YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 1
This is a continuation of the topic YouKneeK’s 2018 SF&F Overdose Part 3.
This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 2.
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Happy New Year! I look forward to maintaining another reading journal thread for 2019 and having lots of discussions about books and other things. :)
Here’s some basic introductory info:
2019 Reading Index
Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.
I thought I’d put together a post discussing some of my reading plans for 2019. Although I do keep a schedule where I plan out what I’ll be reading over the next several months, I tend to switch things in and out whenever the mood strikes so there isn’t any point in my sharing that schedule. There are a few things that I expect to stay static though, so I thought I’d talk about those.
In recent years, I’ve been picking one big series that I start toward the end of the year and finish early in the following year. The rest of the year is mostly devoted to shorter series and standalones. In September 2018, I started Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. The first nine books were re-reads, but the remaining seven were new to me. I’m currently reading the second-to-last book in the entire series, so I should finish that up in January. The year before that, I read The Wheel of Time. And the year before that I read Discworld.
So, what series will I start in late 2019? I’m fairly well determined that it will be Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle. This is actually the series that introduced and addicted me to fantasy when I was in my early 20’s. I had randomly downloaded a computer game called Betrayal at Krondor that had been released for free to promote another game. It’s a role-playing game and all the text is presented as if you’re reading it out of a book. The story narrative, battles, character encounters, and so forth are all narrated in the third-person and dialogue has a “he said” type syntax. Even looking at an item in your inventory would give you a story-like bit of text with the character manipulating the item, like opening a package of rations, and telling you what they saw or how they imagined they might use it. I’d never seen anything quite like it, and I loved it. After I finished it, I read in the credits that it was based on the books of some guy named Raymond E. Feist. I was intrigued enough to look him up and I borrowed the first Riftwar book, Magician: Apprentice, from the library.
About 16 books later, I ran out of Feist books and came up for air. I loved the first two subseries, The Riftwar Saga and also The Empire Trilogy with Janny Wurts. I continued to enjoy the subsequent books, but I did think the later ones weren’t as good as those first ones. Once I found out he was still publishing more books in the setting, I’d already moved on to other things and never went back to them. I always did want to go back and re-read them from the beginning and finish the whole series someday, though.
I’m curious to see how I’ll feel about them now that I have more fantasy under my belt. If I’m not enjoying them at all, I of course won’t force myself through the whole series. The whole thing is almost 14,000 pages, so it’s a bit longer than any of my other recent big series except for Discworld. As usual, I’ll take short breaks between each subseries to read some unrelated books, probably mostly standalone books unless I feel the need for longer breaks.
In any case, this read is many months away. I don’t have a specific start date planned. I usually start the next big series in the fall or early winter when my schedule seems settled and I think I’ll have a decent amount of spare time for reading and/or when I just get impatient to get started.
For the past couple years, I’ve aimed to read one non-SF&F classic per quarter, after years of avoiding them since I didn’t usually appreciate them in school. This is a pretty small commitment, but it’s a quantity that has worked well for me so far and I’ve enjoyed doing it more than I expected I would. I find they’re much less torturous as an adult reading them by choice. Even the ones I haven’t enjoyed as much have had some value. It’s nice to not only recognize references to the classics in modern works, but to understand the deeper context and how it applies to the work I’m reading. For that reason, I’m sticking to the more well-known classics for now since they’re the ones I’m most likely to encounter in modern works.
The “non-SF&F” aspect of my description is a little flexible. I did include The Iliad as one of my classics last year and I would consider that to be fantasy, but I never would have read that as part of my normal SF&F reading. To the people who live outside my brain this will seem wishy-washy or at least poorly defined, but I assure you it is quite clear and concrete inside my own head.
For reference, these are the books I read in the last two years:
For 2019, I want to follow up with some of the works related to the ones I read in 2018. This means I want to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Odyssey by Homer. I also still want to fit in Shakespeare each year since he’s written so many influential plays, preferably one comedy and one tragedy like I did in 2018. But this means three of my 2019 quarters would be slotted with authors I’ve already read, and I also really want to try authors I haven’t read before.
I’ve found that the Shakespeare plays are very fast reads even though I take the time to read commentary and re-read passages for clarity, so I’ve decided not to allocate an entire quarter just to them. I’ll pick two quarters with shorter selections and also read one of my Shakespeare selections during that same quarter. So somehow my 4 classics a year have been expanded to 6.
Below are my somewhat-tentative plans for 2019. I’d be very interested in comments from people with any opinions on these selections. Aside from the books I specifically mentioned wanting to read above, the rest were selected pretty randomly. My pick of The Great Gatsby came about because one night several months ago I woke up in the middle of the night with that title on my brain. I have absolutely no idea why this title came to my mind. I’ve never read the book before, I don’t recall seeing anybody mention it recently, and I knew nothing about it. But there I was in the middle of the night feeling extraordinarily annoyed that I didn’t know what a “Gatsby” was. After tossing and turning for a little while, I finally had to pick up my nearby smartphone and look it up before I could get back to sleep. Since it was such a random and bizarre thing to happen in the middle of the night, I decided maybe I should add the book to my 2019 list before it decides to wake me up in the middle of the night again. :)
Whew… that ended up being a much longer post than what I was imagining when I sat down to type it up!
Happy New Year! We have a couple similar plans, though I'll be tackling The Odyssey and The Empire Trilogy starting this month (Odyssey on audio, Empire after Fitz). I'm definitely curious to see how the rest of the Riftwar Saga holds up for as I've not read past the original quartet and been semi curious about them.
>4 Narilka: I look forwarding to finding out what you think of both things! I remember The Empire Trilogy as being really good, but I can’t really trust my own judgment since I had read so little fantasy at that time. It does usually seem to be discussed favorably whenever I see it come up, though. Are you thinking about continuing with the whole series over time if you continue to enjoy them?
>3 YouKneeK: Sounds like a solid outline for a year's plan. While I gave up on Feist a series or two in from Magician, I'm definitely interested in what you end up thinking of them.
>3 YouKneeK: Looking forward to your thoughts on The Odyssey and those two Shakespeare plays when they come around.
Happy new year! Good luck with your reading plans for the year; I hope you enjoy discovering and re-discovering great books!
Happy reading. Looking forward to your thoughts on Riftwar. I'm not sure I've read any of them. If I did it was 50 years ago.
>13 majkia: Thanks!
You had me running off to check if the Riftwar books were really 50 years old. :) It looks like the first one was published in 1982. I don’t remember noticing an 80’s vibe when I first read these, although I’m not sure I would have noticed it as much back then as I sometimes do now.
>9 YouKneeK: BuyerofGadgets pretty much stopped doing any kind of blogging in about '14 or '15 or so, so it is entirely possible he did that. He was reading fantasy and sf no doubt...
>15 BookstoogeLT: I think the two of you were my first followers on BL, or at least the first ones who had any reading interests in common with me that I chose to follow back. I can’t even remember which one of you came first.
>14 YouKneeK: Hah! When you reach 71 you too can confound younger readers by saying stuff like that. Although 50 years ago I was reading what sci fi and fantasy I could find... Which wasn't much since I lived in a small town and had to rely on libraries to have them.
>1 YouKneeK: Impressive planning! Makes me think about whether I want to be more planful about the coming year.
Happy New Year! May you enjoy your reading in the coming year.
Your plans look interesting - I have been intending to tackle a re-read of Feist with a continuation into some of the titles that I've acquired but never got around to reading. In 2016 I started a reread from the beginning by borrowing a couple of audios from the library but they only had two, and then I didn't get myself organised enough with what was in boxes 'somewhere in the house' to continue. I'm pretty sure that since then at some point, I did organise the majority of them into one location (without any actual reading though).
I have read most of the classics that you intend reading this year, and think you've picked some interesting ones there. I abandoned Huck Finn last year but may well try it again at some point. I tried listening to a rather lacklustre audio version of The Odyssey the translation of which was so different to the paper copy of the same book that I had, it was hard to believe they were actually the same book. I was a little disappointed in it for how much of it I already knew - I hadn't realised quite how many of the adventures I'd already read other versions of. The Iliad is still on my shelf to tackle (yeah - should have done those the other way around!). Twelfth Night and Othello are interesting ones to tackle. I like to read a bit of Shakespeare normally in relation to a stage version - so I'll either read it just before seeing it or just after, but hadn't really considered reading them independently - although I should particularly in the case of some of the ones that are rarely staged any longer.
>17 majkia: LOL :)
>18 Jim53: Or obsessive, at least. :) I tend to plan ahead for pretty much everything, reading included. Planning itself is fun to me, and I think things tend to go smoother with a plan. But I think flexibility is critical because sometimes plans stop making sense or a better idea comes along.
>19 Peace2: Thank you, Happy New Year. :) I’ve been wanting to do the Feist read for a while, but I was also determined to read them on my Kindle and it took the U.S. publisher foreeeeever to release the first 6 books for Kindle. I started looking for them when I got my first Kindle in 2008ish and I think it was a year and a half ago when they were finally released.
That’s weird that the audio of the same translation of The Odyssey was different from the paper copy! The Iliad was a little painful, at least to me, but an interesting experience. I’ll be very interested to read what you think about it once you do tackle it. I’ve recognized some Iliad references in things I’ve read since then that I know would have gone over my head before, and I have some fun/amusing memories from reading it, but I’m hoping Odyssey will be a little less tedious.
I’d like to catch a Shakespeare play on stage sometime; that would be fun. I’ve been trying to follow up my reading of the plays by watching a movie adaptation. I like to read it first and get my own uninfluenced impressions of the story, and then see the visual version and compare. Last year I timed Macbeth badly and finished it on a weekday when I didn’t have the time or energy to watch a movie, and I ended up not watching one until several weeks later. I had more fun with the plays for which I watched the movie immediately afterward, so I’m going to make more of an effort to time it better this year.
>3 YouKneeK: Happy New Year! Great plan! I have read the entire Riftwar series, including the Empire trilogy. I also played Betrayal at Krondor, it was a fun game. I'm looking forward to your re-read of the series.
Review: Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb
Fool’s Quest is the second book in the final trilogy in the entire Realms of the Elderlings series. I enjoyed it almost as much as the previous book, but found the pacing to be a little more uneven. There are several sections where the characters are waiting for certain things to happen before they can move forward in the story, and there are some fairly familiar thought patterns and struggles that take place during those quieter moments. As usual, there is also some agony in waiting for the characters to grasp things that seem glaringly obvious to the reader. Since I love these characters I still enjoyed it all, but I did occasionally feel a tiny hint of restlessness.
There are also some awesome moments that I was ridiculously happy to read about. I also enjoy how much the author rewards readers who have been reading the entire series. There are small clues that readers might not catch if the details from a previous subseries aren’t fresh in their mind, and lots of little cameos and connections and references. I also really enjoy how the little blurbs at the beginning of each chapter provide hints as to what’s going to happen or explanations about what has happened. It’s fun to read them and speculate how they apply to the story.
I have a few more comments to go behind the spoiler tags.
These are some of the moments in the book that made me ridiculously happy. I’m probably forgetting some.
* Fitz finally publicly recognized for who he is.
* Fitz’s brief moment of connection with Verity-as-Dragon.
* Bee being saved from the skill pillar by Verity.
* The Fool finally recognizing the nature of Bee’s birth.
* The Fool finally being given some of the dragon blood from the vial I had recognized and had been waiting to see used since chapter one. :)
* The Fool renewing his skill bond with Fitz, even if it was only done in a desperate attempt to keep him from getting lost to the skill when he was healing all those people at Kelsingra.
I also enjoyed seeing Kelsingra again and getting a hint of how things have been going there since the Rain Wild Chronicles.
I’m rating this at 4.5 stars due to the somewhat uneven pacing, but rounding up to 5 on Goodreads. Only one more book to go!
The very last book in this series, Assassin’s Fate.
>21 Karlstar: Sorry Karlstar, I must have missed your post earlier. Happy New Year! Even though it's not exactly as new as it was when you first posted. :)
I'm glad to hear of somebody else familiar with the Betrayal at Krondor game! I may be tempted into playing it again when I read the series.
>24 Narilka: Me too. :) I’m also expecting a series hangover once it’s all over. I keep flip-flopping about which book to read after this. I could read a book that I’ve been expecting to really enjoy in the hope that it will ease the hangover, but then I risk not appreciating it as much as I might have if I hadn’t read it on the heels of a great series. Or I could read a book that I expect to be only moderately entertaining anyway and give myself some time to get my head out of the Hobb series. Decisions. :)
>25 YouKneeK: You could be wild and crazy and read something non-fiction ;) While I'm planning on Daughter of the Empire next, if I'm too fantasy-d out I'll switch to a scifi. Or if I need a warm and fuzzy read I have a couple animal memoirs I can pull out.
>26 Narilka: Ha, yes, that might be a good solution although I tend not to read much non-fiction unless it’s something work-related.
Animal memoirs? I can only imagine the kind of memoir my cat would write. “… and then I got myself shut up in the drawer and had to sit cooped up in a tiny, dark space for almost half an hour while the stupid human ran around the house trying to find me. I guess I could have meowed sooner to let her know where I was, but I found the rising panic in her voice gratifying.”
I assume this is not what an animal memoir is, but the idea struck me funny. ;)
>27 YouKneeK: LOL memoirs that feature human/animal relationships. When you're in the bookstore they're found in the animals section, not bios and memoirs. Usually a pet (or pets) but it doesn't have to be. Sometimes it's the whole life of the animal, sometimes it's just a few years in the life. Usually they're heartwarming fast, easy reads. A Street Cat Named Bob, Oink: My Life with Mini-Pigs and Homer's Odyssey are ones I enjoyed about specific pets that have happy endings. All Creatures Great and Small, plus sequels, is about a English veterinarian as he makes his rounds through the Yorkshire Dales and is considered a classic. Scent of the Missing, which I read last year, was about a woman's experience training and working with search and rescue dogs. You get the idea.
>27 YouKneeK: Not forgetting the other Lowveld classic that belongs here, Jock of the Bushveld. Both books have been continuously in print since they were published about 100 years ago, and should be easy to find. Jock's route across the Lowveld is well marked across the Kruger Park and has occasional markers outside the Park. His statue is proudly displayed in Barberton.
>31 YouKneeK: If you're into putting some effort into looking for your reading, you could always try looking for a copy of South African Eden, though LT only lists 3 copies of this (one, discouragingly, in Ernest Hemingway's library). It's the story of the formation of the Kruger Park, told by its first Chief Warden. AFAIK it hasn't been reprinted since its first edition.
>31 YouKneeK: If you like humour with your animal memoirs, you could try the Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell (brother of Lawrence Durrell). My Family and Other Animals is a hoot (there's one anecdote - 'Perseus' Rescue of Andromeda' - I always nearly pee my pants reading...)
Of course, All Creatures Great and Small was made into a TV series by the BBC.
>33 Maddz: Jumping on this animal band wagon here...
If you feel you HAVE to read something related to animals, I'd 3rd the All Creatures.... series. I read all 6 last year or so.
>34 BookstoogeLT: I haven't read them in years... I think I recall owning them (or taking out of the library...)
>35 Maddz: Ooops, I actually meant to reply to YouKneek. Sorry about that :-)
>32 hfglen:, >33 Maddz:, >34 BookstoogeLT: LOL, thank you all. I now feel well-equipped for the time when I decide to add animal memoirs to my list of reading experiences. :)
Although if the book >33 Maddz: suggested runs the risk of making one piddle, I think I’m going to send that book over to MrsLee for her thread where there has been piffling and potential piddling.
>37 YouKneeK: Um, thanks? lol I love the James Herriot novels, and yes, certain stories have made my husband and I laugh until we cried (I don't remember if piddle was involved). We used to take turns reading them aloud to each other. Sometimes, as in the story about the beginnings of artificial insemination and how that worked from a vet's perspective, we had to keep handing the book off to each other while we recovered from laughing.
Magician is great, the rest of the main series not so much. daughter of empire and the rest of the trilogy are also great, but very different. Janny has posted on here (somewhere in the GD history group read?) a little about how the collaboration came about, and her (favourable) experiences of the shared writing process. I enjoy them but they are denser than anything RF wrote on his own.
>41 AHS-Wolfy: I would enjoy seeing your thoughts on them when/if you do. Every now and then I see conversations crop up about these books, but not as often as I would expect and usually only about the earlier books.
>43 reading_fox: Thanks for the info about that post, I’ll do a search for it after I finish re-reading that part of the series. That would be interesting to read.
Other well regarded animal 'stories' how to tame a fox I read last year, and greatly enjoyed - it is actually more about the history of the science of genetics, based on the famous (and still on-going) Siberian fox farms experiments, but very well written with good personalities, and cuddly foxes.
in the shadow of man is the book of the famous Jane Goodall's experiences with chimps in africa. Another great read.
>46 clamairy: Thank you! :) I hope the books bring you all of the laughter and none of the piddle if you try them. ;)
Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb
Well, this was it… the very, very last book in the Realms of the Elderlings series. I will miss reading about these characters very much. I could see myself re-reading the entire series several years in the future.
For the most part, I really enjoyed this book and of course the entire series. There was a point around the middle when it started to feel like the story was stalled and I got impatient for progress to be made, but shortly after that it really picked up and I was fully wrapped up in the story through the end. I have some mixed feelings about the end, but overall I don’t have too many complaints. I’ll comment more on that in the spoiler tags.
The author tied together a lot of elements from the previous subseries in the creation of this story. There were a few times where it almost became a bit much; it sort of seemed like she tried to fit in every still-living character she had ever introduced in previous books one last time. There were also one or two things that I felt didn’t quite hold up to logical scrutiny. For the most part though, I really enjoyed how everything fit together and enjoyed the payoffs of reading the whole series together within a relatively short time period.
I have some more rambling comments in the spoiler tags.
I think the only real problem I had at the end was that I didn’t fully feel the sense of closure for Fitz and the Fool. They had been at odds so much in this series, especially in the last book. While I understood the underlying reasons for it and that their relationship was still as strong as ever at its heart, it was painful to read about. And then after all that, we had to see the end through Bee’s eyes. I can imagine the acceptance and sense of completion they might have felt, but I couldn’t feel it with Fitz because he wasn’t the one telling that part of the story. I know it wouldn’t have made sense to be in Fitz’s head for the end of his story because he never had the chance to tell those final moments to anybody from his perspective, but I would have forgiven the illogic of it.
I don’t know if the author ever plans to go back to this setting, but I feel like there’s still a lot of room for more stories if she did. Definitely there is a lot more that could be told about the future lives of the younger Farseer generations, most obviously Bee. There would also be room for more stories focusing on Bingtown, the Rain Wilds, the liveships, and the dragons. I think I would likely read them, although I would feel some reluctance knowing that Fitz and the Fool would never again be main characters since they were my favorites. We might see glimpses of them on the Skill current like we have with Verity, but it wouldn’t be the same.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, my classic selection for the first quarter of 2019. I’m expecting this one may seem a little dry, at least in comparison with the series I just finished, but I think I would actually welcome that. I’ve spent more time reaching each day than I normally would over the past few weeks while I was wrapped up in Hobb’s books. Now I want to come back up for air a bit and catch up on some of the other things I’ve let slide meanwhile.
>50 YouKneeK: Well you do have to set your dial for 19th century, but it is a very lively and sarcastic 19th century.
>51 quondame: Well, the “Notice” at the beginning of the book certainly made me laugh. :)
And now that I can legitimately mark this book as “currently reading”, I’m going to take a break from both the computer and the Kindle for a while and get some other stuff done!
>48 YouKneeK: I think Hobb could easily go back to this world and write more. There's so much I'd love to read about.
Good questions about Bee. It seems like there is a lot more story to tell about her. Of course, if Robin Hobb does come back to tell her story, her future life is guaranteed to be full of torment as a result. :)
I like the idea of a Chade story too. :)
>55 jillmwo: Thanks! I actually already purchased the Lattimore translation, mainly because that’s what I had chosen for The Iliad. I thought it might be nice to read them both by the same translator so the style would feel more consistent. I enjoyed some of the repeated phrasings he used like "winged words", "with good intention toward all", "Hera of the ox eyes", and such. I'm hoping to see them again in The Oydssey.
I’ve been curious since originally choosing Lattimore how reading other translations would affect the reading experience. Maybe down the road I might try some other translations of one or both books for comparison purposes. I did look up the Emily Wilson translation and it sounds interesting.
If you were interested at all in trying out animal memoirs, James Herriot's first three books in his All Creatures series are a Kindle daily deal today in omnibus format.
>57 Narilka: Thanks! I expect it’s something I would probably enjoy so I may try one eventually, but probably not in the very near future.
While I’m posting… my great plans to get all kinds of non-reading things accomplished after finally finishing the Hobb series were destroyed later that same day. I finally succumbed to the cold that just about everybody I know in real life seems to have. Fortunately mine has been pretty mild symptom-wise, but I haven’t had much energy. Maybe next weekend. These epidemics usually skip over me, so I feel betrayed by my immune system. :)
>58 YouKneeK: welcome to the great unwashed masses. Be sick with us :-)
>58 YouKneeK: I'm glad your immune system let us finish our read :D Feel better soon!
>61 Narilka:, >62 Karlstar: Thanks! :)
>61 Narilka: Ha, yes, at least it had good timing!
>62 Karlstar: Not as much as I probably should be, but definitely some. I expect to finish The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tonight, although it might be tomorrow before I finish reading the extra material included.
Review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck escapes from his abusive father and, in the process of escaping, runs across Jim, a slave who has begun an escape of his own. Together they sail down the Mississippi river on a raft and have various adventures. This is an over-simplification, but that’s the basic story.
The book has a lot of humor in various forms, from humorous situations to sarcasm and misused words. I think some of the misused words were what got the biggest laughs out of me. The story is narrated by Huck and I enjoyed his way of expressing himself. Everything is written in the dialect of the various characters, which might be of some challenge for people for whom English is not their first language. Not only are half the words spelled "wrong", but the book was written in the 1800's so there are some archaic and unfamiliar word choices. Even I occasionally had to pause and think about a few of the words, but for the most part I found it easy to follow and my edition had annotations that usually explained the more obscure words.
I enjoyed the general story, and there were some aspects of it I especially liked, but there were also times when I felt like a joke or storyline was carried on for too long and I wanted the characters to just be done with it already. Because of that, I’m going to rate this at 3.5 stars but round up to 4 on Goodreads based on the things I really did like.
A few spoilerish comments:
The stories centering on the scams of the “Duke” and the “King” were funny, but I started to get a little tired of them before the author was done with them. However, the most frustrating part of the story to me was Tom Sawyer’s convoluted plans for helping Jim escape after he’d been captured. At first it was funny, but it got more and more ridiculous and I just wanted them to get on with the rescue. I was annoyed that they were risking Jim’s freedom just for the sake of making a good story out of the rescue. The reactions of the people who saw some of the things left behind after Jim escaped were pretty funny though. :)
It also seemed a little too convenient, and not terribly believable, when it turned out Jim had been freed by his previous owner who hadn’t seemed like a very empathetic person to begin with. I had also hoped for some indication at the end as to what Jim intended to do about his wife and kids.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This will only be my second book by Atwood. I read and enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale a couple years ago and have been meaning to cycle back to her and give her work another try.
>64 YouKneeK: Glad to hear you enjoyed this this much, especially coming after that veritable love-fest you had for Hobbs ;-) I figured this might catch the swing low from that, so I'm glad to see it didn't.
>65 BookstoogeLT: Ha, thanks! :) It had a lot going against it too, between the Hobb withdrawals and my complete lack of energy this week. I think it turned out to be a nice change of pace, though.
Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
I think I liked this book. It surely held my attention well while I was reading it, and I kept compulsively reading “just one more chapter”. After I got to the end, I was less certain how I felt about it. The end was a little unsatisfying, but it’s also the first book in a trilogy. I’m not sure if the other books will add more of the meat I felt was missing in this one, but I do plan to keep reading.
The story opens up in a post-apocalyptic setting and centers on a character who calls himself Snowman. Snowman seems to be one of the last, if not the last, “normal” humans alive. There are other people living near Snowman but they seem to be genetically modified in some manner to be better able to survive. The story alternates between two timelines, one being in this post-apocalyptic time and the other being in Snowman’s past when he was growing up as a boy named Jimmy. The storyline from the past slowly reveals how the present came to be the way it is.
The story is pretty depressing and there isn’t a lot of hope, at least not for the past portions of the story. Those were the parts I was most interested in, but the reader has seen enough of the present and been given enough foreshadowing to know bad things will happen. Things in the present portion of the story were left up in the air at the end, so I’m hopeful the second book in the trilogy will address that.
A couple more spoilerish comments…
I never really “got” Oryx. She seemed too insubstantial, which might have been the point as I don’t think Snowman ever really knew her. I think he had a mental image of her that he tried to make her fit into, but I don’t think she was the person he saw her as.
The Year of the Flood, the second book in this trilogy.
I enjoyed the MaddAddam trilogy, and definitely advise reading the books one right after another. Oryx and Crake was my favourite of the three, because I like that lone survivor vibe, but really, all three books tie together well.
>68 SylviaC: Thanks, I’m glad to know the whole trilogy is worth reading! I haven’t seen people talk about it very much.
>67 YouKneeK: - I started with Year of the Flood which I greatly enjoyed, it's very different to Oryx, which I disliked enough not to bother with the third. Flood is really good though. I work (a little around the edges) of Genetic engineering and frequently got annoyed with the blaze "explanations" in Oryx. From my review "In short genetic splicing is far far more complicated and limited than presented here, with many of the featured traits not actually being genetic at all - at best their combinations of subtle interactions of 000s of genes, with a lot of nuture and environment triggers too."
I’ve read very little Atwood; the most significant was The Blind Assassin which I remember nothing about and didn’t keep very long. I’m not especially keen on dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction, especially ones set near future (although it was interesting rereading On the Beach last year).
The book that does stick in my mind was Mara and Dann; and at some point I must track a copy down and reread it along with the sequel. Others were Summer Rising and Earth Abides.
>70 reading_fox: To me it didn’t seem like there was any scientific explanation at all. Although the story is based on SF tropes, it came across more like fantasy to me in that regard. I figured that was one reason she chose a main character of mediocre intelligence and minimal scientific background, so she wouldn't have to explain what her character couldn't explain.
>71 Maddz: Oryx and Crake does fit the near-future, post-apocalyptic setting. I don’t know very much about Atwood’s bibliography. The Handmaid’s Tale is the only one of her works that I see mentioned frequently. Oryx and Crake made it on my radar because it’s on the SF&F book list that I take a lot of my reading selections from, but I didn’t know anything about it. I picked up the e-book when it went on sale a few months back.
I haven’t had too much reading time yet today, but I’m about 50 pages into The Year of the Flood. It didn’t pick up the story at all where I expected it to, but I’m interested to see where it’s going.
>73 clamairy: I hope you enjoy it if/when you get a chance to revisit it! Her non-linear storytelling style (based on what I’ve read so far) seems to work well for me.
I enjoyed the whole Oryx and Crake trilogy. I read each book as it was published, so need to go back and reread them back to back.
I'm glad you enjoyed Huckleberry Finn. I had the same frustrations you did over the "humorous" episodes outstaying their welcome; I preferred the first 1/3 of the book where it was mainly just Huck and Jim. Apparently Twain wrote the first part then took a long break before continuing, hence the change in emphasis and tone of the later parts of the book.
>75 Sakerfalcon: Thanks, yes, that was how I felt also. I preferred the parts when it was mostly just Huck and Jim.
Review: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood. It doesn’t follow up straight from where Oryx and Crake left off. Instead, it covers a similar time period from the perspective of different characters. By the end, we’re just slightly past the point where the first book ended.
Some of the main characters from the first book make an appearance and we get some additional but very small insights into their personalities. I was hoping for a little more in that regard, particularly regarding
I enjoyed this about equally with the first book. It easily kept me turning the pages, and I’m looking forward to seeing where things go in the third book. Based on its title, MaddAddam, I’m hoping to finally learn more about that group.
MaddAddam, the final book in the above trilogy.
>77 YouKneeK: I'm glad you enjoyed it. (If you hadn't I might have moved the first one closer to the bottom of my virtual TBR pile.)
>78 clamairy: Thanks. There’s always the remote chance I might hate the 3rd book. :)
>79 YouKneeK: I am crossing my fingers, holding my breath and hopping around, hoping against hope! ;-)
>80 BookstoogeLT: Haha, why, is this series on your TBR list also? I’m sorry to inform you that book three is going well, as of around the 70-page mark. This one has more humor than the previous two did.
>81 YouKneeK: Not even close. I saw enough reviews of this series, and of Atwood in general, to know better than force myself to read her. I'd probably blow a blood vessel or something :-D
Alas and alack. Hope dies a lonely death!
>82 BookstoogeLT: Ah, it’s a good thing this isn’t a 16-book, Hobb-length series then. ;)
>83 YouKneeK: Yeah, as a follower, that would be tough. I'm not sure that even MY iron will could bull through that :-)
On the plus side, it is always nice to read reviews where you enjoyed the book.
Review: MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
MaddAddam is the final book in the trilogy that started with Oryx and Crake. I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as the previous two books. For some reason the story didn’t hold my interest as well.
I enjoyed that this one had quite a bit more humor than the previous two. I especially chuckled when
I liked most things about how the story was wrapped up, and I also enjoyed some of the revelations throughout, but I would have preferred it without the last short chapter.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. I really enjoyed Touch last summer, so I’ve been looking forward to trying another book by this author.
>85 YouKneeK: I agree that the last book wasn't quite as interesting as the first two, although they still tied together well. My biggest disappointment was
>88 SylviaC: That really frustrated me also. I felt like it diminished her character and it definitely made her less pleasant to read about.
Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
This is a standalone book told by Harry August, a man who lives from 1918 until about 1996. Over and over again. After each death, he finds himself starting his same life over again but he retains all his memories from his previous lives. He learns that there are others like him, and the book opens up with him dying his eleventh death when a child comes to him on his deathbed to pass on a message that the world is ending sooner in each cycle. This message has been passed backward from the future, with newly reborn children passing the message to elderly people who will then be reborn several decades earlier and can then pass the message backward themselves.
The main plot is about exploring this message that something is happening to cause the world to end sooner, but we also spend a lot of time just generally learning about Harry’s lives, especially in the beginning. The main story is told in a fairly linear manner, insomuch as the word linear has any meaning in this situation, but the author does jump around a lot to fill in bits of information from different times in different lives. I didn’t find it to be confusing, and I think it helped keep the story interesting.
I really enjoyed this. I occasionally felt a little restless in the earlier half, but was quite caught up in the story by the second half when the main plot was at the forefront. The ending was telegraphed pretty well in advance, from the very beginning really, but I was still interested to see how we would get there.
Early in the book we’re told that people like Harry August tend to become suicidal in their second lives when they unexpectedly find themselves repeating their life, because they can’t come to terms with what’s happening to them. I thought that was interesting, because I’m pretty sure I would have the opposite reaction. While I would be incredulous and confused to find myself living my life over again, I would also be eager to seize the opportunity to do some things differently and also to learn and do things I didn’t have time for in my first life. For me, I think it would get more difficult after many lives when I had explored all the possibilities of interest to me. I imagine the repetitiveness of it all would eventually get tiresome and I would feel trapped in a cycle I couldn’t break out of, with suicide being of no use whatsoever.
This is the second book I’ve read by the author, the first being Touch last summer. If forced to pick I think I would say I enjoyed Touch slightly more, but they’re both very good. They share a somewhat similar story-telling style, so Touch had the advantage of feeling fresher since it was my first exposure to it. Both books introduce concepts that made me think and speculate, but Touch had more moral ambiguity to it that also kept me debating with myself as to how I felt about certain things. This book does have some moral ambiguity, but I never really felt any doubt as to which side I fell on.
I’m giving this book 4.5 stars and rounding down to 4 on Goodreads, mostly because of some of the restlessness I felt in the first half.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. This will be my second Stephenson book, my first having been Zodiac back in mid-2017. I was somewhat lukewarm on that and gave it 3 stars, but I’ve been wanting to give his work another try. If I like Snow Crash ok, I’ll likely follow it up with The Diamond Age which I understand is loosely related. I bought both e-books on sale not too long ago.
>90 YouKneeK: I enjoyed Snow Crash but apparently not enough to ever try his Diamond Age cycle.
>90 YouKneeK: Zodiac is very far from his later style, I remember it as "ordinary" and not at all what I had come to expect from him: my first was Snow Crash, which I just loved back in the 90's but have not dared reread in in the past 15 years or so for fear of it being too dated. Diamond Age had some, at the time, interesting concepts, but at that time Stephenson hadn't mastered the art of actually ending a tale: he just told his story, and then he had to invent an ending.
His next after that, Cryptonomicon, is way better, imho, and I really enjoyed The Baroque Cycle. However, I feel that his best to date is Anathem, though I enjoyed Reamde as well.
>91 BookstoogeLT:, >92 Busifer: I seem to see more positive than negative comments about Snow Crash, so I’m somewhat hopeful.
>92 Busifer: That’s helpful to know what some of his better works may be. I'll likely be annoyed by the ending of Diamond Age then, but I tend to be picky about endings anyway so I'm fairly used to it. The first work of his I actually bought was Seveneves on sale, but I still haven’t gotten around to trying it. It’s a bit on the long side which wouldn’t normally intimidate me, but I haven’t been very confident I’ll enjoy it. I kept putting it on my schedule and then changing my mind and slotting in something else instead. Have you read that one?
Snow Crash is the one I’ve always been most interested in trying based on some comments I’ve read, but it never went on sale until recently and there’s always a fairly long wait list on the e-book at the library. I put myself on that wait list once, but by the time it was finally almost my turn I no longer had time to fit it in and took myself back off the list. I’m not very good at library wait lists as I just want to read books on my own schedule, and I don't like to make other people wait so I feel like I have to read it as soon as I get it and do so in a timely manner.
Well, I've just picked up The Sudden Appearance of Hope - we've been wondering about it, and today's the last day of the sale price (99p). At that price, I'll take a punt at it.
>91 BookstoogeLT:, >92 Busifer: Both I've read, but not for a while - probably not since they were first published. I've got Snow Crash as an ebook now, but so far The Diamond Age hasn't been on sale (at least that I've seen). That's the problem with near future writing - technologies have massively overtaken them and one now has to read them as alternate universe SF (sort of a bit like the retro-tech feel of David Lynch's Dune). Zodiac came across to me as more of a thriller than cyberpunk.
>93 YouKneeK: I've read Seveneves and was disappointed with it. There's a lot of dry, repetitive info-dumping which reads like chapters from a textbook, interspersed with narrative following various characters, many of whom never become more than stock figures. The premise is fascinating, but I didn't feel that Stephenson's treatment of it was realistic, particularly in the reaction of humanity to the knowledge that they are all doomed. And the third section, where we see what happened 5000 years later, annoyed me in many ways (apart from just feeling like it should be a separate novel).
Hope this is helpful! Of course, others will have different opinions, which is how it should be!
>93 YouKneeK: I would share >95 Sakerfalcon:’s views on Seveneves. It is the book that has made me take Stephenson off my, “buy his/her books as soon as they come iut” list.
Snow Crash is great fun. I have not read The Diamond Age yet. Anathem is very enjotable. REAMDE is a very long book but it is a very fast read. I read it in a week and a book that long would normally take me a month. It is one of those books that I could not leave down. It is the only one of his works that I consider to have a good ending. The others are all goid for the content and ideas. For that reason I forgive their weak and unsatisfying endings.
>90 YouKneeK: Glad to see you enjoy this one. I've managed to acquire another 3 of her works since I read it but haven't gotten around to reading them yet. Still haven't picked up any of her books released under different names though to see how they compare.
Snowcrash is also the only Neal Stephenson that I've read so far but do have others sitting on the tbr shelves though the sheer size of them tends to put me off actually picking them up.
>93 YouKneeK:, >94 Maddz:, >95 Sakerfalcon:, >96 pgmcc:, >97 AHS-Wolfy: Count me in among those who loved Snow Crash, which I read after a recommendation from my local bookseller. I certainly found it hard to put down, and devoured rapidly.
On that basis, which would you recommend my trying next - The Baroque Cycle or the Cryptonomicon?
>94 Maddz: I’ll be interested to find out what you think about The Sudden Appearance of Hope. I bought that one on sale at around the same time as Harry August, but I haven’t read it yet. I’ll probably get to it in 2020.
>95 Sakerfalcon:, >96 pgmcc: That’s very helpful info, thank you both! It sounds like Seveneves is likely to drive me a bit nuts. I’ll try it eventually since I own it, but it won’t be a priority.
>97 AHS-Wolfy: I haven’t read any of her other names either, but would like to try some eventually. I'll look forward to reading what you think of any of the others you get to, whether under this name or another.
>98 -pilgrim-: I’m glad to see so many positive comments about Snow Crash. I still haven’t managed to start it yet, but I’m hoping to very shortly, as soon as I get away from the computer!
>102 YouKneeK: Snow Crash starts with making fun of what can be referred to as Management Science. That is a discipline I have worked in for most of my career and I found it hilarious when Stephenson made a mockery of it. That was an added pleasure for me that not everyone else will appreciate.
I hope you enjoy it. The tech is dated at this stage but it is the attitude and humour that make it such an entertaining book.
>103 pgmcc: I think you folks have heard my views on Stephenson before, but for me, Cryptonomicon is the best and a very, very good book. I also enjoyed Snow Crash, its a lot shorter and a great cyber-punk read. They are very different. I also enjoyed Anathem, started but stopped on Seveneves and just couldn't finish Quicksilver. Start with Cryptonomicon, I've suggested it to a couple of other people and they thought it was great.
>93 YouKneeK: >95 Sakerfalcon: Seveneves is in some ways the most outrageous of Neil Stephenson books - In additions to the problems stated in >95 Sakerfalcon: I have my own.
Anyone who has raised children, or even one, knows that it is not something that just works part time while you are doing your real work and yet that part of the story is just stated as fact. Aside from the unlikeliness of bare survival after blowing up the moon.
I still find Diamond Age a real romp, even if it doesn’t really tie together. I just didn’t find Cryptonomicon much fun, although it has the best short story NS has ever written embedded in it. He gets turned on by black stockings, she gets turned on on heirloom furniture. It has nothing at all to do with the plot, just as kind of a joke, but I’ll forget everything else about the book before I forget details of that story. The Baroque Cycle is fun for history buffs, but gets pretty silly.
I'll read anything NS writes, or at least until a string of duds deters me, but I can't take him seriously.
>106 quondame: Agreed about The Diamond Age. It remains a favorite of mine. A mild spoiler:
I have not yet read Seveneves so have refrained from clicking into your spoiler, (the book sits on my TBR shelf for now).
Anathem also worked for me. It's the most recently published Stephenson that I have read. I found it to be one of his more mature efforts in regard to telling a complete tale that didn't fall completely flat during the denouement.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sillier aspects of The Baroque Cycle. Combined with Cryptonomicon, it is quite a reading journey to embark upon and should not be entered into lightly, IMHO.
Snow Crash was my first Stephenson and I loved the first 2/3 or so but the story went off the rails for me towards the end. It's been a few years so maybe I should re-read now that I am more accustomed to his style... ?
>103 pgmcc: I think the Management Science aspect went over my head, but I am liking it so far. I’m only on page 60 or so. I spent most of chapter 1 suffering from simile overdose and wondering if we needed quite so many details about the pizza delivery process, but the story caught my attention by the end of the first chapter and I'm curious to see where it's going.
>109 YouKneeK: You are past the point I was referring to but others may not have so I shall put comments behind a spoiler mask. You will have no spoiler from reading these comments.
What also added to my amusement was that while I was reading Snow Crash McDonald's announced they were setting up their own academy to study the burger making process to design more efficient ways of producing their products and for training their staff in the resulting procedures. I nearly fell off my chair with laughing when I read that in a newspaper.
>110 pgmcc: LOL, thanks for highlighting that, I can see where that would add to the amusement of the first chapter.
>111 Karlstar: Thanks! As a programmer I definitely interact with project managers, but they’re more on the implementation side, managing the implementation of a project that somebody else has already decided would be cost-effective. The project managers I interact with are nuts, but in kind of an opposite sort of way.
On an unrelated topic, for anybody who didn’t see it already, it looks like Amazon's Wheel of Time TV series is scheduled to start production this coming September. I saw it in the latest Tor newsletter. Here’s the link, although it doesn’t have much more detail than that other than rehashing some info seen previously.
>111 Karlstar: The burger making would be an assembly process but the assembly line concept has been replaced by other ideas like cell manufacture, but it comes from the same area of operations management and trying to do things as quickly and cheaply as possible. The complication these days is that everyone wants something slightly different so the production process has to make batches of one to meet the individual customer’s order. This is very clear in a fast food outlet but would not be as obvious in a car manufacturing plant.
I'm also a fan of diamond age, liked Snow crash abandoned ever reading any more Stephenson after the bilge of quicksilver which I found tedious beyond belief, lacking in plot characters or anything, and only persevered with because the other two had been such fun, and surely, surely, something interesting was about to happen. It didn't. I'm now midway through seveneves which I'm moderately enjoying, enough that I may try some of his non-baroque work again.
>93 YouKneeK: >115 reading_fox: First, Seveneves. I'm technically reading it now, but have yet to get it going for real, so can't really say anything yet. As to Quicksilver I think a lot of it gets lost if one haven't read Cryptonomicon. That's quite the commitment, though, and Quicksilver is nothing without the rest of the trilogy. Which is an even bigger commitment, seeing as each book is about a thousand pages.
A bit late to the game, as I've had some pain issues, and then had to catch up at work.... which has meant limited time and energy for online socialising OR reading. I'm meaning to remedy that now.
>116 Busifer: I hope this week has given you some pain relief. Constant pain is very draining.
>115 reading_fox: I could not get through Quicksilver. I tried 3 times, read a little more each time, I just couldn't make myself care about anything that was going on. Maybe you folks are encouraging me to give Seveneves another try, I didn't quit that one, just didn't want to read it when I got through the first 10 pages.
>112 YouKneeK: Woohooo!!!!
As a former programmer, team lead and now IT Architect, I understand the project management stuff. Good PM's handle the non-technical stuff while understanding the technical stuff.
>115 reading_fox: >119 Karlstar: How far did you get with Quicksilver before giving up? I found the story didn't really get going until partway through book 2, King of the Vagabonds. OTOH, if you had the stand-alone printing of book 1, (also confusingly titled Quicksilver),you would have never gotten to King of the Vagabonds or to Odalisque, where things begin to take off.
Have you read Cryptonomicon? It's best to read The Baroque Cycle after since it was written later and events in The Baroque Cycle will spoil much of what happens in Cryptonomicon.
>121 Karlstar: I see. Yeah, that sounds like the 3-volume version of Quicksilver. If you didn't read past the first third or so, (book 1: Quicksilver), I can see abandoning it. I did too on my first attempt. A few years later, I gathered up the shattered pieces of my resolve and tried again. Glad I did - once I got past Daniel Waterhouse's return journey to England and met Jack Shaftoe in King of the Vagabonds, I became more invested in the story. By the end of that hardcover, I couldn't wait to pick up The Confusion.
>122 ScoLgo: That's actually encouraging, thanks. Its good to know that if I do pick it up again, there aren't 3 books of that size! However, I have tried more than once, I guess someday, it will be the day. I don't think it is bad enough to deserve a 1 rating - could not finish.
>123 Karlstar: Well... there actually are three hardcovers of that size. It's much like Lord of the Rings in that way. The Baroque Cycle is comprised of 8 books; three in Quicksilver, two in The Confusion, and three more in The System of the World. Total page count is somewhere north of 2,700, I believe.
Sorry. This probably ends up being more discouraging than not... ;)
Review: Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Snow Crash is a Cyberpunk story published in the 90’s. It’s set in the not-too-distant future of our world where the mafia are in charge of pizza delivery, the Metaverse offers a virtual reality where people gather to socialize, and a new virus called Snow Crash is being distributed like a drug.
There are two main POV characters: Hiro Protagonist (yes, really) and Y. T. (which stands for “Yours Truly”). Hiro is a hacker both in terms of computer hacking and, when necessary, hacking people with swords, but delivering pizza is his main job when the book starts. Y. T. is a teenager with a job as a “Kourier”, delivering packages via skateboard.
The author uses similes, metaphors, and analogies like a clown uses face paint. In other words, he uses them often and sometimes strangely. Although they were often funny, I also found them distracting in their frequency. The story did hold my interest, and it had a lot of cool ideas, but I never felt very invested in it. Likewise, I liked the main characters but never felt terribly invested in them either. The ending wrapped up the main story, but it left some stuff hanging or at least ambiguous in terms of some of the secondary characters. For example,
So I did like this, and I don’t have any major complaints about it, but I also don’t feel very enthusiastic about it. I had considered following this up right away with The Diamond Age, and I do still intend to read that, but I think I’m going to move on to another author for now and cycle back to him in a year or so.
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson. This was a spur-of-the-moment addition to my reading schedule. The SF&F group I’m in over on GR is reading it this month, and the e-book is available at my library, and the timing was good, so I decided, “Why not?” I’ve avoided reading any synopses, so I know nothing about it.
>125 YouKneeK: I read once that Snow Crash started as a graphic novel manuscript, but the artist abandoned the project (if I remember correctly), and Stephenson decided to go ahead with the project alone. I also remember thinking that it made sense. And I think I would had as lukewarm reaction as you had if I had read it now.
One more reason to leave it be in the Fond Memories Cabinet, perhaps ;-)
>126 Busifer: I could see how it would make a great graphic novel; there were a lot of very visual scenes.
>129 clamairy: (not YouKneeK but...) I have read - and liked - both books. There are definite similarities regarding the central conceit - but there are enough significant differences that you won't feel as though you are reading a re-hash.
Personally, Life After Life appealed more to me than The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. I thought Atkinson did a better job of world-building and did more to explore, and grow, her main character. Both books are good and worthy of being read. I just happened to like Atkinson's a smidgen more. YMMV.
Disclaimer: I did read Life After Life first so that may be having some impact on my opinion.
>125 YouKneeK: Glad this wasn't a bust for you. If you do read more by him, I'll be interested to see what you think so I can think about adding some more. I think my library has his diamond age but they are pretty big books so I don't want to start them without having some idea that I might like them :-)
>120 ScoLgo: / 122 - it was so long ago that I'm not entirely sure. The ISBN I added is for the full work and I finished that 'in the mistaken hope that something worthwhile would happen. " It's since been purged from my library and I'm not re-reading it. Jack Shaftoe sounds vaguely familiar as one of the characters I disliked.
>125 YouKneeK: IMHO diamond age is the best work he's written and I'm probably returning to my attitude of not reading anything else of his, even though several more sound interesting. KSR is a better author.
>137 BookstoogeLT: I’ve read two books by each author. Based on that “vast” array of experience, I don’t really see the authors as similar aside from that they both write hard SF. So I just read it as a comparison of which hard SF author one prefers.
I gave books by both Neal Stephenson and Kim Stanley Robinson similar ratings, but in the case of Neal Stephenson it was more from apathy whereas in the case of Kim Stanley Robinson it was more from mixed feelings – some things I liked and some I didn’t.
I don't think they're very similar, either. It's just that KSR writes better hard sf than NS does.
Review: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
Brown Girl in the Ring is a standalone fantasy/horror book. This was my first time reading anything by Nalo Hopkinson. Even though I have a couple complaints, I enjoyed the story more and more as it progressed.
There are a few POV characters, but mostly the story focuses on a young, single mother named Ti-Jeanne. She has been having strange, terrifying visions. Meanwhile her ex(ish) deadbeat boyfriend Tony, the father of her young baby, has gotten mixed up with a dangerous posse led by a man who practices dark magic.
Although I didn’t find the book scary, I’d say it definitely leans toward the horror side of fantasy. There are spirits, dark magic, possession by spirits, and a fairly high amount of violence. And the inevitable tarot cards make one appearance. These are actually the horror tropes I tend to enjoy more, as opposed to the “monster books” (like vampires or zombies or whatever) which often become tedious to me. The author was born in Jamaica and I believe the story is based on Caribbean mythology which I was completely unfamiliar with, so I also enjoyed that aspect. Most of the dialogue is written in a Caribbean dialect. A few sentences required re-reading before I could parse them, but for the most part it wasn’t difficult to follow. Mostly it was just different grammar.
So for the most part I enjoyed it. I liked the writing style, and it had a different and unique vibe versus other books I typically read lately. However, I did think the story was a little predictable. I seemed to know where things were going well in advance, except for some of the events toward the end. I also got frustrated with Ti-Jeanne’s obsession with Tony. I felt like it was belabored more than necessary to get the point across to the reader and it grew tiresome to read about. There were also a few events that didn’t quite cross the line into being too convenient in my eyes, but they definitely toed that line.
I had a really hard time deciding on a rating. I’m comfortable with giving it 3.5 stars, but I had trouble deciding whether to round up or down on Goodreads. I eventually decided to round down. 3 stars doesn’t properly represent my enjoyment level and it makes me feel a little stingy, but I can’t justify 4 stars given some of my complaints. I still thought it was a solid read and I’d be interested in trying other books by the author at some point in the future.
It’s time for some more epic fantasy. :) I’m going to read The Thousand Names by Django Wexler, the first book in his Shadow Campaigns series.
>142 YouKneeK: Have you read much Flintlock fantasy? I can't remember if you've read McClellan's Powdermage series or not.
>143 BookstoogeLT: Nope. I’m not 100% sure there isn’t something I’m just forgetting right now, but this may be my first experience with it. I haven’t read the Powder Mage series. It's on my list, but it’s in the “the author is still writing in this universe so come back and look at it some other time” category. :)
>144 YouKneeK: I'm not a fan of the Powder Mage series. Ever time a male and female characters interact it is cat vs dog and no sign of intelligent life. Some of the world building is interesting, but limitless body count issues.
>144 YouKneeK: If you like most of Sanderson's writings, you'll probably like McClellan, as he's a student of his. Just grittier, almost literally, as he writes about black powder and magic.
But bringing it back to Wexler. I just asked about McClellan because both Mc and Wexler write that flintlock and sorcery kind of story. It definitely isn't for everyone but honestly I'd like to see more authors expand into the flintlock fantasy sub-genre.
>145 quondame: That kind of male/female interaction would probably annoy me if it’s the rule rather than the exception. On the other hand, I still enjoyed The Wheel of Time quite a lot despite my complaints about Jordan’s various writing quirks, so it would depend on how I felt about the rest of the story. I think I tend to be easier to please with epic fantasy than with most other books. Maybe when I've read a lot more of it I'll start to get pickier.
>146 BookstoogeLT: I really haven’t read a lot of Sanderson because so many of his series are ongoing, but I’ve very much liked what I have read. I haven’t had as much time to read The Thousand Names as I would like, so I’m only at about page 50. It's too soon to form any judgments, but I'm enjoying it quite well so far. Right now I'm particularly curious to learn more about Janus.
>147 YouKneeK: There was a certain gormless humor to WoT sexual interactions, which just got a bit tedious but no worse. I don't recall any humor in McClennan's mf relations, not much in the entire books, but they weren't at all good enough to put any effort into remembering them.
Review: The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
The Thousand Names is the first book in a fantasy series by Django Wexler, The Shadow Campaigns. It’s set in a fictional world with both gunpowder and magic. Flintlock fantasy is the term for it, but I was only vaguely familiar with that term before reading this. I can’t (yet) speak for the rest of the series, but this book focuses heavily on military action while the magic only makes an occasional appearance. Most of the characters don’t really believe in magic.
When the book begins, the foreign Vordanai army that has been occupying Ashe-Katarion, along with the rightful local prince, have been forced to retreat to an isolated fort after being run out of the city by a rebel faction. Fresh troops arrive by ship, but everybody who was already there expects to be taken home as soon as the new arrivals realize how hopelessly outnumbered they are. Instead, the newly arrived Colonel Janus seems to be mad enough to think they can actually retake the city.
The story is mostly told from the POV of two members of the Vordanai army: Marcus, the senior captain, and Winter, a woman who escaped a bad situation by pretending to be a man and joining the army. The characters are pretty well-developed and likeable. Marcus is a bit typical maybe, the “noble, loyal fighter guy who always tries to do the right thing”, but I have a soft spot for that character type. Winter took a chapter or two to grow on me, but her side of the story quickly engrossed me. Colonel Janus was also a fun character with a bit of ambiguity; I enjoyed it whenever he showed up in a scene.
I haven't read a lot of military-based fiction. When I do run across it, I can go either way with it. Sometimes I really like it, and sometimes I find it repetitive and tedious. This was a case where I really liked it. The action was written well. I easily visualized what was happening and usually felt the tension of the moment along with the characters. The story focused on the characters even during the action, so that helped keep things interesting. There isn't a ton of humor in this book, but there is some and I enjoyed what was there.
I would have liked the political backdrop and the magic system to have both been fleshed out a little better, but we do get enough pieces by the end to put together a pretty solid picture and I expect there will be more development in those areas as the series progresses.
This first book told a complete story without any cliff hangers, although there is clearly more story to be told about what will happen next. I enjoyed this and plan to continue straight on to the next book.
The next “book” is actually a prequel short story set in the same universe, The Penitent Damned. I’ve already finished it, so my review for it will be up shortly and then I’ll move on to book 2 in the series.
Review: The Penitent Damned by Django Wexler
The Penitent Damned is a short prequel to The Thousand Names in Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns series. It’s available for free here.
Duke Orlanko learns that a famous thief is planning to steal something valuable from him, so he assigns somebody to try to prevent the theft. The story is primarily about what happens when the thief makes the attempt.
This short story wasn’t nearly as entertaining to me as the first novel, so I wouldn’t recommend starting with this if only for that reason. It was mildly entertaining, but nothing special. Story-wise it could probably be appreciated on its own, but it makes reference to a couple names and terms that are more meaningful within the context of the first novel. Also there’s a reference at the end that nobody would get if they hadn’t read the first novel.
A couple spoiler comments:
The Shadow Throne, book two in this series.
>152 suitable1: That’s great to hear. I’m happy to have found a new series that I think I’ll like. :)
>154 Narilka: I look forward to hearing what you think of it if/when you read it! I’m enjoying the second book quite a bit also. My reading pace has slowed down a bit the last few days due to other distractions so I may be slow about finishing it, but I’m enjoying it.
Review: The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
The Shadow Throne is the second book in Django Wexler’s flintlock fantasy series, The Shadow Campaigns. While the first book focused very heavily on military campaigns, this book placed a greater emphasis on politics. There is still some fighting and plenty of action, but not as much as the first book.
For anybody who has read the first book and is curious what the second one is about:
I enjoyed this a lot, nearly as much as the first book. I thought there were a couple slow spots here and there, but mostly it held my attention well. There was one plot thread that I thought was a little too contrived, but otherwise I enjoyed the story and learning more about the political situation. This book told a complete story, but there’s definitely a lot more to learn about the overarching events and there are questions remaining about certain characters’ goals and motivations. I look forward to finding out what happens next.
A few spoilerish comments:
Janus continues to be a great, interesting, and ambiguous character. I look forward to finding out, eventually I hope, exactly what his motives are. There seems to be some foreshadowing that he may prove to have not-so-great motives and/or that he might go darkside by the end. I really like him, so I’ll be a little disappointed if that happens.
I was also interested to see Jaffa show back up at the end. I had been wondering what he was up to after the way the first book ended. Now that he’s in Vordan, maybe we’ll learn some more about his faction in the next book. I’m still pretty unclear what their motives are.
The Shadow of Elysium, a novella in this series set between the 2nd and 3rd books.
>156 YouKneeK: Sounds like this is staying relatively strong for you. Glad to see that :-)
That being said, from your review I think I made the right decision not to continue after book 1.
>158 Karlstar: Django is not a name you hear every day! I see he went to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg, where he did his post-grad work in artificial intelligence. Smart guy! I'd be tempted to give him a try, but I'm staying away from series until I finish a few more of the ones I've started.
Review: The Shadow of Elysium by Django Wexler
The Shadow of Elysium is a novella set in Django Wexler’s flintlock fantasy series, The Shadow Campaigns. According to the Author’s Note, it takes place at around the same time that book 2 begins. Publication-wise, it was published just before book 3.
The story is told from the first-person perspective of Abraham, a newly-introduced character. It opens up with Abraham a prisoner being taken toward Elysium because he has a demon inside him. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, with the past chapters filling in a brief explanation of his life growing up and how he came to be in his current situation. There is also a connection to an earlier short story, The Penitent Damned.
I liked this quite a lot. I was interested in Abraham’s story in both timelines, and it filled in some interesting info about Elysium, the faction that had captured him, and what that faction believes about the demons. It didn’t present a ton of info and it wasn’t all new, but the way it was presented left me feeling like I had a slightly clearer view of things than I’d had before.
I enjoyed this pretty close to a 5-star level until the end when the author left me hanging. I’m going to rate this at 4.5 stars based on my enjoyment of it, with the hope that we’ll get some sort of a follow-up to this story later in the series, but I’m going to round down to 4 on Goodreads due to my annoyance at the end. I think I’d have been less annoyed if I’d expected the cliffhanger, but the author wrapped the first two full-length novels up reasonably well and this novella appeared to be telling a tangentially-related side story so I expected it to be a complete story of its own. Plus I forgot there was supposed to be a preview of the next book at the end, so I thought I still had quite a bit more story to go when I suddenly found myself at the end. If I’d realized the end was so close, I would have realized there probably wasn’t enough time to wrap the story up satisfactorily and I would have started bracing myself.
The Price of Valour, the third full-length book in this series, where I hope very, very much to find some hint of what happened to the characters in the novella I just read…
>160 clamairy: Maybe someday. :) I’d love to see more people talk about this series; I really haven’t seen much discussion of it, unless I just didn’t notice it because it wasn’t on my radar at the time. A friend over on GR who has similar tastes read and enjoyed it last year, so that helped bump it up on my list or there’s no telling when I would have gotten to it.
>162 YouKneeK: I've started looking into the conversations link on books I'm about to read - I find there is some tendency to review either books the reader really likes or really hates, but "conversations" can present a bit more balance, at least occasionally.
>163 quondame: That’s a good idea. I was actually doing that for a while a year or so ago, but I did it with more of a focus on conversations just from this group. I wanted to see reviews/comments from people I knew here. But then I finally figured out the purpose of the “Interesting Libraries” feature and started using that to find reviews from people here, and I got lazy about looking at the Conversations link. Maybe when I get to the end of this series I’ll give that another try and see if anybody out there in other groups has been talking about it recently. I haven't ventured out too much from this group yet.
>165 quondame: I’ve seen that group mentioned a lot. I peeked at it once and it seemed much more active than what I had time for. Right now my time spent reading/chatting about books versus my time spent actually reading books is at a pretty good balance. I've had times when I felt like I was spending so much time online that I didn't have time to read, and that is something I want to avoid.
I may check it out more seriously someday when I feel like killing some time, or during one of the phases when this group seems extra quiet. It isn’t usually too difficult to keep up with a group once I’ve started watching it and familiarizing myself with the threads, but that initial effort takes some time, as does having more threads I might want to comment in.
>167 majkia: That’s for sure! I still have such a long list of series I want to get to eventually.
Review: The Price of Valor by Django Wexler
The Price of Valor is the third book in Django Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series. I continue to enjoy this flintlock fantasy series a lot.
There were a few slow spots here and there, and one plot thread that really got on my nerves, but otherwise the story held my attention well and it especially picked up in the second half. There’s a good mix of politics and military action, and the author writes the military action particularly well. It’s usually exciting to read about and it has never yet felt tedious to me as it has in some other books I’ve read.
There isn’t really much more I can say without spoilers, but I do have a few spoilerish comments to put behind tags:
The author seems to be telegraphing pretty clearly that Sothe was involved in the death of Marcus’ family back when she was still working for Orlanko. I wonder when that will be revealed to Marcus and how he’ll take it. It takes away from some of the suspense whenever Sothe’s in danger, because I expect her to survive at least until after she’s revealed her secret. She’s a great character though.
And of course I continue to want more details about Janus’ real motives, and I continue to enjoy his character whenever he shows up in a scene. His page time seemed a little skimpy in this book, especially in the first half, so I hope to see more of him in the next book.
The Guns of Empire, the fourth book in this series. There are five books total.
I’ve actually been a tad bit slower, but not by a very noticeable amount. I’ve had less time to read on weekdays lately, but I’ve made up for most of it on the weekends.
>171 YouKneeK: I'm assuming work? I seem to remember you mentioning something further near the beginning of this thread about work potentially getting busy. That's the problem with long threads, things get so easily lost!
Glad you're able to make up for it on the weekends anyway. My work has dramatically slowed down, but coupled with the bad reading stuff, last week was so much youtube that now I feel like some stupid caveman. I'm hoping it won't affect my reading pace for March...
>172 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, mostly work.
LOL about feeling like a stupid caveman. :) I hope your March is much better than your February was! I typically avoid YouTube, although I recall a few days when I fell down the funny cat videos rabbit hole. It started with legitimate research when I was preparing to get my current cat, then it just got out of control. :)
>173 YouKneeK: I've now got about 5 magic the gathering youtube channels I'm subscribed to. I have this feeling they'll be ignored by me for the rest of the year :-D
>174 BookstoogeLT: Maybe you can catch back up if you have a similarly a bad reading month in 2020. ;)
Review: The Guns of Empire by Django Wexler
The Guns of Empire is the fourth book in Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns flintlock fantasy series. Only one more book to go.
I liked this a lot. The over-all plot advances quite a bit, we’re starting to get some more answers to various questions, and some things were revealed that I had been waiting for. Also, the one plot thread that has been annoying me in this series was mostly absent.
I’m giving this 4.5 stars and rounding down to 4 on Goodreads. As much as I’m enjoying this, it has never quite reached that “can’t put it down” level, at least not consistently, that I would associate with a 5-star read. It’s still very good, though.
I have many more comments, but they’ll have to go behind the spoiler tags.
I was happy to see the reveal I had been expecting since the last book, that Sothe was responsible for the fire that killed Marcus’ family. However, I was a little exasperated that we still don’t know why his family was killed, unless I’ve missed something along the way. And I can’t believe Marcus didn’t ask. He asked Sothe why she did it, but not why Orlanko ordered it.
Now it looks pretty clear that Winter is Marcus’ long-lost sister. I began to suspect early in this book when we learned Winter used to have dreams of fire when she was younger, although it seemed a bit too coincidental. There were increasingly blatant hints as the book progressed that I took as confirmation of my suspicion. It will be amusing to see how Marcus reacts when he learns that this “boy” who is a colonel in the army, who he’s steadfastly refused to imagine might actually be a girl even when he saw her dressed like a girl, is actually his baby sister.
I was sad that Bobby died, or turned into a statue, or whatever. She was a great character. I remember early in book 1 thinking, “this character is going to die” because he (this was before her gender reveal) just seemed like the type – the young, eager, loyal soldier who gets killed to create an emotional reaction in the audience. Then when she was badly wounded in book 1 I thought “Yep, I was right,” only to be proven wrong when Feor saved her. After that I stopped worrying about Bobby’s fate so much, aside from occasional twinges of concern as to where her ongoing transformation might lead, so I was surprised when she did die.
I was happy to finally find out what had happened to the characters from the novella, The Shadow of Elysium. I would have liked to have learned more about how Alex and Abraham evaded the hunter, but at least in this book we learned they succeeded.
I was very happy in this book to get some hints as to Janus’ real motivations. They’re pretty fuzzy hints that give more questions than answers, but it was nice to get something. I’m anxious to continue on to the next book after the way this one ended, with the Beast apparently about to take control of Janus.
The Infernal Battalion, the final book in this series.
>177 YouKneeK: When I clicked over to upvote your review I was surprised to see there were only 3 other reviews. I was under the impression this series had a much bigger following than that. Now I'm second guessing myself and wondering where I got that impression in the first place.
>178 BookstoogeLT: I noticed the same thing and was also a little surprised. I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer reviews with each subsequent book, but I’d had the impression when I started the series that more people had read it. It had been on my radar for a while, but I made it a higher priority when a friend on GR who has consistently similar tastes as me read and enjoyed it last year.
>179 YouKneeK: I just checked on Devilreads and the same phenomena happens there too. Each book drops off in ratings numbers. I guess the mainstream couldn't keep up the momentum...
>180 BookstoogeLT: I’m used to seeing ratings drop off book by book in every series I’ve looked at, but it does seem a little sharper with this series. On GR, the last book in Wheel of Time was only rated by 28.8% as many people as had rated the first book. But the last book in this Django Wexler series was only rated by 15.6% as many as the first book and it’s a much shorter series. It might be more of an apples-to-apples comparison to compare WOT book 1 vs book 5, which is 36.7%.
>181 YouKneeK: - As you say it happens with all series. Including Harry Potter - so few people read as much as we do here, that life gets increasingly in the way for them and they just never get around to finishing a series. If you read 20 or so books a year (highest number I've seen on polls) it will take a long time to complete a 7 book series. How long has it been out for? How frequently have the books been written/published?
>182 reading_fox: The first book came out in 2013 and the fifth and final book was published in January 2018, so about a book per year. Maybe the storyline is such that people had trouble maintaining their interest between publications. I'm enjoying it as one long story, but I don't know if I would have sought a sequel out after waiting a year. On the other hand, I feel that way about series in general, that I lose interest when I have to wait, so I'm not a good person to speculate. :)
>183 YouKneeK: I never consciously decided to stop reading the Discworld series. But after a couple of years where enough intervened that "reading the next Pratchett" just didn't happen, I found, 15 books in, that I had lost track of the cast of subsidiary characters. Periodically I try again, but it always starts with a reread. (The same thing happened with the Falco novels by Lindsey Davis.)
Logically I would expect this tail-off to occur with any series. Very few people join a series part way through - if they happen on it mid-sequence and like it, they are likely to go back to the beginning for their next one, rather than continue where they are - but there are so many possible reasons for attrition, from not liking where the plot is going (which implies a negative judgment) to reader mortality (which does not!)
Perhaps a good test of whether the former type of reaaons or the latter predominate is whether the ratings also decrease. The neutral baseline would be to see the ratings rise, as people who don't like the author's style drop out.
>184 -pilgrim-: Although sometimes the ratings rise, mostly, because the author got better. Pratchett certainly improved after the first two Discworld books, though some of his subseries I never more than liked, while others I loved.
>184 -pilgrim-: I have similar problems in that if too much time passes between reading series books I feel the need to start over rather than just continuing where I left off so I can regain a fresh memory of all the characters and plot details. Although in my case, “too much time” could only be a couple weeks. ;) Of the series I’ve read in recent years Discworld is probably the one I read the slowest, sometimes reading 3-4 other books in-between Discworld books, but I still finished it in about 13 months.
>184 -pilgrim-:, >185 quondame: On GR the series page includes average ratings for each book and how many people rated them. I usually skim that page when I’m considering a new series. If the average rating drops as the books progress, that’s a red flag to me because I expect to see them increase for the reasons -pilgrim- stated. Ratings in a series are increasingly influenced by its fans as the people who don’t care for it, and thus would rate it lower, drop out. If the ratings decrease anyway, the series probably goes downhill.
In the case of the series I’m reading now, the average ratings for the main 5 books on a five-star scale are:
Book 1 - 4.04 stars (14,686 ratings)
Book 2 - 4.12 stars (8,497 ratings)
Book 3 – 4.25 stars (6,041 ratings)
Book 4 – 4.29 stars (4,092 ratings)
Book 5 – 4.31 stars (2,297 ratings)
>186 YouKneeK: That shows a sharp drop between books 1 & 2, followed by a fairly linear rate of decrease. I would tend to interpret that as suggesting that the readers who did not like the style left after Book 1, so that the subsequent attrition rate is attributable to something other than content, and the slight increase in ratings over the last 3 books imply genuine improvement in content.
Review: The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler
The Infernal Battalion is the fifth and final book in Wexler’s flintlock fantasy series, The Shadow Campaigns. I enjoyed the whole series, and I was very satisfied with how everything wrapped up in this last book.
The series primarily focuses on military and political matters in a fictional world, with a pretty heavy emphasis on military maneuvers and battles. That aspect of the story never grew tedious to me, not even after five books, because there was always something different going on and the story remained focused on the characters involved. I enjoyed all the main characters and most of the secondary ones. There are some strong females, including two of the main POV characters. There is some magic, and it plays an important role in the story, but it’s in the background much of the time. I thought the magic system was fleshed out well. It was believable within the context of the story, and it was kept in balance so that it was equal parts threatening and helpful without causing the non-magical actions taking place to seem ineffective or pointless.
Sometimes I felt like things were a little too coincidental, but it wasn’t the kind of convenient, unexpected coincidence that really annoys me. The groundwork for everything was laid in advance and followed a logical progression so that events and revelations were believable. I was able to predict several of the revelations in advance using clues the author had given, and I enjoyed that. I wasn’t always completely engrossed in the story, but there were many moments when I was and I still enjoyed it a lot even when I was less engrossed. I was especially wrapped up in the story during this last book and I’m rating it 4.5 stars, rounding up to 5 on Goodreads.
I have a few more comments for the spoiler tags…
I was glad Jane was less visible in these last two books. She was less annoying as a villain. :)
Marcus and Winter being siblings is one of the things I had in mind when I referred to coincidental things earlier in my review. I knew that revelation was coming based on hints the author gave in the previous book, and I enjoyed figuring that out and then seeing the characters discover and deal with it, but the coincidental aspect of it niggled at me a bit.
Deathless by Catherynne Valente. I really enjoyed her book In the Night Garden and its sequel when I read them in Fall 2017 and have wanted to cycle back around to her work. It sounds like I can expect this one to be very different, so I look forward to seeing what she does.
>188 YouKneeK: Well, after reading a few reviews for Deathless, it sounds like QUITE the change of pace in reading.
Glad you enjoyed your whole time with Wexler. I know IB just came out last year but I haven't heard a peep anywhere of more books by him. I didn't look at the pub dates for this series, were they roughly 2 years apart? I am just wondering if he's one of those 2 years a book kind of author.
>189 BookstoogeLT: I’ve read about 15% of Deathless so far and I can confirm it’s a big change of pace. I’m enjoying it so far. I do try to avoid reading stories that are too similar to each other in close proximity, not counting books within a series which I look at as one long story. Sometimes I fail due to my stubborn insistence on knowing as little as possible about a book before I read it, but I sure succeeded this time. :)
Most of the books in the Wexler series were published a year apart. He recently published the first book in a new series, just this past January. The Wells of Sorcery. I don’t know anything about it, but it came to my attention when I saw somebody mention it favorably in a group on GR. It will likely end up on my list to read once it’s proclaimed complete.
>188 YouKneeK: Ok, I think you sold me on the Wexler stuff, I'll add one to my wish list!
>192 YouKneeK: Like Alice in Wonderland stranger, or tripped out on acid while shooting up coke and downing shots of vodka weird?
>195 BookstoogeLT: Wouldn't Alice in Wonderland stranger be "curiouser and curiouser?"
>196 MrsLee: You are correct. But I wanted to tie my comment into some sort of literary thing before going off the rails with drugs and booze :-D
>195 BookstoogeLT: Funny you should mention vodka, because there are 33 mentions of vodka in this 352-page book.
I’d say the book falls somewhere between the two. The story does at least make sense, but the characters’ behavior only makes sense if you can keep your head firmly in the fairy tale and not expect rational, real-world behavior.
Review: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
This is kind of a strange book. It’s set in Russia around the early to mid-1900’s, and it’s apparently heavily based on Russian fairy tales and myths, with real-world Russian history influencing how things unfold. The book itself reads like a fairy tale in both its tone and its content. I was really interested in it at the beginning, but then it got even stranger and the characters’ decisions became more and more unrelatable. In the end, I had mixed feelings about it.
The story is told primarily from the point of view of Marya. The first chapter opens up with Marya as a young girl sitting by a window, where she witnesses a bird falling out of a tree, turning into a man, and marrying her sister. Over the years this happens two more times until all three of her older sisters have been married to birds-turned-into-men and she’s waiting for the same to happen to her. There are some time jumps throughout the story as we’re told about one segment of Marya’s life before moving on to a later one.
This is in large part a love story, but the relationships are unhealthy and disturbing. As part of its fairy-tale-like structure, we’re told how this story always plays out, and then the story proceeds to play out more-or-less like it always does, taking away much of the suspense and adding frustration when the characters make stupid decisions because they’re supposed to make them. I never really connected with Marya at all, nor did I understand many of her feelings and decisions.
I was quite impressed with the author’s Orphan’s Tales duology, and I suspect this book was a clever re-interpretation of Russian stories that I might have appreciated more if I’d been more familiar with those stories. I also think some of it was just a bit too metaphorical for my brain to appreciate. I did think the story and characters were interesting and it was a quick read that held my attention, but not one I feel any great enthusiasm about.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I’ve read a lot of mixed opinions about this series, so I’m curious to find out whether or not I’ll enjoy it.
>199 YouKneeK: Hmmm, I think I won't take a chance on this one. I tend to like Russian literature, but this sounds like it is ABOUT russia, not actually written by a russian. Is that correct?
Good luck with Willis. I enjoyed Doomsday Book and To say nothing of the dog but after those 2 she just wasn't my cup of tea.
>200 BookstoogeLT: Yes, I think that’s correct. It looks like the author is from the U.S.
I tentatively have the Sergei Lukyanenko series that starts with Night Watch scheduled for around the middle of the year. I think that one was actually published in Russia and translated for English readers. All I really know about it is that it’s urban fantasy which isn’t my favorite so I don’t know how far I’ll get with it, but I’ve been curious to try it.
>201 YouKneeK: Yes, the Sergei Lukyanenko is originally a Russian novel. I wouldn't call it urban fantasy either; it seems a lot darker in tone and seems to be more akin to a occult horror story (mind you, I only saw the films). Some of this could be down to cultural differences.
They started making the series into films; we have Night Watch and Day Watch on DVD, but I think only the first 2 in the series ever made it to film (at least under that director). I'll ask Paul how faithful the adaptations were - I think he has (or had) the books.
>201 YouKneeK: & >202 Maddz: I quite like the Night Watch series but still need to get around to picking up book 6. The first of the series is still the best of those that I have read so far. The books are usually split into 3 connected stories and while they still do fit into the urban fantasy genre they are more towards the dark fantasy end of the spectrum. The two movies pretty much follow two parts of the first book from what I remember.
>201 YouKneeK:, >202 Maddz:, >203 AHS-Wolfy:
It's been a while, bit as far as I recall, there were major plot differences between Night Watch the book and the film version.
As is common, the book plot makes more sense than that of the film. However, I believe that this is ome of those films that were recut for Western audiences. Certainly I re-watched Night Watch (2004) in Russian relatively recently and it appeared to make more sense than when I first saw it in the cinema.
>202 Maddz:, >203 AHS-Wolfy: Ah, thank you, that’s helpful to know the Night Watch books are darker and maybe not the kind of urban fantasy I was expecting. Now I’m less likely to decide I’m not in the mood for UF and switch it out for something else when I get to it on the schedule. :)
As far as the Doomsday Book goes, I'm 88 pages in and really interested in it so far. Of course it might go off the rails later and I'll change my mind, but so far so good.
>205 YouKneeK: The Nightwatch series is one of the few UF that I enjoyed and stuck around with until the end. But I like actual russian writers, so that helped a lot :-) The movies were totally phracked up and if I hadn't read the books, I wouldn't have had a clue what was going on. Very different from the books. I enjoyed them but more because I enjoyed the books so much.
I suspect if you like Doomsday that far in, you are all set to go :-D
>206 BookstoogeLT: Now I’m even more curious to try them. :) I don’t think I’ve read anything by a Russian author before, unless it was something I read when I was younger that I've either forgotten or didn't know was a translation.
>205 YouKneeK: Curious to see what you think of Doomsday Book, that was/is on my TBR pile for a long time.
>207 YouKneeK: The whole tone of the Night Watch is melancholic, not depressing, but very melancholic. If you can handle that, you can handle just about any russian author, new or old.
>209 BookstoogeLT: If we are talking modern Russian SF/fantasy in general, can I put a plug in for Viktor Pelevin? His Sacred Book of the Werewolf is one of my all-time favourites. Ignore the lousy English title: in Russian it is The Book of Changes, which gives a far better idea of what it is about - as much I Ching as shape-shifting (and even then not so much shapeshifting as undetected tails!)
>208 Karlstar: It’s been on my list for a long time, but I didn’t get the actual book until a couple of months ago when the Kindle edition went on sale. I’m up to page 164 and still really enjoying it so far.
I think you will enjoy it. It is by turns hilarious, philosophical, and a satire on attitudes prevalent in Russia in the nineties. Pelevin scatters literary allusions like confetti, but getting them is never necessary to the plot; they are just an extra bonus when you do recognise them.
>211 YouKneeK: Good to know, thanks, when it re-emerges from the packing boxes I'll put it closer to the top of the list.
Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Doomsday Book is the first book in the Oxford Time Travel series. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews and comments about it so I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I enjoyed it very much. It grabbed my attention from the beginning and only got more interesting as it progressed. I’m rating it at 4.5 stars based on my enjoyment level, but rounding down to 4 on Goodreads because it has enough flaws that 5 stars seems too generous.
I would like to warn that, despite having quite a bit of humor, this is not a “feel-good” story. The book does tell a complete, self-contained story. It’s divided between two time periods: late 2054 and the 1300’s. In 2054, time travel is used by historians to gain first-hand experience of what life was like in the past. A young college student named Kivrin is this first person sent back to the 1300’s, and naturally something goes wrong. Matters are complicated by a flu epidemic that incapacitates the only technician available who could determine what happened and helped them retrieve Kivrin.
I very much enjoyed both timelines. There are really over-the-top, annoying characters who were humorous but also exasperating. In the 2054 chapters, I had some trouble with the technology presented. I don’t usually have trouble with dated technology in older books, but I felt like the author ignored well-known if not always ubiquitous technology from her own time to increase the drama. The book was published in 1992 and communication difficulties are a major plot point in the 2054 chapters. There are no mobile phones. Not only that, but they don’t even have answering machines or call waiting. Their phones do have the ability to display video though, so I guess there’s that? Also, you have people running around delivering paper messages and e-mail is never mentioned. I was given my first cell phone in 1993 as a high school graduation gift, and my parents had one before that. As far as e-mail goes, I’ve been using that in one form or another since I was 10 in 1986. And answering machines? I’m pretty sure they were invented before I was born. I was mostly able to accept that “this is the state of technology in this fictional future” and just enjoy the story but sometimes when the communication issues became especially repetitive I would get pulled out of the story and start ranting in my head.
I have a few more comments for the spoiler tags:
Speaking of Basingame, we never found out where he was. I kept thinking there was more to that story too, that foul play had been involved to get him out of the way. I also was expecting to find out Kivrin was sent to the wrong time on purpose, so I found it a bit too coincidental that Badri’s mistake would just happen to put her there right at that particular time.
I was also skeptical about the whole idea of the net automatically preventing paradoxes. Surely a time traveler could still go off and do something that would have a major impact on events, or refuse to return through the net and live out their days in the past, introducing ideas before their time. I always expect logic flaws in time travel books though, so they usually don’t bother me if they aren’t too drastic. If a person wants to only read books that are completely logical, they should probably avoid time travel stories altogether. :)
I really liked Roche and thought he was a great character. I also liked Agnes and Rosemund and felt particularly sympathetic toward Rosemund. I was very sad that pretty much everybody from the past died, and that Mary died. I also felt horrible for the poor tortured and killed puppy. :p That was a go-hug-the-closest-animal-you-can-find moment.
To Say Nothing of the Dog, the second book in this series.
>218 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed it so much. I know I enjoyed my time with it but have never had any desire to try re-reading it. I have a feeling on a re-read that I'd nitpick a lot more and talk myself out of enjoying it :-D
To Say Nothing of the Dog, on the other hand, I seem to remember having a blast with and would consider a re-read. Sometime. Maybe. depending on your review. I don't care enough to go look at my own review at the moment. Now isn't THAT a ringing endorsement?
>219 BookstoogeLT: Thanks! There’s definitely some nitpick-worthy stuff in there, but it was still a great read. I’m going into the next book with quite a bit more (cautious) enthusiasm after enjoying the first one so much.
I also just edited my review in horror when I realized I said "I really liked Finch", when in fact I meant "I really liked Roche"! Finch was ok, but more humorous than anything.
>219 BookstoogeLT: To Say Nothing of the Dog is so different from Doomsday Book though I couldn't say which of them I like more. I've liked pretty much everything Connie Willis has written, but would have liked Crosstalk a good deal more if she'd found some, well, south sea island maybe, ethnic group to use. Red-head Irish has been the 'sighted' default for all of my adult life and I'd rather it were just about anyone else.
>221 quondame: Yeah, when I originally read them I didn't even realize they were in the same universe. I just thought Willis was recycling the time travel idea. After those 2 though, I haven't cared for any of her books and now just don't bother when she releases a new one. No longer writes what I want to read.
Connie is one of the few authors on my 'do not read anything else by this person ever' list, I received Dog though Santathing, and hated all of it, which I suspect is a humour mis-match between me / my santee and the author, but was the root cause of me taking humour out of my santathing request lists.
So I hope you get on with it much better than I did!
>223 reading_fox: Humor would probably be a difficult criterion to choose correctly for somebody you don’t know well.
The humor in To Say Nothing of the Dog has worked pretty well for me. It hasn’t been non-stop laughs, but it’s earned several chuckles and a few heartier laughs. The story on the other hand hasn’t held my attention quite as well as Doomsday Book. I’m only about 60 pages from the end, so expect I’ll likely finish it before the end of the day.
Review: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
To Say Nothing of the Dog is the second book in the Oxford Time Travel series, but both books stand entirely alone, only share a couple characters in common, and are written in very different styles. Enjoyment or dislike of one is probably not a guarantee that one would feel the same about the other. In my case I enjoyed both, but for different reasons. I did like the first book a bit more than this one.
This one has a more traditional type of time-travel story, involving attempts to fix a timeline that has apparently been messed up by accident. A time-traveling historian who has been back in the Victorian Era makes a knee-jerk decision to save a cat from being drowned and this appears to have caused an incongruity in the timeline. Compounding the issue, the historian they send to help fix things is suffering from time lag due to too much recent time travel. He’s barely coherent when he’s given his instructions and is suffering from Difficulty in Distinguishing Sounds, so he ends up in the Victorian Era with no idea what he’s supposed to do.
There’s a lot of humor and the events are much lighter in tone than those in the first book were. I laughed out loud several times. A cat and a dog both play a part in the story and I particularly enjoyed the way they were written. The story is told from the first-person perspective of Ned, the time-lagged historian who’s sent back to help fix the problem. He had a great personality and his way of looking at things often made me laugh. I also liked some of the other characters, whereas others were very annoying in a humorous sort of way.
Aside from the humor, the story itself didn’t always hold my attention as well. I enjoyed it for the most part, but sometimes I lost interest. There are a lot of references to Three Men in a Boat, as well as to old mystery novels and other classic literature. There are also a lot of references to historical events. These parts were often where I started to lose interest. I’m not a history buff and I haven’t read most of the books being referenced, so maybe I would have appreciated those parts more otherwise. It did make me interested in reading Three Men in a Boat someday, though. The story is also a bit too romance-y with lots of pairing off, but that was at least done in a mostly-humorous way.
I have a few more spoilerish comments:
I still have difficulty with the whole concept of this net that’s supposed to prevent incongruities and go through all this major manipulation to correct them when they occur. The author is essentially writing the net as if it were God, because a non-sentient and non-omniscient entity would have no way of knowing how to use the personality traits of various people throughout a variety of timelines to manipulate them into taking various actions that would correct an incongruity.
The best part of the story was when they brought the kittens back to the future. :)
One more minor spoiler for both Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog:
Blackout, the third book in this series. Given how different the first two books were from each other, I have no idea what to expect from this one.
>225 YouKneeK: Ok, I'll at least consider reading Doomsday Book when I find it again!
>225 YouKneeK: You've got me mostly convinced to go back and re-read at least the second book. I know I read both 1 and 2, with positive impressions, but little in the way of plot or character memories.
I have read Three Men in a Boat three times for the joy of the writing. The writers of that century knew how to phrase for best effect.
>228 2wonderY: I hope it holds up well for a re-read! I think the second book had enough twists that it might help keep a re-read interesting.
I’ve been considering swapping out my shortest planned classic for this year, The Great Gatsby, in favor of the similarly-short Three Men in a Boat so I can read it while I still remember some of the related context from To Say Nothing of the Dog. I haven’t completely made up my mind yet, though.
>229 YouKneeK: DO IT! Gatsby is terrible....
Well, to be honest, I hated Gatsby. With a passion of a thousand burning suns. So I say it is terrible :-)
>231 YouKneeK: I read 3MiaB years ago (probably in my 20s) and recall it being light and fairly humorous. It wasn't laugh-out-loud, but gentle humour.
>232 Maddz: It sounds like it might be worth making the swap in my reading plans. If I do, I’ll probably move it up to the 2nd quarter along with Othello and push The Odyssey back to the 3rd quarter.
>233 -pilgrim-: Following part of the route in a rowboat sounds like a fun experience! I’m not well-versed in the classics at all. I spent most of my adult years avoiding them and it’s only in the past couple years that I’ve started fitting a few of them into my reading schedule. So I don’t have any suggestions for other Jerome K. Jerome reading, but I’ve received a lot of great advice on the classics from others here. Hopefully somebody else will jump in with suggestions. I didn’t even know about Three Men in a Boat until I read about it in To Say Nothing of the Dog.
>234 YouKneeK: Like you, I am intrigued to read Three Men in a Boat I even have it on Kindle. I became aware of it the same way you did, through reading To Say Nothing of the Dog. It was awhile ago that I read TSNotD, so all I remember was that I enjoyed a lot of it, with reservations about some of it. I think I was the opposite of you, the history and mentions of classics were what I liked!
If it matters, I agree with >230 BookstoogeLT:, in that I would generally pick any book to read over The Great Gatsby, having read that years ago. However, having recently read Reading Lolita in Tehran, the author intrigued me enough to make me curious if I would find different things if I reread Gatsby. I'm not sure I want to though. So many other books to explore. I may just leave it that I wasn't the kind of reader it was written for.
>233 -pilgrim-: I've listened to Three Men on the Bummel, and I thought it was a bit too desperately trying to recapture the hilarity of the first adventure. I'd try one of his Idle Fellow collections. LT reviews are warm and cold on them, but since they are essays, you aren't committed very far.
I want to watch the 1975 film by Stephen Frears and starring Tim Curry, but it seems scarce in the US. There is a 1 hour 4 minute YouTube of it, I see.
>235 MrsLee: Ha ha, I think I’m actually more curious about The Great Gatsby now after the comments you and BookstoogeLT have made! I’d be less interested if it was reportedly both bad and long, but it’s so short. I’m going to make the swap anyway, though. If you or anybody else happens to get to Three Men in a Boat in the near future, I’d enjoy comparing notes! I’ll probably get to it in a month or so. I’ve slotted it in after 6.5 more books.
If anybody is dying for my revised classics schedule for 2019, here it is…
2nd Quarter: Three Men in a Boat and Othello
3rd Quarter: Odyssey
4th Quarter: All Quiet on the Western Front and Twelfth Night
With The Great Gatsby hopefully in 2020 so that I can help you all relive the torture? :)
>231 YouKneeK: I have not read 3 men in a boat. Probably one of those things I keep "thinking" about adding and then never actually get around to doing. But now with all this I think I'll have to actually hunt it down.
And hurray for the library! Now I'll get to it within a year or so instead of that indefinite "sometime" :-D
I hated Gatsby because of the underlying worldview. It just sickened me and there was nothing but despair and nihilism. My last read of it was back in '08 but the taste of despair still lingers in my mind...
>239 BookstoogeLT: Woo hoo! :) I saw a free Kindle edition on Amazon also. It says it was “converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers”, so the quality is probably iffy. The few reviews I saw for that specific edition that mentioned the formatting at all mostly just said the formatting was a little weird because pictures were removed and the captions were left in. I’ll probably go that route anyway since I much prefer reading on my Kindle and my library doesn’t have a digital edition.
>230 BookstoogeLT: >235 MrsLee: >238 YouKneeK: Aw, come on, Gatsby wasn't that terrible! I re-read it before the latest movie iteration and I wasn't really impressed, but it wasn't horrible either. I guess it is just 'wow, look at what the 20's were like!'. That's fine, but really not the great literature it is supposed to be.
>241 ScoLgo: I see you gave it 4 stars; that’s encouraging. :) You’re probably right about Gutenberg being the original source of the Kindle version. The advantage for me in “buying” something in the Public Domain through Amazon (as long as it’s free!) is just that it saves me a minute or two by automatically storing it in the cloud and sending it to my main Kindle. I send all my e-books to Amazon’s cloud regardless of where I obtain them from because I like being able to access my current book on any device and have it automatically sync up to the last page I read.
>242 Karlstar: Whew, there’s one not-terrible vote at least! :) I haven’t read much from that era, so I think that might help make it interesting for me.
>244 Sakerfalcon: Well said. Maybe my standards for 'great' are wrong, your description nicely fits the definition of a classic.
>243 YouKneeK: Hmmm... that should probably be a 3.5 rating. I was likely rounding up at the time since I read it back in the Shelfari days where half-star ratings were not part of the interface.
>244 Sakerfalcon: That sounds worth trying. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read anything by Fitzgerald.
>246 ScoLgo: Makes sense. I’ve come to very much appreciate the flexibility of those half stars.
>247 -pilgrim-: It would at least be a short time investment. :) That’s also great to know that the Gutenberg version has the original drawings; it might be worth the small extra hassle to get the file from there instead of Amazon then.
Let me rephrase. Gatsby isn't horrible writing. It probably has a lot to say about modernism and lots of other "isms." I'm positive I did not read it with a literary mind-set. I read it for enjoyment, and when all the characters in a book are morally bankrupt, I do not enjoy it. Therefore, I did not enjoy Gatsby, but not because it is a bad book.
Sounds about right, to me. I've never read Gatsby, and this discussion hasn't exactly piqued my interest, but I've read other books labelled as classics that probably is good writing but whose characters are all totally unacceptable individuals. Those books I do not like, and most often I do not finish them.
Review: Blackout by Connie Willis
Blackout is the third book in Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series. It tells a separate story from the first two, but unlike the previous books it ends in a cliffhanger because it’s only the first half of a story that’s completed in the final book, All Clear.
We follow several time-traveling historians who are scheduled to study different areas of England during World War II, particularly around 1940. In the beginning there is a lot of schedule rearranging that causes chaos in the historians’ preparation for their assignments and then, as each historian begins his or her own assignment, things naturally do not go as planned.
I was actually a bit bored with it for a while. In the first several chapters, the reader gets bounced around between a lot of different characters and there doesn’t seem to be much going on. Normally I enjoy multi-character stories and have no trouble following them, but with this book I had trouble figuring out what the structure was supposed to be. It took quite a while before I had any real sense of what the story was about or how each character was relevant to that story, and therefore it took me a while to feel any investment in anything I was reading.
The story really picked up after a while though, and then I couldn’t put it down. I became more invested in the characters and anxious to find out what would happen next. Additionally, I felt like the author really conveyed the emotion and fear that people would have experienced during some of the events of that time, while also adding a more hopeful note in showing small acts of heroism, bravery, and kindness from everyday people.
Since Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog each had a very different tone, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Blackout. I’d say it’s much closer to Doomsday Book in that it’s a more serious story with only small bits of humor here and there, although I thought Blackout was a more hopeful and uplifting story. Of course, it’s hard to say that with certainty until I’ve finished the sequel. I’m very much looking forward to reading it.
All Clear, the final book in this series.
Review: All Clear by Connie Willis
All Clear is the last book in the Oxford Time Travel series and the conclusion to the story begun in the previous book, Blackout. The story is set mostly during World War II and it picks up directly after the previous book.
It was mostly fast-paced and I really enjoyed it, although I did have issues with part of the premise of this series and how it was used to explain events in these last two books. I had a similar issue with the second book, but not the first one. The author takes a unique approach toward explaining time travel, whether or not a time traveler might change the past, and what the consequences might be. At least, it was unique in my reading experience. However, I thought her approach was at least as problematic as those used by other authors if not more so. On the other hand, like I’ve said before, if you’re hoping for a completely logical story then you should probably not choose a time travel story. :)
Aside from that complaint which I mostly just tried to ignore, this was a fun and interesting read. As with the previous book, I could really feel the emotions and fears that people would have experienced during the events described. It has quite a few twists and turns and the chapters alternate between different time periods which kept my mind engaged with trying to keep everything straight and to guess where things were going. I was able to guess a lot of it, but definitely not all of it.
I have a few more comments for the spoiler tags:
Haze by L. E. Modesitt Jr. This will be my first time reading anything by this author, and I happily have no idea what the book is about. All I know is that it’s categorized as science fiction on the list I took it from, although that hasn’t always been reliable. The word “Haze” makes me think maybe environmental apocalyptic. Or maybe it's referring to a drug-induced haze. Or maybe it's about hazing rituals... Finding out how far off-base I am will be part of the fun when I start it. :)
>253 Jim53: I hope you fare better with it if you do try it again! It had a really rough start, so I can easily understand giving up on it.
>254 quondame: That’s good to hear he can be a good storyteller. I can usually overlook some unrealistic aspects if the story holds my interest. I’m planning to get started on Haze this morning after I get off the computer. His Recluce books are on my list also, but they’re a much lower priority since the series is long and seems to be ongoing.
>252 YouKneeK: Glad this final book was good for you. I'm always leery of "series" that are barely connected. Always makes me feel like the publishers are trying to manipulate me.
Good luck with Haze. Modesitt writes interesting fantasy but almost all of his SF tends to be extremely preachy. I've given up on them. If you like Haze, and want to explore more, I'd recommend the Corean Chronicles series by him. Only 6 books (I haven't read the standalones that fluff up the numbers to 8) and I enjoyed them. Will also give you a good overview of what he writes like in Fantasy.
He also wrote the Imager Portfolio series. I hated the first book but the general public seems to have eaten up the series and I think it is wrapping up or has been wrapped up. 10-12 books I believe?
Needless to say, he's prolific :-D
>256 BookstoogeLT: Thanks for the additional Modesitt recommendations! He does seem very prolific, and yet I haven’t really collected any impressions of what his work is like before now because I don’t notice people talking about him much.
>255 YouKneeK: >256 BookstoogeLT: Most of his series sag badly after the first (I liked the first Imager and some sequels) few books, or even the first - Legacies of the Corean cycle was good the rest readable. I stopped reading Recluse books and then picked up again with some of the more recent books. Almost every protagonist is an interchangeable good guy with super powers with self-control who wipes out opposition.
>258 quondame: I have to agree with quondame here. I've read a lot of Modesitt and after a while, they all blur together. Super powerful wizard with some new spin on magic powers ends up saving the world by some super duper almost self-sacrifice magical effort. I really liked the first Imager book, then they got to be the same as the Recluse books. On the other hand, I do have 16 of his books, so I guess it took me a while to come to that conclusion... What can I say, I'm a slow learner?
>258 quondame:, >259 Karlstar: I get frustrated with authors who usually repeat the same character types and/or story elements in all their books.
I haven’t read much of Haze today, although I plan to read some more of it this evening. I’m only up to around page 60. I was happy to see I was completely off-base in my attempts to guess what the story was about based on the title. I’ve already read several post-apocalyptic-type books over the past year or so and wasn’t really in the mood for another book along those lines. The story didn’t grab me much in the beginning which is partly why I've done less reading than I normally would on a Saturday, but now I’m starting to get more interested in it so hopefully that will continue.
When the post counts work out, I like to start a new thread each quarter and start it off with some year-to-date reading stats. Since I’m not likely to finish another book by the end of today, I’m going to go ahead and get the new thread started.
The link should show up below shortly. Don’t let this stop anybody from continuing any conversations in this thread if you wish. :)
This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 2.
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