July 2018: Reading Thread

Brian G Turner

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#1
cordelias-honor-excerpt.png


I've just finished reading Cordelia's Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I really enjoyed and will put a review up for soon. Though I thought the first novel in the omnibus - Shards of Honor - was interesting, but lacking in something, this was easily address in the second one - Barrayar. I especially love the way it's a familiar story told from an unfamiliar angle, and the reading experience is very rewarding for it.

I thought I'd try some golden-age SF during my breaks at work, starting with Orphan Star by Alan Dean Foster. It's not a bad book, it's just somewhat pulpy and superficial. I'll look to finish it, but I may go back to reading contemporary novels after.

I've been dipping into Knight of Flames by Amelia Faulkner. I really enjoyed the first book, Jack of Thorns, and it's balance between urban fantasy and romance. While I still very much enjoy the characters of Quentin and Laurence and the sensitivity of their relationship, there doesn't seem to have been much else happening in the first 15%. I'm impatient for a story arc rather than a simple will they or won't they?

Non-fiction is Brave Men by Ernie Pyle - a war correspondent's account of accompanying the Sicily landings. He spends a little too much time giving tribute to individual men for being there, rather than telling us what there is. An interesting insight into the mentality rather than war, but it needs to move on.

I'm also reading A World of Difference: An Anthology of Short Stories from Five Continents as part of my OU degree course, which starts in September. It's literary fiction, with moments of illumination in stories that otherwise underline the middle-class sensibilities of most of the writers.
 
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Guillermo Stitch

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#4
Maintaining my focus on modern writing I'm currently reading a quartet of plays by Euripides.
Ha! I read the Epic of Gilgamesh last year and most of the rest of the year was taken up with Dickens. It's well worth going back. In fiction, nothing is new or old. It's all there, right now.
 

Toby Frost

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#5
I've finished The Doll Who Ate His Mother by Ramsey Campbell. It's an extremely well-written and gripping horror story. However, the impoverished setting - 1970s Liverpool - and the subject - the evil left after the death of an abusive black magician - make it a pretty bleak experience. It's a terrific book, but not so much gory as depressing.
 
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HareBrain

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#6
Just finished Qliphoth by Paul A Green. Still deciding on my Goodreads rating -- could almost equally be 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 stars. I think if you have some previous knowledge of the Qabalah, and you enjoy word play for its own sake, and don't care too much when a book tips over into obscurity, obfuscation and self-indulgence, then you might like it. It has some many brilliant passages and turns of phrase, and some very original ideas. It's a shame Green couldn't have reined in his excesses to make the whole thing clearer, though part of me thinks that what seems to be being obscured (a coherent "truth") might not actually exist even in the author's mind.
 

Hugh

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#8
I keep thinking about giving Gilgamesh a look. Any good?
I've always been very impressed by Gilgamesh, especially when read aloud, as, for me, it has a true epic quality. It's also quite short so you are not risking a big investment of time. You should know within a few pages if you want to continue.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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#10
After taking a break for the other stuff I've been reading, I will go back to Judith Merril's anthologies, starting with 9th Annual Edition The Year's Best S-F (1964). Since these stories are from 1963, and the stuff I read (and sometimes review) at the Galactic Journey website is currently from that year, there will be a lot I can skip.
 

thaddeus6th

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#12
Hugh/Victoria, cheers. I may give the sample a look and then see what I think. Do wonder if even older things are out there, just waiting to be discovered.
 

Hugh

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#13
I seem to remember reading that there are stacks and stacks of cuneiform tablets that they have not begun to translate.
 

thaddeus6th

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#14
Hugh, that reminds me of one chap whose name (which I forget...) has survived the oblivion of time because so many people complained about his dodgy business practices thousands of years ago :p
 

Hugh

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#15
Hugh, that reminds me of one chap whose name (which I forget...) has survived the oblivion of time because so many people complained about his dodgy business practices thousands of years ago :p
That farmer Old Macdonald!
 

Brian G Turner

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#16
Oh. So I've started reading The Hobbit.

I recently discovered that my original paperback had disappeared sometime over the past 30 years - however, my mother-in-law sent me a hardback they had lying around, and I kind of just picked it up yesterday.

It's like stepping into a comfortable pair of slippers.

I said before that LOTR is one of those books you have to find at a certain age or time to really feel the magic of it - and that's exactly what happened for me with The Hobbit.
 

Montero

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#17
I just tried to re-read The Legacy of Heorot by Niven, Pournelle and Barnes, which I remembered as perhaps a little heavy going at times but with some superb biology and ecology. Just given up quite near the beginning because all the human characters are such twerps. A bunch of science trained colonists with a military guy for security all sorts of testosterone powered sniping going on - colonists accusing military man of seeing problems where there are none because he doesn't have enough to do. The best behaved of the adults are the ones who received brain damage during cryo sleep on the long journey on the colony ship. Ho hum. Written in 1987, not aged well.
 

svalbard

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#18
Half way through The Witchwood Crown by Tad William's and I am finding it a bit of a slog to be honest. Set 30 years after the final events in To Green Angel Tower Simon and Mirimiale are all gown up and utterly miserable due to a tragedy that has struck their family. I am struggling to get Simon as a king. He is too trusting, lacks a bit of backbone, he dithers, he lacks a bit of gravitas. I would not follow him. And that is a major problem with the book for me.
 

The Judge

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#19
I've just finished Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, one of her early novels from 1976 (re-released by Virago in 2009). Not a novel that's easy to categorise, or even describe quickly.

Joan Foster, who is famous for having written a Khalil Gibran-esque poetical work with feminist overtones, has a secret identity as a writer of trashy Gothic romances, with even greater mortifying and unhappy secrets tucked away in her past. The novel starts and ends with her having faked her own death to escape (1) a blackmailer who has discovered her secrets, (2) someone who is sending her threatening letters and dead animals, and (3) her husband, a far-left would-be-revolutionary academic, petty, patronising, and passive-aggressive (and possibly the dead-animal sender). Throughout the book, in which Joan is the first person narrator, short scenes set in her Italian bolt-hole are interspersed with longer episodes giving her life story from her desperately unhappy childhood up to the faked death itself, together with pages from her bodice-rippers, which cast sidelights on Joan's past and her fantasising and self-abasing character, and which shadow Atwood's themes of the relationship between the sexes. All of which probably sounds very worthy but indigestible, which couldn't be further from the truth, since the book is a delight to read -- witty, moving, and full of wonderful touches. And the excesses and language of the Gothic romances are simply hilarious, at least to begin with, though they morph into something deeper and more painful at the end as Joan is forced to confront her life and herself. Recommended for anyone with an interest in Atwood's work.

Following on from that, I'm 5 pages into The Tiger and The Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky and keeping my fingers crossed this is going to reignite my enjoyment of his writing.
 

Rodders

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#20
On to book three of Neal Asher’s epic Transformation Series with Infinity Engine,

I must say that I really enjoyed War Machine. Not quite as much as Dark Intelligence, but thoroughly enjoyable.
 

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