April Reading Thread

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Finished my reread of Dune and now I'm trying Mal goes to war by Edward Ashton.

Goodreads blurb:
The humans are fighting again. Go figure.

As a free A.I., Mal finds the war between the modded and augmented Federals and the puritanical Humanists about as interesting as a battle between rival anthills. He’s not above scouting the battlefield for salvage, though, and when the Humanists abruptly cut off access to infospace he finds himself trapped in the body of a cyborg mercenary, and responsible for the safety of the modded girl she died protecting.

A dark comedy wrapped in a techno thriller’s skin, Mal Goes to War provides a satirical take on war, artificial intelligence, and what it really means to be human.
During my time away from the computer, I read a couple of collections of pieces by James Thurber.

Credos and Curios (1962) -- assembled by his widow soon after his death. Stories, essays, and profiles on other writers.

Thurber on Crime (1991) edited by Robert Lopresti. Stories, articles, and cartoons related to the subject.

I am about to start Adventures in Time and Space (1946; new introduction 1957; I'm not sure what year my copy came out, but I'm sure it's a much later reprint) edited by Raymond J. Healey and J. Francis McComas. An early, massive anthology of science fiction, with a couple of science articles. Lots of famous tales included; "Nightfall," "Who Goes There?," "The Twonky," "Farewell to the Master," just to name the ones adapted into films. It says something about the so-called Golden Age that all but three of the pieces come from the pages of Astounding.
Needing something long on my Kindle for a few days abroad, I panic-bought The Great Hunt, book 2 of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. I read book 1 ages ago, and then the first chapter of book 2 shortly after, but couldn't get into it at the time. This go, I did get several chapters in, and enjoyed it at the start, but then, my god, the dragging. Was ever an author in less of a hurry than Jordan?

Massive series seem to be my thing at the moment, as I'm near the end of The Dark Lantern, the first of Henry Williamson's mammoth 15-volume A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight. This book, set in the 1890s and written in the 1950s, follows the parents of what will be the main character for the rest of the sequence. The natural description is superb (as it should be from the author of Tarka the Otter), the period detail sometimes a little heavy but always interesting, and the characters have grown on me. I can see myself reading all 15 books. I wonder if it might be the longest non-fantasy sequence in English?
I did wonder about Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, but that's a mere 12 books long.

Have you ever read Adam Roberts' read-through of The Wheel of Time? It's harsh but quite funny.

I re-read some of General Slim's Defeat Into Victory, an account of the Imphal-Kohima campaign in which, after many defeats, the British Empire retrained and came back to destroy the Japanese army. It's heavy stuff and rather technical, but it's interesting to contrast an actual military memoir with some of the military SF that I've read. The last chapter, in which Slim summarises how and why armies win wars, would make good reading for SFF writers.
Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler.

This sequel to Parable of the Sower takes a different turn, with Lauren Olamina's story turning very grim for a while as her community is overtaken and enslaved by religious fanatics. But she overcomes, spreading her "Earthseed" ideas about human destiny until she sees some of her people reach the stars. This book changes focus from its predecessor, making the main character somewhat less likeable as she was shown at times through the eyes of others. Her Earthseed religion was also a focus, but in the previous book that had been my least favorite part.

However, in many ways I believe this is the better of the two books. The story is painful, but feels real as many things described are historically true. The author taps in to some of the worst human motivations and behavior and shows how our society has not truly moved on as we struggle with class warfare, climate change, and religious and ideological differences. But she offers hope, a chance to start over by leaving Earth's "cradle" and rebuilding a new and "grown-up" humanity on other planets.
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I did wonder about Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, but that's a mere 12 books long.
Exactly. Bus-journey length.

Have you ever read Adam Roberts' read-through of The Wheel of Time? It's harsh but quite funny.
Yes, I enjoyed it. Sadly it's been removed from the internet and I'd have to buy his anthology to reread. Which I have almost done a couple of times.

I forgot to say that having given up on The Great Hunt, I found The Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner on my Kindle and reread the first half, which is superb. I probably won't finish it, as my memory is that the second half is much weaker, but I might reread its forerunner, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (and try to ignore Garner's weird misapplication of Norse mythological names).
Currently about half-way through the first of a trilogy, My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. As with The Only Good Indians (and assuming it doesn't tail off), Jones is doing an excellent job of channeling that other Stephen, King, and using that and his own cultural interests and ethnic background to write a gripping novel.
Having burned through Bobiverse #1 and #2 I'm going to start #3, but I accidentally started a Niven book (whose title I keep forgetting) but it's a Detective Noire set on Ceres, I think. and it's a page turner and short (I think) so I'll finish that first.

(OK. Google tells me this is the Gil Hamliton series: List of Known Space characters - Wikipedia, and this is the first one: Death by Ecstasy - Wikipedia)

Todo: Write up notes on Bobiverse #1, #2
Todo: Write up notes on the golden age of space based detective noire. (Though I understand that Canadian astronaut tried his hand at a space based detective story recently)
Rome is Burning by Anthony A. Barrett
In AD 64, Rome went up in flames. In what may be considered a "turning point in ancient history", Nero may or may not have been responsible for the conflagration, but he lost his golden reputation, pissed off the elites, blamed and persecuted the Christians, introduced architectural reforms, initiated an extensive building programme that required money that was unavailable, which lead to ruinous taxation, looting of the provinces and the debasement of the currency and, eventually (after Nero lost his throne and committed suicide), a change in how Rome "chose" its subsequent Emperors. The book is an interesting, mostly scholarly, examination of the fire that had far reaching and long term consequences on the history of ancient Rome.​
Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's off to work I go. ---- Time to quick review some of what I've read in the last month.

The Prince Awakens by Fred Hughes book one of The Prince of Britannia Saga. A decentish Mil. S.F. I finished it but it seems a bit too much hero-worship to suit me. Every idea/feeling that Prince Henry (Hazard as he's known) is better than anyone else's even if there's nothing more than a hunch to back it up. I doubt I read any more in this series. But I do have Prince Commander among my K.U. books presently. Probably the best thing about this series is that the author spent 20 years on submarines and has some military insights that escape other authors.

Avoid --- Not Recommended --- Flawed --- Okay --- Good --- Recommended --- Shouldn’t be Missed

Revolution by Skylar Ramirez this book occurs in the same universe and timeline as The Four Worlds series but it is adjacent to them. It begins at the same time as Subversion and it would be hard to understand without reading at least that book in The Four Worlds series. So there is that against it, but like everything I've read of Skylar Ramirez so far it's a very solid book with an interesting take on things. It follows Private Feng Chu Hua, a gifted mech driver who is also an "enacter." Enacters are genetically engineered humans to be perfectly obedient to a single authority their entire life, or at least so it is thought. Feng Chu Hua has a crisis of conscience and she starts questioning her programming. This is a wonderful little book and I hope there are more stories about Feng Chu Hua.

Avoid --- Not Recommended --- Flawed --- Okay --- Good --- Recommended --- Shouldn’t be Missed

White Out by Danielle Girard this is a thriller set in a small town in North Dakota. This is a realistic story about a young woman Lily who finds herself in a car wreck with a man she recognizes but doesn't remember who she is or what she's doing and it slowly becomes clear that this is also tied to a murder in the small town. In one way this was a very frustrating book. Lily's amnesia felt like a plot device made to make detective Kylie Millard's life more frustrating. And that feeling was only multiplied because one of the other people who looks to be somehow involved cannot remember the night either because he was drunk out of his mind. But that aside, the detective work and the interplay between the town "detective," the sheriff, and the state bureau of Investigation all ring very true. It was clear that Danielle Girard knows a bit about small towns. Having grown up in small towns I could almost name corresponding characters in my youth. However, I'm not so sure that she spent any time in North Dakota, reading the story I always felt, unless reminded, that the story was set in a small town in the south. I have book two Far Gone queued in my Kindle, but I'm a bit worried that if the setting is the same it's going to seem too unlikely. Small towns almost never have murders, let alone multiple serial killers. But I'll likely give it a shot sooner or later.

Avoid --- Not Recommended --- Flawed --- Okay --- Good --- Recommended --- Shouldn’t be Missed

Toll of Honor by David Weber, this is book 20! of the Honor Harrington series. I didn't think we'd ever see another, and in some sense we did not. It takes place at the end of Field of Dishonor and during the time of Flag in Exile. It mostly follows a young woman, Brandy Bolgeo, who was on one of the ships that got hit badly but not destroyed in the Battle of Hancock when Pavel Young abandoned his screening position and left the fleet more vulnerable. The book is another brick of 617 pages and the first big third or "book 1" follows a lot of Honor's activities on Manticore after she learns of the death of Paul Tankersley. Some of that is lifted wholesale from the other books. It does fill in some details and reveals some more of the inner workings of the people in Honor's orbit at that time. In "book 2" we have more of Brandy's activities as a rookie chief engineer. What I find interesting or perhaps distressing, is that the parts that are lifted wholesale from the earlier books have the "it" factor that I always loved about Weber's works particularly the early ones. The Brandy story is far from bad, but it just doesn't have the "it" factor like his early writings did. I guess age turns us all into blunt instruments.

Avoid --- Not Recommended --- Flawed --- Okay --- Good --- Recommended --- Shouldn’t be Missed
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Since Charles Williams recently came up in conversation here, I decided it was time to revisit one of my favorites among his books, The Greater Trumps. My original plan was to write up a brief description of the book and post it in this thread, but as seems to be the case with all the books I have been reading or rereading lately, I found that such brevity was quite beyond me, and I had a lot more to say about it than I had originally thought.

Therefore, I have once again posted a lengthy review in the Reviews and Interviews section. You will find it here: The Greater Trumps, by Charles Williams
I've been reading Slow Horses by Mick Herron. I'd highly recommend it. It has been adapted for Apple TV and I saw a lot of people on social media going crazy about it, saying it was the best thing on TV. I don't have Apple TV but I saw that the books were highly rated too. Then I saw this book in a charity shop for £2.50. It's so good, I've bought the sequels Dead Lions and Real Tigers and plan to read them next.

It's about a section of MI5, based in Slough House, run by Jackson Lamb, where they banish the Joe's from the ranks of the Achievers when they fall foul for some various reason. The Slow Horses don't run Ops but merely push paper, supposedly. It's a spy story for the 21st Century, a bit more gritty and realistic, and certainly more Harry Palmer than James Bond.

One problem is that current affairs has moved on a little since this was written. Quite a lot has changed post-Austerity and post-Covid, but even though it only about 10 years, technology has also moved on. Someone was using a Blackberry. Someone didn't automatically think of using a Sat Nav when they didn't know where they were. So, it is already dated, the next two books might be less so.

I also don't know how they have adapted it for TV, but as well as updating it a little, there are moments of tension that can simply only work when written down - someone is hit with an axe, but later you learn it was the wooden handle - someone switches clothes but you don't know that. There are a lot of those kind of cliff-hanger chapter endings.
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