January 2022 Reading Thread.

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tobl

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I thought I'd give Danny a run for his money on the pulp fiction front and give Under a Graveyard Sky, by John Ringo, a try. I've read almost no zombie fiction ever, so it being SF of this genre is unlikely to seem overworked for me. Moreover, I've heard quite good things about it, and know readers I trust who are keeping up with the growing series and enjoying it. Fingers crossed.

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i like the first 4. the rest are more contribuitions and not him writing.
 

tobl

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He gets a bad press for his right wing viewpoints but his books are always enjoyable.

I read one by him recently but I can't remember the title.... basically a sniper somehow ends up on the run in rough country with three nekkid wimmin...it was fun!
he only has one that i can't get into it, the last centurion or something. sniper? you mean the GHOST? paladin of shadows? i love that series. not so much is aldenata books or council
 

Danny McG

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he only has one that i can't get into it, the last centurion or something. sniper? you mean the GHOST? paladin of shadows? i love that series. not so much is aldenata books or council
Oh yeah, that was it, Ghost. Cheers
 

Hugh

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Robert F. Young: “The Worlds of Robert F. Young” (1965)
Sixteen short stories first published between 1955 and 1962. I’ve read little by this author and after the first two or three stories thought I could be in for a dull read, but the sixth turned out to be “The Dandelion Girl” which had been good enough to make it into that year’s Judith Merril ‘Best of Year’ anthology, and I definitely began to enjoy them after that. Not the greatest, but good enough.
 

Hugh

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I'm just finishing David Miles "The Land of the White Horse"
Many thanks @HareBrain for bringing this book to my attention.
It's an unusual book in that it sets out to attempt to review and understand both the origins of the White Horse and the ever-changing cultural perspectives that have kept the local population interested in it over the centuries: interested enough to regularly clean it for over two and a half thousand years and prevent it becoming overgrown and disappearing into the Downs vegetation - such continuity in care is truly remarkable.
For much of the first eighty pages or so I thought I'd made a poor choice, but once the author actually begins to analyse the archaeological evidence and to draw parallels with other finds in Europe I was really interested. The data suggests that it was first constructed between 1380 and 550 BC, between the late Bronze Age and Middle Iron Age. As the hill fort above it was built between 750 and 650 BC, the horse could have been dug out at much the same time. I'd assumed it had been formed by just cutting away the turf above the chalk and as such its shape had evolved considerably over the years, but in fact its shape remains true to the time of its creation because at that time three foot deep trenches were dug out and then packed with fresh chalk and these are identifiable today.
I particularly liked the way the author did not attempt to impose theories on what the White Horse signified for those who built it. He emphasises repeatedly that we are not able to view the world through their eyes.
The book is well illustrated though not profusely, and I loved some of the objects shown. I was very impressed with this Bronze Age golden sun-hat from Ezelsdorf in Bavaria. It's 90cm/ 35 inches tall with an organic lining decorated with multiple images of the sun. And it's not a one-off - three others have been found elsewhere, all gold. It's difficult to conceptualise the culture that necessitated such headgear.
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Parson

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I've finished book 2 of The Lady Asronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Fated Sky. And this might be the rarest of the rare, a series where book 2 is better than book 1. What I liked about this alternate timeline SF story was it's realistic depiction of the dangers of space travel. More than one tragedy strikes in this book and it's root cause is something that on some level was preventable. It's science is on the hardish side, certainly where it comes to mathematics and orbital geometry. Propulsion systems and the like get very little play but it's clear that we are talking about rocket engines that could have been made in the 60's. My one frustration scientifically is that radiation is not spoken of, and as the heart of this book deals with a long trip to Mars that seems like a pretty major hole. As in the first book racism plays a major role in the action, and the book pulls no punches as to the sacrifices that families pay when a member is an astronaut.

The meat of the story is in the personal relationships. The characters grow and mature in sometimes surprising ways. Even Elma, the main character, finds her understanding of people she loves and hates maturing and growing more nuanced. It's a very good book.

Strong 4 stars.

Surprising things I've learned from Wikipedia and Amazon about this book

(1) This is a series that talks about the back story of The Lady Astronaut of Mars, which was nominated for the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, but was disqualified on the grounds that, since it was originally presented in audio format, and Kowal had included stage directions for the benefit of readers, it should instead be in the category for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form — where it did not have enough nominations to remain on the final ballot. A text version was subsequently published on Kowal's own site and on Tor.com; it won the 2014 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

(2) The third book The Relentless Moon was a finalist for the 2021 Hugo award for Best Novel and the series was a finalist for the 2021 Hugo Award and a Locus award finalist. So it's clear that @Vertigo and I are not the only ones enjoying what we both call not our favorite sub-genre of S.F.

----

I've started Astray by Jenny Schwartz promises to be a series of space opera. So far so good.
 

worldofmutes

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I’m working on another long one. This one’s called The Strudlhof Steps by Heimito von Doderer… it’s very good.
at this point I’m just trying to focus on reading more, because I’ve been getting too caught up in this forum to pay any real attention. What’s the point of reading a book if I don’t know what’s going on? 250 pgs. in though, I’m going to exit for a few days and make the most of my time. Haha.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I am in the midst of the sixth issue of Short Story International (April 1964.) Included, under the title of "Epilogue," is the final chapter (omitted from American editions until 1986) of A Clockwork Orange. Given the difficult futuristic slang (which one slowly gets used to in the novel) as well as the fact that this chapter refers to earlier events in the book, one has to wonder what readers of the magazine made of it.
 

williamjm

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I read Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. I thought the novel was an interesting subversion of the traditional superhero story being told from the perspective of a lowly henchwoman working (initially) for a second-rate super-villain. Before reading it I was wondering how much of a comedy it might be, but although there is quite a lot of (mostly dark) humour in it, I think it was probably a bit more serious than I was expecting. Despite her job the protagonist is often sympathetic, particularly when faced with disproportionate consequences for her actions. While I think Anna does make a good argument against this setting's heroes and how they can be as much of a problem for the world as those they are fighting I think she is sometimes also being a bit disingenuous about the consequences of some of the things she does. I'm not sure that's necessarily a flaw of the novel, since everyone like to think themselves the hero of their own story. It does move at a good pace and it comes to a strong conclusion which resolves some of the big mysteries about the setting. I think this works as a stand-alone and resolves the central plotline but there is definitely scope for sequels as well.

I then read Neil Gaiman's Fables and Reflections. As a collection of unconnected stories it covers a lot of time periods and types of story, I think they all worked well with Three Septembers and a January and Ramadan being particularly good.
 

Fiberglass Cyborg

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Just finished:

"Oranges and Lemons" by Christopher Fowler. Non-SF/F. After the Speaker of the House of Commons is crushed under a stack of fruit crates, the race is on to find out what the hell is happening before the killer strikes again. I usually find mysteries rather dreary, but the Bryant and May series is an exception as they're imaginative, funny and full of fascinating information.

"By The Pricking Of Her Thumb" by Adam Roberts. A sequel to "The Real-Town Murders." P.I. and virtual reality refusnik Alma is hired to find out which of the richest people on Earth has been discreetly murdered. An odd book. The contant punning does get a mite wearing, But it also packs some serious conceptual bite, and the portrayal of Alma and her bedridden girlfriend is genuinely moving.
 

Foxbat

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I finished the book on Tommy Bolin and agree whole heartedly with the author about his superb qualities as a guitar player. Here’s the problem I have with this book: she sets out to argue and persuade that people (especially Deep Purple fans) should actually listen to the music and stop trying to say ‘it’s not Purple without Blackmore’. Tommy Bolin is Tommy Bolin. He was never going to be a Blackmore clone and I tnink the suggestion that Purple should have gone through a name change when Blackmore left is perfectly valid. All fine and good, but I would never have picked this book up if I had not already been a fan of Bolin. I know how good he was and I don’t need to be persuaded. This book, as interesting as it is, is preaching to the already converted.

Now I‘m going to try the Pandora Sequence (three novels…The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect and The Ascension Factor. I recall reading Destination Void a few years back and this is a continuation of that story.
 

Parson

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I've had my eye on that since it appeared on Fantastic Fiction, I'm unsure whether to purchase.

Your mini review would be appreciated :)

As requested:

Astray by Jenny Schwartz is the first episode of a space opera. Nora Devi is the lead character in story, which slowly gains other important characters as it goes along. In the set up a small group of 12* colony ships are marooned in an area and are cut off from the rest of humanity. The ships are marooned because the entry to the black hole/worm hole which allows FTL is closed to out going traffic by alien artifacts. The artifacts are examined by a group of 12 and the artifacts change them allowing them to use the power of the artifacts for their own purposes. Most of these people marry the ships' captains and become the monarchy of the 9 habitable planets that are found because the ability to use the power is inherited.

Nora's story comes nearly 500 years later. She's been born and raised in the "slums" but through a series of lucky breaks and hard work, she finds herself a xeno-archeologist/salvager, with her own ship out in the middle in "no where." She likes this because she is a danger to the established order because she has the ruling mutation, but she is not part of the rulers, so her life is in danger if she is known and not protected.

This story is Science Fantasy. There is no overt magic in it, but the science (at least in the first book/episode) is not explained at all. I liked Nora and the other characters who enter her orbit. It is clearly an opening episode in a story which promises to the discerning reader to change everything.

I liked it enough to start Doubt #2 in the series. (A quick glance reveals I'm 2/3's of the way through) and so far I remain interested. I give it a solid 4 stars.

*The numbers are probably right, but I didn't take the time to page through to be sure they are exactly right.
 

The Judge

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I began December's thread confirming I was about to embark on Lost Acre by Andrew Caldecott, the final book in his Rotherweird fantasy trilogy. In fact, after a few pages it was clear I couldn't recall who was who, nor much of the plot, especially not of the second novel which was convoluted and lacking a central focus, with too many people doing too many things. So in order to get to grips with the story I ended up having to re-read the two previous books, and once again the first, Rotherweird, read well notwithstanding plot holes, but I still thought Wyntertide needed a firmer editorial grip and radical restructuring, and it took a long while to plough through it.

However, I'm delighted to say that Lost Acre appears to be redeeming the series -- with one central antagonist again, even though yet more characters have entered the scene and plenty is going on, it's more coherent and gripping. I'm at just over a third of the way through and zipping through it more quickly than its predecessors.

As a result of being held up by Wyntertide, I've not read much else this month. I read one story a night from a hard-back collection called The Father Brown Stories by GK Chesterton, originally published as two separate anthologies a few years apart, The Innocence of Father Brown and The Wisdom of Father Brown. The plots themselves are very much of their time (pre WWI) with unbelievable coincidences and implausible crimes, but interesting for the psychological aspects whereby character is used to discern motive and thereby the criminal.

After that, I started Snakewood by Adrian Selby, in which a former group of renowned mercenaries, famous for having saved a kingdom, are being hunted down and killed. After getting royally confused by the opening scene of an ambush where I had no idea what was going on nor why, then further befuddled by more scenes/reports with no immediate connection to it, and lacking interest in any of the characters on offer, I finally resorted to GoodReads to see if things got better as the story progressed. The answer was yes, if you enjoyed very grim grimdark, murder, torture, rape and more confusion, but only after about one-third/half-way through. So I joined the many other DNF-ers.
 

Toby Frost

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I finished Wild Fire by Anne Cleeves, a murder mystery. I enjoyed a lot: Cleeves' prose is pleasant and the story and characters were strong. Oddly, especially since this is the last in a series, the detective doesn't so much solve the crime as stop the murderer, and it's actually his boss who figures out what's been going on. I don't know if it means anything, but I've been enjoying reading crime novels much more than SFF of late.
 
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