May Reading Thread

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Otto Friedrich: Olympia: Paris in the Age of Manet and (since they cover the same decade) Ross King: The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism

Both were great and, the times being what they are, I was able to get really nice hardcover editions for next to nothing on ebay.
It's not that it's an extension that's the problem (the introduction practically stated it was an extension); it's that the book is terribly written. The author is terrible at putting his ideas down on paper properly. He doesn't properly match up his "evidence" with what he claims is his goal. He also doesn't tell us anything that isn't already covered in the first book (Other Minds). This book is all over the place, very shallow (I wanted more details!) and you have to weed out what he is going for. The first book wasn't much better in terms of actual writing, but it did have the benefit of being more narrowly focused (not to mention the cute octopus stories). I'm also not so sure how original his line of inquiry is, since most of the stuff in the books is old hat to anyone who knows something about evolution and physiology.¯\_(ツ)_/¯ And if it's meant for the general reader who knows nothing about evolution and physiology etc, then I doubt they are going to get much out of this mish-mash of a book, except possibly an education about evolution in general and the nervous system in particular. I did not find the book "brilliantly written" or "compelling". I kept wool gathering and having to go back and re-read sections. I've read calculus text books that were more coherent and compelling. I will admit that some of the contents was interesting, but again, nothing that someone even vaguely familiar with nature books/documentaries hasn't come across before. To me, this book was disappointing and does not reflect all the media hype. Maybe this book worked better for you because you haven't read Other Minds yet?

I've got The Deep History of Ourselves: The Story of How We Got Conscious Brains by Joseph LeDoux and The Book of Minds by Philip Ball lined up. So hopefully they will work better for me, though LeDoux is not currently earning any brownie points by regurgitating generic evolution and tree of life pictures in 5 incredibly short and shallow chapters. Seriously, don't people learn this stuff in primary school or just by osmosis via the internet/TV?

PS:- The 2 middle paragraphs of your review are already more coherent than the whole book. If Peter Godfrey-Smith had put that in somewhere near the beginning instead of all the hand-waving waffling, I wouldn't be so annoyed with his book. If it makes you feel better, the book did get 3/5 stars on GoodReads. It wasn't that bad, it just could have been much better.

PPS:- Looking forward to your Taurus book. It sounds interesting.
Well... hmmm...! It is true that I read Metazoa before Other Minds, so perhaps I have been skewed by that. I thought the first three or four chapters where he shows how life slowly develops a sense of other and self, and therefore of other-stimulus and self-stimulus, we're fantastic. I've read a huge number of life books, and I just felt this was a really good one - a good, strong story. I detected not an iota of wool gathering. To be honest, interesting though the octopus stories were, by the time he'd got 2/3 of the way through I was waiting for the punch that never came. Flaccid! :/ We do seem to have differing views on these two books, which is a curiosity...

The Book of Minds is on my "check out" list, but, erm, the story of how we got conscious brains... Oh dear. That's not the first place to be looking, although Mark Solns did a good job of working out the neurology bit. Have you had a look at Sentience? Top of the list!

Thanks you for your comment on I Am Taurus. I'll be beginning pr for that in the first week of January. Depending on how it goes, I will or won't be offering them I Am The Moon and I Am Mars.
I finished Walter de la Mare's collection The Connoisseur and Ruth Downie's Medicus (which seemed longer than it needed to be). The de la Mare book was worth reading, but I think his On the Edge impressed me more. I've begun a rereading (after 49 years) of Mervyn Peake's Titus Alone.
I dropped Titus Alone and have begun a rereading of Watership Down.
I am on a Robert Silverberg kick, picking up titles that I did not read previously.
Read both Downward To The Earth & Time Of The Great Freeze.
As commented on another thread, Silverberg wrote some of the best SF ever in a splurge around 1969-72. Downward- - - fits in with those.
Although I remember some of his earlier stuff fondly, there is a great jump in quality between Time - - - and the aforementioned stuff he wrote five years later. Lousy characterization. jumps and poorly written crises, generally reads as if he was writing under deadline.
I remember reading him as a kid and enjoying his early collaborations with Randall Garrett.
Perhaps an off day? With his voluminous output everything can't be stellar.
You literally have to cut such pages in order to read the print.
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Although I realize that Elentarri is making a joke, he actually does have a point. The proper way to open uncut pages is with a sharp knife or even a razor. There used to be a tool for that (the name of which I do not remember.) I took a course on rare books as part of my library degree. Looking it up. I was reminded that the proper term is "unopened" or from the italian, " intonso", literally "untouched".
Theodore Sturgeon: “Not Without Sorcery”
Eight stories first published in Astounding and Unknown 1939-41, each with a brief introduction by Sturgeon. Curiously, one of them, “Brat” (concerning a couple who will inherit $30,000 if they can prove to Aunt Jonquil that they are capable of looking after a baby for thirty days, and do a deal with a ‘changeling’ to be the baby in exchange for a steak a day) he claims he has no memory of writing at all.
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The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson. A very good book, very well written, but ultimately bleak and hard going. Whether or not the author intended it, it is a powerful analogy for old age or disease. If it had been written by a different author, perhaps in a different time or place, it would have been magical realism or just "literature".

I keep wanting to re-read Richard Morgan's Black Man/Thirteen, which I think is an important and prescient book full of good (well, worrying) ideas, but I don't think it's that great as an actual novel, and it goes on much too long.
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Well that's an hour and half of my life I'm not gonna get back. Quite a dull rambling tale full of waffle with a slightly scary bit at the end. Dunno what all the fuss is about!
Me neither. I thought it was supposed to be a ghost story, but it's not that either.
I dropped Titus Alone and have begun a rereading of Watership Down.
I just found a really interesting old Peake documentary on Youtube. If one searches "Mervyn Peake", there is a Bookmark doco which I guess is early 1990s interviewing Peake's children, friends, and associates, looking at his life and influences. It argues that the Gormenghast rituals are derived from Peake's observations of his childhood in China, something I had not thought about before. It also draws parallels between Titus Alone and Peake's visit, as an official war artist, to Belsen a few weeks after it had been liberated at the end of WWII, in combination with Peake's own tragic neurological deterioration.
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So, since I've been reading YA fantasy lately, I decided I would like to reread Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding. I read it the first time so long ago, I didn't remember much about the story, so it was almost a completely fresh experience.

Rail and Moa are teenage* orphans living in a ghetto for the poor, in a city of decaying ancient technologies. Because the poor in the ghettos have no chance to escape or to better themselves, many of them turn to crime. Rail and Moa scrape by as thieves working for a cruel mistress of thieves. When they are sent to steal a piece of valuable ancient technology and decide to keep it for themselves, they are forced to go on the run. While they are devoted to each other, this is not a teenage romance. Their relationship is strictly platonic. (There are hints that Rail might like something more, but it's explicitly stated that Moa knows she doesn't feel for him like a girl feels for a boy. He obviously knows that, too, and so never presses for a different relationship.) So those who turn squeamish at the thought of romance can relax and enjoy the story, because that never develops.

Well, so the characters are thieves, which I have mentioned elsewhere is a trope I am pretty tired of. But to be fair, this was written before the YA fantasy genre was nearly so awash in juvenile thieves. Also, the plot is exciting, and the setting intriguing and original. The city is plagued by revenants (which are a kind of energy being that kills humans and possesses the bodies) and by "probability storms" which sweep through the city at random intervals and create random changes. Buildings and individuals may be picked up and dropped off in a different part of the city. Streets are rearranged. A right-handed person becomes left-handed overnight. Internal organs may be turned to glass, etc. Rail is forced to wear a respirator because one such storm caused his lungs to malfunction. The storms (which are generated by an ancient piece of technology called the Chaos Engine), also create the revenants. There is no place where one can escape the storms, because the energies they create can penetrate stone, metal, and earth. There is no way to escape the city, because it is an island guarded by battleships and murderous devices which chase down boats and destroy them. And besides, everyone is told that there is no place else except the city and the ocean which surrounds it.

Vago is a manufactured creature, the only one of his kind, referred to as a "golem", though he is more like a cyborg. He lives with a cruel toymaker and his detestable—and I do mean detestable—little granddaughter. When he tires of the abuse and conceives a desire to find his maker and discover why he was created, he runs away. It is established that the toymaker did not create him, because he was deposited in the toymaker's workshop by one of the probability storms. Vago has only the vaguest memory of where he was before, but he knows that it was a very different place from where he is now. When he runs away, he soon encounters and joins forces with Rail and Moa.

Because of all the technology involved, one might call it science fantasy, except the technology is so fantastical and the science behind it never explained (to be fair, all the knowledge behind the technology was lost centuries ago), it is really much more like magic. The only major element of the story that is recognizably science-fictional is the cyborg, but since Vago is always referred to as a golem, which is traditionally a creature brought to life by magical arts ... I'd call the story fantasy with science-fictional trappings. Which is, of course, fine by me.

The plot is rather more complex than I have described it, but I think this gives a fair idea of what the story is about and what the setting is like. I enjoyed it, and it was definitely worth a reread.

*One assumes they are teenagers because the book is YA, and the characters are identified as a boy and a girl, but in a land of no seasons, where the people have lost a clear concept of time (the word "year" has become meaningless), no one knows--or seems to care—exactly how old they are.
So, since I've been reading YA fantasy lately, I decided I would like to reread Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding. I read it the first time so long ago, I didn't remember much about the story, so it was almost a completely fresh experience.
I really enjoyed Chris Wooding's Tales of the Ketty Jay, so I might give this a try. :giggle:
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