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williamjm

Third Quarter 2021 Reading

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4 hours ago, VigoTheCarpathian said:

Yes - I think if Mieville had put out a Bas-Lag book every few years, a younger me would have been very happy.  It was unique, and I tore through them, and the short story, in days.  The closest thing to them I’ve found has been in graphic novels, Monstress and Saga.

I’ve kept and reread my Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander, along with my Sandman graphic novels and GRRM.  Wheel of Time and Malazan got purged in a move, because of volume, and i sort of regret that, because I likely wouldn’t reread without them at hand.

A friend dropped off a set of the Eddings Belgariad, and some of the dragon lance and forgotten realms books he had found in storage we consumed like mad in late middle school…and man, it was like rewatching the original He-Man.  Just…so bad.

Belgariad is what I referenced earlier as one of the things I tried to go back to and ... whew ... it was rough. What a sweet summer child I was.

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5 hours ago, Durckad said:

Now? It seems like they're barely talked about anymore, which is too bad because there's still nothing quite like them out there.

 

That's probably partly because Mieville removed himself from the SFF scene, possibly in response to some MeToo allegations against him (Warren Ellis type manipulative stuff with more lawyerly threatening on his part, just so we aren't left with people speculating since the info for what allegedly happened is not easy to find). The Scar is still my favourite book but he just doesn't remind people of his existence anymore and, hell, the possibility that it is true makes one reluctant to recommend his stuff. 



Anyway most of the books I read as a kid still hold up fairly decently so I guess I had mostly good taste. The Belgariad doesn't so much but oh well.    

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Partly also Mieville’s quality just went down for whatever reason. Have you read the Census Taker or Last Days of New Paris? They’re just as weird as his early stuff but not as good.

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Recently I've read Zen Cho's The True Queen and Claire North's The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

The True Queen wasn't anything special. I remember enjoying Sorcerer to the Crown but I struggled to remember the details, which was a bit of an issue for this book, and then the plot of this book didn't really capture my attention. It was a little too obvious how it was going to end up.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August on the other hand was very good. A really interesting premise with a very good story to go with it. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't already read it.

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I've read Ghostwritten and Bone Clocks, the last two books of David Mitchell I haven't read before. In short, I liked the first (as he never drops below a certain level for me) and loved the second (the last part that took place in 2043 seemed so scarryingly possible).

I think I'd put Bone Clocks on par with Slade House and Cloud Atlas.

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I've been tearing through Cornwells's Saxon stuff, read the first 6 over the last two weeks.  O'Brian's Wine Dark Sea is up next, I chewed through the earlier books years ago and have been 'saving' the rest of the series because I don't want it to end.  This seems stupid now that I'm writing it, I could get hit by a car tomorrow and then I'd be super fucked.

  I re-read the Bas-Lag books this winter and loved The Scar and Iron Council but felt that PSS was definitely the weak link.  IC felt bloated the first time I read it but this time around nothing seemed wasteful or meandering.   

I also recently listened to the audiobook of Embassytown, which was awesome.  They did a pretty good job of double tracking the Hosts vocals, and the narrator was awesome.  I think I enjoyed listening to it more than reading it.

 

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Recently, I finished Project Hail Mary.  I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as everyone else did.  The pacing was too uneven for me.

I also read a short story called Dave's Head by Suzanne Palmer as I have been waiting for her new book to come out.  It was a fun read, but it also felt very introductory.  Hopefully, some day there will be a sequel.

Lastly, I just finished Becky Chambers’ A Psalm for the Wild-Built.  I thought it was an interesting character study.  Also, this is the first time that I enjoyed a fictional travelogue.

 I just started Warriors of the Storm (Saxon Tales, book 9).  I just finished the tv series and didn’t want to wait around for season 5.

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Posted (edited)

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a good read, but it's so long that I'm putting it down for a bit to read some other books.

I'm starting off with Lolita, recommended in another thread. Also, I've lately been interested in electronics so I plan on reading the nonfiction work Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold. This book is supposedly one of the better explanations that begins on how very basic circuits work using simple switches, then gets into the more advanced integrated circuits and how all of this produces computers that can calculate, hold memory, and perform complex tasks. Also an interesting work of Petzold that I would like to read is The Annotated Alan Turing, which offers a layman's annotation to Alan Turing's important work On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.

There are two other books I also plan on reading, more focused on mathematics. Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics by William Dunham, and The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh. Singh wrote a terrific book called Fermat's Last Theorem, and so I look forward to reading what he has to say on the history of cryptography.

School is going to start up shortly and my personal reading will slow to a crawl, so we'll see how far I get into this list. At the very least I want to finish The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Edited by IFR

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1 hour ago, IFR said:

Singh wrote a terrific book called Fermat's Last Theorem, and so I look forward to reading what he has to say on the history of cryptography.

 

Fermat's Last Theorem is indeed an incredible book. Highly recommended, even to non-mathematicians like me...

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8 hours ago, IFR said:

There are two other books I also plan on reading, more focused on mathematics. Journey through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics by William Dunham, and The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh. Singh wrote a terrific book called Fermat's Last Theorem, and so I look forward to reading what he has to say on the history of cryptography.

I liked The Code Book when I read it a few years ago.

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I read Stuart Turton's The Devil and the Dark Water based on an earlier recommendation here.

In the early going it was difficult to really get into the story, but eventually it really gripped me and I found it to be an enjoyable read.

The first few chapters take place in Batavia (today's Jakarta) during the time of the Dutch East India Company, and the scenes described do not at all match what it would really be like in West Java at the time.  However, once the plot moves onto the Indiaman ship headed for home, then the suspension of disbelief can kick in.

This book is a stand alone novel, but the protagonist and his sidekick are described as if they have been in several other stories (mysteries) previously, so I thought I was catching a series in mid-arc.  However, it soon became apparent that this was because the author was going to use horror genre tools to tell the mystery story.

So overall the story is a good one, although several elements of scene and real historical trading in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) are incorrect, or are portrayed as they would have happened in Europe rather than in Asia.  I went on to try and read The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Turton's first and highly celebrated novel, but I don't think I will finish it.  I just don't care what happens to a bunch of society people in an English country house that much, particularly when the narrator has amnesia.

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I've just finished Paul McAuley's War of the Maps and I'm not really sure how I feel about it.  It's certainly quite different from the only other books by McAuley I've read (Something Coming Through and Into Everywhere), although I'm not sure I enjoyed it as much as I did those two.  Without going into spoilers, I had some issues with both the pacing of the narrative and of the directions that the plot went in towards the end. I certainly didn't dislike it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.  

It's a shame, because I really like the idea of the setting, too.  Perhaps I'm being influenced by the discussion of China Mieville earlier in this thread, but I think War of the Maps wouldn't have been out of place in the early 2000s New Weird in a lot of ways (although maybe Vance's Dying Earth books or Wolfe's Book of the New Sun are the more obvious comparisons).

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I really enjoyed Octavia E. Butler's The Parable of the Sower. The first 30 or 40 pages felt lifeless to me, with several "as you know, Bob" type discussions between our precocious protagonist and others. However, once she started plotting for her own future, the story became compelling and remained that way right up until the end.

I have already purchased the sequel.

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Posted (edited)
On 7/26/2021 at 11:15 AM, Ser Not Appearing said:

I just read (listened to) The Lies of Locke Lamora.

I was much more satisfied with the book about midway through than I am here at the end. It was good. Plenty of world building and interesting characters, plus much about the various deceits played out well. But a good bit of the manner in which everything played out in the second-half felt more plot-armory and less well-crafted. There just wasn't enough for me to suspend my disbelief when peril was escaped and everything got tied up in a nice, little bow.

Just got through book 2. Did I enjoy it? Sure. Was it a good step back? For me, yes. I'm going to complain because that's my nature and it'll result in me seeming convinced the book was terrible. Again, it wasn't. But it held some major dissatisfactions for me.

Locke was more petulant than witty, plot points turned on Harry Potter-esque previously-unrevealed, magic, alchemical devices and ... the possible fridging was telegraphed and regretful by mere existence. Their eventual scheme seemed unnecessarily elaborate and the money spent + time spent could probably have netted them just as much with far less risk. It just seemed odd, once revealed.

On the subject of money, it just seems off in general. They can get 250 coins with ease. Do that 100 times (again, easy to do over two years from what I can tell) and they have a sum of 25,000 coins, which is treated as an insane amount of money. It's just all incongruent and, for whatever reason, this sort of thing really bothered me despite that economy is often a hand-waving matter than can be ignored.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing

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Currently reading Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Talents.

Interestingly for a novel published in 1998, it features a right-wing demagogue president of the US, whose main tactic is to turn people against outgroups and whose slogan is "Make America Great Again."

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21 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

....On the subject of money, it just seems off in general. They can get 250 coins with ease. Do that 100 times (again, easy to do over two years from what I can tell) and they have a sum of 25,000 coins, which is treated as an insane amount of money. It's just all incongruent and, for whatever reason, this sort of thing really bothered me despite that economy is often a hand-waving matter than can be ignored.

I had the same feeling, as the Economist within me considered the risk vs reward for the actions that they took throughout the story.

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3 hours ago, Wilbur said:

I had the same feeling, as the Economist within me considered the risk vs reward for the actions that they took throughout the story.

It's weird that I cared but ... I did. And I couldn't stop.

Since you brought that book up again:

The mummery about drowning people and then they don't drown and that's why they're allowed to stay on as crewmen was, in all respects, odd and childish. I'm shocked it wasn't cut. Legit shocked. It was so out of place.

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Finished Acceptance, the last book in the Southern Reach trilogy, and it was a pretty big disappointment for me. Gah. Feel like he could have done so much more and instead just went the lazy route of "what do YOU think it means?" which meh. I actually liked book 2 more than most people so it was frustrating to have that lead into a poor conclusion.

I'm now listening to Murder on the Orient Express. I've read this before, but it was available from the library and I needed something to listen to on a run, and who doesn't love revisiting a good Christie novel? I'm enjoying it as an audiobook, there are many different accents and all handled well and something about the pompous French accent really makes Poirot come to life.

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Like SPFBO for Fantasy, there is now a SPSFC for sci-fi. I'll be reading a lot of self pub sci-fi books over this quarter! 

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21 hours ago, Starkess said:

Finished Acceptance, the last book in the Southern Reach trilogy, and it was a pretty big disappointment for me. Gah. Feel like he could have done so much more and instead just went the lazy route of "what do YOU think it means?" which meh. I actually liked book 2 more than most people so it was frustrating to have that lead into a poor conclusion.

I'm now listening to Murder on the Orient Express. I've read this before, but it was available from the library and I needed something to listen to on a run, and who doesn't love revisiting a good Christie novel? I'm enjoying it as an audiobook, there are many different accents and all handled well and something about the pompous French accent really makes Poirot come to life.

I think that should be pompous Belgian accent. Poirot would not be pleased at being called a Frenchman!

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