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    1. The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas and the stories that came after it

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I think I first came across "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" by Ursula K LeGuin a few years ago. I read something else in conversation with it, but somehow had missed the original. Hugo Award winning and Locus award nominated, I thought folks might be interested in discussing it and its descendants.

      LeGuin's original in pdf format

      Omelas is a utopia in the middle of a festival. And as the narrator explains the city to you, they understand that you may not believe it is even possible.

      The ones who walk away from Omelas spoilers So the narrator explains that keeping this city a utopia relies on the horrible and perpetual suffering of a single child. At a certain age, all citizens are brought to see the suffering child and they're all horrified, but most come to see that the prosperity and safety of everyone is served by the suffering of this one child. The ones who don't, walk away and never return.

      Othe authors have written stories in conversation with this,

      NK Jemisin's The Ones Who Stay And Fight is directly engaging with it.

      In Um-Helat There is a utopia, and no child suffering in a hole. But when suffering arises, there is a call to fix it.

      The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (the 3rd Scholomance book) engages with this idea too.

      Golden Enclaves major plot point spoiler All the major enclaves of magic users are build on the death of an innocent - someone that has never taken and used magic from the death or pain of other beings, and at least once a teenager, but likely a often child due to the restriction. This allows you to create a safe home against the magical monsters but also creates an ever hungry devouring monster of perpetual suffering (a maw mouth) that is unleashed on anyone who doesn't have an enclave to protect them. There's a way to build them without this, but the enclaves would be smaller and less luxurious, and after all, it's only one person...

      So I had read all of the above works and been mulling over the topic of Omelas, and then found this story today

      Why Don't We Just Kill the Kid In the Omelas Hole

      In which people, uh, start killing the kid in the Omelas hole. Sorry, not a lot of room not to spoil that given the title. I'll let you read the story for where that goes.

      Risk of spoilers for the above works from here:
      I think there is a lot about our society here. LeGuin herself said the story, "has a long and happy career of being used by teachers to upset students and make them argue fiercely about morality." Because what is the right answer? Novik, via El in the Scholomance series says to burn it down. Jemisin says there is a better way. I don't believe LeGuin is arguing that the ones who walk away are "right" in that they leave having benefited from Omelas and the child still suffers.

      But I thought folks who hadn't read one or more of these might enjoy them, and I find they make me think and often won't stop letting me think.

      ETA: ST:SNW did an entire episode using Omelas as an inspiration. I haven't seen it so I can't speak to it but wanted to add it here for reference.

      36 votes
    2. Most bingeable book series?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Forget highbrow literature and critics for a moment. What's a book series that stayed engaging and enjoyable throughout?

      Bonus points if you don't have to provide a disclaimer for those one or two books in the series that are "a bit of a slog but still really good!"

      My top nominations are:

      1. Red Rising: Never read anything quite like it. As an ADHD haver, reading something more than once is the bane of my existence. Not for this series. Endlessly re-readable and highly engaging throughout. Starts out as Roman hunger games in space, turns into peak Game of Thrones in space. God, it's so good.

      2. Harry Potter: Not sure I need to explain this one. Plenty to hate about this series and the author, but they aren't popular for no reason. I find the world to be magical, whimsical, and the story to be very engaging. The later books are particularly good.

      3. The Bobiverse: this is the most fun series on my list. The name and premise will turn most people away from this one and it's a real shame. I could not stop reading these and I'm dying for more. If this story went on forever and maintained its current quality, I don't think I'd ever get bored of hearing it on audiobook.

      66 votes
    3. Which books did you read in 2023 and how did you like them?

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I didn't have as much time for reading this year. My daughters kept me quite busy (and happy). However, I managed to squeeze in one or the other title. I don't want to discuss all of the forty-something books I read, but here's an incomplete list of what I can recommend (and what not).

      I really enjoyed the following books:

      • number9dream by David Mitchell
      • Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
      • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
      • Red Rising (all six books) by Pierce Brown
      • The Cold War by John Lewis Gaddis
      • Dark Rome by Michael Sommer
      • A Horse Walks Into a Bar by David Grossman
      • The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
      • At Night all Blood is Black by David Diop
      • The Future of Geography: How Power and Politics in Space Will Change Our World by Tim Marshall
      • First Person Singular by by Haruki Murakami
      • Guitar Zero by Gary Marcus
      • This is your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin
      • The History of Heavy Metal by Andrew O'Neill

      I think my favorites were Black Swan Green and The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. Both are very powerful stories with complex protagonists.

      I didn't really enjoy these books:

      • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (seriously, I like Murakami, but I hated this book – the plot was annoying, stylistic choices were questionable and the protagonist bland)
      • The Vegetarian by Han Kang (the book was interesting, but also a bit "too much" for me)

      I think those books taught me something, although they weren't necessarily fun to read:

      • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
      • The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim
      • Atomic Habits by James Clear
      • The Great Mental Models Volume 3: Systems and Mathematics

      Especially Chris Voss and James Clear can't stop boasting and/or advertising. I learned something from their books, but I found them annoying to read. The mental models book and the Phoenix project were fun, though.

      I'm a software developer and read quite some books about this topic this year. I can recommend the following of them:

      • Efficient Linux at the Command Line
      • 100 Go Mistakes
      • The Staff Engineer's Path
      • TypeScript Cookbook
      • Principles of Package Design

      But I didn't really like those (although they're good from a technical perspective):

      • Cloud Native Go
      • Security and Microservice Architecture on AWS

      So, what did you guys read? What can you recommend? Which books disappointed you?

      19 votes
    4. Douglas Adams and Iain M. Banks

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I've just started reading The Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, and am currently reading A Player of Games. This might be a controversial thing to say, but I'm getting some Douglas Adams vibes, especially in his depiction of the drones. Am I the only one who feels a certain connection there?

      17 votes
    5. Dawnshard - By Brandon Sanderson - Discussion

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Spoiler warning for Dawnshard and previous Stormlight Archive books (Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, Edgedancer, & Oathbringer).

      I'd seen mentions of the sleepless and Dawnshards when browsing the Arcanum and so was primarily hoping to learn more about these in this book. But in a short period of time I was surprised with how attached I grew to Rysn! In particular at the end of the book when the captain appreciates Rysn's role as Rebsk and allow here to steer the ship (showing their trust) for a few minutes, I let out an audible cheer. (Also when I noticed that she gained perfect pitch and perfect color recognition) Rysn and Vstim's interludes in the previous stormlight books were some of my favourite interludes and I'm so glad that we got to see more of them here.

      The other thing I was surprised by was the set up for the two Winderunners swearing their third ideal here. Lopen says quite clearly that the third ideal is saying that you will protect even those you hate. And then a few chapters later we see Huio swear the third ideal in order to protect Lopen. I honestly thought this was just going to be played off as a joke since they have a fair bit of banter early in the book. But I was heart warmed to see that realisation that Lopen has that his jokes and teasing hurt people, and him swearing his own version of the ideal to protect other people from himself. It reminded me of some of the similar (but not same) character development moments we get with Wayne in Mistborn.

      I'd love to hear what other people who read this book thought about it as well. Once I can get my hands on Yumi and the Nightmare Painter in paperback form, I hope to discuss that too with all you Cosmerenauts!

      22 votes
    6. Edgedancer - By Brandon Sanderson - Discussion

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Edgedancer (a stormlight archives novella) came out a few years ago, but since there's little Cosmere discussion in Tildes and I just finished reading it a few days ago, I figured it would be worth posting my thoughts on this. The only book of relevance to this which I haven't read is Dawnshard, so please mark any discussion about that with spoilers.

      I've seen a lot of complaints about Lift on reddit, and I can see where people are coming from. But I always liked the way Lift think and is written. I feel like Lift's stories would make great bed time stories because of how sweetly they end. In the first interlude where Lift appears, the people of Azir are having trouble picking a "king" because they keep getting assassinated. Lift's involvement solves this problem that we're introduced to at the start of the story. And now in Edgedancer, Nalan is still hunting down budding Radiants because he doesn't believe that the Everstorm has really come back. But at the end of the story Lift swears the third ideal "I will listen to those who have been ignored" and shows Nalan the truth. Which feels like a very fairy tale ending, compared to them getting involved in some epic battle. I honestly expected Szeth to intervene and team up with Lift against Nalan.

      The moment at the end where she hugs Nalan to comfort him as he's crying was touching. It got me crying! I didn't expect to feel any sympathy for Nalan, but at the end it feels like a fog is lifting off of him and he's been in a haze this whole time. Which I suppose is true of all the Heralds at this point.

      I kept trying to guess who the Radiant in Yeddaw was. Of course it had to be a minor character that we've already seen. So I was thinking it would be that guard we met earlier, since they mentioned trading to get some spheres with stormlight so that she can read. I thought this was a lie, with the real reason being using the stormlight to practice some surgebinding. The other candidate was the old man, but that turned out to be a very interesting misdirect that I'm hoping to learn more about in Dawnshard. (The actual radiant was the woman at the orphanage)

      The description of the city of Yeddaw was very interesting and new. I wish there was more art to go along with the descriptions, but I feel like I don't really understand the layout of the city. I feel like it would be dark all the time (except noon) if it was carved into the ground like I imagined. Also I wonder if there's more to the story than it just being created with loaned out shardblades. We know that the total number of shardblades in Roshar is very small. Even assuming something like 5 shardblades that were loaned out, how is it possible to create a whole city with that in a reasonable amount of time. Feels like it would take many decades.

      20 votes
    7. 'The Three-Body Problem' is... bad

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      I just finished it today and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what parts I enjoyed.

      Spoilers I enjoyed the parts where we get to see inside the game of threebody. That felt engaging to me, but was really the only part I enjoyed.

      The rest of the book felt very preachy and a lot of it felt unnecessary. I don't think I liked a single character in the book. They all felt like caricatures and not how people would genuinely act or respond to the events happening in the book. Almost every single action taken by every single character felt forced to fit a narrative.

      I cannot fathom why this won a Hugo award other than the fact that it was the first piece of science fiction originally written by a Chinese author in the Chinese language to win. [edit: In terms of novelty. The fact that it was originally written in Chinese has absolutely no bearing on my opinion other than possibly due to the translation the characters seemed to have no depth.]

      I listened to the audio book, as I was told the names can be confusing and the audio book helped with it. I kept waiting for it to go somewhere, and when it was over I thought to myself, "that's it?"

      Maybe someone can give a different perspective on it, because right now I'm just frustrated I spent money on it.

      51 votes
    8. Tildes Pop-up Book Club: Discussion topic for Roadside Picnic

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      This is the Discussion topic for all those who participated in Tildes Pop-up Book Club: Roadside Picnic, or for anyone who has previously read the book and wishes to join in.

      I don't have a particular format in mind for this discussion, but I will post some prompts and questions as comments to get things started. You're not obligated to respond to them or vote on them though. So feel free to make your own top-level comment for whatever you wish to discuss, questions you have of others, or even just to post a review of the book you have written yourself.


      For all the latecomers, don't worry if you didn't read the book in time for this Discussion topic. You can always join in once you finish it. Tildes Activity sort, and "Collapse old comments" feature should keep the topic going for as long as people are still replying.

      And for anyone uninterested in this topic please use the Ignore Topic feature on this so it doesn't keep popping up in your Activity sort, since it's likely to keep doing that while I set this discussion up, and once people start joining in.

      45 votes
    9. Books with WTF premises

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Books that make you want to side eye the author, because why....would you come up with that?

      For example, Frank Herbert, you know, the guy that came up with a beloved series that examines philosophy, religion, human nature, and the dangers of power, also wrote The Whipping Star - a book about a noirish, twice-divorced space detective who has to free a star from being contractually obligated to be whipped to death by a notorious, billionare dominatrix.

      I'm looking for books where the premise is played straight, like the author doesn't know what a little weirdo they're being.

      63 votes
    10. Tress and the Emerald Sea - By Brandon Sanderson - Discussion

      Warning: this post may contain spoilers

      Just finished this book this morning and wanted to do my usual jump to reddit to read what others have said/are saying about it. But as I have decided to leave reddit indefinitely, I have come here!

      Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Any Cosmerenauts on Tilde yet that are anxious to discuss the implications of the book?

      Personally, I enjoyed the book, but found it very quick and convenient in terms of plot and structure. It bothered me a tiny bit, at first, until I read the postscript and saw that he was going for a "Princess Bride" structure, and suddenly the whole book reframed itself in my mind. It wasn't convenient, it was a bedtime story. Every chapter being 3-5 pages, and being a non-stop string of events, that was its strength now.

      From a cosmere perspective, it's interesting that this book is obviously very late future compared to most cosmere books. I'm not wise enough to know exactly where, but the mention of Spaceships landing on planets indicate we're not in Kansas any more.

      Few small glimpses into Hoid, which was interesting, if nothing revelatory.

      How did you all feel?

      29 votes