What'cha reading?


#546

Just finished reading a couple of books during a trip:
The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan, which was a quite pleasant read in the vein of Foyle’s War or Call the Midwife (cw: difficult child birth, description of unhygienic abortion).

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal, an alt-history sci-fi (I think “punch card punk” is what she’s calling it) starting with a slightly different US where a meteorite strikes in the early 50s, kickstarting climate change and leading to a greater investment in the space program. It feels very much like a sci fi Hidden Figures, dealing with issues of capable women being pushed down by expectations and overcoming that. A great read - if I have one complaint is that it feels like the first book wraps up a little neatly, especially given the breadth of issues it tackles at various points.


#547

Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys.
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The sequel to Winter Tide that continues the adventures of Aphra as she searches 1940’s New York for family that might have escaped the concentration camps.
Again, this a series that combines the ideas in Lovecraft’s stories into a single world, without the xenophobia and racist narration. These aren’t horror novels, more along the lines of sci fi/adventure.

Just started reading Secondhand Time and it’s so good, also refreshing to dive into some non fiction for a while.


#548

Something to keep in mind reading secondhand time and Alexievich in general


#549

Thanks. This book is categorized as non-fiction by the library and I treated is a such going in.
Honestly nothing reads as particularly mythologized or fictional, but I’m not a student of russian history!


#550

I just finished Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee and I’m reading its sequel Raven Strategem.
It’s weird and wonderful military scifi, in a lot of ways it reminds me of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series (starting with Ancillary Justice) but with a very unusual cosmology. Definitely recommended for people who like military science fiction!


#551

I recently grabbed this book from the library, because i wanted to pick up something lovecraftian, something i’ve wanted to read, sbut i haven’t felt like reading because racsism, so this seemed like a good pick. I’m a few chapters in, i don’t think its grabbed me yet tbh. I think its because i thought it was going to be something it isn’t? I thought it was going to be a bit more horror than it ended up being. And for a book who’s big selling point was “Lovecraftian, but leaving behind the racism” its way more intertwined with his specific work than i thought. I feel like a lot of things are going over my head, in a sense i should have read more Lovecraft, even if if the main reason i’m reading this and not Lovecraft himself is the racism thing.

Idk, i don’t hate it, i kinda like the cerebral nature, so im def going to finish it, i guess it just wasn’t what i was hoping it was tbh.


#552

Yeah, Deep Roots is definitely less horror than it’s a reimagining of Lovecraft’s work as “true in regards to events, but from the perspective of a committed racist”. I really liked Deep Roots, but when reading the second one I did get the sense that the world building needs to let go of “normalcy” in regards to politics to remain believable. Because what would really remain of our political institutions after facing cosmic horrors we know to be true?


#553


Finished Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich.
Really liked this book, am still digesting everything. I picked it up because of a reccomend in the resetera book thread and I’m interested in this period of Russian history (1991-2012 )
It’s basically written as if you are listening to a series of interviews, actually more like conversations, most of them relating to their lives during the transition from Soviet to Capitalism. It was my introduction to this author and I enjoyed her prose and this unique (to me) way of writing.
As brought up earlier it should be noted that this is not strictly non-fiction, more like “documentary literature”, in other words artistic license was probably taken to write a more compelling story.
the resetera monthly book thread
(I’m glad this thread kept going after the collapse of Neogaf…not as active as the old one but i’ve gotten a lot of excellent book reccomends here)


#554

Snow Crash hasn’t aged very well, aside from some ideas like Earth (which Google Earth is named after) and the usage of the term “avatar” but at the time it was a pretty good genre-killer. It’s so ridiculous that it has to be on purpose, but yeah there’s a lot of ugh around YT.

Like of the product of the genre of its time it’s almost a parody. My partner listened to the audiobook recently and it seemed like the reader understood that - taken as a very deadpan spoof, it can actually be a really funny book.


#555

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Thrawn by Timothy Zahn and The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov.
I have fond memories of Zahn’s Heir to the Empire so wanted to give this new series a try. It approaches the Star Wars universe from inside the Empire and is mostly concerned with military strategy and politics. For those not familiar Thrawn was a popular antagonist in the old Zahn books that are now non-canon because of the new movies. Now he’s getting a reboot in his own series. Thrawn was definately a page turner, not as dumb as I worried it might be but still had some problems with Thrawn always being the smartest in the room (though Zahn seems to be taking steps to making him less omniscient than a character like this could be).
Next was The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov. A new form of clean energy is discovered but some are concerned about its origins and possible dangers. Divided into three distinct chapters, I enjoyed the second which was about an utterly alien species that lives in a parallel earth. The reader slowly figures out what exactly the nature of the species is. Starts out confusing as hell, but a great conclusion.
Broken record, but covers from old science fiction books were so much more interesting! (The Gods was written in 1972)


#556

I just came back from a week long cruise and along the way I read 650 pages of Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves. I was on a massive ship bigger than most aircraft carriers so a technophile novel kinda was perfect. But I’m really mixed on it now and have some pages left to go.

Stephenson has gone from one of my favorite authors to increasingly mediocre in my opinion since he seems to have blown all his good ideas a decade ago and never fixed his problems. (Terrible endings, often weak characters.) But if you’re into a hard SciFi novel about space colonization with current tech, this isn’t that bad.

My problem with this book is that Stephenson manages to build a rather optimistic view of the human race. It’s a lot of cooperation, fast solutions, relatively little politics, just a race straight to solving problems. Then like, maybe fifty pages ago, he suddenly switches gears, everything collapses as a figure who might as well be Hillary Clinton fused with Donald Trump tears the society apart in like a chapter, and it turns depressing incredibly fast.

Like, I love the idea of a tech heavy fantasy that’s basically a manual of how to make space work, even if the characters are forgettable and the overall tone is chilly. (And the whole book is an Elon Musk wet dream.) But once Stevenson tries to throw some “realism” into things, the magic is lost for me completely.

I didn’t need Star Trek to turn into Game of Thrones, I guess is what I mean here.


#557

That book really should have been two books


#558

I just recently finished Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright. Really interesting book, from somebody with a good insight into the topic, a few reductive pops at communism though but no surprise there. Also after reading I done some wider research on her and her stance on the sanction on Iraq in the 90s was appalling.

Now moving on to Democracy by Ross Harrison


#559

I finished Spinning Silver. It took me longer than I expected but I enjoyed it a lot, I think I might like the core concept of Uprooted more and the woods are a much better villain than the ones in Spinning Silver. That said, Spinning Silver largely isn’t about heroes and villains. It isn’t about a big bad conquering everything (although that is part of it.) It’s about debt, it’s about the importance of not undervaluing yourself and it’s just goddamn good.

On a more spoilery note, I feel like how it handles relationships is great too. Miryem and the Staryk King (whose name you never learn) have a relationship that just does not work because she sees him as having tricked her into marriage against her will and he sees her as having essentially done the same thing through her misunderstanding of how his culture handles debts. Then you have the relationship between Irina and the Tsar. Even by the end it doesn’t feel like “oh we’re madly in love” it feels like “Well, she saved me from a demon” and “he’s the Tsar and is handsome so that’s alright” with maybe a bit of the implication that without the demon in him, the Tsar is no longer immune to Irina’s magic. The relationships in general never feel like “we have blind love for this person” they feel like they more naturally grow from small and more realistic beginnings (well, despite all the magic and stuff.)

Basically I really liked it.

Next up I’m going to focus on reading The Strange Case Of The Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.

I started it a while ago but Spinning Silver was taking me a while so I dropped it and focussed on that. It seems pretty great though!

Oh, I also read the Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

It was fantastic. I’m a relatively recent fan of the podcast (I listened to basically the whole Balance campaign from like May to August) but it has become one of my favourites. And while the first arc (Here There Be Gerblins) is far from the best part of the podcast as they were still finding their feet and figuring out what they wanted to do it adapts very well into a graphic novel format and allows them to clean up some issues here and there. It helps that the art is gorgeous and filled with a lot of tiny details (like Merle casting a magic shield around them but the art showing that Magnus was already blocking the attack anyway) that I just love. I can’t wait for them to adapt some of the more exciting arcs.


#560

I looove The Gods Themselves. It’s structure is inventive and thematically resonant. And I enjoyed how Asimov made the aliens really alien. They’re not just a bipedal species that could be a pallet-swapped human.


#561

It took me a little longer than I expected–thanks school–but I finished Malafrena by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was a rather moving novel and not at all like the Le Guin I am familiar with which was kind of nice. A single sentence does not do it entire just but I am still processing some of my feelings on the story. The last few pages in particular are really wonderful and while one of my expectations and hopes for the protagonist were crushed, I think the denial of such an expectation was a fitting end.

Up next I am planning to read Notes from the Fog by Ben Marcus.


#562

I started reading the original Battle Royale novel, which I bought 6 or 7 years ago and left to collect dust on my bookshelf. I’m not far into it, but so far it flat-out sucks. It relies very heavily on longstanding shonen (high-school boy stuff) character archetypes, which are super one-dimensional in anime and manga and are even harder to swallow in literary form.

I don’t know why, but reading these characterizations - the perfect student who is also the coolest kid in school and who is also the best athlete in his grade, the quiet but striking girl who is enamored by one boy and seems to care about nothing else, the indifferent badass kid who is utterly nonplussed by everything, etc. - is excruciating compared to watching them in an anime. I guess when I watch some anime, I accept that it’s dumb and that’s okay, but reading dumb shit is somehow more flagrant and less acceptable. The effort involved in reading? The work I have to put in to shape these descriptions in my head? I don’t know exactly how to articulate it.

Anyway, I’m probably going to stop reading it soon if the ‘action’ doesn’t end up compensating for the poor writing (and bland translation, to the author’s credit).


#563

Just finished reading Snow Crash and this was very much my experience. I did like the way Stephenson creates a world that is half-ridiculous parody of late capitalism but also half serious. But its depiction of YT, its indulgence in the very cliches that it starts out poking fun at, and its digressions into weird lectures about Sumerian history absolutely killed it for me.


#564

I am half-way through The Left Hand of Darkness right now. It is the first Le Guin novel I have read and I am really enjoying it. Would you recommend any others?


#565

whenever I introduce Stephenson to people I always tell them up front that easily half of a given book will actually be him telling you about whatever it is he’s found interesting lately - for Snow Crash it was Sumerian mythology, for Cryptonomicon it’s cryptography and underwater cables, the Baroque Cycle is about half about the early days of the Royal Society and about half about early economics, Seveneves is about space habitats, etc

So, like, if you don’t dig whatever it is that Stephenson really wants to tell you about, the book won’t work. If you can’t stand that he does it at all, you probably shouldn’t ever bother with him, because it’s just What He Do.