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What Are You Reading? Third Quarter, 2022


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On 7/14/2022 at 9:17 PM, Fragile Bird said:

Lol, are you saying they’re good or bad?

I thought the narrator (Simon Vance) was good. I need an accent (not American) for fantasy and a voice that works well on 1.5x speed. I thought this guy fit that pretty well.

The book itself (The Emperor's Blades) had a few off-putting early turns that didn't feel quite natural and there was inconsistent use of abilities but it was an overall enjoyable world construction. I'm interested to see where it goes from here.

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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I finished Katherine Addison's latest book,  The Grief of Stones which was all that I hoped it would be based on its predecessors (and gave strong hints at the end that there would be more books in the series :)). 

Next I read the novella Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky,  a mix of sufficiently advanced science being indistinguishable from magic and violations of the Prime Directive.      

Then read The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu, the first part of his Dandelion Dynasty books.  I learned, after I read it, that it was based loosely on real life people and events leading to the founding of the Han Dynasty (though set in a fantasy world), which was fun as last fall I read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms which was the story of the fall of the Han Dynasty.  

Then I read the start of a new series by Miles Cameron, Against All Gods.   Set in a bronze age civilization where the gods are real, though they may not really be gods. 

Next up is Into the Narrowdark by Tad Williams.

 

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I've finished The Witchwood Crown and moved onto Empire of Grass - by the way my first use of my shiny new Kindle Paperwhite! I'm delighted with it so far. I'd used a bulky 11" Samsung tablet for years and years for my ebooks, and while I enjoyed a colossal screen for 2 big, clear pages, I really wanted the far lighter Paperwhite, especially for outdoor use.

As to the novels, anyone who's read Williams' large series knows how slowly he develops his plots and characters. Hardly anything much has happened, but he's properly reminded readers of beloved characters from the original Osten Ard series, and let us get to know his new ones. As with Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and Otherland, I have enjoyed his very measured pace, but find myself eager for, well, shit to hit the fan already. I expect to zoom through into the newly released third novel, then be exasperated when everything has merely been set up for the inevitable three or four hundred pages of non-stop excitement, revelation and likely saccharine denouement coming in his to-be-released finale.

Edited by Argonath Diver
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Finally, FINALLY finished Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James. I did like it, but ye gods was it hard to get into. It felt... very aimless for the first half and when it finally intersects with Black Leopard, Red Wolf, it almost seems tacked on. And the dense writing style did not help. One thing that I think made it even more difficult to appreciate was that there was a lot that I did not remember from Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I recalled the overall beats of the story, but not a lot of the actual details. I would most definitely benefit from a reread of both at some point in the future... the far future.

3/5

I reread The Hobbit for the first time in.... oh twenty years. It's good, though I don't particularly love it. It's a fun, breezy little fantasy book, albeit my least favorite of Tolkien's "main" books (LotR and The Simarillion being the others). I don't really have much to say about it that hasn't been said better a million times before, other than I found the end section (everything after the party reaches Laketown) much, much better than I recall and the actual journey up to that point much more tedious, excepting Riddles in the Dark and even that I didn't like as much as I remembered. It's a fine book, but it will never be one of my favorites.

3/5

Since the pandemic started I've been on a bit of a "Behind The Bastards" binge and Robert Evans's sultry, dulcet tones have been one of the few things to make the general collapse of both society and global sanity somewhat manageable. So when I found out that he had written a sci-fi dystopian novel about a post-collapse United States, boy howdy was I ready for that. And make no mistake, his voice really comes through rather clearly on After The Revolution. The writing is a bit rough in some places. By no means is it bad, but it's pretty obvious that it's a debut novel.

That said, the world building and characters are the primary drivers of the novel, with the actual story being there just to explore those aspects. It's not a bad story, but it mainly exists to get the characters where they need to get and to show off hints of how exactly the world got to where it currently is. And those hints are the most enticing portions of the book. You never get a clear picture of what exactly happened, but just enough flashes of images that you can kinda, maybe roughly sketch something out. Overall, it was a fun, action-filled sci-fi dystopian romp with some good characters anchoring down an intriguing premise. Not perfect, but fun.

3.5/5

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Following @Wilbur's lead, I am reading Vance's Demon Princes books. I've polished off the first two and am now halfway through the third. I have forgotten how much I enjoy his work, although I can't see any of this getting published nowadays.

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57 minutes ago, Peadar said:

Following @Wilbur's lead, I am reading Vance's Demon Princes books. I've polished off the first two and am now halfway through the third. I have forgotten how much I enjoy his work, although I can't see any of this getting published nowadays.

Pretty dark stuff beneath the witty writing, isn't it?

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I started reading Armageddon Rag, GRRM's book that was apparently expected to be a huge hit and was not. Its available as an e-book. He talked about it in a recent podcast. I have to say I eventually found it dull and gave up, although I did like some aspects of it. As part of a assignment as a journalist, the narrator, an author whose books have done less well since the first success, is looking up old friends and trying to solve a murder mystery. I got quite hooked by the set up and I enjoyed the account of each meeting with an old friend but gradually lost interest, just as it was building to a climax. there is an immaturity to it (not to the writing, but the author!) which is also detectable in The Dying of the Light an earlier book (1977) I read but I eventually really liked that one. It has all sort of influences from different science fiction authors and strange elements embroidered into it, and some great set piece chapters. Ah well, maybe I will go back and try to finish Armageddon Rag, I read most of the way through in one sitting. I suppose I should see if I can get through the rest.

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On 7/14/2022 at 10:27 PM, mcbigski said:

I've been on a Poul Anderson kick lately since a lot of his stuff is on Kindle Unlimited and I hadn't really read much of him before.  

Which also, kindle unlimited recs for sci fi and fantasy?  Most of the in app recs seem to be for parts of a series I've never heard of, but not the whole thing.  I get the marketing aspect of that, but really, any good one offs there you'd like to recommend?

Three Hearts and Three Lions:  This is about a man stranded in a fantasy land who uses scientific methods to solve problems involving magic and faerie.

The Broken Sword: Norse mythology tale involving a war between trolls and elves.

Both works are standalone.

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17 hours ago, Wilbur said:

Pretty dark stuff beneath the witty writing, isn't it?

Oh yes! 

Speaking of wit, I love the way many of the authorities he quotes from are mangled versions of his fellow writers' names. Although, so far, the only two I'm sure of are Frank Herbert and Poul Anderson.

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Finished Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I didn't realise until Googling it five minutes ago that this was actually the middle-book of a loosely-connected trilogy. The final part is due in November this year. 

Enjoyed it a lot more than his sci-fi standalone The Doors of Eden, even though it had a similarly wide range of point-of-views. Of particular interest to me was the civilisation of artificially evolved octopuses that seemed to be riffing partly on the idea of what it would be like if Twitter were a race of cephalopods. 

Tchaikovsky doing sci-fi seems like a more utopia-minded writer than Tchaikovsky doing fantasy. Apparently it's easier for him to imagine genetically-modified/genetically other species working wisely and kindly together than bog-standard humans. No arguments here. 

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On 7/17/2022 at 12:07 PM, polishgenius said:

I read Miles Cameron's space opera, Artifact Space. We know by know what we're getting with Cameron- protagonists leaning towards the mary-sueish, but written with verve and character and with entertaining twisty plots combining mazes of intrigue with intricately-detailed battle/fight sequences. He transposes that formula from medieval fantasy to space well, and I gotta say I enjoyed this more than his last series. Bit less hurried. Looking forward to the next, although I see that it's not scheduled yet and in the interim he has published the first in a completely separate series (back to the fantasy). Will pick that up at some stage.

As soon as I saw this post, I put in a reserve on the audiobook in our local library system, so thank you!

Cameron is a very good writer, and you could slip this book right in between Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War stories and Walter Jon Williams' Dread Empire Falls series without any loss of quality.  As Polish Genius mentions, it hits all the right notes right on time.  Cameron wrote a superb series about the Persian Wars called The Long War, and this isn't near those in terms of my particular appetite, but it was still very good.

I had a longer learning curve that I like with the reader, Nneka Okoye, but this is just my lack of interest in an Essex accent.  She does a fine job with the characterizations, and her reading is very consistent, so kudos to her and her producer on this one.

Here is the link to the Artifact Space site on Christian Cameron's page in case you want options to source the audiobook.

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Time to pick up another book from my shelf.

Sorta undecided and curious on the boarders opinion.

I have sorta narrowed it down to two books.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Matthis is option one.

In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster is option two.

 

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I finished a trio of novellas, first Becky Chambers' A Psalm for the Well-Built. This tale of an itinerant tea monk in the middle of an existential crisis and the robot he unexpectedly meets in the wilderness is low-key in terms of plot but I liked the world-building and the interactions between the two main characters. Even if not a huge amount actually happens in it, it's a very likeable story.

After that I read Adrian Tchaikovsky's Elder Race. I liked the premise, a younger princess from a feudal society who makes the bold decision to ask for the aid of a reclusive wizard to save the land from a demonic plague, much to the discomfort of the 'wizard' who is really an anthropologist from a spacefaring civilisation meant to be studying the society. It had an interesting portrayal of how difficult it is for the two characters to communicate despite challenges of linguistics and the vast difference in perspective and it was amusing how the anthropologist's attempts to explain how he's not a wizard make him sound even more like a wizard to his audience. The mystery of the nature of the threat that they are facing also helps make it a compelling story. I really liked this story, I don't know if any more stories are planned in this setting but I think there is potential for more.

Today I finished Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Shattered. Revisionist fairytales seem to have been very popular in recent years, this one adds a novel element by adding a multiverse element into the story, as very different characters who have some affinity with the Sleeping Beauty myths come into contact with each other. At times the plot does strain credulity a bit (such as being able to get a mobile signal in a different Universe) but it's a fun story to read even if despite hinting at darker storylines it ends up feeling a bit Young Adult.

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Finished a re-read of the (translated) Nibelungenleid. Interesting to compare with the related material I have read in the last couple of years (Volsunga Saga, the Poetic Edda, and the libretto of Wagner's Ring Cycle). Here, Kriemhild's villainised, Brunhilde vanishes, and the poet really, really likes describing clothes, bedding, and armour.   

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I read One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky. It's, er, a bit odd. I suppose I'd describe it as a sort misanthropic post apocalyptic homicidal time travel romantic comedy novella, oh, and there's a pet killer dinosaur. I think Tchaikovsky might have just set out to write the most out there thing he could think of.

Now I'm reading The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal.

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One Day All This Will Be Yours sounds like crazy fun. I'll move it further up my Tchaikovsky reading list. Every time I think I'm making headway with his back catalogue, he brings something else out, or I hear of one of his off-the-beaten-track novellas. 

I've started listening to The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow. So far so good. I was getting increasingly frustrated that they kept mentioning indigenous sources, and indigenous critiques, but then not specifying them or quoting them at all. However, they have just started to refer to Pierre Biard's account of his interactions with the Mi'kmaq of Acadia/Nova Scotia, and hopefully the trend will continue. 

There was  a brief discussion of how the word 'equality' was used in European languages prior to the Enlightenment  with the claim that it was never used politically — it didn't immediately sound wrong, but at the same time, I wish the authors had brought a trained linguist on board to discuss it in more depth. 

Part of the evidence cited to show how preferable indigenous societies could be as set against those of the European colonisers was that children kidnapped by indigenous groups often chose to stay, or to return to those groups when offered the choice. I'm afraid, being a gloomy person, that this reminded me rather of Gitta Sereny, who before her career as a journalist and writer worked for the United Nations in the difficult business of reuniting 'Aryan' children stolen by the Nazis with their birth families. The children often didn't remember their birth families at all and were distraught. 

(Note: this isn't me saying that American indigenous societies were like the Nazis, and I'm sure plenty of Europeans chose to stay with the tribes because they were basically fairer, nicer places to be. It was just the particular example of kidnapped children/infants that made me blink a bit.) 

I'm actually happy to get on board with their overall arguments; their appeal was part of what made me choose to spend my monthly audible credit on the book. Some aspects seem a bit thin at the moment, but then I think the authors are still warming to their subject. 

Edited by dog-days
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1 hour ago, dog-days said:

I've started listening to The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow.

I have the book right here.  I read the opening matter and first chapter, and then -- didn't go back, though, as said, it right here, the stack of current reading.  Don't know what my problem is ... the time of the year and it being so hot? and lots going on? 

Or perhaps it just doesn't feel as seriously groundbreaking in terms of information of our past as David Anthony's The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World  (2010).  :dunno:

Edited by Zorral
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I fell off the reading wagon pretty hard and there isn’t really anything new anyway. 

I read Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in book format as well. The former sank in and I enjoyed it a lot, far more than the audiobook version. With the latter, I just didn’t click. I also got stuck on Lord of the Rings back in April. After burning through Two Towers in days, I never continued. Though I still fully intend to. We will see. 

I also listened to Not for Profit by Martha C. Nussbaum. It was contrived, boring, painfully forgettable and rich in incredible logic jumps, which is a shame because the description promised something I thought I would very much love and resonate with. There were two other non fiction audiobooks I listened to, but I can barely remember them because I kinda fell off the audible bandwagon too. The previous quarter was too stressful to concentrate on non-fiction. I’m currently trying to listen to The Problem with Work which also sounds like something I would enjoy and it’s also contrived and packed with wild deductions. But I want to finish it anyway because I spent a credit on it and audible’s got rather pricy since our currency crashed.

It’s not really an audiobook, but I listened to Moriarty which is a reliably pleasant, lovable light piece of entertainment. 

 

 


 

Edited by RhaenysBee
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17 hours ago, Zorral said:

I have the book right here.  I read the opening matter and first chapter, and then -- didn't go back, though, as said, it right here, the stack of current reading.  Don't know what my problem is ... the time of the year and it being so hot? and lots going on? 

Or perhaps it just doesn't feel as seriously groundbreaking in terms of information of our past as David Anthony's The Horse, The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World  (2010).  :dunno:

Have heard very good things about the latter. 

I went for The Dawn of Everything after seeing an intriguing review of it on dreamwidth a few months ago, which now, irritatingly, I can't find. 

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