January 2023 Reading Thread

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The Judge

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Happy New year, everyone! And with a New Year, I trust we have a New Lot of Books to read!

I was too rushed to do much reading last month, just a couple of biographies. The last was the best, Marshall Hall: A Law Unto Himself by Sally Smith QC/KC, a well-researched and well put-together study of the great Victorian/Edwardian barrister, whose oratory was so great he was feted in the popular press and at least one theatre performance was paused, with the curtain brought down, so the verdict in a case he defended could be relayed to the audience. (How many non-lawyers could actually name any KC nowadays let alone would wait outside the Old Bailey to see him?!) The other was interesting but ultimately not successful in my view -- Licoricia of Winchester: Power and Prejudice in Medieval England by Rebecca Abrams. Further sub-titled The Rise and Fall of a Remarkable Jewish Businesswoman, but which failed as a biography of the woman who was for a time the richest person in England, for the simple reason very little is known about her, and the little that is known eg some of her business dealings, are simply bundled together in generalised statements in the book, with little or no specifics. It was more successful as a short, general examination of the precarious life for the Jews in England between 1066 when William I brought them over and 1290 when Edward I expelled them, with information cribbed straight from more learned books and articles.

As for this month, Santa brought me Stargazy Pie by Victoria Goddard which intrigued me after it was recommended here on Chrons, as well as a collection of five Miss Marple novels by Agatha Christie, which I'm itching to begin.

What are you reading this month?
 
Still reading Gods And Golems by Lester Del Rey. This is exactly the kind of sf I've been searching for for months. Enjoying it immensely. Won't recommend it though. Just because I like it doesn't mean anyone else will.
 
@Extollager wrote re "Peaks and Lamas"
I read much of the book while it was (as I recall) largely that. When it became more of an exposition of Tibetan art, I didn't persist. The edition I have has lots of photos of mountains, cedars (I suppose), etc.

Ah! I read it to the end. I hadn't expected to when I saw the chapter titles, but there were enough tangents and personal vignettes to keep me interested. Also, by that time I'd become interested in the occasional quirks of the author.
My copy is the Cassells hardback 1946 fourth edition with the photos - surprisingly good ones, including friends made en route. It must have been popular to have four editions 1939 - 1946, given the paper shortages in the UK.
 
I was hoping to finish Ogres before the year was out. But with the trains being out so often, I've not been on the train so much.
 
My first finished book of the year is Ursula le Guin's Steering the Craft, which feels pretty much necessary to try for any writer serious about their prose, and just generally a delight to anyone who enjoys hearing Le Guin's voice on the page.
 
Reread of into the looking glass by John Ringo - this'll probably lead me into the full space bubble series (again!)
 
HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
1899.
'Scientific American ' The Brain. Part 2.
 
I finished Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary. I really enjoyed reading the book, despite feeling that it does have some big flaws. The best bits of the story all take place aboard the Hail Mary, which is fortunate since this makes up the majority of the novel. After trying to do something a bit different with Artemis and not really succeeding Weir has returned to the type of story that worked well in The Martian, a lone scientist isolated from the rest of humanity desperately trying to use his scientific knowledge to solve a seemingly intractable problem. Unlike The Martian this is about more than mere survival of the protagonist, it's also about trying to save humanity from an apocalyptic threat. This time round the protagonist also has an unlikely collaborator, which does provide some of the best scenes in the book. I don't know how plausible all of the science in this, but I think the book does a good job of capturing the thrill of scientific discovery and solving problems.

I think the book's weakness is the flashback scenes where we learn how Grace got involved with the mission. In the main plotline where Grace is narrating what he is doing I think his character works well enough, even if he is eerily like The Martian's Mark Watney except with less swearing. However, Weir's attempt to write Grace having normal human conversations with other humans in the flashback scenes often feel painfully stilted, nobody really seems to talk a real person or have more than a couple of personality traits (and have some national stereotypes if they happen to be non-American). This part of the plot also requires a lot of contrived and unlikely decisions being made to get Grace into position where he would be going on the mission.

I think the parts of the story in space are good enough to make up for the other weaknesses but I think the book might have been better if the flashbacks had been omitted.
 
Finished Snuff by Pratchett. Painful experience considering how good he could be, but had more to it than I might have got the first try.
 
Howdy all. I recently skimmed Hideo Kojima’s The Creative Gene; I think many of you would find it intriguing.

Or; as I like to say, Hide-ee-ho Kojima!
 
I have started Shirley Jackson's first novel, The Road Through the Wall (1948), which appears to be about a bunch of families in a California suburb. It's part of a two-volume Library of America set of Jackson's works, including all of her novels and several short stories. (The only other Jackson novel I haven't already read is her second, Hangsaman (1951), which I will tackle next.)
 
Finished Blindsight by Peter Watts, which I enjoyed. Interesting, unusual, though probably not the all-time SF classic as made out by some.

Now reading A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee. This is the first in a series of detective stories set in Calcutta after WWI. A few chapters in and enjoying it as a bit of light relief, and can see myself picking up the rest of the novels in the Wyndham-Bannerjee series.
 
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