June 2018: Reading Thread

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Continuing on with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound Of The Baskervilles. This is my third time around and enjoying it more than ever. Perhaps I should have waited till October as in year's past but it sparkles like the gem it is in the Sun, too.
Finishing a short Harry Harrison novel, Spaceship Medic; midway through R. C. Hutchinson's fine, long novel Testament; reading one or two Robert Aickman "strange stories" each day; should finish poet George Herbert's treatise The Country Parson aka The Priest to the Temple soon; reading a page or two a day of Grant Uden's Dictionary of Chivalry, with drawings on every page by Pauline Baynes....and so on.
I'm about three chapters into Central Station by Lavie Tidhar.

First time I've read it but I'm getting a curious sense of deja-vu; it's possible I've read some other book by him and his writing style is triggering this feeling
Alongside Djinn City, which is still going well, I've also started The Dedalus Book of Absinthe by Phil Baker.
Besides occasionally dipping into Starlings a collection by Jo Walton (so far quite good ) and Beasts and Super-Beasts by Saki, I've just finished Drive by James Sallis, a short, compact noir novel, basis for a movie of the same title (haven't seen) and a really fine example of neo-noir writing. If you're not fond of the hard-boiled/noir ethos, this isn't for you, but if you do like it, this is worth reading:

Driver -- all we know him by -- is just that, a driver, who does stunt work in Hollywood and side gigs as getaway driver for small time thieves. This is about one of the latter gone badly wrong and how he tries to survive the consequences. What's interesting to me is how deftly Sallis gives us background on the broken home and good intentioned foster parents, Driver's driving background and his experiences, while tidily presenting and wrapping up the plot. My copy is 158 pages in good sized print so you can guess the economy and compression of the prose.

Also reading Hollywood Nocturnes a collection by James Ellroy. The first story, a novella, "Dick Contino's Blues," features a real-life protagonist in Contino, an accordion playing singer who had a short-lived craze in the 1940s as he tries to revive his career in the late '50s. I hadn't had the impression that Ellroy had a sense of humor from other things I've read by him, but this has an air of plausibility only because it's set in L.A. in and around show biz types, which is to say it's patently absurd but somehow believable. Another that's well worth reading.

started The Dedalus Book of Absinthe

This raises the question, does it make the heart grow fonder?

Randy M.
Am currently reading Fahrenheit 451 at work - really struggled with it during the first 70 pages, as it simply read as out of date. However, since Beatty confronted Montag it's all become suddenly relevant and interesting.

I'm also reading Goblins at the Gates by our own Ellis Knox, and am really enjoying it. I was initially expecting some fun and light reading - and while there's some humorous character inter-play, the setting is far more serious than I expected. There's a great attention to historical detail, and I'm really enjoying the author's voice.
I've nearly finished Paul Hoffman's The Left Hand of God -- only about 40 pages left out of 500 -- and I'm contemplating ditching it. All the issues which irritated me in the first half -- lack of world-building, use of real-world names in unreal places, the religion, the omniscient narration -- have continued and got worse, with Silbury Hill alongside Memphis and York, Jesus of Nazareth name-checked in passing (a Jonah figure inside a whale) and Jews in the Ghetto. Added to that the plot has slowed, what was implausible has become unbelievable, characters are brought in then not used, irrelevant scenes come and go and could be removed without loss, huge plot points have been apparently forgotten and never mentioned again, and Hoffman is repeatedly dropping genuine quotes (eg James I on smoking) into the narrative and his characters' mouths. And I suspect that the approaching climactic fight is going to be a blow-by-blow copy of one of the most iconic battles of English history. All of this looks less like homage and more like theft and complete failure of imagination. I'm not impressed.

By way of contrast the fantasy I'm reading alongside it is hugely imaginative and like nothing I've read before, Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott, the notable QC, and published by Jo Fletcher Books. A secluded valley in a loop of the River Rother has been the site of a great mystery since 1558, when a dozen strange and precocious children were brought to a manor house to be educated, and 450 years later a town has grown up which is bound by its own laws, including one which stops anyone from researching or asking questions about its past. Omniscient narration again, but this one works, though it gives a rather detached feel to the writing, and that writing isn't always as clear as it might be, and characterisation is mainly concerned with bizarre names (I offer in evidence Jonah Oblong and Sir Veronal Slickstone) and strange behaviours. There's an air of Gormenghasterie to it -- the names, the higgledy-piggledy jumbled towers of the town -- but it also reminds me a little of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in the matter-of-factness in dealing with the supernatural. I'm 100 pages in of 450 and I'm still not sure what to make of it.
Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell - I have found Cornwell's writing to be very consistent throughout this series so far, and consequently I haven't written a 'review' of this one as pretty much everything I've said before applies equally here; great storytelling, gruesome but not gratuitous coverage of the inevitable violence, reasonably historically accurate and he always identifies deviations or speculative aspects in the historical notes. So 'just' another great book in this series. (Actually on occasion the violence in this one does drift into gratuitous but never mind!).

Pebble in The Sky by Isaac Asimov - Asimov's first book already shows his storytelling ability. More here.
Burning Eagle by Navin Weeraratne - I couldn't finish it; just too painful to read. More here.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach - Good fast kickass military space opera, not so good romance. More here.

Just starting Dragon's Egg by Robert L Forward.
just read the new kris longknife book in the series - Commanding - always a good entertainment. Anxious for the two weber's that are suppose to came out this year
I continue to be surprised by just how interested I am in Tolkien and LOTR since I read the Silmarillion. I’ve just finished and truly enjoyed “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien”. I can’t say I’ve fully understood/ digested them, but I can see myself reading further and further. I’ve begun to dip into the Tolkien threads on Chrons, and have now started Humphrey Carpenter’s “J.R.R. Tolkien, A Biography”.
One point that interests me. As I understand it, Tolkien saw England as lacking a historical mythology, a sustaining body of myth that could nourish the collective and individual psyche, and hoped to create such a mythology. When I think about this, it seems to me that he may well have succeeded. Like many, I’d read the LOTR several times before I was twenty years old, and did not think much further about it. However, it is deeply rooted in a moral and ethical code of behaviour, though this is never that overt or “in your face”. I suspect that that this morality/ethics has influenced me subliminally much more than I realised at the time, and more than anything else I read in those formative years, including school Bible classes. Likewise, the characters/plot fastened themselves deeply in the roots of my imagination, like no others.

I’ve also enjoyed Jack Vance’s “Lyonesse II, The Green Pearl”, perhaps not as much as the first one in the series, though I was glad that the Green Pearl of the title proved to be a relatively small sideplot. I’m sure in time I will read the third volume: I hear mixed reports about it, but there are only so many Vance SFF to read.
About to start 7th Annual Edition: The Year's Best S-F (1962) edited by Judith Merril. It's interesting to see how the titles of this series change slightly over time, and how it sometimes changes with each edition of the same book.

Example: The title above is the paperback edition. The original hardcover edition was 7th Annual of The Year's Best SF. The British edition was called The Best of Sci-Fi 2. (In the UK they started with Merril's sixth anthology.)
Almost finished Nnedi Okorafor Who Fears Death which I'm reading for Gem Todd's #readwomenSF book group on twitter. It's very well done and the story pulls you along, but I can't decide if I'm actually enjoying it as a lot of deeply unpleasant things happen in it.
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