What'cha reading?


#405

I am reading Alan Moore’s From Hell, about the Jack the Ripper slayings. It’s inCREDIBLY well-researched, presenting a fictional take on the possible killer (a real person) and his motivations. It’s thematically about how each generation is inextricably tied to the generations before it. Per usual, Moore has a hyper-intelligent character through which he delivers astonishingly crafted and incisive monologues (Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, V in V for Vendetta, Miracleman in Miracleman, Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing, etc.), and in this case, it’s the killer.

The killer’s personal motivations were very surprising to me, giving the murders their own internal momentum separate from the main plot. It’s hard to discuss the murders without divulging why they are interesting, but suffice to say it is not because of the gruesome violence. For those interested, the book cites Aleistar Crowley’s conjecture that the murderer was attempting to perform a magical ritual, which are the killer’s true personal intentions. He, a Mason, believes he is communing with a Masonic God, and with each killing, he sees more and more of the future - our (the reader’s) present.

It’s impossible to talk about this book without addressing Eddie Campbell’s art. I’ve not seen anything like it in comics before or since. It’s all extremely rough-hewn black-and-white ink, violently scratched out. It’s kind of evocative of German expressionism. He sometimes chooses to show no regard for anatomy, and sometimes he expertly renders the human form in exquisite detail. It’s all very moody and unpleasant, but not ‘bad’. I didn’t like it at first, but I got used to it.

It’s probably a bit overlong, but I’m happy I read it. And, for what it’s worth, the movie is wildly different.


#406

I loved this book so much when I first read it, I remember pestering friends to read that chapter about the masons and their architectural shamanism or whatever you call it.
It’s a fascinating, multi leveled read. One level is a Jack the Ripper theory, which Moore admits in the afterward is a cobbled together story of his favorite bits. Then there are all the meta narratives, some which exist in only in the killers head, some only in the authors.
More about the killer:

Gull believes that the Masons designed the architecture of London to subvert a traditional Matriarchy (associtated with the Moon, magic, and spiritualism) into a Patriarchy (symbolized by the sun, rationalism, science). By committing these ritual murders in specific places, he thinks he is re inforcing the rational worldview in reality. In other words, he is the conduit for the modern (our) age. Which fits with his last strange vision of a future (current day) London. This also relates to another meta narrative, the Jack the Ripper story as an allegory for the subjection and control of women.


#407

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So, my favorite fiction author is dipping her foot into my favorite genre, the nonfiction essay, and I’m enjoying it so far. Most of these are essays already published elsewhere, a few of which I’d already read, but she’s written an incredible essay on multiculturalism and the impossible idea of living an apoliticized life that’s really complicated my idea of how life in the UK works.


#408

After seeing it mentioned here and other reading threads, I read All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders.
Two outcasts in a small town high school drift around each other’s periphery, but never quite become close friends. One is obsessed with time travel watches and AI, the other talking to animals and trees. Technology and magic are both approached with a light, fantasy style touch, but the tone of the book remains serious throughout. There’s definately a two sides of the same coin thing going on here, that made the ending not a surprise at all. The goofy/serious tone of this book was a bit jarring, but the characters were well written enough for me to stay interested.
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#409

reading ‘ten days that shook the earth’ atm
i still can’t fuckin keep track of the Many, Many factions of 1917 russia but like i figure it is okay to understand it in vague terms. i think a few other folks upthread (other than me lol) mentioned reading October; this is a p good book to follow up with? goes into a lot more detail about the october rev specifically (as opposed to february and october, which October, ironically, covers), altho i think i’d have difficulty following it if i didnt already have a rough idea from October of who everyone is. it’s very… lean? i guess as a result of being written in 1918 like, probably the reader then would’ve had more understanding of its context than i do Literally 100 Years Later


#410

About 3/4 of the way through a sweet book called “Moshi Moshi” by Banana Yoshimoto. It’s about a young woman named Yocchan who was the only child. Her father is a well regarded musician in the community, mostly filling in for big band coming through town. Her mother is more of a “Madame” type. Yocchan’s parents have become functionally distant, with her father being described as endearingly naive but somewhat clumsy and careless, until one day they get a call informing them that Yocchan’s father has committed suicide with his mistress.

The book has primarily taken place after the event, where Yocchan has finally moved into her first apartment as she pursues a career at a local French restaurant in her new town of Shimokitazawa. (The book portrays this as a pretty artsy community, and some light googling confirms that!) Shortly after the big move, stretching her wings after leaving the nest, and shaking off the depression that can cling to a place when a loved one passes away, Yocchan’s mother moves into her small apartment.

Most of the story concerns itself with their unique paths through grief as a mother and as a daughter in modern Japan. As a man who has never read something so slice-of-life, seeing the perspective of two women from a completely different culture has been emotionally gratifying. Not to mention how much interest the novel takes in food, which feels like a home-y layer. Lastly, any story of Japan always carries this generational divide of old Japan and new Japan that for some reason resonates with me.

I’m no reviewer, but I love this book. It feels a little otherworldly at times being so different that life in the Southeastern Coast of the TX suburbs, still… somehow I feel like I am there in Shimokitazawa.

I’m going to make a habit out of reading more “translated” books!


#411

Never been much of a reader. Started going to the library lately because my eyes are hurting from too much time on the computer and had always put off doing research for my games.

I feel like for making video games Architecture books should be good. You need a lot of visual references and stuff when you are doing level design and most designers could use a couple of books on old houses and weirdly overgrown garden plants.

Right now I am trying to learn ‘The Illustrated Book of Architects & Architecture’ by Mike Darton. The book talks about different architecture stylings from the Ancient World to the Modern Architecture so the writing is not too heavy for a person who doesn’t really like reading books. It also has some reference photos for how stuff were constructed.

Libraries are also a nice place for someone with social anxiety, because people don’t really yell or fuck shit up there so much.


#412

I just finished The Green Man’s Heir from Juliet McKenna which is urban fantasy with much more of an English Folklore vibe to it than the standard genre approaches of “hammer monsters all live together and it is modern” or “what if Tolkien races but in New Orleans”, neither of which grab me at all. This was very fast moving and a lot of fun, a detective story which kept the pressure on the whole time with added creatures out of the bestiaries.

I’ve just started the second of Robert Jackon Bennett’s Divine Cities books and remembering how much I enjoyed the first one. One of the more sophisticated examinations of colonialism in fantasy.


#413

I finished reading The Fifth Season by N.K Jemisin a couple of days ago and absolutely loved every moment of it. So much so that I went and bought the other two books in the trilogy right away (UK readers, books 2 and 3 are only £2 each on Amazon just now!)

For now though I’m doing a rare thing for me and reading some nonfiction. Namely, Underground by Murakami.


I am woefully ignorant about the Tokyo sarin gas attack but reading this book by an author I like around the anniversary of the event seemed like a fitting way to learn a bit more about it.


#414

Curious about Underground! I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts when you complete it.

I just started Confessions of a Yakuza by Jinichi Saga. Also a rare foray into non-fiction & Japan. Old yakuza (or ex-yakuza, not sure yet) visits a local doctor in the 60’s. He’s ill and has decided against extensive treatment at a hospital, opting to go the local doctor route. Junichi Saga is that doctor, but the stories are all from the yakuza, who Junichi recorded. He might add small details about the way the yakuza recounts the stories, but those are all italicized and side notes.

I’ve only just begun, he is still recounting his teenage years, clearly building to how he joined the syndicate. It’s been fun looking up images from the 1910s and hearing about life then. It’ll be an interesting perspective as Japan changes during the 20th century.


#415

Kill All Angels by Robert Brock away
Third (final?) book in a funny, gross, punk-rock urban fantasy/horror series which I have really enjoyed.


#416

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge.
Saw it mentioned here and in the resetera reading thread so I thought I’d give it a try.
Takes place in the Victorian era. A priest/scholar moves to a remote island to work on a archeological dig. He is mysteriously murdered and his daughter Faith tries to figure out what’s going on. The Lie Tree itself is an interesting conceit: it’s a tree that feeds on lies and produces fruits that reveal truth. The more a lie spreads, the more truth can be harvested.
I think this is listed as a YA book and I can sort of see it, if so it’s one of the best I’ve read.


#417

Frances Hardinge has exclusively published for young audiences, ranging from MG to YA (as I understand these categories), but that’s no reason to pass her work over. It’s absolutely gorgeous stuff. Cuckoo Song is my own favorite of her bibliography, but it’s all good.


#418

#419

I finished Oathbringer, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, and I have to say the final like 20% of that book is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever read. Just an incredible culmination of events. I am super mad that I have to wait till 2020 for the next book!

Now I have to find something else to read! I should finish the original Thrawn series. That will do while I wait for the next canon Thrawn book in July.


#420


The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Took a while for me to get this one, the public library system only had two copies.
Loved this book! Highly reccomended!
Written in 1974, the contents are still very relevant, in part because while it’s technically a science fiction novel, she is much more concerned with social science than technology.
A physicist is researching a revolutionary theory, Simultaneity (echoes of the alien language in The Arrival), and finds himself unable to complete it in the confines of his is own planet. His planet, the moon Urras, has a anarchistic communist government, completely decentralized socialism in other words. It was settled 160 years ago from the home planet it orbits, Antares, which is mostly a capitalistic oligarchy: capitalism controlled by a small ruling class. As the book opens he is boarding a ship to Antares to try and complete his life’s work.
She chooses to tell the story non-linearly, which lets you experience his life on Urras and Antares at the same time, contrasting the highs and lows of his life on both , and also reinforcing the theme of simultaneous time (past present future forming a whole).
This is absolutely not a “capitalism BAD” kind of story, it’s more of a thoughtful look at the possibilties we might have as humans for something different. Given the fact that right now my country is led by a man who is practically the avatar of late stage capitalist nihilism, it’s something I really needed to read.


#421

Just finished reading Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate. Lots of good world building, and the overall writing style has a nice flow to it. That said, I felt like it dragged in one or two spots, and there’s a lot of super casual discussion of rape and slavery that’s totally unpleasant to read through. Also, super difficult to root for the heroes of the story when literally all of them are totally cool with owning slaves! It’s all explained and excused, of course, but boy that’s a lot to ask me to get past. It’s the first in a trilogy, but I don’t know if I’m going to bother.

Now I’m reading Walter Moers’ Die 13 1/2 Leben des Käpt’n Blaubär, my first attempt at reading a book in German since I moved to the country almost two years ago. I’m super not-far into it (maybe 20 or 30 pages), but it’s a fun little adventure story so far.


#422

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Currently reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (except my copy is actually just called The Traitor as it was renamed in the UK), which has got to be one of the best debuts I’ve read since, well forever I guess. I’m only halfway through, but I’m loving it so far. Although a lot of the reviews and quotes about it describe it in ways that make me a bit scared for how brutal/depressing/shocking the second half is going to be.

At a glance the plot is nothing too new or original. Someone working within the system to take the system down… but how far will they go and will they become the thing they’re fighting against? But the context in which it happens is what is setting it apart for me. The book addresses (amongst others) themes of imperialism, colonization, economic opression, psychological warfare in a “realistic” (no magic) fantasy setting. There’s also a fair amount of gender/sexuality politics tossed in with the opression in ways that could potentially be triggering to some (consider that a warning, feel free to PM me if you like the sound of the book but need more information here).

And while these are themes that interest me, the main appeal of the book is… well the protagonist (who I’m still not sure whether I like or not) is… dun dun dun… an accountant. I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy and science fiction where financial based shenanigans and scheming is a big part of the “b” plot. Here this is front and center instead and just as exciting as any duels or large scale battles.

Other than that it’s reminiscent of political thrillers, especially those set in or around totalitarian regimes. Trust no one, not even your neighbours. Where even those working for the state (or perhaps especially those working for the state) have to be a few steps ahead of everyone else or you’ll end up with the secret police knocking on your door. Remove any or all of the social commentry and it’s still a cracking good read in this respect.

If I remember I’ll pop in and update when I’m finished… but so far… book is good book.


#423

I was interested in reading this book but was let down when I heard that not only was slavery not addressed but that racism pretty much doesnt exist in the book at all? I realize that book is fiction but it seems wild that when writing a book about the 2nd American Civil War, race plays no part. Did this impact your read of the book at all?


#424

With baseball season imminent I finally decided to pick up Jonah Keri’s Up, Up, & Away, a wonderful retelling of the history of the Montreal Expos. It was the perfect companion to seeing Vlad Guerrero Jr. belt one into the stands for a walk off last night at the Big O.

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