Heard quite a few good things about this.  Haven't read your spoilers, but your description of Hilo's POV reminds me of what Chakraborty did with Ali's POV in the Daevabad trilogy, which I was definitely a fan of.  

I think I'm going to try to pick it up soon.

Fantasy crime fiction feels like it should be a sizeable subgenre, but the only examples I can think of right now are Steve Brust's early Vlad Taltos books.

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Enjoyed Anthony Clayton's Paths of Glory: The French Army, 1914-18. My only complaint was it being a bit short.  A very good examination of the morale of the Army throughout the 4 years of the Great  War, highlighting the various campaigns and theaters of operation.

Edited by Astromech

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3 hours ago, Plessiez said:

Heard quite a few good things about this.  Haven't read your spoilers, but your description of Hilo's POV reminds me of what Chakraborty did with Ali's POV in the Daevabad trilogy, which I was definitely a fan of.  

I think I'm going to try to pick it up soon.

Fantasy crime fiction feels like it should be a sizeable subgenre, but the only examples I can think of right now are Steve Brust's early Vlad Taltos books.

Yeah, I do recommend it since it's pretty good especially if you like crime/mafia fiction.

The concept is post-WWII fantasy martial arts with a "The Godfather"-style storyline with all Asian characters. However, although the concept is that "everybody was (superpowered) kung-fu fighting" the story is more of a slow, character study type of thing rather than jam-packed action.

I feel that the setting is very fresh and original.

You're right, there aren't a lot of fantasy organized crime fiction that I remember reading. There's Brust's Taltos, The Lies of Locke Lamora, and.. uh... Myth Adventures by Robert Lynn Asprin? IDK if that counts. :)

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On 10/22/2020 at 2:31 PM, Luzifer's right hand said:

I find his characters interesting. They are not always likeable I guess. He is not K. J. Parker.

Funny you should say that, because I just finished Parker's How to Rule an Empire (and Get Away With It), the sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City. I found it an interesting read overall, if a little less tense than the first book. That one ended rather abruptly just as the titular city was being stormed. Cue the sequel seven years later, where the siege is still going on. Our new main character doesn't have a military background, and his problems aren't directly related to the defense of the city ... at first, at least. The book got a bit more exciting when he got involved in that, but I couldn't help but notice how he essentially turned into an expy of the main character of the first book towards the end. I mean, suddenly he's a grand strategist despite only having experience from the theater stage?

As for characters being likable ... yeah, that's absolutely a valid concern. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the main leads are total bungholes. It's an interesting read, though, and I wonder if there are any plans for a second sequel. The way this one ended, I wouldn't consider it likely, but I'd read it if it arrived one day.

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I just read Masquerade in Lodi too. The Penric and Desdemona novellas are pretty consistently entertaining easy reads and this one was no different.

Next up I think I'm going to read Andy Weir's Artemis. I liked the film of The Martian but I've never read any of his books so I'll have to see how it goes.

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On 10/26/2020 at 9:12 AM, Plessiez said:

 Fantasy crime fiction feels like it should be a sizeable subgenre, but the only examples I can think of right now are Steve Brust's early Vlad Taltos books.

Edited by unJon
Don’t know why I can’t type outside quote. Lies of Locke Lamorra qualifies. Probably lots of others I’m missing. If you include sci-fi then the Luna books by

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That was weird. Was typing the Luna books by McDonald is basically The Godfather set on the Moon. 

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Really eyeing Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward since it has been getting a lot of ASOIF comparisons (I know, I know, every book has this tag) but this is from some goodreads reviews I generally vibe with. 

 

Anyone read this or can vouch for it? 

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1 hour ago, mix_masta_micah said:

Really eyeing Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward since it has been getting a lot of ASOIF comparisons (I know, I know, every book has this tag) but this is from some goodreads reviews I generally vibe with. 

 

Anyone read this or can vouch for it? 

I haven't read it but its on my radar as well.  One person I follow on Goodreads said "It scratched an itch that I genuinely don’t think I’ve satisfied since A Song of Ice and Fire".  

I've also been eyeing Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee.  Looks like another doorstop epic fantasy, which it seems like we don't get much of anymore.

Edited by End of Disc One

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