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Permafrost - Alastair Reynolds

First up, this is a novella, clocking in at about 160 pages. It's a time travel novel about a bunch of scientists and their guinea pigs in a post-apocalyptic world were some rampant biological process (perhaps a rogue bioweapon) in the mid-21st century has ripped through the earth's ecosystem, leaving humanity with nothing to eat. However, scientists have formed a way of transporting matter back in time, and are sending back the consciousnesses of a small team to "nudge" a tiny change that will allow humanity to save themselves.

It's pretty hard SF, there's at least some proper sounding-physics to explain time travel (the author had a distinguished career in the field prior to becoming an authot), and it also details the concept of paradoxes and how they resolve. Obviously given the length, it's not high on character development, and the plot rolls along nicely enough. Reynolds well amongst the top SF authors writing today, and he's high accomplished at shorter stories as well as full novels, so this is a pretty good blast.

City of Lies - Sam Hawke

Apparently Sam Hawke's debut novel - enthusiastically hyped as Robin Hobb mixed with Agatha Christie. I'm not convinced the former is a recommendation, and the latter is just misleadingly flattering as the mystery throughout the core of this novel is really just your bog-standard finding out what's going on "mystery" route a thousand fantasy novels have already trodden.

So two early adults, whose names I've already forgotten (they are that memorable) have been trained as poisoners, and when the capital of of their nation is unexpectedly besieged and its leaders murdered, they have to both save the city and their friend the heir to the "throne", and find out what machinations have brought about this state of affairs. Cue several hundred pages of mediocrity. And I know the protagonists are young, but dear god, surely nobles brought up in the palace with the job of protecting the national leader and the world of subterfuge, who should be intimate with politics, can't be quite so naive.

Plot holes abound. This book is frankly annoying in the way that the plot seems to resolve on all manner of chance encounters and occurrences. Nor are aspects of it remotely convincing: at some point we're expected to believe that the leaders of this rather small state are somehow entirely unaware of the practices of their (culturally and religiously different) peasant majority. Really? Some case is attempted to explain a disconnected ruling elite, but it's wholly unconvincing. Put it this way, if your peasants can turn up some people who are basically mages... how the hell do you miss that over the last 300 years?

Anyway, this is apparently the start of a series. Odds of me reading the second are not high.

One Way - Simon Morden

Frank Kittridge is a middle aged convict with a life sentence offered a once in a lifetime opportunity - stay and rot in prison forever, or become a colonist of Mars, building a base for a corporation that NASA will later occupy. Needless to say, he signs up. However, after his training and once he gets there, seven other convicts offered the same deal and an overseer, they start dying one by one. One of them is a murderer... but who?

Let's get right down to the obvious of the core mystery. If you haven't worked out who the killer is by the time the third corpse turns up, god help you. And frankly, you should have a better than even guess before any of them are dead. Nevertheless, it's a good enough read. Alongside the mystery you get to read the general SF stuff about how the base is constructed and operates. It's also making a bit of a scathing comment about corporate activities - each chapter starts with a corporate communique that fills in some of the background of how this Mars mission developed and was run.

So I came out of this with a pretty positive view. I enjoyed it, even if the central mystery was a little weak.

The Wolf is Not Invited (3/5)

So yes, this is a children's book. The author actually moved into my street and I mentioned that I worked in a library. She gifted me the book with the request that I donate it. So, I'm doing that, but I took the chance to read it myself.

It's...okay, I guess? I'm not saying this as an adult reading a book for children, I'm saying it as an examination of its morals. Basically, dog and cat are friends, cat meets cat, goes out with cat, doesn't want dog, dog goes out with dog, cat finds other cat is a bitch, cat comes back to dog, dog and cat become friends again. Um...yay? It's kind of weird that bitch!cat is only mentioned as being mean in a single page (outside her initial spurring of the dog), and the moral seems to be "some people are jerks, stick with your real friends?" Which, okay, fine, but still...I dunno. Maybe it's because I'm a cat rather than a dog person.

Anyway, it'll be out of my hands soon regardless.

Hangman's Gate - R.S. Ford

Second book in the War of the Archons trilogy. Basic set-up, without too many spoilers in case you want to read bk. 1, the Archons (gods, effectively) exiled themselves from the world of men into another realm because they kept getting everyone killed in wars for dominance. Unfortunately, some have broken back through, to restart their lust for power, intoxicated by the thrill of mortal worship. Others of the Archons, plus a cast of humans, are striving to stop them. We get to see the continuing adventures of mercenary Josten Cade and farmgirl Livia Harrow from the previous book, plus a bunch of (mostly) newcomers.

So, pretty basic fantasy fare. R.S. Ford is the same Richard Ford who wrote the Steelhaven trilogy, which was decent. He's pretty competent, if unexceptional, and everything about this book is decent without being great. That's about it. It's like spaghetti and meatballs for dinner: good, solid, middling fare to digest frequently and contentedly in-between the really good stuff.

Back into the non-fiction pool.

Comrades: Brothers, Fathers, Heroes, Sons, Pals by Stephen E. Ambrose [1999]
A collection of essays focusing on male friendships, how they can form and the strengths they can provide, this is a short but interesting book. While Ambrose collected his essays around a select few that centered on his own life, the range of his subject material tends towards military history n general and American history more specifically. For a historian's work, it is a bit indulgent, but I can recommend it.

The Summer the Archduke Died: On Wars and Warriors by Louis D. Rubin, Jr. [2008]
Another collection of essays, drawn from the author's previously published critical book review work, this selection revolves around the ending of the first World War and how it led directly into the second and the resulting effects that came from both to change the social fabric of the nations involved. Also a recommended work, but a bit narrow in its focus so it might not appeal to everyone.

A Brief History of Afghanistan by Shaista Wahab and Barry Youngerman [2007]
This work is by no means a deep-dive into the subject, but it does give a pretty good overview of the region in central Asia, how it has come to be the way it is and how its history has shaped the various groups, ethnic and otherwise, that live there. If the work has any major shortcoming, it is that the authors (having written the material in 2006 and earlier) were operating on the assumption that the American occupation of the country was very likely to result in a viable and somewhat stable nation-state free of the Taliban. Sadly, hindsight has shown that such optimism was misplaced. While I can't recommend the author's hopeful views of what was supposed to come in the (their) future, the discussions of the various tribal group's histories, the interplay between them and the nature of how rulers have always had to balance regionalism, nationalism (such as it was) and localism at all times was certainly an illuminating thing.

Now, I just need to plow through the remaining 50 or so books I have piled up. A friend has run a new-and-used book store for several years in town. Unfortunately, she and her business partner have decided to close up shop and I purchased just a few books from them to help clear the shelves. Still find it depressing to think of their store closing down. (OK, now I've bummed myself out. Where did I put that Lewis Black comedy book I bought from them? I need a light and funny read now).

The Wraith is a Superhero (3/5)

So, yes, this is a children's book. It was on sale at the library I worked at as someone had scribbled on it. Since I'm currently working on a Wraith story for Trinity Comics (yes, the same story I mentioned ages back), thought I'd get it.

It's...fine, I guess? I mean, it reads as a children's book, and functions as 50% children's book, 50% "here's the superhero cast that you can read when you're older." Y'know, like a lot of superhero chidlren's books.

Question is, how does the real deal function?

The Wraith (3/5)

How it functions is this - not the first Wraith book chronologically, but the first one published. And it's...well, it's not great. If anything, 3/5 is probably a bit too generous for it. Credit where credit is due, having read Vendetta (set later and written later), the author did improve later, but here, it's pulp fiction dialled up to the max. Where protagonists and anatagonists alike chew the scenery, with the antagonists having the motivation of "I'm evil," and protagonists having the motive of "I'm good." Really, this is better suited fro a comic than a written work, and having read the graphic novel adaptation of the original novel, I'm inclined to agree. Honestly, the best thing about the novel is that it gave me good material - a guide to what I should do when writing for the section, while giving me ideas for what I can do differently.

No Way - Simon Morden

Sequel to One Way (see above). Frank Kittridge, isolated ex-con on Mars, is now presented with a whole host of new survival challenges. Not to give away too many spoilers, the boog tagline asks "What if he's not alone?", and I guess that rhetorical question tells you most of what you need to know.

So a few hundred pages of much the same. This is an inferior sequel, where it retreads much of the style of the previous without the same charm or freshness, and Frank himself is far more conpicuously made a "hero", not always in the most convincing of fashions. Meh.

The Edge - Tim Lebbon

Another book in a series, this time the third in Lebbon's "Relics" series. Lebbon is a horror author (with occasional forays into fantasy horror). He's pretty good, I guess.

It's the continuing stories of Angela and her boyfriend Vince, who have both been sucked into an underworld where creatures of myth called "The Kin" still exist around the edges of modern human society, and where people in the know hunt them, for fun or for bits of them called relics, some still bearing magical power. In this third book, Vince is trapped in a way I'm not going to explain so I don't spoiler the second book, and Angela is looking after her niece. She is drawn by her nymph friend Lilou into investigating a once-flooded valley that has recently drained... what terrors will emerge from the once-submerged land? Meanwhile, other Kin plan to return to the world in force, and reassume dominance over humankind.

This, again, is diminishing returns territory. It's okay, passes the time, but nothing more. May as well read it if you enjoyed the two before.

Agema:
One Way - Simon Morden

How would you say it compares to The Martian (the book, if you've read it)? I've seen some people making comparisons as a sort of "Martian, but with a killer on Mars."

Hawki:

Agema:
One Way - Simon Morden

How would you say it compares to The Martian (the book, if you've read it)? I've seen some people making comparisons as a sort of "Martian, but with a killer on Mars."

I'm afraid I've only seen the film of The Martian.

If the book of The Martian is like the film, I think the similarity is very likely to be superficial: basically, someone trying to survive on Mars. But really One Way is a murder mystery novel set on a Martian base, where The Martian is (pesumably) more a hard SF novel exploring how science can do stuff.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Siege of the Crystal Empire (4/5)

Someone, at some point, said that the MLP comics could get away with stuff that the show couldn't. I forget who that person was and when it was said, but I never had any trouble believing that. I mean, the Sonic the Hedgehog comics got away with much darker stuff than what the games ever delved into, so why not MLP? Well, having read this comic arc as part of 'research' for an MLP story I'm doing, I have to say that John/Jane Doe was correct. Because if nothing else, the design of the umbrum themselves in this arc is high octane nightmare fuel.

That aside, the arc is mostly solid. Mostly. Has a good mix of humour at the start, action in the middle, plenty of worldbuilding, and character development spread throughout. Not that said development is done well all the time, as Radiant Hope is...okay, there's nothing wrong with her character inherently, but there's a sense that the writers are really trying to build up the sympathetic backstory thing. So much so that it feels overblown. Also, not that I'm complaining, but in a series that champions redemption, it's kind of odd that the umbrum are presented as being entirely irredeemable, while changelings (also featured here) do get their redemption. Oh, and Chrysalis is here, and despite the umbrum threatening to destroy everything (and ergo, rob the changelings of their food source in the process), she hates Twilight so much that she's quite happy to say "you're screwed, have fun" and fly off. I mean, damn...

However, then there's the fourth issue, where the foundations of the first three aren't quite met. Because in the space of issues 3 to 4, we're led to believe that the empire is enslaved, a resistance is formed, and said resistance comes back just in time to save Twilight and Cadence from execution. This doesn't feel like the climax of an arc, it feels like the climax of a much longer arc. Okay, those things aren't contradictory, but still, issue 4 is the weak link. Because it's visually the darkest issue (wasteland, slavery, etc.), but then the comic remembers that this is a comic based on a setting where the "magic of friendship" is a literal force, and has a final battle that's mostly played for laughs. Fun fact: no-one can die in the comics as a mandate from Hasbro (but being petrified and shattered into pieces is okay). And speaking of that, Sombra. Sombra is...I dunno. He was a weak villain in season 3, and while this comic does give him a sympathetic backstory and a redemption at the end of it (framed in the context of nature vs. nurture, fate, destiny, etc.), it doesn't leave as much impact as it was aiming for. I'm not going to hold season 9 against it (where Sombra is evil again for no reason - well, no in-universe reason at least), but, yeah. I've said elsewhere that giving a villain a sympathetic backstory doesn't automatically make the villain sympathetic themselves, and this is kind of similar. Just replace "sympathetic" with "interesting."

Still, it's a solid arc all round. And if anything, makes me have more gripes against the IDW Sonic series. I know that Hasbro and Sega hve different mandates, but it's jarring to see one series with anthropomorphic animals (Sonic) play it so safe, while another series (MLP) takes risks and pushes the boundaries of what it can get away with. And you'd think that those things would be reversed, but meh.

Oh, and the canon meant I had to revise my own story. Bastards. :(

Empire of Silence - Christopher Ruocchio

Hadrian Marlowe is a young minor aristocrat in the Sollan Empire. The book takes the form of Hadrian retelling his story as an autobiographical record of his life; we are thus told right from the start that Hadrian has ended up destroying a sun and billions of lives in contravention of orders to end a war, and is widely reviled. The story, thus, is how he got there.

This is grand space opera, and there's a lot of worldbuilding here. The basic background is that the Sollan Empire is the largest human polity; it is neo-feudal, xenophobic and somewhat technophobic (especially with regard to computers and AI), with a quasi-religious order called Chantry overseeing correctness of thought and deed. It is at war with the only other advanced alien race humans have ever encountered, the Cielcin. Hadrian's father is a cold and pragmatic man, who attempts to force Hadrian into Chantry; Hadrian instead chooses to flee and lead a life according to his own principles. This first book covers his exceptionally rocky start - he seems to find wherever he goes, he does not have the freedom he craves.

I would say in many ways this book bears a close feeling to the fantasy novel The Name of The Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) in style and set-up. I strongly suspect it also bears a significant debt to Dune (Frank Herbert). I'm not sure I liked its main character. He's obviously designed to be a flawed but admirable character, although he is flawed in ways that often seem designed to be underlying positives - doing the wrong things for the right reasons - which I often find a little cheap. A very substantial cast of characters revolve around him in greater or lesser depth, they're all fine. It's well enough written, albeit with a gentle pace.

It's a fairly hefty tome and I can imagine the faint of focus struggling to get into it, but it's worth sticking with and rewarding enough, even if it falls short of brilliance.

Agema:

I would say in many ways this book bears a close feeling to the fantasy novel The Name of The Wind (Patrick Rothfuss) in style and set-up.

So, the protagonist is an insufferable Gary Stu?

I'm not sure I liked its main character. He's obviously designed to be a flawed but admirable character,

Well, that's better than Kvothe at least.

Hawki:
So, the protagonist is an insufferable Gary Stu?

I don't know I like that term outside a fairly narrow remit.

I don't know whether it's author wish-fulfillment, or whether he's just playing too safe on the virtuous hero trope. Lots of heroes are basically dull as dishwater honourable types, who screw up but always because they're nice (naive) people trying to do the right thing who don't have the callousness or slimy, political nous that would get the job done but leave a sour taste in the mouth. I think often it makes for a weakness when it comes to creating interesting characters when an author wants to make them too likeable.

Well, that's better than Kvothe at least.

Kvothe annoyed me. He's just good at everything and conveniently encounters everything that makes the plot roll along. I think at some point in book two (!), Wise Man's Fear, he finally encounters something he's not totally brilliant at. Kvothe is at least slightly unlikeable as a smug arsehole. I think back and even stuff annoys me like the enticing but conveniently inaccessible inamorata, etc. Feels a little contrived.

Incidentally, do you get the feeling hardly anyone on here reads apaart from us?

Agema:

Incidentally, do you get the feeling hardly anyone on here reads apaart from us?

Oh, I'm sure lots of people read, and we're not the only ones posting. But I'm not surprised that there's little feedback as:

a) This is primarily a gaming site, and books and games are kind of one opposite ends of the media spectrum.

b) Books likely have more releases per year than any other medium. So when people have more to choose from, there'll be less overlap with what they're consuming.

I do read, but my interests seem to be fairly far afield for this site. . . .

At any rate, digging deeper into my older books pile I finished The Colonial Background of the American Revolution by Charles M. Andrews[1924]. Another old text I picked up from my used-book store friends, I wanted to read this one to see how views had changed over the decades. While some of Andrews' positions aren't too far afield, he does seem to have a few ideas I do not agree with. Firstly, he argues that the American Revolution has been viewed as an event along the lines of the creation of the U.S.A., which is something I do agree with, and instead should be viewed as the result of British colonial history. His work is based upon that particular viewpoint.

Unfortunately, Andrews and I part company when he starts making some claims that I find a bit hard to swallow. For instance, he claims that the particular political groups in England most involved in colonial affairs within the House of Commons were all firmly Middle Class hands (thanks to the after-effects of the Glorious Revolution) while also outright stating that the Upper Class were in charge of all significant positions within the British government. I can agree with some of his ideas on how and why the British government failed to understand to significance and ramifications of the home country's relationship with the colonies, but knowing what George Grenville had been up to in the years directly preceding the revolutionary years, I an taken aback at just how little of a mention Grenville and cohorts get. While I definitely could recommend the book to anyone who studies historiography, if anyone is looking for
a good analysis of the American Revolution as it stands within the framework of the English Empire of the time, I would steer them towards Theodore Draper's A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution [1996] as a much better work.

And perhaps just to prove that I do read fiction from time to time, I sat down and read another older book by Arthur C Clarke, Childhood's End [1953]. Anyone who is a fan of the sci-fi classics, including Clarke, I think would very much enjoy this one. If you haven't read this particular story, I won't give anything away but can at least say this: The premise of the book is that just before the competing moon launches by both the Soviets and Americans, an alien race arrives and rather dramatically makes itself know to humanity. Called the Overlords, they issue a few directives and declare that humanity is not ready to go forth into the greater universe. Instead, they will aid, teach and guide humanity forward. Which is something they do with a pretty light touch (the only major action they take is to enforce an anti-cruelty to animals edict. Killing for self-defense or to harvest food is acceptable, but not for amusement/sport. The scene of what happens at the last Spanish bullfight is amusing). There is a certain amount of speculation (and some paranoia) about what the aliens are up to, who they really are and what they really want, but I promised no spoilers so I will say no more. Clarke is just a damn fine writer and I highly recommend this one.

I've taken to listening to audiobooks while I'm at the gym, and I started with some of the classics. So here we go with the classics:

The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged) I really enjoyed this one. Dumas might go into a little too much detail when describing the settings, but even so the story always feels like it's moving forward, and it's fun to see how the chain of cause and effect play out, to see the schemers planting ideas in receptive minds, to see emotion get the better of the characters, anticipating the inevitable fruition of plans and revelations. It was very enjoyable.

Moby-Dick (unabridged): Ye gads this was a slog. And it's largely attributable to the fact that...most of the book is not about the story. Really, I'd go so far as to say it reads like Melville wrote the comparatively few narrative chapters as an excuse to expound upon how glorious a profession whaling is. I kid you not, there's an entire chapter devoted to the perplexing fact that whaling is looked down upon while being a soldier is a seen as an honorable and glorious calling.

There's a chapter where he comments on the lack of patron saints for the profession and posits that Hercules and St. George should be viable candidates (on the tortured logic that the dragon slain by St. George must have really been a whale, and St. George therefore a whaler). There's a chapter on the subject of royal fish and a resulting injustice. There are several chapters devoted to simply categorizing and distinguishing different cetaceans. There's a chapter describing the drug-like euphoria of squeezing spermaceti to keep it from clumping. There's a chapter about who's entitled to a previously harpooned whale and the attached equipment.

Then there was a chapter philosophizing on the nature of the color white. And then we get to the narrative chaff, where we get in-narrative bits that...add absolutely nothing to the story. Like Stubb haranguing the ship's cook because the whale steak he had the cook make wasn't tough enough for his liking, and thence proceeds to have the cook preach a sermon to the sharks by the ship about table manners. Or Stubb (again) suggesting at length that one of the harpooneers (Fedallah) must really be a devil bargaining for Ahab's soul (this doesn't go anywhere). I have never read a more rambling book in my life, much less one that completely changes style on the author's whim. There are even a few chapters in there which drop prose in favor of stage directions. Stage directions. It's jarring to say the least.

As you might guess, I was not a fan of this one. I stuck with it out of spite, and I'm now thoroughly confused as to how such a meandering mess is considered "The Great American Novel"

Hawki:

Agema:

Incidentally, do you get the feeling hardly anyone on here reads apaart from us?

Oh, I'm sure lots of people read, and we're not the only ones posting. But I'm not surprised that there's little feedback as:

a) This is primarily a gaming site, and books and games are kind of one opposite ends of the media spectrum.

b) Books likely have more releases per year than any other medium. So when people have more to choose from, there'll be less overlap with what they're consuming.

I jut don't think I'm that great at writing reviews. They always come across as kind of generic unless its something I'm specifically angry about and generally I just put the book down if I'm getting annoyed at it

Most of the novels I have read recently don't have an English language release. There are exceptions, but overall i am not really motivated to write about stuff i find mediocre.

When I next read something that is good and available in English, i intend to post.

Palindromemordnilap:

I jut don't think I'm that great at writing reviews. They always come across as kind of generic unless its something I'm specifically angry about and generally I just put the book down if I'm getting annoyed at it

I'm no book critic either! But I read a lot, and it's interesting to see what else is out there and what people recommend. I think if you find someone (friend, professional critic, etc.) who often speaks highly of things you also like, it's a big plus as you'll normally be able to trust them and just go for their likes too.

I mostly read SF&F, obviously, and where I might possibly diverge from many readers is I often weight the offbeat quite highly - having read enough boy's own adventures with space rockets / magic swords, there's just not that much excitement in stuff treading the same well-worn paths, although they can make for comforting time-fillers.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: Reflections (3/5)

Similar to 'Siege of the Crystal Empire', I read this for canon content, so to speak. But the funny thing is, having just come off Siege, this is actually kind of the inverse of that arc. Because Siege was basically three serious issues followed by a humorous issue. Reflections is three humorous issues followed by a serious issue. However, while I enjoyed this arc, it's nowhere near as tight as Siege, as:

-There's a fair bit of tonal dissonance, in that for most of the story, things are played for laughs, but the seriousness is still present. Such as Celestia being cut off from the altnerate Sombra, with the laws of alternate realities ensuring she can't visit him because the "prime universe" (this term isn't used, but I'm using it) and "mirror universe" (likewise) are becoming linked. Which isn't too bad as plot development/character development goes, but a lot of it feels like filler. There's a sense that as Prime!Equestria interacts with Prime!Luna, the writers had to fill in panels, because the conversations between them go in a circular manner. Celestia will admit to something, Luna will chew her out, cue forgiveness. Now do this more than once for each new revelation.

-The fourth issue, as the worlds begin to merge, cue high stakes, and...yeah. Up until now, the stakes were clear, certainly, but things get very serious, very fast, in a way that makes the ending tonally dissonant with what's come up to it.

-This isn't a sin that the comic can be held accountable for exactly, but reading it now, if I'm to believe that Prime!Celestia and Mirror!Sombra were romantically entwined, why is this never brought up in Siege of the Crystal Empire (where Prime!Sombra is redeemed), or the show? I know, I know, the comics generally do their own thing and the show can override it when it sees fit (see season 9 for an example), but it's kind of jarring that this is never brought up anywhere else, even if Celestia wanted to keep it a secret. There's some plot points in fiction that are simply too big to be reasonably ignored.

So, that aside, what does the comic do well? Well, the answer to that question is the humour I mentioned, because it succeeds there, and succeeds very well. Granted, a lot of that humour is fourth wall touching, if not fourth wall breaking, but I found myself smirking a lot. Sometimes it's through the dialogue (there's a recurring gag where a character mentions "the six of you," and Spike yells out "seven!" with increased exasperation), and there's background humour. For instance, there's a panel with numerous newspaper clippings in the background, one of which says "if you're reading this, you're probably thinking about this comic too much." In the foreground, Twilight is going on about recording it and checking it for errors, while Pinkie Pie exclaims "who cares about continuity? it's a comic!" So, yes, they just roasted wiki editors like myself, but hey, I can live with that.

Oh, and it subverts the trope of a 'prime' universe character/set of characters meeting their evil dopplegangers, and does it pretty well. So good job there. But as enjoyable as the comic is, it's still "okay" rather than outright "good."

By The Pricking Of Her Thumb - Adam Roberts

Sequel to the Real Town Murders. It's the future, and most of humanity have migrated their consciousnesses into an enhanced VR world called "The Shine", with robots caring for their somnolent, logged-in bodies. Alma is a PI in Reading (now rebranded R!-town), UK, who cares for her critically ill partner, Margueritte, who has been infected with a custom-designed pathogen that requires Alma to provide medical care every four hours. Alma is tasked by a dual mystery: a) a woman has died with the only evidence being a needle pushed through her thumb and b) one of the richest people alive has decided one of her three main rivals has died, but she doesn't know which and wants Alma to find out.

This Roberts work is chock-a-block full of his customary later-phase light humour, full of quirky people who speak in contrived conversation with witticisms and puns (which readers may find amusing or annoying). It is of course a SF murder mystery (as its predecessor) at base - something Roberts is clearly enjoying following his collection of three stories, Jack Glass, several years ago.

All in all, rather good. The murder mystery is fine, and I quite enjoy the underpinning SF elements of the societal stresses of this new world; the underlying conflict between forces operating in the Real or the Shine.

Agema:

Hawki:
So, the protagonist is an insufferable Gary Stu?

I don't know I like that term outside a fairly narrow remit.

I don't know whether it's author wish-fulfillment, or whether he's just playing too safe on the virtuous hero trope. Lots of heroes are basically dull as dishwater honourable types, who screw up but always because they're nice (naive) people trying to do the right thing who don't have the callousness or slimy, political nous that would get the job done but leave a sour taste in the mouth. I think often it makes for a weakness when it comes to creating interesting characters when an author wants to make them too likeable.

Well, that's better than Kvothe at least.

Kvothe annoyed me. He's just good at everything and conveniently encounters everything that makes the plot roll along. I think at some point in book two (!), Wise Man's Fear, he finally encounters something he's not totally brilliant at. Kvothe is at least slightly unlikeable as a smug arsehole. I think back and even stuff annoys me like the enticing but conveniently inaccessible inamorata, etc. Feels a little contrived.

Incidentally, do you get the feeling hardly anyone on here reads apaart from us?

Just wanted to add that I read like a fiend, and frequent this thread a lot for ideas on what to check out, but rarely contribute because I type like a goblin and due to my preferences (mainly horror, but occasionally SF&F and action), I assume no one would care.

I also loved the writing in the Kvothe books, but detested the character and found little enjoyment in the second book - the first one, I was hoping that we were seeing everyone else's versions, telling Kvothe's stories, and that he was going to tell us how it really was, and that it wasn't nearly as glamorous, like Unforgiven. But... well, here we are.

Asita:

Moby-Dick (unabridged): Ye gads this was a slog. And it's largely attributable to the fact that...most of the book is not about the story. Really, I'd go so far as to say it reads like Melville wrote the comparatively few narrative chapters as an excuse to expound upon how glorious a profession whaling is. I kid you not, there's an entire chapter devoted to the perplexing fact that whaling is looked down upon while being a soldier is a seen as an honorable and glorious calling.

There's a chapter where he comments on the lack of patron saints for the profession and posits that Hercules and St. George should be viable candidates (on the tortured logic that the dragon slain by St. George must have really been a whale, and St. George therefore a whaler). There's a chapter on the subject of [link=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_fish[/link]royal fish[/I] and a resulting injustice. There are several chapters devoted to simply categorizing and distinguishing different cetaceans. There's a chapter describing the drug-like euphoria of squeezing spermaceti to keep it from clumping. There's a chapter about who's entitled to a previously harpooned whale and the attached equipment.

Then there was a chapter philosophizing on the nature of the color white. And then we get to the narrative chaff, where we get in-narrative bits that...add absolutely nothing to the story. Like Stubb haranguing the ship's cook because the whale steak he had the cook make wasn't tough enough for his liking, and thence proceeds to have the cook preach a sermon to the sharks by the ship about table manners. Or Stubb (again) suggesting at length that one of the harpooneers (Fedallah) must really be a devil bargaining for Ahab's soul (this doesn't go anywhere). I have never read a more rambling book in my life, much less one that completely changes style on the author's whim. There are even a few chapters in there which drop prose in favor of stage directions. Stage directions. It's jarring to say the least.

As you might guess, I was not a fan of this one. I stuck with it out of spite, and I'm now thoroughly confused as to how such a meandering mess is considered "The Great American Novel"

Yes! I agree completely! How this became a classic I have no idea. It was so boring! I could not believe how long he went on about the colour white. Ages! I'm kind of curious how long the book would be if you cut out all the irrelevant digressions on the minutiae of whaling.

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

*spoilers incoming*

Was alright, I guess, but man was Victor Frankenstein an idiot! He spends years bringing his creature to life, takes one look at it and runs away and goes to sleep. I don't think he could possibly be any more irresponsible. He immediately decides it's a monster without any further investigation and then doesn't even try to dispose of it or anything, he just basically hopes it will go away if he tries not to think of it. And it does for a while, until it comes back and murders his brother and asks for a companion with which to disappear into the wilderness of Africa with. Frankenstein agrees and then goes on a sightseeing tour around the United Kingdom for... some reason. He finally gets around to working on creature #2 before he decides he doesn't want to do it after all and reneges on his promise. The monster threatens to make his life miserable and Frankenstein is basically 'whatevs.' Then he dumps the remains of his project in the ocean and promptly falls asleep in his boat, floats adrift for hours until he has no idea where he is, and almost dies. Then his friend is murdered, and Frankenstein never seems to connect that his creation may not intend to kill him, but actually intends to kill everyone he ever loved. He then does absolutely nothing about it and decides he'll get married, and what a shocker, the monster kills his wife.

What a moron! The only time he tried to take an ounce of responsibility for his creation was when it was already too late and everyone he ever loved was dead. And then he has the audacity to lecture the crew of a boat trying to find a way through an ice-field about courage and honor and all that nonsense when they want to give up. What a hypocrite! Basically the whole plot wouldn't have happened if Frankenstein hadn't been holding the idiot ball the entire book and had either raised or destroyed his creature instead of running screaming into the night.

Drathnoxis:
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Funnily enough, that's another book I read recently. I quickly came to hate Victor. He's a terrible person for reasons that tend to trace back to his egotism and apparent inability to truly empathize with others. I mean this is a guy who bemoaned how nobody in the world was more unfortunate than he...as part of his reaction to the wrongful conviction and execution of a childhood friend for the murder of Victor's little brother. No, Victor, I'm sure you must have suffered far more in refusing to testify on her behalf than she did when she was threatened with eternal damnation if she didn't confess to a crime she didn't commit. Clearly you are the real victim here. Amirite, or amirite?

Despite my antipathy for the character, however, this is still a book I'd say is worth a read, with the understanding that both Victor and his creation end up being terrible people (albeit for very different reasons). Truthfully, I'd say the best way to approach the book is to almost treat it as a character study. You will probably slam your head into the wall over some of the leaps of logic, self-righteousness, and "oh woe is me!" melodrama from the focal characters, but it's fascinating to see how they justify those same flaws to themselves.

Master of Sorrows - Justin Call.

Adolescent boy with amazing magical and combat skills, elder mentor, building in maturity and nascent feelings of desire, magic swords, rebellious streak againsnt unethical culture, dark god trying to take over the world, blah blah blah. This is a massive assemblage of all the biggest fantasy cliches from start to finish. It is redeemed only by the fact it is otherwise pretty competent.

Asita:

Drathnoxis:
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Funnily enough, that's another book I read recently. I quickly came to hate Victor. He's a terrible person for reasons that tend to trace back to his egotism and apparent inability to truly empathize with others. I mean this is a guy who bemoaned how nobody in the world was more unfortunate than he...as part of his reaction to the wrongful conviction and execution of a childhood friend for the murder of Victor's little brother. No, Victor, I'm sure you must have suffered far more in refusing to testify on her behalf than she did when she was threatened with eternal damnation if she didn't confess to a crime she didn't commit. Clearly you are the real victim here. Amirite, or amirite?

Despite my antipathy for the character, however, this is still a book I'd say is worth a read, with the understanding that both Victor and his creation end up being terrible people (albeit for very different reasons). Truthfully, I'd say the best way to approach the book is to almost treat it as a character study. You will probably slam your head into the wall over some of the leaps of logic, self-righteousness, and "oh woe is me!" melodrama from the focal characters, but it's fascinating to see how they justify those same flaws to themselves.

For what its worth, I feel that is the point. Victor's kind of a jackass, and him being a jackass to the Monster is what drives the plot. There is no good guy and bad guy, just two jackasses who are far too similar to each other for their own goods

Asita:

Drathnoxis:
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.

Funnily enough, that's another book I read recently. I quickly came to hate Victor. He's a terrible person for reasons that tend to trace back to his egotism and apparent inability to truly empathize with others. I mean this is a guy who bemoaned how nobody in the world was more unfortunate than he...as part of his reaction to the wrongful conviction and execution of a childhood friend for the murder of Victor's little brother. No, Victor, I'm sure you must have suffered far more in refusing to testify on her behalf than she did when she was threatened with eternal damnation if she didn't confess to a crime she didn't commit. Clearly you are the real victim here. Amirite, or amirite?

Despite my antipathy for the character, however, this is still a book I'd say is worth a read, with the understanding that both Victor and his creation end up being terrible people (albeit for very different reasons). Truthfully, I'd say the best way to approach the book is to almost treat it as a character study. You will probably slam your head into the wall over some of the leaps of logic, self-righteousness, and "oh woe is me!" melodrama from the focal characters, but it's fascinating to see how they justify those same flaws to themselves.

Yes, Victor really is a lousy person all around. It was all a bit overblown for me though. Pages and pages of almost poetic dialogue about how miserable everyone is. I was just wishing he'd shut up and get to work on the monster's companion. And he came down with brain fever, what, 3 times? That's a bit much even for a Victorian era book.

Asita:

The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged)

Holy smokes is this a long book! 52 hours long! That's longer than some entire series of novels!

Drathnoxis:
Holy smokes is this a long book! 52 hours long! That's longer than some entire series of novels!

My dread was piling through Anna Karenina. It took me about 4 months and I got through about 10 other (more lightweight) books in the process when I couldn't bear slogging through it. On the good side, it has one of the greatest first lines in literature.

Agema:

Drathnoxis:
Holy smokes is this a long book! 52 hours long! That's longer than some entire series of novels!

My dread was piling through Anna Karenina. It took me about 4 months and I got through about 10 other (more lightweight) books in the process when I couldn't bear slogging through it. On the good side, it has one of the greatest first lines in literature.

This is even longer than that. I'm seeing audiobooks length at 38 hours and the page count is 864 compared to Monte Cristo's 1276.

Drathnoxis:
Holy smokes is this a long book! 52 hours long! That's longer than some entire series of novels!

Yep. My library lets me rent 6 audiobooks a month through Hoopla, requiring that I 'return' the book every 21 days...I ended up renting Monte Cristo 4 times before I finished it. Contrast that with Frankenstein (one rental) and Moby Dick (two rentals). As I said though, while Dumas often speaks at length about background and setting, where I'd say this contrasts with Melville is that Melville chooses to toss in infodumps of things completely disconnected to the plot (such as the aforementioned attempt at a taxonomic classification of whales). Conversely, while Dumas' descriptions may not be strictly necessary, they help paint a more complete picture and adds to our understanding of the characters. For instance, we don't need the exhaustive life story of Luigi Vampa, but it certainly gives you an idea of what the characters are dealing with when they come face to face with him. We don't need to know about the decorations and amusements in Albert's guesthouse, but it ends up painting a picture of a noble who enjoys his wealth and status but lacks direction, which adds gravitas to his decisions later in the novel.

Inside Out - A Personal History of Pink Floyd by Nick Mason.

Nick Mason is the drummer of PF, and as the book claims, has been the only member of the core 4 that has never officially left the band for any period of time. It's a personal memoir in chronological order, so the details get fuzzy the further you go back and you can tell when Mason is avoiding harsher words due to the desire to maintain personal relationships. That being said, I really enjoyed it. His humour shines through and you get all sorts of details that even I, as an avid fan, never knew. For example, did you know their angrier-than-hell lighting technician who designed and produced many of their iconic effects worked on Gladiator? Did you know Paul McCartney had spoken recordings that ultimately didn't make it onto Dark Side of the Moon? The book does go into detail about the demise of founding member Roger "Syd" Barrett and the falling out they are now notorious for all from a personal perspective, which does allow criticism for his inner thoughts. I think that's fairly brave of him, even considering what I said before.

If you're a fan of the band, you'll love it. If you're not interested, chances are you won't care because it is ultimately a memoir.

Asita:

Drathnoxis:
Holy smokes is this a long book! 52 hours long! That's longer than some entire series of novels!

Yep. My library lets me rent 6 audiobooks a month through Hoopla, requiring that I 'return' the book every 21 days...I ended up renting Monte Cristo 4 times before I finished it. Contrast that with Frankenstein (one rental) and Moby Dick (two rentals). As I said though, while Dumas often speaks at length about background and setting, where I'd say this contrasts with Melville is that Melville chooses to toss in infodumps of things completely disconnected to the plot (such as the aforementioned attempt at a taxonomic classification of whales). Conversely, while Dumas' descriptions may not be strictly necessary, they help paint a more complete picture and adds to our understanding of the characters. For instance, we don't [i]need[/I] the exhaustive life story of Luigi Vampa, but it certainly gives you an idea of what the characters are dealing with when they come face to face with him. We don't need to know about the decorations and amusements in Albert's guesthouse, but it ends up painting a picture of a noble who enjoys his wealth and status but lacks direction, which adds gravitas to his decisions later in the novel.

Well I'll give it a go, since I was trying to decide what to listen to next.

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