August 2018 Reading thread

Brian G Turner

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#1
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A few books on the go at the moment:

The Orphan Star by Alan Dean Foster. It's not a particularly bad book, but neither is it a particularly good one - just a well-written but otherwise throwaway space fantasy I've almost finished reading during my breaks at work.

Chapter House Dune by Frank Herbert. Thankfully the last book in a series that as began with a bang with wonderful Dune, only for the sequels to meander between vaguely interesting to dull as dishwater. And Chapter House has started out very much in the latter camp.

Master of War by David Gilman. Set at the start of the Hundred Years Way between England and France, it follows a young stonemason and his deaf-dumb brother as longbowmen through the campaign. Rich in detail, sharp on character, gritty and gripping.

The Legacy of Rome: Scotland's Roman Remains by Lawrence Keppie. The first half of this book provided an engaging summary of Roman Scotland over the centuries, with the focus firmly on social history - which was great to see. The second half of the book is a description of all major archaeological sites, which I'll probably save for when visiting.
 
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dannymcg

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#2
I'm on with the Parasite trilogy by Mira Grant.
Maybe halfway through book one and it's getting a bit humdrum.
I need the action to kick off!
 

thaddeus6th

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#3
That's quite a few. And here was I thinking I was bad for having three.

Re-reading, now and then, The Time Traveller's Guide to Restoration Britain, by Ian Mortimer. Very interesting stuff, as are the previous works by the same author (Medieval England, and Elizabethan England).

Having finished the spot of proofreading I was doing, returned to Jon Kiln's Blood and Sand Trilogy (which I have as an e-book). Enjoying it, but there are some small errors. Nothing ruinous, but a little more than average.

Nearly finished Liddell Hart's History of the First World War (in the middle of 1918). Whilst I like military stuff I have found it a little more difficult to read than some other works in the genre, focusing on earlier wars (Dodge's account of Hannibal's actions, for example). Still interesting, though.

Unusually, I have a literal pile of physical books to read, though I imagine I'll get another e-book (as a nocturnal read) when I've finished Blood and Sand. May get something by Lindsay Buroker (I enjoyed Emperor's Edge). Or finally read the latest Stormlight Archives entry.
 

janeoreilly

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#4
I am 80% of the way through a Tiptree collection (which TBH I am finding both depressing and terrifying) but stopped to re-read Ann Leckie Ancilliary Justice for book group. We all agreed that the book contains some fantastic ideas but is sadly very confusing and that lets it down. Also reading Vol. 1 of Bitch Planet
 

Bick

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#5
I was recently in Fiji for a week, with little to do on Castaway Island other than read books and drink tea or cocktails, so I got through a variety of books.

First off, I read The Praxis, by Walter Jon Williams. I liked this. It's space opera and quite nicely done. Williams writes well I think, and his characters are well rounded with well-fleshed-out back stories. These back-stories make it a slowish start (i.e. quite a few pages go by before space ships start to go pew-pew at each other), but not the worse for that in my mind. I will be reading the others in the trilogy.

Next I read the third volume of John Scalzi's Old Man War series, The Last Colony. I thought this was terrific - its well paced, well plotted, with characters you like and care about. I've read 4 or 5 Scalzi books in the last couple of months and will read more, I'm sure.

Thirdly, by my Fijian pool, I read a late P. G. Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing. This was super (of course), but one can tell that its a late book (written in 1960) as many of the humorous devices are recycled turns of phrase from other books (or from earlier in the same book). That said, those turns of phrase are still very good, and its hard not to be entirely entertained by a Wodehouse book, even if its not his very finest work.

Lastly I read a heap of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories in the large Penguin collection entitled, Flappers and Philosophers, the Collected Short Stories. From this volume I read all the stories from the original collections Flappers and Philosophers (1920) and Tales of the Jazz Age (1922). I very much enjoyed many of these but then I'm a bit of a Scott Fitzgerald fan. His very famous fantasy, Diamond as Big as the Ritz didn't appeal to me as much as his tragic drama pieces, such as The Cut Glass Bowl, The Jelly-Bean and May Day. These have depth, pathos and truth in full measure - they're doubtless among the best short fiction to come from America.

I've now started a Penelope Fitzgerald (no relation to Frances Scott!) - The Bookshop. I'm just into it, and its very good so far. Its short though, and I'm planning on getting back into SF once I've knocked this off.
 

Toby Frost

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#6
I’m currently reading Lost At Sea, a collection of long articles by the journalist Jon Ronson. It’s like a less salacious version of Louis Theroux’s programmes. Most of the articles involve Ronson interviewing bizarre people – self-styled superheroes, cultists, self-help gurus – and revealing their weirdness. The most interesting events, for me, involve the more normal people: investigations into a suicide caused by bank debts and the disappearance of a girl on a cruise liner that nobody wants to discuss. The writing is good but I’m getting a little tired of the style. I’d recommend it, though.

I’ve just finished Ben Macintyre’s SAS: Rogue Heroes, which follows them from piratical exploits in the desert to the grim slog through occupied Europe. I'd previously read Macintyre's excellent Double Cross. As you’d expect, pretty much everyone involved is about as brave and deadly as human beings have ever got, and the amount of havoc wreaked is quite incredible. What’s notable is just how odd some of them were. The writing is very good and it seems very well-researched.
 

Randy M.

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#7
I've been reading stories in Thieves' Dozen by Donald E. Westlake and Map of Dreams by M. Rickert, who now signs herself Mary Rickert. The Westlake is good fun but I broke away because there is a sameness to the set up and delivery of the stories. The Rickert is beautifully written and the stories alternate between sad and hopeful and frequently enough both; she is an artist of melancholy, drawing you in, involving you, then depositing you somewhere you hadn't expected to go. In a just world, this woman's collections would be on best-seller lists: I read Holiday a few years ago and it was wonderful, too.

Deciding to break away from both for awhile, I just started The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford, an author I've meant to get to for over a decade and just haven't.


Randy M.
 

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#9
Two books read in tandem over the last 10 days or so.

First up was Blue Shift by our own Jane O'Reilly. SF set in 2187 by which time global warming has been averted only to produce global freezing and a soon-to-be-uninhabitable planet. Mankind's only chance of survival -- for the fittest, naturally, which is likely to mean the richest and most powerful -- is to colonise a planet which is reached through alien-controlled space, but in return the aliens want something, many somethings in fact. Those somethings are horrendous morally, legally and every-which-way, and for Jinnifer Blue, our heroine, life-threatening. A fast and furious read, only 327 pages, with lots of action, villains galore, and some full-frontal sex.

And by way of accompaniment, its complete antithesis (save for one similar character -- the icy, aristocratic woman pulling everyone's strings), The City by Stella Gemmell. Doorstep thick (700 pages), slow veering towards turgid at times, with every character no matter how minor and how soon eliminated given copious description and backstory, and every location lovingly described, though in the absence of a plan of the city mostly unintelligibly in working out what is where. It starts well with characters inhabiting the miles-long sewers under the city and a cataclysmic flood which separates siblings and gives an old man an adopted daughter for whom he can care. But thereafter it loses momentum, with far too much time spent on pointless battles in an unnecessarily extended second section, continual repetition of facts and details, frequent time-jumps with all the backstories and flashbacks dumped on the page, and irritating omniscient asides giving away plot points. Underneath all the padding there's a not-bad story trying to get out, but if ever a book needed a machete-wielding editor, this was it.
 

Vince W

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#10
I was recently in Fiji for a week, with little to do on Castaway Island other than read books and drink tea or cocktails, so I got through a variety of books.
Colour me jealous!

First off, I read The Praxis, by Walter Jon Williams. I liked this. It's space opera and quite nicely done. Williams writes well I think, and his characters are well rounded with well-fleshed-out back stories. These back-stories make it a slowish start (i.e. quite a few pages go by before space ships start to go pew-pew at each other), but not the worse for that in my mind. I will be reading the others in the trilogy.
I read the first two books, but by the end of the second I wasn't that interested and haven't finished the trilogy even though it's been sitting on my shelf for years.

Thirdly, by my Fijian pool, I read a late P. G. Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing. This was super (of course), but one can tell that its a late book (written in 1960) as many of the humorous devices are recycled turns of phrase from other books (or from earlier in the same book). That said, those turns of phrase are still very good, and its hard not to be entirely entertained by a Wodehouse book, even if its not his very finest work.
Wodehouse is perfect holiday reading.
 

dwndrgn

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#11
Currently listening to Bound by Benedict Jacka on audio - this is book #8 in his Alex Verus series.

Also reading Revenge of Crows by Lila Bowen (pen name for Delilah Dawson) the second in this series set in a fictional past old west with a very different hero.

I usually have more than two on the go at any given time but I'm waiting for some to come available.
 

Extollager

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#13
Just started The Conscience of the Rich, another novel in C. P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers sequence. Also reading Sanford Schwartz's C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier, an interesting study of the space trilogy, approaching the end of Madison Jones's Season of the Strangler, slowly reading Clinton Arnold's Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul's Letters, which has me reflecting on how much I have benefited over the years from books published by InterVarsity Press, and stalled out on Gary Lachman's biography of Colin Wilson.
 

Allegra

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#14
I was recently in Fiji for a week, with little to do on Castaway Island other than read books and drink tea or cocktails, so I got through a variety of books.
.................
Thirdly, by my Fijian pool, I read a late P. G. Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing. This was super (of course), but one can tell that its a late book (written in 1960) as many of the humorous devices are recycled turns of phrase from other books (or from earlier in the same book). That said, those turns of phrase are still very good, and its hard not to be entirely entertained by a Wodehouse book, even if its not his very finest work.
Colour me jealous too. Isn't that the perfect place to read a Wodehouse! I agree it is not one of his best but yes, still very enjoyable. That's Wodehouse's top secret. :)

Since I can't resist anything that make me LOL, after reading the cheeky funny Paris Revealed by Stephen Clarke, today started his novel A Year in the Merde. Sure enough, 20+ pages on, I realised reading this book in public is a no-no.
 

Fedos

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#17
I just finished up Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan for the first time in my quest to conquer The Wheel of Time series. Beforehand, it had been remarked by others in various venues that in this book Robert Jordan recaptured some of the magic of the earlier (or even some of the middle) books. Well, this wasn't realized for me. Everything continued to plod along at a snail's pace and not much of anything happened of significance for a great deal of the book. Even what I had come to know of Jordan's trademark spectacular finales was absent in this book--something that I have come to see was a feature in a good deal of the later books.

In any case, I am now on to The Gathering Storm.
 
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Hugh

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#18
I’ve now finished Ralph C. Wood’s “The Gospel According to Tolkien”. I read this because I wanted an exclusively “Christian” take on Tolkien, given his deep immersion in Roman Catholicism, and Christianity, particularly Catholicism, being something of an unknown continent to me. Maybe I’ve read too many books on Tolkien recently, but I didn’t find this one particularly helpful.

However, many thanks indeed to @Extollager for recommending “Tolkien, A Celebration” edited by Joseph Pearce. I very much appreciated the brief chapter of George Sayer’s memories of Tolkien. In recent weeks I’ve read a fair number of biographies/appraisals of Tolkien but found frustratingly little of personal memories from people who knew him. I was struck by a number of passages in the George Sayer chapter, including:
He had a very low opinion of his own merits, and fairly easily got into a depressed state when thinking of his faults and deficiencies. Life was a war between good and evil. He thought the (Roman Catholic) sacraments freed one from enthralment to Sauron.
Of course one has to be careful here in not making too many assumptions from this brief statement.

I read Tolkien’s “Roverandom” for the first time. I see that this was created in 1925, but only published in 1998. I’d truly loved to have read this when I was young and desperate to find more Tolkien to read.

Also “Meditations on Middle Earth” edited by Karen Haber. I really enjoyed this selection of essays by well-known authors (Poul Anderson, Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Raymond Feist, among others), many of whom manage to convey the excitement that they felt on first reading the LOTR.

As a counterbalance to Tolkien pontification, I find myself dipping yet again into Leonora Carrington’s “The Hearing Trumpet”. This classic tale of the increasingly shamanic adventures of a bearded ninety two year old grandmother always cracks me up. Sadly, I’ve found nothing remotely resembling it.
 
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Bick

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#19
Brian G Turner said:
The Orphan Star by Alan Dean Foster. It's not a particularly bad book, but neither is it a particularly good one - just a well-written but otherwise throwaway space fantasy I've almost finished reading during my breaks at work.
I enjoyed this - but then I'm a fan of ADF's work. I just feel is a more readable author than many - his writing is very consistent.

Chapter House Dune by Frank Herbert. Thankfully the last book in a series that as began with a bang with wonderful Dune, only for the sequels to meander between vaguely interesting to dull as dishwater. And Chapter House has started out very much in the latter camp.
Yeah, this was a slog as I recall. All the re-reading of Dune I've seen going on here has me thinking of dropping back into all those sandworms and philosophy though - I may have to re-read the first few, but not sure I'll go back to Heretics of Chapter House (in fact I know I wont!).
 

kythe

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#20
I just finished The Event by Nathan Hystad. This book is carried by a great premise, a strong story and likeable characters. However, it felt increasingly weaker as the book went on due to poor attention to factual details such as the relative ease of travelling and distances. The unlikelihood of their ability to travel large distances quickly and easily began in the "realistic" setting of Earth as the characters get from northern US and Russia to Peru, and continued later in space.

It still was a well paced story with enough twists and betrayals to keep me interested to the last page. :)
 

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