What are you reading these days? #26
What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.
Hi everyone! I'm @acdw, I'm taking over this thread from @cadadr. This is my first one, and I'm excited for the discussion!
If anyone has any suggestions about how to run this thread, please feel free to PM me (I don't want to clog up this thread with suggestions). If there's enough messages, I'll start a thread to discuss them publicly.
Previous topics are listed in the wiki.
I recently finished American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
It's about lovable "big man" (I think the words "big man" were written about 50 times in reference to him) Shadow who recently got out of prison. He meets the mysterious Wednesday, who turns out to be Odin himself. He is trying to rally his fellow "old gods" in preparation for the war against the "new gods": Media, Money and similar things. He employs Shadow to be his helper. Shadow discovers some things about the conflict and Wednesday, but I won't spoil anything more.
The writing was good, the idea fun (lots of interesting mythology), but the book is so overhyped I was dissapointed. It's such a Reddit book (critisism of religion, satire, fantasy), but that makes it worse to me. I want more in a book than Reddit popularity. The book is consisted mostly of short scenes (often flashbacks) that don't contribute much. It feels like wasting time, nothing of consistence happens. It's the milk of books.
I feel like a bit of an asshole/iAmVerySmart, but I need more than a fun idea in a book. The setup was excellent, but the last 200 pages were boring. There is nothing in the book that makes me care about the ending. I think the problem with this kind of book is that it's the first "real" book a lot of people read. It's simply written, it's a simple plot, the characters are simple, everything is simple and easy to digest. There is nothing challenging. None of those points are by themselves an issue, but when everything is bland, I can't bring myself to like the book.
Agreed that the ending was underwhelming and flat. I did think the world-building was pretty cool, though.
You know, I really liked American Gods, but I still agree with you that it seems overhyped. Or I can see that it would be. And now that you mention it, the last act was not very memorable -- it's been a while now since I've read it, and I don't really remember any of the details about what happened. I feel like the "new gods" were kind of tacked in, somehow, or that was the impression I got at the time. I thought it was a neat take on old gods in the modern world would be like, though.
Yes, the concept is very fun: Gods in the modern world, walking around like regular people. I just wish Gaiman did more with it.
Have you read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, or its sequel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul? Those also deal with gods and modern life, though the gods are more removed. If you like Douglas Adams, I'd recommend them; they're very different from the show on Hulu (though I like that too).
Gaiman also co-wrote that Good Omens book with Terry Pratchett, though I've got to say it didn't really hold my interest. I can't put my finger on exactly why -- maybe it took too long for anything to really happen?
I have! I love Adams. But it's been such a long time, I might have to re-read them. Which series is on Hulu? I've seen both the 2016 and 2010-2012 series and loved them.
Like you, I've started reading Good Omens. I couldn't finish it either, for the same reason probably. I really like Pratchett, so maybe I just don't enjoy Gaiman?
As far as I know, just the 2016 series (or the one with with Elijah Wood) is on there. I liked it as well, though my opinion is not shared by some fellow Tildistas or internet denizens writ large.
I've been thinking the same thing about Gaiman. I really liked Coraline, but that's maybe the only one I really liked by him. I've never read any Pratchett though...I keep meaning to.
I'm currently re-reading all of Brandon Sanderson's published Cosmere novels. I first started reading them at the behest of my partner a few years ago, back before I knew that all of these books were part of a shared universe—or rather, star cluster. Much to my chagrin, after having sworn myself off unfinished series, I've found myself caring too much about a literary project that won't be finished for a few decades.
God damn it.
I've recently finished re-reading Era 1 of Mistborn (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, & The Hero of Ages).
Set in a pre-industrial society held static by the one-thousand year old Lord Ruler, our hero discovers her ability to use metal-based magics and attempts to overthrow The Final Empire with a gang of lovable miscreants.
One of my favorite fantasy series, that I think I appreciate more after reading the second time. I laughed again, I cried again, and it was just as fun reliving the story again.
Just today I've started to reread Oathbringer, Book 3 of 10, and most recent installment of, The Stormlight Archive. A doorstopper epic fantasy series, each volume is essentially a full trilogy in their own right and I really don't know how to sell it to anyone. It will surely go down in history as a masterwork of fantasy, if the quality persists through to the end.
It features a brooding slave boy with a magical sidekick, the King's Uncle and his visions granted by a dead God, a wise-ass scholar with a mysterious past and questionable mental stability, a war, an apocalypse, gods and kind-of-gods and almost-like-gods-if-you-squint, disgusting lizard-crab things, glowing marble money, marble people, magic rocks, assassins, secret societies, cults, and the platonic ideal of a DnD Bard.
It's A Game of Thrones crossed with Dragonball Z.
It's The Prince of Persia crossed with Avatar: The Last Airbender.
It's a real good time crossed with a delight.
Read it, you fucks.
lmfao. huge sanderson fan here, right there with you. on the bright side, the law of large numbers dictates that at least one of his stories should eventually get a good film/television adaptation, right? :'D
not to give too much away, but i wasn't sure how sanderson was going to manage to keep escalating after how intense the end of words of radiance was... boy did oathbringer blow me away though. easily my favorite book in the series so far, you won't be disappointed. the fourth book, the rhythm of war, is scheduled for release next year, but that feels so far away...
have you read any of second era misborn by chance? i read through the first book a few years ago and didn't really feel strongly enough about it to keep going, but i hear bands of mourning is fantastic, so i'm thinking maybe i should give it another shot...
A Game of Thrones put a bitter taste in my mouth for epic fantasy adaptations, to be honest. But if this Wheel of Time adaptation goes well, I might have faith that something Cosmere could be done justice. It would be a tall order, for sure.
The Wax & Wayne books are... fine? It's difficult to judge them based on their own merit; to divorce them from Era 1 is impossible. They're such a smaller scope compared to the first trilogy that I found reading through them to be rather jarring. I liked them, but I don't really remember all that much about them. They weren't originally planned to be a part of the Mistborn Sequence, and it shows. I like them, but I like them the least of all Cosmere books except for Elantris (which I judge to be the weakest novel of Brando Sando's).
Bands of Mourning was definitely my favorite installment of Era 2. The scope felt a little wider, and it feels more Cosmere-relevant compared to Alloy of Law, or Shadows of Self. It made me excited for the next one, to be honest.
I'm sort of between books right now.
After I abandoned 'The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter' last time, I moved on to 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing' by Lawrence Krauss. That turned out to be a very quick read, so I finished it already. It was informative and readable. It explained a few concepts I hadn't previously grasped.
I followed that up with 'Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe' by Martin Rees (I often like to "team with a theme"). It was... uninteresting. Nothing special, nothing horrible, just... uninteresting. So I let it go after a couple of chapters.
I've now picked up 'The Hunt for Vulcan: . . . And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe' from my to-read pile, but I haven't yet read a single page.
So, I'm between books in my main reading.
Meantime, my bedtime reading is an old favourite: 'Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade'. I've already read this book a few times. It's comfort food for the brain. I came to it circuitously: from the movie musical starring Lucille Ball, to the movie starring Rosalind Russell, to the play, and ultimately to the novel that spawned them all. It's fun. It's light. It's nice bedtime reading.
And I'm still occasionally reading 'The Horologicon: A Day's Jaunt Through the Lost Words of the English Language'. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is hilarious!
This might be cheating since they are technically video games, but I am replaying the Zero Escape games. They're visual novels! It's still reading! Just with puzzles!
I bought them because there was a killer sale on the PC versions, and I figured I'd play the enhanced versions, but they really didn't make too many improvements outside of 999 (Virtue's Last Reward, in particular, has many graphics taken directly from the original 3DS release, untouched).
I just finished 999, and I am struck by how different it is from the others in the series. It's got a much simpler plot and the puzzles are also much more straightforward and easy. Overall there is much less science and research put into it, which makes the plot feel almost predictable (which, of course, is mostly because I have already been though it).
This is actually a fascinating take. I was about to excitedly reply about the new what are you playing now series that Deimos is starting, because I initially thought that'd be a better home for this. But, as I thought more about it, your take that visual novels can count as books actually merits further thought and discussion. I've not really considered the similarities (e.g., traditional categorization between books/games) before.
Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts that popped through my mind as I was considering this comment:
I don't know if there's anything clear to be drawn from my comment at all, but this sort of "do visual novels count as books" question gave me a bit to think and consider for about twenty minutes, and...I just wanted to highlight that? It's interesting. (at least to me!)
IMO it depends on the angle you are treating the topic from: if you're talking about the narrative of the game, it should be kinda on-topic, but then there is the question of what to do with movies: they have a narrative too. It is fun to see the occasional diversion from the literary focus of these threads, but it'd be detrimental if that focus began to shift.
The way these threads developed over time is that the focus is on the content, and the container is not really that relevant: paper, e-books, audiobooks, and now computer games. I like that sort of blurred lines to be honest.
It is actually an interesting question, really interesting as mediums become so diverse so fast: the "blurred lines" phenomenon of postmodernity shows up also here, the idea of "book" can be expressed in such a diverse set of material incarnations thereof that the definition of "book" becomes an impossible task, and one has to suffice with "something that records some utterances in some form (textual or not)". And it is interesting to see a problem like this which in a vacuum would look like yak shaving materialise within the considerations of a pragmatic decision like "what is on-topic when you're talking about books?"
Hmm. Well, the more popular VNs (at least in the English speaking world) tend to have more gameplay elements. The zero escape series has its puzzles, while Danganronpa has a number of minigames. Most mystery VNs tend to have some sort of "hidden object game" where you have to search for evidence (think Phoenix Wright). But there are also many other VNs that have little to no interactivity.
I would count a CYOA more as a game than a book. CYOAs don't tend to have a real plot to them, generally speaking. One of them has legitimately been converted to a board game (Mystery House is the name, IIRC).
I would put the difference between a visual novel being a game versus being a novel is when it relies on skill for the primary means of entertaining. Battle Arena Toshinden Remix has drawn out conversations between fights, but it is clearly built around the fighting. The same can be said of RPGs.
This is funny, because I wrote about the "interactive novel" that I'm in the middle of over in the What Are You Playing Now thread, though I could have easily put it here. Seems like a lot of us are enjoying media that sits on the borderline!
I put it in the games thread because it's a program that I'm running on a computer that I bought through a digital games platform, so it feels like a game. I can't get it on my Kindle, nor can I buy a physical copy of it to put on my shelf.
On the other hand, the game is entirely passages of text. No images. No gameplay. It has decisions that affect the narrative, but the thing I'm doing in the "game" more than anything else is simply reading static, pre-written paragraphs with no images or graphics to speak of. My experience as I go through it has a lot more in common with the books I read than the games I play.
There's presumably a line that can be drawn between books and games, but I don't think it'll be as clear as people want it to be because there will always be edge cases. For example, if visual novels are games because they allow choices, that means kinetic novels aren't games despite kinetic novels being a subset of that genre and medium in particular. It feels weird to so strongly divide those two. Over the years I've seen lots of other people attempt to make hard and fast rules, but they always end up unintentionally messy in execution -- a sort of cube rule for media.
I will also say that larger forces in gaming have all but killed my interest in these distinctions in the first place.1 I am not particularly interested in defining hardline parameters for media distinctions anymore. As such, if someone wants to talk about visual novels in the books threads, I'm fine with that, and if someone wants to talk about interactive novels in the games thread, I'm fine with that too. I don't feel like it's something that needs a definitive stance.
1This statement needed more of an explanation, but I figured I'd separate it out here since it's a lot:
I used to be very into the idea of rigorously defining key components of what made games games. Like you, I thought it was very interesting, particularly in the context of interactive fiction, and I spent a lot of time discussing it and arguing about it online with others. Roughly a decade ago large conversations about this exact division started to spring up and they really picked up in the early 2010s.
The game Dear Esther was probably the most significant instigator of the "what makes a game a game?" discussions. It features no choices or traditional gameplay to speak of. You simply walk through the environment and listen to the narration. People debated whether it was even a game in the first place. Many of the conversations about it would produce hard and fast rules such as "games must have a fail/win state" or "games must allow for meaningful player choice." Many gamers took a dislike to Dear Esther and others like it (e.g. Proteus) and created the "walking simulator" label as a mostly pejorative term.
Possibly unsurprisingly, these conversations were not often thoughtful, measured ones about what makes a game but heated, angry discussions that felt incredibly gatekeepy to me. Here's a review of Dear Esther that captures a tone that was common for conversations of the time:
Dear Esther and other games like it seemed to be small flashpoints in a gaming culture war that pitted artistic expression against interactive enjoyment. Opponents of games like Dear Esther saw them as pretentious, bloviating "experiences" chasing critical acclaim that was afforded to them unfairly. They felt they were the digital equivalent of "Oscar bait". To fans of games like Dear Esther, these were expanding the medium past the expectations of shallow fun and violence that they felt permeated and often defined the rest of the gaming landscape.
These tensions never really got resolved so much as the two camps stopped talking to each other. I loved Dear Esther and spent a lot of time defending its status as a game. I then loved Gone Home and spent a lot of time defending not only its status as a game but its LGBT narrative as well. My efforts unfortunately seemed to amount to little more than spitting into the wind, however, as I was continually met by people who refused to think that I could actually enjoy the games on their own merits. Furthermore, they also refused the reality that I was and had been a gamer for a long time. Probably longer than most of them! Instead, my affinity for those games was treated as membership in an outsider group of progressives trying to destroy videogames by infecting them with gays, feminism, and storytelling.
These roiling tensions were the foundation for Gamergate in 2014. The foundation of hostility against non-traditional games was no doubt influential in the explosion of hatred against Zoe Quinn given that her game, Depression Quest, checked all the boxes for things that many "core gamers" hated and had been speaking out against for years.
This was the point at which I stopped caring about what other gamers thought of me or other games, and I stopped trying to lay claim to my right to enjoy games like Dear Esther. Furthermore, I stopped trying to even defend their right to exist. The discussion had been so poisoned that it was no longer fun to pull apart and tease out all the interesting nuances of why some games felt more like books and some books felt more like games. The games in question had become proxies for larger ideas and standpoints, most of which I considered outright absurd at best.
I dabble in interactive fiction every so often and I no longer care about whether I mentally categorize it as a "game" or a "book". Some feel more like one or the other, but some feel like both and some feel like neither. I don't find a lot of value in attempting to compartmentalize them, particularly because the people I've seen most strongly advocate for a taxonomy of that type are usually doing it to try to discredit something. Instead, at this point, I just know that I like narratives in games and I like narratives in books, and I like narratives in things that are somewhere in-between.
I've been at this point for quite some time, though my thinking has been more in the fiction-nonfiction or poetry-prose axes, since that's what I'm familiar with. You can see similar genre talk with YA novels now, or other genre fiction, like sci-fi, romance, etc -- a lot of times, "genre" is code for "not critically interesting," or "marketed" -- and it's really frustrating. Especially because I do think that genre tags really are just marketing, most of the time -- so the genrefication of a novel both pigeonholes it and cynically promotes it for publisher money -- maybe I've got conflicting views about genre that I need to further explore.
At any rate, I strongly agree with your main comment and I appreciate the insight into the forces that led to Gamergate. I remember when it happened I knew the basic outlines of the contention, but I wasn't really in the community so I didn't know all the nuance. The games you mention -- Dear Esther, Gone Home -- sound really interesting and I'd love to check them out.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking that at bottom, all art is a game, right? It's play between the artist and the audience, no matter the form or genre. It's creating a shared space to play in, and there's always interactivity, even if that activity is in the reader's brain or wherever.
Good point about genre. I'm not ready to toss genres to the winds yet, but I definitely get how they can be unnecessarily confining. I guess for me, I find labels and categorizations useful in a loose sense but not in a dogmatic or strict one. Like, I enjoy being able to browse a sci-fi section, but I have no interest in debating if The Time Traveler's Wife is or is not a sci-fi book, if that makes sense?
There are some books that are certainly, undoubtedly sci-fi, and that's fine, but then there are edge cases where, to me, the juice isn't worth the squeeze. Is anything gained if we can make a definitive statement either way? Do we lose anything by allowing for some wiggle room and ambiguity? My answer is usually no to both.
To me, there's a point at which the utility to the distinction crosses a line and becomes detrimental rather than constructive. Though, I must admit, that might be my impression simply because most of the people I've witnessed making these kinds of firm delineations have been doing it to try to put something (e.g. Dear Esther) or someone (e.g. trans people) down or classify them as being outside of a "real" category.
A whole big can of worms is what it is! Be careful opening that! :)
I agree with your comment 1000%. There are times when genre labels are useful, like in discovery and curation, but I get really annoyed when people get pedantic about them to the point of arguing -- because they usually do that only to put down genres that aren't "good enough" for "serious readers". Thanks for pointing that out.
Haha, I suppose that "art = game" could ruffle a few feathers here and there :)
My warning was less for ruffling feathers and more regarding the magnitude of your claim! It can lead you down some interesting philosophical paths leading to some potentially absurd conclusions (e.g. Schindler's List is a game, opening your front door is art, etc.).
Despite me sticking my head in the mud about it here, I actually think a conversation about the parameters of games and art would go over well on Tildes. My complaints come from my time in other communities. Tildes has actually been a really nice place to talk about games, which is a rare treat given how caustic gaming discussions often are online. So, by all means, don't let me stop you from opening that can of worms if you want to!
Ah, I get what you mean now. I think you could define a game as an agreement to follow a set of rules for a period of time, in which case something like Schindler's List could be a game, like all fiction is -- we, the readers or viewers, agree to inhabit the world setup by the authors, for the duration of the piece. The reason why we find art "bad" or "unsuccessful" is because it fails to adhere to its own rules, that is, it's not internally consistent.
As to the front door thing, I think that the important thing about art is the communication of emotions from the author to the reader, so if you are opening a door in a certain way (that is, artfully) to elicit an emotion from whoever's watching you open the door, you could call that art if you wanted. But I also have no training in the ideological frameworks of modernism, postmodernism, or really any aesthetics at all, so I'm sure these thoughts oversimplify something.
I also agree that Tildes has been a great place on the whole to have discussion. Maybe I'll open a topic on this matter later -- I don't know where I'd put it though. ~games? ~art (is there ~art?) ? I'm not sure. Suggestions welcome!
I could see it being welcome in ~games. A lot of that group is industry news and specific game highlights, so I feel like the landscape is ripe for a more philosophical discussion since they don't come along often.
~humanities also likes to delve into philosophy, so it might be worth putting there. I also feel like that might change the tenor of the conversation for the better, because a lot of people in ~games would have perspectives influenced most strongly by videogames, rather than the broader or more abstract idea of a "game" at large.
~creative doesn't feel like the precise right place for it, but I know a lot of art-related things end up there so it might work there too.
With all of that said, I wouldn't stress too much where to put it. Tildes is small enough and has enough overlap in its communities that it'll likely get much of the same viewership no matter where it's posted.
Thanks for the tip -- I'm going to think some more on it tonight and post it tomorrow, hopefully :)
i finished the Game of Thrones tv series a few weeks ago, so i decided to give the book a try. it's been pretty slow to get through though, and i'm wondering if maybe it's because i know what's going to happen already from having watched the show. :p
so i picked up Dune yesterday to shake it up a bit. i've heard really good things about it and supposedly it's getting a new film adaptation soon, so it seemed like a good time. i'm only a few chapters in so far, but herbert's style is hypnotic. he writes with just the right amount of detail, too— i'm always engaged and curious for more information, both with regard to the characters and the world, but never overwhelmed or confused. pretty excited to see where the book takes me.
I recommend Dune all the time, anytime someone says they like science fiction, especially space opera. I really like the sequel, too, and even the third one stays interesting -- though it falls off a little. I keep meaning to go back and get further into the series, but I admit I'm a little nervous about the quality.
I recommend reading at least God Emperor of Dune. It's my favorite of the original 6 and really shows you what the point of books 2 & 3 are.
That's the one with Leo Atreides living 10,000 years, right? At least I hope it is what it is. Sounds rad.
Yes! Very philosophical but the ideas are cool. The last 2 aren't as good in my opinion but still worth reading. Haven't touched anything beyond the Frank books though.
The GoT books can be a bit slow at first, but once they get going they're pretty good --- then they get slow again. If you find that Herbert gives the perfect amount of detail, there will be times when you'll beg GRRM to just spit it out and progress the story... but overall, the books are fun, especially if you have the visuals of the series in the back of your mind.
If you're into audiobooks, Roy Dotrice gives an excellent performance.
Thanks for taking over the threads @acdw, and a big thanks to @cadadr for running them for so long! You two are awesome!
I finished with Samantha Allen's Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States. The book is positioned to look like an anthropological study of sorts, but it's really more of a travel memoir for Allen as she revisits places that were meaningful to her but that she has since left.
As a fellow queer red state ex-pat, I found that her writing resonated with me on a deeply personal level. The stories of the people she meets along her travels are interspersed with reflections about her own life, and there were parts of it that were so in line with my experiences that it felt like she was writing not about herself or someone else, but about me.
She writes with a reflective, thoughtful tone, giving beautiful, meaningful observations about life, herself, and others. Initially I was disappointed because I wanted a more scholarly approach to the topic, but by the end I was happy that I'd accompanied Allen for her road trip.
I'm now in the middle of Eric Koziel's Speedrun Science: A Long Guide to Short Playthroughs. It's basically an introductory textbook to the concept of videogame speedrunning. It's well-written and thorough, but a lot of it is fairly common knowledge to anyone familiar with speedrunning. I can't give a blanket recommendation given how niche of an audience it's targeted at, but if you're the kind of very specific person for whom a 300+ page book on the hobby of playing videogames as fast as possible sounds interesting, then by all means give it a look.
Thank you @acdw and @kfwyre for your nice words!
I am reading O Homem Duplicado "The Double" by my favourite José Saramago. It is one of the few books of his that I'm yet to read. This is one of his that was translated by Emrah Imre, that has done the best Saramago translations, but this one looks like it was rushed or maybe the editors messed it up. There are some problems here and there which I'd otherwise consider enough to drop the book, but this is a Saramago, and I can tollerate anything for a Saramago book.
I'm only a few dozen pages in (which is odd for me because I generally read Saramago stuff in one sitting), and it flows really well (except the translation and edit errors). It is about a man, a depressive history teacher, who discovers another man that looks exactly like him in a movie he watches. IDK yet where it'll lead on to, but I have this déja-vu-like feeling that persists that I watched a movie with a very similar plot (and the book was indeed adapted rather recently), but I can't be sure. It confuses me while reading the book, so I may check the movie out after reading the book.
This makes me think of If on a winter's night a traveler by Calvino -- have you read that? Love it.
I really liked Cain, the only Saramago I've read. Your posts keep reminding me I need to check out more of them though.
If on a winter's night is a beautiful book, on of my favourites. All of Calvino's work is awesome; one book I particularly like is Marcovaldo where a manual worker goes about the city in what's a "minimalistic idyllic tour of urban space", I'd call. Definitely worth a read.
Cain is very important to me, it had a great impact on me in that it made me really consider religion, soon after which I went from a non-practising muslim to become openly irreligious. It is also a great reading experience, the kind that Saramago never fails on delivering.
I'll add Marcovaldo to my list, thanks!
And I think I read Cain on your suggestion, if I'm not mistaken.
I was really impressed with its wit and its breadth.
I also always like reading books about side-characters or villains from other
works, so it was a lot of fun to read.
Been a really light round for me. The one book was just really long, and haven't had much luck with new books. Just nothing really clicking and wanting me to really read it, starting to consider spending a round reading something completely different. Considering just spending 2 weeks maybe reading some web novels or manga maybe.
The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time Book 1
I can see why people like this series much more now compared to book 0. Book 1 feels like a much better story, and did a much better job at making me want to keep reading the series. But I can't help but have many issues with the book, but might still keep reading the series. So lets go with the stuff I really didn't like about the book first.
Now for some stuff that a did like about the book real quick. Cause no it isn't all negatives at all.
Overall I would have to say I have mixed feelings about the book in total. While I dislike many things, I still want to keep reading the series. And probably will in a short while after reading some other things to mix it up. I feel like I will have to wait for book 2 or even 3 to make a serious decision about reading the full series.
Hidden Blade by Pippa DaCosta
Series: Soul Eater Book 1
This book is unfortunately very forgettable and uninteresting. Even a couple days after finishing it, I have trouble remembering or caring about it at all. I feel like the characters didn't go anywhere by the end, with the plot literally undoing much of progress made by characters with no goal in sight.
The story itself wasn't that amazing, and felt like it did way too much in a short period. Nothing every felt fully explained and just glossed over. I wish it was slowed down, with less packed in a single book.
Character wise they had something decent going. I could see myself caring about these characters and how they grow and change, but none of that matters by the end. All the interesting characters or development get destroyed by the end, and I have no interest in seeing what happens from here. If this is how the characters in the first book get treated, why should I ever get interested for any of the future characters.
Personally I would say avoid this book and series. It doesn't do anything very good, and everything ends up being very forgettable.
I recently started Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which is pretty good. The way in to the main story is pretty interesting, and I didn't see it coming. I also like the incorporation of the photographs the author's found (he collects forgotten photographs).
I finished Leviathan Wakes (Book 1 of The Expanse) and The Butcher of Anderson Station (a short story in The Expanse universe) by James S.A. Corey. I'm starting Book 2, Caliban's War, this week. This series is well written, portrays space in a manner that feels accurate, and has some extremely likable characters (Hi, Amos). My only regret is watching the show before the books. I find that I'm reading the series less imaginatively as I could be.
I also finished Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story, by John Bloom. For whatever reason, I tend to like semi-business semi-memoir history books, and this one is no exception. It tells the story about the creation, failure, and later recovery of Iridium the satellite constellation powering global voice and data, and what is (soon to be formerly) responsible for Iridium flares. (I remember watching these with my dad, and am sad that I actually missed my chance to watch one of the last ones in my area.) Anyway, the book gets into the extreme gritty detail of the backroom deals and bad-faith antics of Motorola, and I loved every moment of it.
I'm also now starting A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons by Ben Folds. Ben is probably my favorite musician from my high-school era. I'll have more thoughts on it in next week's post.
Last week I also sparked a discussion about renting eBooks from your local library to read on Kindle, and cannot emphasize enough that everybody in this thread should do this. I've got more details to share, to complement last week's knowledge:
I wound up getting three different local library cards, which each give me access to a different libby/overdrive library collection. If you install the library extension you can browse amazon or goodreads, and it will show you the inventory status at each of the libraries you have access to, making it much more easy to collection shop. I've already got my next four books accounted for through library checkouts from a mix of these three libraries, and I've got many pending holds that I'm in line for too. I'm going to get a card from the SF and Oakland libraries this month (just need to figure out what day I can pull that off), and then I'll get an LA library card later this year when visiting parents at home. Overkill, likely. Will I get more niche books and shorter hold times, absolutely.
Some libraries have huge collections. Do your research, score as many library cards as you can, and enjoy reading more, more often. (I know, I know, it's not like libraries are a new thing by any means, but, eBook rentals are going to be such a money saver and overall convenience for me, and I only discovered it last week despite being a decent bookworm.)
I use the Library Extension extensively. Our local library doesn't have many books but we've got access to pretty much any catalog here in the state of Georgia. It's a great way to save a few bucks. The only downside is that newer titles are often unavailable to transfer between libraries.
That library extension is a game-changer, thank you!
I'm taking a break from The Wheel of Time series. It could be a perma-break. We'll just have to see what happens. In the meantime I'm reading Milkman by Anna Burns, The MVP Machine by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, and The Existentialist's Survival Guide by Gordon Marino. I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and Eat and Run by Scott Jurek. The Underground Railroad was great and I'm looking forward to reading his latest book.
I gave up on Accelerando, by Charles Stross. It is not a bad book by any means, but there are some things I have little patience for, and one of them is frequently/unncessary overly detailed descriptions of futuristic technology. I realize that's a weird complaint coming from a science fiction fan, but I personally don't need an author to describe how every single device has some unique "cyber" feature. Just give me broad strokes and whatever is relevant to the plot. Not saying this book is cyberpunk, but that is my difficulty reading cyberpunk in general.
<rant>Sometimes you don't need to call something an "electro-horizontal-lift". Just call it a fucking car! 1908's Model T and the latest Tesla are both in the same category!
It doesn't help that English is not my first language. Neologisms become particularly hard, and constant trips to Google and Wikipedia make for uncomfortable reading.
So I resumed Stranger in a Strange Land, by the adorable bastard (and concise writer!) Robert A. Heinlein. I like it very much so far. Heinlein reminds me of Raymond Chandler. Stories full of sleazy and pretentious people always trying to top of one another, described from a bleak point of view with the right amount of words.
I'm on the fifth book of the Game of Thrones (ASOIAF) series. The first three books were great, the fourth was alright, but kind of bland, and this one seems to be a middle-ground. With the first few books there was a good balance between internal dialog and description, but now it's getting to the point where a good portion of this internal dialog is unnecessary padding.
After this I am heading into Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker -- the book that the Netflix series is based on.
As always, I'm also going through the Nathan Heller series from Max Allen Collins. I'm currently on #10 * Flying Blind* which finds our hero first protecting Amelia Earhart, then, I assume, trying to find Amelia Earhart. I'm only about a quarter in, but I think this will be the first book where we catch up with our hero in his present day -- which should have a decent pay off. These books, including the Quarry series, are light, fun, almost pulpy reads.
After Mindhunter I'm thinking picking up Rowling's C.B. Strike series. I really enjoy the series and I'm a total sucker for a private investigator.
I'm half way into Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker".
It's one of the best post-apocalyptic stories I have ever read. Probably the feeling the book leaves on me is due in large part to how reading it is like decyphering an ancient manuscript. Hoban uses a peculiar phonetic dialect of English in Riddley's first person storytelling.
I suspect the language is also the main reason why the book never blipped on my radar until now, as getting to a point where it starts to make sense is something most people don't have the patience to do.
However I feel like I haven't been dissapointed so far, and I hope the conclusion of the story is going to be satisfying.
Oh I really like sci-fi dialect, like Clockwork Orange or others. Thanks for putting it on my radar!
The first paragraph of your comment ends abrupty for me, by the way. Thought you might want to know.
Thanx, I removed the dangling sentence, I'm not sure what I wanted to say. :D
But be warned this is on a whole other level than Burgess' nadsat.
I'm on a tear of non-fiction computing/internet history books:
Where Wizards Stay up Late - 7/10
Hackers by Steven Levy - 9/10
The Idea Factory - I'm in the middle of this and so far it is facinating history of the transistor, the vacuum tube, and the incredible inventions from Bell Labs
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
by Lori Gottlieb
I've always had a passive interest in psychology and behavioral therapy, and when I was much younger considered a career in it. The book follows Lori, a Psychotherapist in Los Angeles, as she deals with a sudden break up in her 40s which leads to her seeking therapy from another Psychotherapist. The book weaves between her own life in the earlier chapters through her work with several different patients whos own stories evolve and dig deeper the further the book goes.
Its a good book that definitely provides a lot of "aha" moments personally when thinking about my own issues with avoiding conflict/potential loss and strategies in how to best cope. Definitely recommend.
This sounds really interesting -- the angle where it's a psychotherapist going to therapy sounds particularly cool. It could also be good to read for tips re: mental health!
It really is! The author's tale of going through therapy herself is a good lesson in cognitive bias imo.
Why Knowledge Matters: Rescuing our children from failed educational theories.
I've always been interested in learning and education, but this book also has relevance to self-help, personal-development and our current 'fake news' problems.
I just started my third book for the week. I have been on a self published kick lately and finished up The Fires of War the first part of The Tyranny of the Archangels. It was a little rough but a fun read bringing together a lot of afterlife characters from various myths and legends. I hope there's another book following.
Then I started in on Will Wright's trilogy The Traveler's Gate and I'm about 100 pages into book two now. I like the magic system and the story is moving at a good pace.
Where do you find good self-published books? I'm not against them but I haven't really looked for any because I'm worried about sifting through all the no-good ones to find the diamonds.
But then, maybe I'm being elitist.
For fantasy books Mark Lawrence does the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off and there are usually a few discussions about the entries. Other than that I look for anyone that is self promoting and go off of reviews and discussions that come up. I'm sure I miss out of a number of good ones but so far the ones that I have read I have enjoyed.
Sorry for the late reply I was out of town and not online.
No worries about lateness! I posted the topic late :)
Self-publishing is an area of fiction I have yet to dip my toes into. I guess I'm worried about quality control, but it's not like suits in New York necessarily know more about what makes a book good than anyone online. They might just know what books will sell better.
I've just read:
Conscious - by Annaka Harris
I really enjoyed this book, but I need to re-read it because it's just not "sinking in" for me yet. I've followed discussions on consciousness, self, free will, for a while through various podcasts (including Sam Harris's) and whilst I don't doubt what they're saying in principle, I haven't been able to find a way to fully understand or appreciate it yet. This book goes a long way to simplifying it and it I am still not in a position where I could explain it to someone else, and so I need to re-read. It is a good book though - written in clear non-jargon English, and it lays out well structured arguments for its conclusions. I'd heartily recommend it.
A Wizard of Earthsea - by Ursula K. Le Guin
This was recommended by a friend as a holiday read. It was a really great book - the writing is incredibly rich and beautiful, and the tale unfolds nicely. It does feel marginally rushed, maybe, but the world that the tale unfolds in is masterfully crafted and I immediately want to read the next books in the series to find out more about the world as much as getting to hear another tale set in it.
I'm currently reading:
The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic Sci-Fi, edited by Mike Ashley
A selection of sci-fi shorts from over the years. Some classics reaching back a few years and some modern ones too. About half way through these and there have been some cracking stories. Some based on great, dark humour, some based on great science, some gently reflecting existing societal issues to consider. And not all bleak either. Another good recommendation from a friend.
The Dichotomy of Leadership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
US Navy Seal leadership tales and experiences crafted into business scenarios for leaders. Exploring a series of fairly simple rules and observations but also factoring in the complexity and considerations - often the dichotomy - experienced when trying to implement them.
Earthsea is one of those books that, as soon as I'd read it, I knew that I was going to give it to my children, because I wish I'd read it so much earlier in my life. I need to read it again, actually.
Conscious sounds really interesting! Thanks for the rec :)