September Reading Thread

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The Judge

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I didn’t do much reading last month. I raced through the one Lindsey Davis Falco novel I was missing, and re-read a few Terry Pratchetts including Hogfather as I’d just seen the TV film. The only others I finished were The Paladin by CJ Cherryh, an OKish Chinese-esque fantasy without any fantastical elements which read like an 80s martial arts action movie, and The Bear Pit by SG MacLean, an historical murder mystery set in Cromwell’s Protectorate which was excellent on the history, fine on the murder mystery, but rather ho-hum on the invented characters, but it did have the dashing, and real-life, Rupert of the Rhine in it, which counted for a lot!

I’m starting this month with three novels on the go, though I’m not getting on well with any of them so far – Death Masks by Jim Butcher, the fifth book in the Dresden Files series, where the voice is beginning to annoy me; Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett, the last novel with Moist von Lipwig which thus far is better than I’d feared it might be but still doesn’t come near the Pratchett heights; and The Blanket of the Dark by John Buchan, one of his historical novels, this one about a pretender to the throne in Henrician England, where the nature writing is, as ever, wonderful but the actual plot needs a jump-start to get things moving.

So what are you reading this month?
 
Right now I'm a bit past the 1/3 point in Silver Nitrate by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I'm finding really engaging when I have time to read. Also sporadically dipping into When a Stranger Comes to Town, an anthology of new crime/mystery stories edited by Michael Koryta, which has been entertaining so far.

A GoodReads book group is about to start Her Smoke Rose Up Forever by James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon). I'm looking forward to rereading the ones I've read so far and moving on to the ones I haven't, so I will veer off into that by some time next week, along with ramping up my reading of James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, a biography by Julia Phillips.
 
I am commenting on Charles Stross' latest here. The magic is rationalized and the style is substantially SFish. But the series could certainly also qualify as horror. So there we are.

The occasion for writing this is the publication of Season of Skulls, the 13th volume in the series (plus add. novellas)

The Laundry Files started 19 years ago with The Atrocity Archives. Extremely well written and well received, Stross had an enjoyable time combining genres.
For the few who have not read it or sequels, the combination was of spy, computer nerd and creepy Lovecraftian horror. About vol #1 Stross said later that he was attempting to write in the style of Len Deighton. I don't quite see it, as the lead character, Bob Howard, does not resemble Harry Lime, except sharing a certain naivete. Perhaps it has been too long since I read Deighton to see the similarities. Howard is recruited to the "Laundry" the counter to occult and superhuman threats out there, as "I thought I was just generating weird new fractals; they knew I was dangerously close to landscaping Wolverhampton with alien nightmares" Retro-Nazis and unexplained phenomena lead Howard on wild chases.
The next book in the series, The Jennifer Morgue was written (Stross said) to reflect the style of Ian Fleming. In its action and type of threat, here I see the similarity, at least to the movies. The third book, The Fuller Memorandum is a (quoting Wikipedia) "Homage of sorts to Anthony Price's Dr David Audley/Colonel Jack Butler series of spy thrillers." (Don't know them) The fourth volume introduces characters straight out of Modesty Blaise. After #4 Stross felt that the series had its own identity and he no longer referenced other authors.

As the series continues other players take center stage. Notably "Mo" O'Brien, the wife of Bob Howard who has been present since the start and is an increasingly adept practitioner of this universe's special skills and Mhari Murhy, previously a naif who comes into her own abilities. Other characters are introduced and are gradually fleshed out. There is a lot of action with gradual introduction of creepy otherworldly threats.
The omnipresent concern is "Case Nightmare Green" that with the manipulation of forces (damn computers!) magic gathers strength and the barrier to Lovecraft's Elder Gods is fraying. But the action never slows as threats burgeon.

I have probably already said too much about series developments. I enjoyed all of the volumes. but did prefer the earlier more straightforward books. There is a major shift around vol. eight. The good guys and gals don't always win.

Another shift occurs with book eleven. This abandons reference to the Laundry cast of characters and introduces others, centering on an old family whose manipulations of reality allow them to experience the past and affect the present. Elsewhere I have seen comment that the series has gotten old and these later volumes, referred to as "The New Management" are not as good. I disagree, but they are talkier, with less action. I would suggest that they would not be interesting to readers who have not followed the general direction of the series. And specifically, I do not think that the last volume, Season of Skulls, would be enjoyable, or perhaps even followable in its convolutions without having read either or both, Dead Lies Dreaming & Quantum of Nightmares.
In Season Stross throws in a lovely (for fans) creation from The Prisoner. Want to isolate someone? Put them in "The Village" and make them Number five. Want to get out? In a world with elder gods the heroine has an even harder time than Patrick McGoohan.
I strongly recommend everything. If you haven't picked up previous books in the series, go for it. If you have, be aware that it gets increasingly twisty but is still quite enjoyable.
 
Sort of reading Jack McDevitt's Deepsix. I say "sort of" because the beginning sure grabbed me but then other things got in the way, so I haven't read it for awhile but I hope to get back to it. It's part of his "Academy" series and, oddly, I didn't like the first book in the series much at all but I've liked everything else I've read by him (more than ten books) and some of those quite a lot, so I decided to give this series another shot. (A decision made pretty easy by finding it in a thrift store for under a dollar.) Anyway, it begins with some investigators on a planet getting chewed up and spit out by the native fauna before another batch of humans go in to try their luck. All this and the planet is about to get destroyed by an asteroid impact, too. Very intensely told and I'm interested in what will happen.
 
Up next SHERLOCK HOLMES:THE VOICE OF TREASON, by George Mann and Cavan
Scott ,2020 .Full cast,Sound effects.
 
read The Fellowship of the Ring which I had started but not finished when I was young. I had 50th Anniversary edition.

Almost DNF again because the prologue just felt like such a chore. But a persevered and really enjoyed the book itself.
Not half as bad as the utterly boring prologues in David Eddings otherwise excellent fantasy series.
 
A combination of puzzling over the lyrics of a Steeleye Span song (Cam Ye O'er Frae France) and talking about a friend's writing project have made me want to know more about the Stuart cause, so I've started The King Over the Water: a Complete History of the Jacobites by Desmond Seward. A bit of an eye-opener so far, especially about the shoddiness of the "Glorious Revolution". I guess the name was a salesman's trick.
 
I am about to start The Stars are Also Fire (1994) by Poul Anderson. Apparently it's a sequel to Harvest of Stars (1993) and there are a couple of other books in the series. The book starts with a list of characters that takes up three pages, even though the novel isn't extremely long, at just over 400 pages. I hope I don't get too confused!
 
I am about to start The Stars are Also Fire (1994) by Poul Anderson. Apparently it's a sequel to Harvest of Stars (1993) and there are a couple of other books in the series. The book starts with a list of characters that takes up three pages, even though the novel isn't extremely long, at just over 400 pages. I hope I don't get too confused!
Better you than me. I really struggle with keeping multiple characters sorted. I have been known to write each character's name down and give a sentence or two memory jogger as I proceed. It has sometimes saved the day for me. But, I've also noted that the better the book, the less I need that crutch.

***I haven't read much of Poul Anderson but the little I've read was quite good. The Boat of a Million Years and a book whose title I mis-remember (dah!) about a warror from the Mongol empire being time traveled to the future where he makes a living acting in historical dramas with each part becoming more significant until he plays Ghengis Khan.
 
A combination of puzzling over the lyrics of a Steeleye Span song (Cam Ye O'er Frae France) and talking about a friend's writing project have made me want to know more about the Stuart cause, so I've started The King Over the Water: a Complete History of the Jacobites by Desmond Seward.
That sounds interesting
 
I'm about halfway through Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. This is my first experience with this author and the first epic fantasy I have enjoyed for a long time. I hope it is not too early to anticipate that I will continue this series.
 
The Foundation Trilogy
First re-reading since 1978
Nothing seems familiar. Ah! The benefits of old age! :D
Bah! Hogwash! Benefits? As the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. (Now where did I put my glasses? Mumble, mumble---)
And a note to RE. You realize that you are practically quoting Isaac Asimov who said the same thing in his last days, rereading
authors that he could remember enjoying, but nothing of the plots?
 
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Bah! Hogwash! Benefits? As the saying goes, youth is wasted on the young. (Now where did I put my glasses? Mumble, mumble---)
And a note to RE. You realize that you are practically quoting Isaac Asimov who said the same thing in his last days, enjoying rereading
authors that he could remember enjoying, but nothing of the plots?
Ah, in memory yet still green...
 
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