June 2020 Reading Thread

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The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
And it's another month already! So tell us what you're reading.

I'm between books at the moment and not sure where to go next, so I'll be rummaging around in my TBR pile for something.
I just started a story collection, Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont. Only three stories in, but I'm enjoying them. Beaumont, along with Richard Matheson, was one of the script writers for the original Twilight Zone. Some of these stories were adapted to the show, the others I expect will show a similar imaginative arc.

Randy M
Just finished reading Lee Child's Past Tense and really enjoyed it - it's a masterclass in tension-building IMO.

Have also picked up a few Very Short Introduction books from the library - the two on myth were terrible, but the Archaeology one is fun - looking to follow on with The Roman Empire and The Hellenistic Age.

Also got a few textbooks on the go which I hope to finish soon, covering Earth Science, The Picts, and burial practices.
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Finished The Goblin Emperor. It's got many charms but, if I ever gull someone into letting me teach writing, I'm going to use it as a prime example of a) How Not To Plot A Book and b) The Value of Condensing Characters. I also suspect that what I'm pointing at as bugs are deliberate choices to demonstrate the chaotic, colossal and somewhat cruel nature of the court but nevertheless, they're pretty buggy if it's not your thing/you're not completely taken in by the charms.
"New Folks' Home and Other Stories: The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D Simak, Volume Six"
Nine Stories plus the obligatory Western. Other than the title story, the others are relatively uninteresting.
I finished Alix E. Harrow's The Ten Thousand Doors of January. It had a bit of a slow start but I enjoyed the latter stages a lot. I think perhaps one reason for the slow start is that it's a story about a protagonist who starts off with very little knowledge of what is going on around her or opportunity to do anything about it. I think it makes sense in terms of the character arc to start off this way but having the lead character mostly passively reacting to events for the first part of the novel doesn't help the pacing. Another issue is the book-within-a-book whose chapters are scattered through the novel, it does provide some vital background detail but the fictional author is an academic and their writing does feel a bit dry which makes sense for the character but is again not helpful for the pacing. Fortunately things pick up later on, particularly once January leaves her home and I thought this is where the story became a lot more compelling. One thing the early part of the book does well is slowly introducing various hints about how there's a lot more going than initially meets the eye. The 'Doors' that the title refers to aren't necessarily an original concept in fantasy, portal fantasy is almost a subgenre in its own right, but this book does interesting things with them, particularly in exploring the importance of change and new ideas.

January is a likeable protagonist, and there are some memorable supporting characters including both her allies and antagonists. I think the most interesting character might be her guardian Mr Locke who for most of the novel is a fairly ambiguous character where it is difficult to tell what his true intentions and motivations are.

Overall, I thought that after a relatively slow start this turned into an entertaining story and I thought it was particularly impressive for a debut novel.

Next up I think I'll read Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth, which sounds intriguing from what I've heard about it.
I re-read Aftershocks by Marko Kloos by accident. Once in a while I got a faint hint that I might have read the story before, however for the most part I didn't. Surprisingly, I liked the story quite well (I'm guessing better than the first time). The big bonus was that when I started the book that appealed to Ballistic part 2 in the Mardo Kloos' series, I was all on board with who the characters were, what was going on, and am finding Ballistic to be very enjoyable indeed. Good solid space opera with a solar system with six habitable planets. I don't know how realistic that is with planetary dynamics, but it means getting from planet to planet is by relatively conventional means, atomic powered ships producing up to about 15 gravities of thrust.
:) This reminds me of my Dad. He would read the Bible after most family meals and sometimes when he came to a list of begats he would say "hard name begat hard name..."
Yet oh, when the right voice enunciates those sonorous names clearly in correct Hebrew pronunciation — ! They sound like the names of the “mighty men of old” and prophets and kings ought to sound, I’m sure.
I've always wanted to read Jeffrey Archer but don't know what to expect from his books, what does he write about etc. They look interesting but never got around to reading him.

I've read one -- I think Kane and Abel -- a long while ago. The best critique I've heard is that his books seem to be written by someone for whom English isn't his first language. But as Anthony Horowitz pointed out when he went to interview Archer in the latter's stupendous penthouse flat, there were two novelists in the room but only of them had an original Monet on the wall.

Horowitz also had to confess that when reading one of the novels, there was no authentic sense of period, the dialogue was "questionable" (ie trite and ridiculous), and the whole thing was full of cliches with a villain straight out of Victorian melodrama, but "I had to admit I was utterly hooked. It was an absurdly enjoyable read." In a post over in Critiques Jo Z sets out the difference between writing and storytelling. Archer's writing is atrocious, but he is a natural storyteller.** That is why he sells in the millions, because people can cope with his prose, and the story pulls them along.

**That is not a euphemism, so no political comments about his legal entanglements or his political career, please.
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I've always wanted to read Jeffrey Archer but don't know what to expect from his books, what does he write about etc. They look interesting but never got around to reading him.

His books are very good and well written. His plots are very readable. Not a Penny More, Not Penny Less, is a brilliant read as are his twisting short stories.
Finished Tim Powers' Alternate Routes and Forced Perspectives.
Both novels have the same duo (not a couple, exactly) as MC's, but it concerns 2 different stories. You can skip Alternate Route and only read Forced Perspectives, if you wish. Much of what went before is explained.
The books are about supernatural events, as you can expect from Tim Powers. Decent stuff, but by now it lacks originality. It doesn't surprise, scare or amaze anymore. Even the setting, modern day LA, is the same and becoming tiresome.
A shame really. I have always liked Tim Powers novels.
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