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What are you reading? First Quarter 2023


williamjm
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1 hour ago, dog-days said:

Yes. In terms of tone, Scholomance is much more knowing than Ninth House, and genre-savvy. I'm not sure if El ever called the school Evil Hogwarts*, but she may as well have.

I don't think either of them have any explicit Harry Potter references (unlike something like the Rivers of London series), but Scholomance's roots in Harry Potter fan-fiction are fairly obvious. Ninth House has more of a real world inspiration for its setting, I think it does seem that Leigh Bardugo has a bit of a love-hate relationship with Yale.

1 hour ago, dog-days said:

* On second thoughts, Scholomance is quite a bit nicer than Hogwarts in some respects, though not in terms of catering. 

At least it doesn't have an entire house basically devoted to being evil, the pupils in the Scholomance may do horrible things to each other but mostly out of a desire for self-preservation.

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I picked up Chelsea Manning's book today. 

I would love to pretend that when I referenced her the other day as "Danielle", that I was practicing a certain type of Italian art... But I was just really high and mixed her up with a football player :lmao:

See, though, the advantage of that Italian art discipline... I don't have to admit that it was a slip. :leer:

Anyway, I gotta try and find something to laugh about because I didn't ever have to dig too deep into this sisters' story before to know that it's fucking beyond horrible. And I don't like horror for horror's sake, usually. I'm afraid of the dark on my own. I never liked Aliens because it was scary. 

I loved it because the survivors get away and the rapey monsters BURN

:read:

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I read the absurdly prolific Adrian Tchaikovsky's latest novel City of Last Chances. I thought it was very good. There are a lot of fantasy novels set in cities where the city is arguably as much of a character as any of the cast and I thought Ilmar was an interesting setting for the book. There are tensions between different parts of the population - the aristocracy, the workers, the criminal gangs, the students and immigrant communities - while all of those have a mutual dislike of the totalitarian regime which recently conquered their city. It does make for some interesting interactions from different walks of life have to decide whether or not to work together against a mutual enemy despite their own differing self-interests. Their are also some more unusual aspects to Ilmar, including the Wood which periodically becomes a portal to other worlds for those who have the wherewithal to survive the dangers within it and The Reproach, a neighbourhood whose macabre nature terrifies the rest of the city. The chapters tend to be short, switching frequently between a large cast of characters, some of whom are only seen once while other recur throughout the book. This does mean it takes some time for the shape of the overall story to become apparent but it builds nicely through the book and has an ending that is satisfying but leaves space for possible sequels. I liked the variety of characters, some of whom develop a lot as characters through the book while others seem determined not to learn anything. The interactions between Yasnic and God were probably my favourite.

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After years and years of hearing this board sing her praises, I've finally leapt into JV Jones' A Cavern of Black Ice. Specifically, I went in completely blind. I knew she was very highly regarded here, but hadn't actually read a lick of plot summary. 

I don't know the reading habits of the rest of you lovely lot, but I have always enjoy scanning the standard fantasy series map before dipping into any prologue, etc. Hers reveals some neato location names right off the bat. Much like how I analyzed the map of Westeros many, many times over, hoping to see stories about places like Bear Island, etc, I immediately found myself hoping to see some of the settings of that map. 

Even before I'd read 10 pages, I was delighted by Jones' particularly lovely crafting of language. The last series I finished was, I'm a bit embarrassed, was The Belgeriad after @Ser Not Appearing inspired a re-read. Let's just say I skimmed over the last book of that series as fast as I read the entire Prologue and first two chapters of Jones' work. I have a bad habit of skimming over stretches of uninspired prose, but with Jones I've found myself re-reading full paragraphs already, just to savor the language. I'm only halfway through the first book, but Jones is adept at conveying more character with one sentence than some authors spend chapters attempting.

I have no clue where this series is going, either, which is a delight. So glad our library system finally got a single beat up old copy of this for me to request.

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I did enjoy reading back through it, but reading all 5 books so rapidly made it embarrassingly obvious how Eddings shat out the same bits over and over, with little interest in any meaningful content. All good, I read it as a preteen and I fan only assume that was his intended audience. 

Jones has been just what I needed. And enough content to keep me occupied for a long time.

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21 hours ago, Argonath Diver said:

After years and years of hearing this board sing her praises, I've finally leapt into JV Jones' A Cavern of Black Ice. Specifically, I went in completely blind. I knew she was very highly regarded here, but hadn't actually read a lick of plot summary. 

Sold.  Before I start though, one (non-spoiler) question.  Am I going to be stranded mid-story because Endlords has not been published? 

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Read the Children of Gods and Fighting Men yesterday on Anthony Ryan's recommendation. Start Time:  8.45 AM Finish Time: 3.05 PM. Loved it.  Unputdownable. 

I'm a sucker for myth/history combos, although all I knew nothing of Irish medieval history, and virtually nothing about Irish mythology that isn't mentioned in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series. 

Only after reading the afterword did I realize that many protagonists are central figures in Irish history and their fates are matters of record.  That rather spoils some future plot points, so my advice to the ignorant is to stay ignorant. 

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4 hours ago, Gaston de Foix said:

Sold.  Before I start though, one (non-spoiler) question.  Am I going to be stranded mid-story because Endlords has not been published? 

The storyline is definitely incomplete at the moment, although I'm more optimistic about the series being completed than some other notable fantasy series.

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I suppose I wasn't completely blind in that sense -  I do recall seeing that this was a series among the Anticipated but Unfinished Series chatter. I knew going in that I'd likely catch up with it long before completion, but I feel like most of us are battle-hardened to that these days. Now that Things Are Happening in the first book, I'm having trouble getting much else done on this all-day rainy afernoon.

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Catching up on the stuff Adrian Tchaikovsky released while I was not in a big reading mood. Enjoyed both  Children of Memory and City of Last Chances. Looking forward to Lords of Uncreation which will be released in April. 

I just noticed while checking his Bibliography on wikipedia that he has written a WH40k book called Day of Ascension which I have added to my to read list now. I have enjoyed WH40k novels in the past(mainly books by Dan Abnett and Sandy Mitchell) and as  Tchaikovsky is one of my favourite authors I'm looking forward to his take on the setting. 

Edited by Luzifer's right hand
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I finished listening to Invisible Things, a political satire wrapped in sci fi. Didn't totally work for me. The setup for the politics was a bit unbelievable, and it was just the same frustrating and/or exaggerated shit that happen in real life without like going anywhere. At least in Don't Look Up the damn Earth got wiped out and we got the death-by-alien coda. This book literally just ends with the stupidest cop-out. Meh.

My WoT re-read continues with The Shadow Rising, which is one of my faves but also it's a bit hard to read these all back-to-back, so I probably need to take a breather after this one.

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Over the past two months of squiring visitors around the Valley of the Sun, I have kept old hard copies in my truck and re-read Gene Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete during down time waiting for the girls to finish shopping, picking people up from the river, acting as the drive-arounder for one-way hikes, etc.

Both of these are excellent books, and you should read them if you can.  But I want to draw your attention to a couple of aspects of these particular works from Gene Wolfe's output

The first aspect is that, in keeping with all of the rest of Gene Wolfe's writing, I still feel like I am only understanding or recognizing half of the allusions and references within the work.  So despite the fact that I am an adult with some experience in reading and understanding how books work, Gene Wolfe's books take me back mentally to my childhood and youth, where I read a lot of books that I didn't fully or even partially understand.  It is nice (sometimes) to have that sense of exploration and only limited recognition that is the motif of young readers' early forays into complex literature.  It is a sense of, "There is still more to be learned."

Not every Gene Wolfe book is quite as accessible as these two stories are, at least for me, so that sense of partial understanding can be pretty frustrating in some of his other works with subject matter that I enjoy less.  Doing a re-read with other board members and discussing the chapters is always something I enjoy with Wolfe, as it informs me on the items I miss.  (Fragile Bird led a very good one on The New Sun in this forum.)  But for these books, the balance between unexplained and understood is good for me.

The second aspect is that although these books have a post-Classical Greek setting, they are far more Wolfeian than they are Grecian.  This is similar to how The Book of the New Sun has as its setting one of the longships that left Jack Vance's Dying Earth, but is far more Wolfeian than Vancian.  Knowing something about Classical Greece or The Dying Earth might be useful for the reader of these Wolfe books, but they are so deeply Wolfe books that knowing nothing about their milieux might be just as useful as knowing quite a lot.  Wolfe is not an author to be tied down to the cannon of literature or its conventions or styles.

Also, I direct your attention to this thread in case you haven't seen it: 

 

 

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I have been reading Early Riser by Jasper Fforde.

I am not sure that I have seen Fforde mentioned here before. He is a British fantasy writer whose books might generally be described as Alice in Wonderland crossed with Terry Pratchett. I am not generally much of a fan but Early Riser is a bit different, possibly partly because he apparently had some sort of breakdown in the middle of writing it and ended up with a different book to the one he had originally intended.

The book contains the skeleton of a good SF novel. It is particularly notable for the thoroughly worked out worldbuilding, of an alternate Earth the same as our own except that it is in the grip of a long running ice age, and that nearly all humans hibernate through the (extremely harsh) winter. The risks and strains of hibernation (or worse trying to survive winter awake) mean life expectancy is low. Society is slightly matriarchal and has a frontier feel with a constant struggle to maintain the population. The action mostly takes place over one winter, a time when generally only a handful of misfits are awake keeping things running until the spring.

However, on top of this SF, we get the usual Fforde weirdness, with lunatic people and events being treated entirely seriously and with a kind of internal logic. This combination of SF and zaniness is surreal and oddly compelling. You need to read carefully not to miss things. This was one of those books that I will be mulling over for some while - which given it is partly about dreams invading people's minds is somewhat ironic.

(And I guess I should mention that the setting is a country called "Wales").

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I need to go to that one used bookstore. Right now, I'm just trying to buy as many as I think will be lifers on the shelf.

One of the books I want to read is A Theology of Compassion: Metaphysics of Difference and the Renewal of Tradition by Davies. I have this one three volume read. The Living God | The Word of Life | Life in the Spirit. A collection of systematic theology by Thomas C. Oden.

And anyway I mention these because they are just so difficult to read. But I am smart so I guess I can handle it

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I finished up Neal Stephenson's Termination Shock read by Edoardo Ballerini this afternoon.  I am a big fan of Stephenson's work, but even I think that his recent several books have failed to live up to the manic heights of Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, Snow Crash, and his Baroque Cycle, etc.  They have been fine, but just not quite as scintillating.

But Termination Shock is something of a return to form, at least to my taste.  The long excursions into technology and history are very much to my taste, and his characters are all at least a little bit sympathetic.  If I can find myself interested in and identifying with the struggles of European royalty and Chinese spies, the writing has some excellent hooks.

And finally, Stephenson writes a novel about climate change AND Texas that Bruce Sterling wishes he could have written.  There is some good sci fi, some good thriller action, a little bit of intrigue, even some gentle romance.  It may not be Snow Crash nuts, but it is clearly written by the guy who wrote and remembers how to write Snow Crash.  Also, this book had a editor who earned his or her corn, in that it is a reasonable length.  (Although they did misstate that London Bridge is in Scottsdale - it isn't, it is in Lake Havasu, about five- hours away from here.  Or it could be that Stephenson and his editor know this, and it was intended to tell us something about the character that makes that claim.)

The reader, Edoardo Ballerini, is very good on this book.  He does some regional accents to differentiate the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural cast of characters, and in some readers it is a distraction, but he does it well and consistently.  I don't think I have listened to him before, but he is definitely on the A-list of readers.

Strongly recommended to anyone who liked early Stephenson, or anyone interested in climate change or geo-engineering.  Or drones.  Or falconry.  Or minor European royalty.  Or...the list goes on.

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Finished Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo the sequel to Ninth House. Found it a bit of a slog. Think I'd have preferred it to be a campus novel (with demons) rather than a demonology (with a little alt reality Yale on the side). Plus, it just needed a strict editor to chop sections and tell Bardugo to concentrate on letting the characters who aren't Alex breath. And pace it better. Maybe lose the whole first third since I don't think it added much. 

Finally gave up on Kingdom of Characters by Jing Tsu after getting two thirds of the way through on Audible. I feel a bit ashamed; there were flashes of stories that were really interesting – notably the first chapter focusing on Wang Zhao whom I'd happily have read a biography of. But there seemed to be very little critical analysis or attack or any of the kind of little dramas than enliven non-fiction for a general audience. Reader, I was extremely bored. 

Now listening to the first in Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles as read by Matthias Lühn. Feels like being back with an old friend. 

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