14 votes

What are you reading these days? #28

What are you reading currently? Fiction or non-fiction or poetry, any genre, any language! Tell us what you're reading, and talk about it a bit.

Notes

I'm finally going to update the wiki today, hopefully. FYI.

Previous topics

Previous topics will be ARE listed in the UPDATED wiki!!! as soon as I update it.

27 comments

  1. [4]
    Seven
    Link
    I've recently finished two Star Trek books: Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds both by Dave Galanter. Both novels do a really great job at capturing the personalities and interactions...

    I've recently finished two Star Trek books: Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds both by Dave Galanter. Both novels do a really great job at capturing the personalities and interactions between all the characters, and both are totally accurate to The Original Series. They both investigate interesting forms of telepathy in the universe, and put the Enterprise in the center of conflicts, acting as a sort of intermediary. I highly recommend them!

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      Oh cool! I've only read one novel based off a popular screen sci-fi series, and that was Star Wars, which obviously is very different. I've been meaning to get into the Star Trek world though, and...

      Oh cool! I've only read one novel based off a popular screen sci-fi series, and that was Star Wars, which obviously is very different. I've been meaning to get into the Star Trek world though, and novels sound like a good way to do it!

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Seven
        Link Parent
        Yeah the novels do a great job at showing the internal motivations and considerations of the crew members. I would definitely recommend to watch a bit of the original series before reading the...

        Yeah the novels do a great job at showing the internal motivations and considerations of the crew members. I would definitely recommend to watch a bit of the original series before reading the novels, just to get accustomed to the different relationships and personalities. Also, if you're getting into Trek after Star Wars, definitely be aware that despite the comparisons between the two, the two series are completely different; both really good, but have vastly different tones and situations.

        1 vote
        1. acdw
          Link Parent
          Oh yeah, I've seen some Trek, and it's totally different from Wars. I like it though; I've been meaning to get more into it.

          Oh yeah, I've seen some Trek, and it's totally different from Wars. I like it though; I've been meaning to get more into it.

          1 vote
  2. DanBC
    Link
    My son was a reluctant reader and then he picked up a "Horrible Histories" book and he's taken off. He's 8 but has a higher reading age. This is a surprisingly tricky age range to buy books for....

    My son was a reluctant reader and then he picked up a "Horrible Histories" book and he's taken off. He's 8 but has a higher reading age.

    This is a surprisingly tricky age range to buy books for. There's loads of stuff for 6-8 year olds, and there's a load of stuff for 13+ (which contains things which aren't really suitable for him right at the moment). There aren't many books aimed at tweens.

    So I'm reading a bunch of children's books to find out what's in them so that we're prepared for any questions he might have.

    6 votes
  3. [5]
    CALICO
    (edited )
    Link
    I'm currently re-reading the Night's Dawn trilogy: a sprawling space-opera by Peter F. Hamilton that I enjoyed very much in high school, something like a decade ago. It's kind of hard to read now,...

    I'm currently re-reading the Night's Dawn trilogy: a sprawling space-opera by Peter F. Hamilton that I enjoyed very much in high school, something like a decade ago.

    It's kind of hard to read now, if I'm being honest.

    A good-third or more of all the prose is pure world-building and exposition. Text that reads more like a wiki-entry than part of a story. I don't think I noticed the first time around, but now I've come to expect more from a novel.

    Kurt Vonnegut said,

    Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

    and common advice in writing circles is that every sentence you write should do at least two of three things: World-building, character development, or plot progression.
    The best sentences do all three.
    Night's Dawn doesn't have very many of those in its 1.25 Million words.

    I mean, I get it. When you build a whole take on the future you want to show it off and how cool everything is. Space-Opera especially loves to go hard on this kind of thing. But so much of what is explained by the sometimes-omniscient narrative voice is ultimately unnecessary in the long run. It's filler. It's masturbatory creativity. Which, on that note:

    These books are horny as a motherfucker. Don't get me wrong, I'm bound to burn for my predilections. But everyone in these books is fucking everyone else all the time. The ultimate narrative purpose of which seems to be: "Look how much fucking we'll all do in the future." There's often little more weight given to it than that. Hamilton does this weird thing where he writes a lot of young-woman/old-man sexual relationships (life extension is a thing in the 27th century) and the dominant frequency strikes me as kind of icky.

    The main conflict of the series is essentially a religious Armageddon in a sci-fi atmosphere. That's interesting. But it was done in a clumsy way, the resolution from what I remember is a complete deus ex machina, and the silly nature of the primary antagonist makes it difficult to consider the full weight of the larger idea in play.

    Ironically, I find myself far more interested in the world-building I'm whining about than the plot.

    Peter F. Hamilton has good ideas. This trilogy needed a ruthless editor. It's still pretty good despite my complaining.
    The Commonwealth books are more recent, and are far more competent.

    5/7

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      Something similar happened to me when I tried re-reading Lord of the Rings, strangely enough. I just got bored with the long lead-up to the meeting in Rivendell. Also thanks for the Vonnegut...

      Something similar happened to me when I tried re-reading Lord of the Rings, strangely enough. I just got bored with the long lead-up to the meeting in Rivendell.

      Also thanks for the Vonnegut quote, it's really good!

      1 vote
      1. CALICO
        Link Parent
        I haven't read LotR since 2001, when The Fellowship came out in theaters and I was but a wee lad. Maybe I ought to give those another go and see what I think of them now. It's been long enough,...

        I haven't read LotR since 2001, when The Fellowship came out in theaters and I was but a wee lad.

        Maybe I ought to give those another go and see what I think of them now. It's been long enough, and I've read a lot of fantasy since then.

        1 vote
    2. [2]
      KapteinB
      Link Parent
      I guess it's been around a decade since I read those books as well, but I remember enjoying them immensely, the antagonist included. But then again, I also greatly enjoying reading Wikipedia...

      I guess it's been around a decade since I read those books as well, but I remember enjoying them immensely, the antagonist included. But then again, I also greatly enjoying reading Wikipedia articles. I agree that the Commonwealth Saga is even better though.

      Have you read his newer books? Somehow I haven't read anything he's written since 2014 yet, and I'm planning on picking up some of his newer books next time I go book shopping.

      1 vote
      1. CALICO
        Link Parent
        I don't really mind the antagonist, it's the juxtaposition between them and the thematic conflict more than anything: spoiler Religion is fairly prominent in these books. Christianity,...

        I don't really mind the antagonist, it's the juxtaposition between them and the thematic conflict more than anything:

        spoiler Religion is fairly prominent in these books. Christianity, specifically. The antagonists begin as a Satanic Cult, eventually opening a Pandora's Box allowing the dead to return and possess everyone they come in contact with. Our hero's are predominantly Christian, or atheists considering maybe there's something to this whole theology thing. That's good plotting. The Naked God is pretty explicitly an analogue of God, and basically solves everything. That's less good.

        Al Capone as a character in science fiction is fun. But him being the primary antagonist against this Revelations backdrop feels.. discordant.

        The most recent of his works I've read was the Void Trilogy, which I enjoyed greatly and thought the religious themes were played in a much more elegant and interesting way.

  4. Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    I've finished The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World by Dan Ackerman. After some initial sections which were biographical and psychological, most of the book was just about the...

    I've finished The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World by Dan Ackerman. After some initial sections which were biographical and psychological, most of the book was just about the wheeling and dealing involved in selling and obtaining the rights to distribute Tetris. But it was never boring. Mr Ackerman had obviously done his research, including talking to the major players. I felt like I was right there, with each of the people as the events occurred, It was a fascinating insight into how big business works, and how it can sometimes come down to personalities rather than economics.

    I've still got the Mordant's Need duology on the go. After I finished 'The Tetris Effect', I moved 'Mordant's Need' into my main reading slot.

    Until yesterday. Yesterday I went book shopping. And, I gave in to temptation and bought Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction at full price (I've been waiting for it to move to the bargain bookstores I normally frequent). And I've already read about a quarter of it.

    It's like a four-way biography, with a primary focus on Campbell, but with lots of space also devoted to Asimov, Heinlein, and Hubbard. (Maybe a 40:20:20:20 split between the four?)

    Those of you who were arguing with me in the thread about the John W Campbell Award being renamed will be pleased to know that this book pulls no punches. Everyone is being presented in full detail, warts and all. Noone comes out of this smelling like roses.

    The four men had one thing in common: they were all precociously intelligent children, and they each became, in their own different ways, over-confident arrogant men. Apart from that, they varied greatly. But Campbell appears to have been the worst of the four.

    It's still interesting to see how they all grew up, how their paths crossed, and (I expect in later parts of the book) how they influenced the development of science fiction.

    4 votes
  5. acdw
    Link
    I'm currently reading Return of the Continuums, by Jennifer Brody, which is the sequel to her novel The 13th Continuum. I read the first book in about a week, which is fast for me; it's got...

    I'm currently reading Return of the Continuums, by Jennifer Brody, which is the sequel to her novel The 13th Continuum. I read the first book in about a week, which is fast for me; it's got breakneck pacing and a really interesting premise that made me devour the whole thing.

    Basically, it takes place a thousand years after a planet-murdering Doom envelopes the earth, and follows the survivors of humanity as they live in these outposts called "Contiuums", under the sea, under the ground, and in space. It's awesome YA fare.

    The second novel is coming along really nicely, albeit with some derivative Lord of the Rings vibes and sort of fractured storytelling. It certainly keeps me reading, though!

    3 votes
  6. [2]
    orbit
    Link
    Right now I'm rereading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous again, as well as Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I'm only about a third of the way through the latter, but I'm liking it so far!

    Right now I'm rereading the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous again, as well as Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I'm only about a third of the way through the latter, but I'm liking it so far!

    3 votes
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      I've never read anything by King, but I've heard Pet Sematary is one of his scariest and best! I usually don't watch scary movies either; but do you find that scary books have a similar effect to...

      I've never read anything by King, but I've heard Pet Sematary is one of his scariest and best! I usually don't watch scary movies either; but do you find that scary books have a similar effect to them?

  7. [3]
    iiv
    Link
    Il castello dei destini incrociati (The castle of crossed destinies) by Italo Calvino Il castello dei destini incrociati is a story (or rather many stories) told by a traveller in a mysterious...

    Il castello dei destini incrociati (The castle of crossed destinies) by Italo Calvino

    Il castello dei destini incrociati is a story (or rather many stories) told by a traveller in a mysterious castle and/or tavern. In the castle-tavern no one can speak, but everyone wants to tell their story (or so the narrator presumes). To tell their story the fellow travellers have to place tarot cards. They place down card after card and the narrator constructs their story from his interpretations of the cards. Of course, every card can be interpreted in many different way: a star might mean birth, night, the light in a tunnel, Lucifer, a spark in an eye, anything. So the reader is forced to interpret the narrators interpretation of the tarot cards. It's a fun idea. It reminds me of Calvino's other work Le città invisibili where Marco Polo and Kublai Khan start communicating by simply imagining what the other is saying. Oh, and the tarot cards are placed in a pattern, hence the "crossed" in the name. The stories are literally crossed.

    The concept raises an important question: what's the difference between making a story from tarot cards and making it up from your mind? Some of the stories are easily recognisable as Shakespeare or Homeros or opera by other authors. Shakespeare could have easily drawn cards to create his plays, as long as he interpreted them in a "good" manner. But even though random chance decides, old ideas linger. A card of a knight will always make one think of a knight, even though other interpretations can be made. I don't know if my point is coming across, but I hope so.

    All in all, it's a fun concept and well executed. Sadly, it didn't feel much like a novel, more like a literary experiment, which can get tiring to read. I recommend it if you like avant-gard and postmodern literature.

    And just a final thing I thought was great: even though the narrator knew the cards were decided through chance, he was absolutely certain his interpretation was the correct one. Make of that what you will.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      acdw
      Link Parent
      I feel like that's the point of art, right? To use images and tropes that provoke a certain feeling in the reader/viewer, by necessity indirectly since if the feeling is just described, it's lost,...

      A card of a knight will always make one think of a knight, even though other interpretations can be made.

      I feel like that's the point of art, right? To use images and tropes that provoke a certain feeling in the reader/viewer, by necessity indirectly since if the feeling is just described, it's lost, or rather only thought about rather than felt. I'm thinking of the essay "Writing off the Subject" by Richard Hugo here.

      even though the narrator knew the cards were decided through chance, he was absolutely certain his interpretation was the correct one.

      Sounds like all interpretations of art are "correct," or that correctness has nothing to do with interpretation, maybe?

      Either way, this sounds like a great book and will definitely go on my list :)

      1 vote
      1. iiv
        Link Parent
        Yes, everything comes from somewhere. The special thing is by using a tarot deck is that it's a limited set of images. The real world has infinitely many images, but still, every work of art has...

        Yes, everything comes from somewhere. The special thing is by using a tarot deck is that it's a limited set of images. The real world has infinitely many images, but still, every work of art has been inspired by another. It reminds me of that quote, Good artists copy, great artists steal. I'll have to read that Richard Hugo essay.

        And I agree more with your latter proposition: correctness has nothing to do with interpretation. I'm not sure if it's possible to define correctness in the field of art.

        1 vote
  8. moocow1452
    Link
    Just finished up DC Comics' 52 where the premise is that a massive universe ending event has been adverted, but Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are indisposed for about a year afterwards and the...

    Just finished up DC Comics' 52 where the premise is that a massive universe ending event has been adverted, but Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are indisposed for about a year afterwards and the world adjusts to their absence. I liked it, and it kinda felt like a big TV show or a novel in scope, in that it follows a bunch of characters around and all of there plots intersect and bounce off one another, but it is pretty unfocused due to the nature of it being written week by week across an entire year.

    3 votes
  9. thejumpingbulldog
    Link
    I've been reading The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver, it's actually a really interesting analysis of predictions and how they may succeed/fail. I'd recommend it just for the explanation of...

    I've been reading The Signal and The Noise by Nate Silver, it's actually a really interesting analysis of predictions and how they may succeed/fail. I'd recommend it just for the explanation of how statistics invaded baseball alone.

    3 votes
  10. [2]
    ThyMrMan
    Link
    Decided that for the next 2 weeks I think I'm going to read something different from my normal fantasy and scifi stuff. Read some stuff that is a bit more grounded in reality, hope that a change...

    Decided that for the next 2 weeks I think I'm going to read something different from my normal fantasy and scifi stuff. Read some stuff that is a bit more grounded in reality, hope that a change makes things a bit more interesting.

    Vicious by V.E. Schwab

    Series: Villains Book 1

    I enjoyed reading this book, the characters and story just felt really good and interesting to read. Though I'm disappointed at the build up and completion of the actual main plot.

    The characters all have various interesting quirks and unique features. They all feel special, and play very important roles in the story. I never felt that one character wasn't necessary, or that somebody was just a waste. They all just came together in a way I felt was very satisfying.

    And the story itself I found to be a rather good page turner. I kept wanting to come back and keep reading, see the next twist and where things were going from here. How things would change, and how the characters abilities would come into play. But I did have a rather major issue with the story and development.

    This book I feel was too short, and was far too compact. The story takes place largely over just a couple days, and it makes all the planning and manipulation feel weak. It didn't feel like this was a battle between two very smart people, the build up was weak and disappointing. What I feel it needed was more development and plans, seeing the two characters battle each other in minor battles for weeks trying to maneuver your opponent into place before the final confrontation. But it doesn't have any of that, it starts and ends so fast I don't feel like the characters really showed off their skills and abilities to make the victory feel deserved.

    So overall while I really enjoyed it, and kept reading and coming back. The main reason for me to read the book, a good solid battle showing their strengths and strategies, just never occurred and left me feeling disappointed.

    Score: 3/5

    Mark of Fire by Richard Philips

    Series: The Endarian Prophecy Book 1

    I found this book to be rather generic and uninteresting after a sort while. Nothing in this book felt like a really original idea, and it wasn't all that well put together with his method of writing. It felt like he had a list of places, ideas, and people he wanted in the book. Than tried to fill in the space between them to put things together.

    The ideas never felt like they escaped the realm of generic fantasy tropes I've read many times before. We have a prophecy that involves a dark lord with a massive army and this has happened before in the past. We have the romance trope of not being good enough for the other. The cast runs into a haunted evil castle that has some back story, never does get explained, in order to escape a threat. The dark lords city stays hidden via magical macguffin for thousands of years without issue, until the heros stumble upon it.

    At times the characters will escape an event through complete deus ex machina. It feels like he created this location and wanted to use it. But once he wrote the characters into it, he didn't know how to extract the characters. So he just kinda made something work, regardless of it being something that really works logically.

    The characters didn't impress me really, Carol grows in her abilities way too fast with very little restrictions. And Blade felt like he was so much more powerful than any of the other characters he was around, an assassin shouldn't be all powerful rushing through a large crowd of enemies and in fact should be struggling. And the side characters felt underdeveloped and just doing the same things over and over.

    I would have to say that while the book had good editing and didn't discover any issues with that. It doesn't really do much to make it original or interesting to a fantasy fan. It uses all the same tropes and ideas that fantasy has been using for years, but doesn't give you any interesting curve balls or characters to make it feel new and interesting.

    Score: 2/5

    2 votes
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      The book I'm currently reading has a few deus ex escapes, and they can be really frustrating.

      At times the characters will escape an event through complete deus ex machina.

      The book I'm currently reading has a few deus ex escapes, and they can be really frustrating.

      1 vote
  11. EscReality
    Link
    I have been reading through Leviathan Wakes the first novel in the expanse series. I am about half way through it and am very smitten. Its some of the best science fiction I have ever read, and I...

    I have been reading through Leviathan Wakes the first novel in the expanse series.

    I am about half way through it and am very smitten. Its some of the best science fiction I have ever read, and I have read quite a lot.

    2 votes
  12. [2]
    muh_tilde
    Link
    Just started Children of Ruin. Children of Time might be my favorite read of the year so I'm hoping this one is just as good. It's about uplifted animals à la David Brin. A well constructed plot...

    Just started Children of Ruin. Children of Time might be my favorite read of the year so I'm hoping this one is just as good. It's about uplifted animals à la David Brin. A well constructed plot and good writing kept me turning pages.

    Also just read Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin. She was an amazing writer so I enjoyed reading her insights. Gave me a lot of to think about regarding the writing process. It's exercise oriented so if you wanted to practice some different techniques it would be a good read for ya.

    1 vote
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      Oh, I hope Children of Ruin is good! I absolutely loved Children of Time as well, I can't stop thinking about it.

      Oh, I hope Children of Ruin is good! I absolutely loved Children of Time as well, I can't stop thinking about it.

      1 vote
  13. UntouchedWagons
    Link
    I'm currently reading The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar. I find it a little bit of a slog because the paragraphs are incredibly long but it's quite interesting. It's about the...

    I'm currently reading The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar. I find it a little bit of a slog because the paragraphs are incredibly long but it's quite interesting. It's about the growth of the railroad in the United States. I'm about halfway through which corresponds to the last quarter of the nineteenth century.

    1 vote
  14. [2]
    gpl
    Link
    I finished The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder the other day. The book lagged a bit in the middle but overall it was a really riveting read and a great look at what drives people to do what...

    I finished The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder the other day. The book lagged a bit in the middle but overall it was a really riveting read and a great look at what drives people to do what they do. All of the people involved in the development process that the book follows were very interesting people, and the character of Tom West is reason enough to read the book. Such a unique guy.

    Next up I think is Foundation by Isaac Asimov. I'm gonna try to knock that out so I can read some spooky books come October.

    1 vote
    1. acdw
      Link Parent
      Ooh, fun! I liked Foundation when I read it. Good luck!

      Ooh, fun! I liked Foundation when I read it. Good luck!