YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 3
This is a continuation of the topic YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 2.
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Welcome to Part 3 of my 2019 thread! :) Here’s my usual introductory info:
2019 Reading Index
Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.
Congrats on the 3rd thread! Did I read somewhere there is a rule, or is it just a general guideline that when it gets above x, it might be time?
>2 YouKneeK: Thanks. :) If there is an actual numerical guideline, I’m not sure what it is. My impression is that it’s mostly just based on when the thread starts loading slow, which could happen sooner in threads with a lot of pictures. I find it difficult to judge because my loading speeds usually seem ok, but I worry that it’s torture for people with slower connections and that people will avoid my thread if it gets too slow. The only thing I do know is that the thread continuation link is made available once a thread hits 151 posts.
Review: Neuromancer by William Gibson
Whew, it’s been a while since I’ve been this bored by a book. If I had any sense at all I would have abandoned it, but it’s a short and formative work, and I have zero book abandonment skills. Neuromancer was originally published in the 80’s and was influential for the cyberpunk subgenre. I’m not a big fan of cyberpunk in the first place, although I have gotten some enjoyment out of the works I’ve read in the past. This is the first one I’ve disliked quite this much.
The main character, Case, has had a career doing jobs in cyberspace. After trying to steal from one of his employers, he’s punished with nerve damage that prevents him from “jacking into” cyberspace anymore. So he’s down and out, barely scraping by, doing lots of drugs and alcohol as you would expect from a proper cyberpunk main character, when an unknown person offers to fix his nerve damage in exchange for doing a job. Naturally, this job proves to have more facets than it originally appears.
In the very beginning, when I had first started it with an open mind and was putting the effort into it, I followed the story fine. However, the story didn’t hold my interest and I didn’t care about the characters. The further I got, the less interested I became, so the less effort I put into following it, but this book really does require some effort to understand what the heck is going on. So the less effort I put into it, the less I understood, which led to me enjoying it even less and putting even less effort into it. A vicious cycle!
The story did on rare occasions interest me, and a few things made me chuckle, but I didn’t really like it. I think there is some value in reading this book if you have any interest in becoming familiar with various classic and influential science fiction books, but this is a book you should go into with energy and determination to put the necessary effort into it and make it to the end. Either that, or go into it with better book abandonment skills than I possess. :)
I’m rating it at 1.5 stars, the lowest rating I’ve given any book since I started rating and reviewing books in late 2013. I’m rounding up to 2 on Goodreads because the book isn’t without merit and my dislike was more due to personal taste than bad writing.
Dreamsongs Volume 1 by George R. R. Martin. If I remember correctly, this is an anthology of various science fiction and fantasy stories by George R. R. Martin from earlier in his career. As with several of my reading selections this year, I bought this on sale years ago and have never gotten around to it.
>5 YouKneeK: Ouch! Thank you for saving me the time and effort on this one. Sounds as if you were caught in a vicious cycle of disinterest which led to disengagement and then they fed each other. :o(
>6 clamairy: That describes it very well! Although after reading other reviews and looking at star ratings, it seems like more people I knew rated it pretty highly and liked it better than I did. It probably depends at least in part on how much you like cyberpunk in the first place.
>3 Karlstar: & >4 YouKneeK:
I have found, on a dsl 3mb connection that there is a little lag loading up once things hit the 200 comment mark. Not unbearable but noticeable.
>5 YouKneeK: yep, another victim of the book. I like cyber punk (kind of) so I was expecting to give it a higher rating. I don't plan on reading anything else by Gibson, that is for sure. What about you?
>8 BookstoogeLT: I'm not sure. Maybe in the distant future if I thought one of his other books was significantly different from this one and might be more appealing to me, but not any time soon for sure. I had optimistically scheduled the whole series in my reading plans, but I had taken the sequels out and rearranged the schedule before I'd even made it to the 25% mark.
>5 YouKneeK: Dreamsongs Volume 1 contains "Sandkings"! It will be nice to hear what you think of it and some of those other famous short stories. Whenever I read a short story collection with a Martin story in it, they mention "Sandkings".
>4 YouKneeK: I won't worry about creating a new thread just yet, since mine contains a whole 1 picture. Let me know if it gets slow for you.
>10 Karlstar: Ah, I think you or somebody else may have mentioned “Sandkings” to me before and I completely forgot that was in here. I’m curious to read that, now.
>11 YouKneeK: Might have been me. I loved Sandkings. The story was fantastic. The Outer Limits tv episode for it was pretty good too.
>12 BookstoogeLT: That’s very likely. “Sandkings” is near the end of this 676-page collection, so it will take me a few days to get to it.
>5 YouKneeK: But what kind of sandwich would that be? ;) Thanks for the review. Looks like one for me to avoid.
>14 Narilka: LOL, great question. I’m thinking undercooked chicken on stale bread, with no condiments or other ingredients.
And for the cat picture rating, maybe this one. “I’d rather take a bath than read this book.”
>16 -pilgrim-: Haha, I love the idea of it, but I wouldn’t be able to keep it going. He moves too fast for me to get many interesting pictures of him when he’s awake, and repeating the same pictures would quickly lose its appeal. Maybe for the occasional rare review where I feel like I have a perfect picture to match that I haven’t shared before.
>15 YouKneeK: That's perfect. Does he play in there often? I used to put balls in one of the tubs in my last house.
>18 clamairy: Very rarely now, but he did love to play in the tub when he was a kitten. I did something similar with putting toys in the tub. Having them bounce and slide around in the tub could keep him entertained for quite some time! It amused me because I hardly ever use the tub since I prefer showers, so I though it was funny that my cat was getting more use out of the tub than I did.
I don’t expect to finish my current book today, so here are the mid-year stats my Access database is giving me, complete with rambling commentary.
General Reading Stats
I seem to have read shorter books in the 2nd quarter of 2019 than I did in the 1st; my average pages per book dropped from 476 to 435. My average pages per day hasn’t changed much, though. It was 111 at the end of March and now it’s 110.
My ridiculously high average rating of 4.0 at the end of March has dropped to a more typical average for me, 3.7, although that probably still seems high to many people. The 1st quarter was full of great reads, but the 2nd had more mediocre reads plus a couple books I didn’t like much at all. The one I liked least was Neuromancer at 1.5 stars. That was my lowest rating in my 5.5-year history of giving ratings, although maybe not the first to deserve such a low rating. I also didn’t care for Haze which I finished in early April and rated at 2 stars.
There were still good books this last quarter, though. I read my first Patricia A. McKillip book, Alphabet of Thorn, and really enjoyed it. I also very much liked N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, starting with The Broken Kingdoms, and my second attempt at a graphic novel, Nimona, went quite well.
Despite some duds this quarter, I’m happy about what I read because I knocked quite a few books off my TBR list that had been taunting me for a while. There were several that I had kept putting off due to lack of enthusiasm, and in many cases that lack of enthusiasm proved to be justified, but there were also some pleasant surprises like the Leviathan trilogy, a light but fun YA steampunk series.
This chart represents the original publication date of the books I’ve read this year, simplified to decade to keep the chart readable. At the end of the March, the median year I had read was from 2011. I’m still close to that at 2010, but I expect this to drop by the end of the year. I’ll be reading a large series with most of its books published before 2010. More on that in the next section.
At the end of March, I’d read 8 science fiction books versus 12 fantasy. Now I’m up to 18 SF versus 24 fantasy. SF usually only makes up about 25% of my reading versus fantasy. I’ve tried to improve that number this year by fitting in more SF series, but I abandoned some of those series, so it didn’t always help. I like how the numbers look now, but fantasy will get a big boost later this year when I start my next big series read. In the end, the numbers may be as unbalanced as they usually are.
I’ve mentioned this before, but that next big series will be Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle which is around 30 books. Right now it’s landing in September on my schedule, but I have another series scheduled before it that I know nothing about and I don’t know whether I’ll like it. If I end up abandoning that next series, the Feist series could get pulled up by a month or so. I could slot something else in to push it back out, but I’m getting pretty excited to start it.
As predicted, the males are edging out the females again in these charts. The females were winning at the end of March which was unusual for me. It’s still more balanced than it usually is, at least for the unique authors read, but I expect the gap to continue growing based on my upcoming reading schedule.
Interesting stats. When was the last time you gave a book 5 stars? I'm kind of surprised you haven't had one so far this year.
>21 Narilka: My last 5-star rating was Fool’s Assassin at the very end of last year. The top candidates from this year would have been the last two Fitz and the Fool books, but I only gave them 4.5 stars. My ratings are really, really subjective, based on how I feel at the time I finish a book. If I loved it, couldn’t put it down, and couldn’t find anything significant to complain about at the time I finished, it gets 5 stars. If I loved it, couldn’t put it down, but there were things that niggled at me, it’s more likely to get 4.5 stars but I might round up to 5 on Goodreads. My opinions may change as time passes, but I let my original ratings stand as a snapshot in time.
I seem to be most generous with epic fantasy books, especially the books in a long series. I think it's because I get so immersed and invested in those worlds while I'm binge-reading them. Last year I gave nine 5-star ratings, 5 of which were from the Hobb series and 3 of which were from Wheel of Time. The only other 5-star last year was The Fifth Season.
>22 BookstoogeLT: Not reading many low-star books, anyway. :) But I still think a large reason for that is because I’m not going too far off the beaten path, since there are still so many books on that beaten path that I want to try. Not to mention that I almost completely avoid indies. I know there are some good ones out there because I’ve read some of them, but the quality is much more skewed toward the bad in my experience.
>10 Karlstar:, >11 YouKneeK: I just finished “Sandkings” in the GRRM anthology I’m reading. LOL, that one was good. It was disturbing and even a little creepy. I still have 3 stories to read (a little over 100 pages), but that was the best one in the anthology so far, good enough to make me walk over to my computer and comment ahead of my review. :)
>24 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, it is disturbing and creepy, but I never forget that one, no matter how much time passes. Congrats on all of your reading, those are impressive stats!
>23 YouKneeK: I just can't see giving out 5 star ratings, personally. It would have to be as good as Tolkien and that just doesn't happen any more. I guess 4.5 is my best of the best rating these days.
Yep - I remember Sandkings very well and it's been ages since I last read it. I'm not even sure which collection I have it in: - I've just looked and it's the titular story in a '83 paperback which I last r-read in 2007. It also featured the way of cross and dragon another great favourite of mine. GRRM should be famous for all his non-GoT works many of which are substantially better.
>5 YouKneeK: I'm swamped with work and are so behind on everything happening in the pub, but: you made me want to reread Neuromancer, to see how it has held up.
Just as a note I wouldn't say that his later books are much alike his earlier works, as far as I remembers it, but I do get why you'd keep away from any author that gave you that bad an experience!
>28 reading_fox: The anthology I’m reading has “The Way of Cross and Dragon” also. I liked it quite a bit while I was reading it, but I had to pause for a moment after reading your post to remember which one that was. It came to me just as I had given up and was reaching for the Kindle to look. :) Short stories typically don’t stick with me well at all, although I think “Sandkings” might.
>29 Busifer: I hope the workload lightens up a bit! That’s good to know that Gibson's other stuff isn't necessarily similar. I’m usually willing to give an author a second try (after a nice, long break!) if their other work is reportedly better or at least different from the one I disliked. I think this was just a bad combination of a subgenre I don’t care for plus a storytelling style I didn’t connect with.
>27 YouKneeK: My ratings are based on my enjoyment and vague notions of literary merit. I can't really judge anything on merit, I'm a computer scientist, I just don't have the education or background to really judge literature. If I want to read it again every other year indefinitely, it is worth a 5.
>30 YouKneeK: Thank you. I think maybe next week it will get better, and then I'm off on summer vacation, and I think I might just as well bring Neuromancer with me. Should be a fast read, because either I'll still like it, or the suck fairy has touched it and then I'll not finish ;-)
Review: Dreamsongs, Volume I by George R. R. Martin
Dreamsongs is a collection of 22 short stories by George R. R. Martin, written between the 60’s through the 80’s. Mixed in with the short stories are brief segments where the author talks about his writing career, how it started, what influenced him, the publishing process, and the inspiration for some of the stories. The stories are a mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, with some being a blending of genres. I’d say science fiction had the heaviest emphasis.
His early stories were a bit painful to read. He was heavily influenced by comics in his childhood, keeping in mind that he was born in 1948. That was particularly apparent in the first story in the collection, “Only Kids Are Afraid of the Dark”. It was very melodramatic and cheesy. After the rough start, the stories progressively improved and I particularly liked some of the ones at the end. The biographical bits by the author were interesting, but sometimes had more detail than I was interested in, especially when he was talking about the things he enjoyed reading in his youth. Somebody who grew up around the same time, especially if they enjoyed comics and fanzines, would probably appreciate it more than I did.
I’d heard good things about “Sandkings”, so I had pretty high expectations for that one. My expectations were met. It was a great story, my favorite in the book, disturbing, a bit creepy, and memorable. I also liked the last two stories in the book. It’s difficult to say if I found them more memorable just because they’re the last two stories I read, but I suspect “The Monkey Treatment” at least will stick with me. It’s about a very unique and unpleasant dieting method. It was intended as horror I think, but I mostly just thought it was funny. I kept mentally offering suggestions to the main character as I read and he even followed some of them. The last story, “The Pear-Shaped Man”, was almost as creepy to me as “Sandkings”, maybe more so. In general, I think it would bother more women than men; it’s about a woman who has recently moved into an apartment with a very disturbing neighbor.
More of the short stories were based on romance than I had expected. Well, romance might not be the right word because they weren’t all particularly romantic and the relationships didn’t all end well. Looking down the list of stories, it may not have been in as many stories as it felt like, but there was a point when I started to feel like I was reading a collection of weird romance stories and I wanted it to stop. There was less of it toward the end, though.
I’m not sure many of these stories will stick with me beyond the ones I mentioned. Already there are a few where I can’t remember what they were about just by looking at the title. This is pretty normal for me with short story collections. They’re just so short and naturally they’re often written with a similar style, so they all start to blur together. I did enjoy quite a bit of it while I was reading it though, and some of the stories were particularly good. I’m going to rate it at 3.5 stars and round down to 3 on Goodreads.
The Once and Future King by T. H. White, which I’m going into with some trepidation. This is a group read over on GR. My next three reads including this book will be group reads because they’ve conveniently scheduled standalones (or at least books I intend to treat as standalones) for July and I had room for them in my schedule.
>31 Karlstar: That pretty much epitomises the definition of a 5 for me! Although I would add "books that are life-changing" (fiction or nonfiction) to the list.
>33 YouKneeK: Good to see this rating. I've got his Complete Dreamsong collection on tap and should be getting to it near the end of the year. I'm also glad you mentioned the weird "romance", as knowing is half the battle :-)
>35 BookstoogeLT: I look forward to reading what you think of it! I’m curious about the second half but I don’t plan to read it, so at least I can find out what I missed through you. :)
>36 YouKneeK: I wouldn't expect too much. I tend to not do a story by story rating for collections. I tend to pick up on the bad ones and the good ones and whichever has more is the direction the rating goes :-D
As an aside, I read the same paperback version of Sandkings that >28 reading_fox: referenced. I bought it at a yardsale one summer and the story of the Sandkings has stuck with me ever since. I think I read it in '93? Very memorable cover :-)
>37 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t expect a story-by-story rating/review. I’ve done that a few times for small collections with maybe 4 or 5 stories, but I couldn’t even contemplate doing something like that for a large collection like this. From the perspective of reading reviews, I’d rather read general impressions with a few mentions of the standout stories (either good or bad) versus a detailed review about each individual story anyway.
Review: The Once and Future King by T. H. White
Although I was familiar with some of the basic events due to how often they’re referenced in modern culture, my only significant exposure to Arthurian legend had been in a very non-traditional form. I’ve therefore been interested in getting some exposure to a more traditional version of events, but I also went into this with some dread because I knew there were large parts of the story I would not enjoy.
This is split up into four parts. The first part focuses on Arthur’s early years, from childhood up to the point where he became King. The second part focuses on how he began to build his kingdom and why he did it that way. I’ll put the third and fourth parts in spoiler tags, although I don’t think it would spoil anything for anybody with general knowledge of Arthurian lore.
The first part, and to some extent the second part, was much sillier than I expected. I’m talking Pratchett-level silliness, at times. King Pellinore was hilarious, what? I wasn’t quite expecting the story to be populated with so many bumbling, muddled people, but I enjoyed the humor. I was expecting the entire book to be more serious, and it does become much more serious by the second half. The second half of the book met my expectations as far as all the stuff I had been dreading, and I enjoyed it less.
I think I was expecting something a little more historically accurate, only with fantastic elements mixed in, so I was perplexed by all the anachronisms at first. Not just the ones that are explained in the story, like when the author tells us he’s using more modern terms for the sake of making things easier for us to understand, and when Merlyn uses anachronisms because he’s living life backward, but the whole setting seemed full of anachronisms until I understood that the author was setting the story almost 1000 years after the actual believed lifetime of King Arthur. At least, that’s how it seemed to be? My knowledge of history is pathetic, which didn’t help my muddled attempt to figure out how this story could be historically accurate. Eventually I gave up and just took things at face value without trying to make it make historical sense in my head.
In spite of having a general idea of how the main events would go, many aspects of the story were not at all what I expected, so that helped keep things interesting for me. Even toward the end, I knew how things would end but it didn’t get there in quite the way I expected. Some of the things that surprised me:
I’m glad I read this. I admit I’m still very attached to the completely-messed-up version I was first exposed to and I was worried the differences in this book might bother me, but it was so completely different that it didn’t even feel like the same story, just a few characters with similar names. I enjoyed becoming more familiar with Arthurian lore as most people know it. There were parts I liked a lot, and parts I disliked a lot, so all in all I think it averages out to 3 stars.
All You Need is Kill (the novel version) by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. This is another group read over on GR.
>39 YouKneeK: In regards to All you need is kill, I found the movie, The Edge of Tomorrow (with Tom Cruise) much more enjoyable. I'd recommend the movie AFTER the book though, just so you don't get anything spoiled.
>39 YouKneeK: I am aware of three main sources for The Matter of Britain, as tales about Arthur's court are traditionally known.
He appears in the Welsh cycle of legends often referred to as The Mabinogion. This is the account that ties most closely to the period when he is believed to actually have lived - he behaves like a Romano-British chieftain. (Lancelot does not appear, and Cei is Arthur's champion.)
There is also the pseudo-historical account by Geoffrey of Monmouth, that tends to minimise the fantastic elements, and would read like a chronicle, except for actually being written a few hundred years.
Then there are the French courtly romances, such as those by Chrétien deTroyes, which have a heavy emphasis on courtly love and correct chivalric behaviour. Lancelot gets a starting role, and Arthur himself tends to fade into the background. Sir Galahad is introduced.
Finally, there is The Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, which is considerably more extensive than the title suggests, since he takes the view that the seeds of his downfall lie far back in the past, in the actions of his father and of Merlin.
The latter two traditions place Arthur as contemporary with a Roman emperor called Lucius. But the trappings of knighthood or more to fighting styles of their own eras than they do to the period in which the story is supposed to be set, as do the moral attitudes of the protagonists.
The whole issue of the Arthurian tradition has been on my mind recently, as I am currently reading J.R.R. Tolkien's poem The Fall of Arthur.
>39 YouKneeK:, >40 BookstoogeLT: I read the book before setting the film, and greatly preferred the former. The science fiction aspects of what is going on are much more consistent in the book; some of the changes made for the film destroy the internal logic, for me.
I look forward to hearing your opinion.
>39 YouKneeK: Did you read the Wikipedia article on the book? Agreed, stylistically it's very tongue-in-cheek, and it owes a lot plot-wise to Le Morte d'Arthur; which isn't by any means historically accurate given it was (probably) written for Henry VI.
In all honesty, none of the primary sources for the Arthur legend are historically accurate, being propaganda for one faction or another. Even the early Welsh sources are dodgy; let's face it, Welsh legends that say the British were descended from refugees from Troy aren't accurate - except nowadays ;)
If you want something that deals with pre-arthurian history, try Joy Chant's The High Kings. It's rather more readable than Nennius. For something more scholarly, try Chris Gidlow's The Reign of Arthur.
>40 BookstoogeLT: Thanks, I vaguely remember reading that there was a movie associated with it, but I couldn’t remember the title. You know me and movies, but I might watch it if I enjoy the book enough to be curious.
>41 -pilgrim-:, >43 Maddz: Great info, thank you both. I haven't done any general reading on the subject. The Malory version was referenced quite a bit in The Once and Future King, so I was curious about that one. Maybe at some point after the story has had time to fade I’ll try another version.
>43 Maddz: I certainly didn't intend to imply that the Mabinogion is historically accurate, merely that it is less anachronistic.
And Arthur gets a bad press from Geoffrey for being a pagan monarch!
>39 YouKneeK: Given that I read a lot of history, White's timeline (tongue and cheek) decisions were something that I disliked because I could just tell it was willy nilly decisions.
>46 quondame: The BBC TV series, Merlin. The one where Arthur and Merlin are around the same age, sorcerers are persecuted by King Uther, and Merlin is Prince Arthur’s manservant. :) Now that I’ve read a more traditional version, I can see how the TV series completely changed everything, not just the ages, positions, and relationships of the main characters. I loved it though, even despite some annoying internal plot issues. Its deviation from the legend didn’t bother me because I hadn’t really known it, and I loved the humor and the characters.
>48 mattries37315: I was frustrated for the opposite reason given my lack of history knowledge, because at first I couldn’t figure out if I was confused or if it was really as wrong as it seemed to be. :)
>49 YouKneeK: There is a 1970 British TV series Arthur of the Britons which did the -more- realistic take on Arthur, and it may have been that or another that was sort of a young rock stars in tunics vibe, with all the tall young men.
>49 YouKneeK: I started from the mythic material, so most retellings tend to irritate me - although I loved The Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff that quondame mentioned.
For that reason I really disliked the TV series that you mention; although I was interested to note that by the final season they were making a strenuous effort to bring the ending of their story into line with the traditional situation
>48 mattries37315: I found the timeline issue annoying until I recollected that all the traditional sources were equally cavalier regarding their historical accuracy!
>50 quondame: LOL at “young rock stars in tunics”. That sounds… interesting.
>51 -pilgrim-: From the very few comments I’ve seen regarding that TV series, my general impression has been that it wasn’t very well-liked, or maybe it’s just that not so many people in the U.S. have seen it. Or maybe I just know the wrong people. :) I guess it must have had a following at the time to last 5 seasons, but I didn’t learn about it until after it had finished airing. I actually kind of wished that, with all the many other changes they made, they might have changed the ending up a bit, or ended the show before the traditional end of the story. It’s such a fun, feel-good show in the beginning (for me, anyway), but I find the last season difficult to watch and have resisted the temptation to rewatch it several times because of that. Well, re-rewatch it; I did rewatch it once. Maybe I should watch it backwards in honor of Merlyn from The Once and Future King and that would work better. ;)
>50 quondame: I also have a vague memory of Sam Neill as Merlin, in a series that was all about Merlin' life, rather than Arthur's...
>53 BookstoogeLT: Thanks! The author name sounds really familiar, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never read his work.
Hmm, you may like to try the Mary Stewart Aurthurian trilogy (later expanded to 5 books): https://www.librarything.com/series/The+Arthurian+Merlin+Saga
I've owned the first 3 in hardcopy for many years, and got the ebooks (along with books 4 & 5 in a Kindle deal a couple of years ago). Been a while since I read them, but the first 3 are very good (I haven't read 4 & 5 yet).
There's the MZB series that starts with The Mists of Avalon. I've only read the first one a long time ago but it was sort of the Arthurian legend crossed with Joseph Campbell.
>58 jjwilson61: I was carefully avoiding mentioning that one. Unfortunately, her work credibility has been seriously damaged by her approval of things beyond the pale in this day and age. Which is a pity, because it's one of her better books.
>59 Maddz: Yikes. I hadn't hear of that until I googled it just now. Thanks for letting me know.
>57 Maddz: Thanks!
>59 Maddz:, >60 jjwilson61: I was always curious to try MZB’s work because she’s another classic author I hear about often but have never read, but I never got around to it before learning about what >59 Maddz: mentioned. I don’t necessarily avoid authors' work because of things they’ve said or done, but sometimes you learn something that’s just so hard to swallow that you can’t help but let it affect your choices. MZB was one of those cases for me.
>63 humouress: I think The Sword in the Stone was my favorite part of the book. It was completely not what I was expecting and I was a little unsure about it at first, but it grew on me fast.
>59 Maddz:, >61 YouKneeK: I had not heard of any of that.
I had only read The Shattered Chain by her, which I disliked intensely, and was unable to ever get into The Mists of Avalon, despite having it enthusiastically recommended to me by two male friends.
Like YouKneeK, I will read books by author's whose views I heartily disagree with, as long as their writing is not a vehicle promulgating those views
Looking back, what made me uncomfortable in The Shattered Chain was the invitation into a different sexuality of a young woman by much older women. Following the links in articles resulting from Googling led me to MZB's own article in the Journal of Greek Love; a "scholarly" article which takes as "natural", and sought by the child, erotic relations between young teenagers and older women.
Ok, this when "different culture that I have imagined and set novels in" becomes "propaganda for paedophilia". I am OUT.
On the other hand, I enjoyed William Mayne when I was much™younger, without picking up the overtones that were there, in restrospect.
How do other Dragoneers feel about recommending his children's fantasy novels?
>66 -pilgrim-: Oddly enough, we met William Mayne. My late mother had a great family friend who returned to Yorkshire after her husband died in the 1950s and we used to stay with her in Aysgarth every summer. We got introduced to Mayne in the late 70s or early 80s - I was old enough not to have read him, but I think my sister had. I recall visiting his place in Stalling Busk (IIRC).
>68 -pilgrim-: It was long enough ago so I don't really recall. I wasn't the target age of his books being older. We did visit with our mother so nothing inappropriate happened. I have this memory of a tallish guy in . house with lots of books, and the house was fairly hard to find, (And it was Thornton Rust not Stalling Busk - I seem to recall visiting after going to Consett Reservoir).
I don’t think I ever read anything by William Mayne myself. At least, skimming down his list of works, I don’t see anything that sounds at all familiar to me
Review: All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
All You Need is Kill is a standalone science fiction novel originally published in Japan. It’s very short and fast-paced, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. It made a great change of pace from the past several books I’ve read.
This is a Groundhog Day type of story, only with war instead of romance. (For those whose ignorance of popular movies rivals my own, I mean to say that this is a time loop type story.) Also, unlike Groundhog Day, it actually explains the cause of the time loop and manages to do so in a way that seemed logical enough for me to buy into. At least, it was internally consistent enough that I couldn’t find much to complain about, except maybe for some of the main character’s decisions and some aspects of the ending. I wasn’t too thrilled with the end, mostly because I didn’t think it made logical sense, which was a disappointment after feeling like the rest of the book did.
There was an interesting flow chart at the beginning. I kept flipping back to it and using it to predict where the story would go in the next few sections. I never did figure out how the connectors specifically factored into things, aside from the obvious fact that they formed some loops, nor did I ever figure out if the shapes had any particular meaning, but I thought the numbers themselves had an apparent pattern.
I have several spoilery comments for the spoiler tags:
I also wondered early on in the book why Keiji didn’t shout out to anybody who would listen about the loop he was experiencing, or at least try to discuss it with more people. Just because the one person he talked to thought he was crazy didn’t mean nobody else knew about it. If everybody thought he was crazy for a loop or two, then it didn’t matter because it would all reset anyway. If he’d found somebody who understood what was going on sooner, he could probably have beaten the enemy sooner. Also, it seemed pretty obvious to me that Rita had also experienced the looping phenomenon, so I thought it should have occurred to Keiji at some point.
I liked that we at least found out the motivation behind the alien “attack”. However, I really would like to find out what happens when the sentient aliens show up after 40 years, especially if the humans do end up winning. There are so many places that story could go that I was surprised in retrospect that a sequel had never been written.
I thought, for a race that was supposed to be more intelligent than humans, the creators of the mimics were pretty stupid, or at least too easily driven by their arrogance. How could they not have considered that sending their terraforming drones to a sentient planet didn’t just present the ethical problems they dismissed, but also endangered the success of their project if that planet had enough intelligence and/or technology to fight back their drones? Also, while we don’t know anything about their biology or religious beliefs, it seemed like an intelligent species could find a way to deal with population control issues, at least long enough to do their search for an alternate planet properly and thoroughly.
Given some of my complaints I should probably rate this lower, but I had a lot of fun while I was reading it and the story made me think about it while I wasn’t reading it, so I’m going to give it 4 stars.
I’m finally going to read Dune by Frank Herbert, for the first time. I’m planning to read it as a standalone, just this one book and not the entire series. If I really love it and can’t resist the temptation to try reading more, that will happen at a later date and not in the immediate future.
>71 YouKneeK: Good luck with Dune! I remember when I read it for the first time I was explaining it to my father and his comment was that Fremen culture is based on Arab culture (sans the Islamic overlay - at least, I didn't pick up on that).
>75 clamairy: Thanks! A more scholarly approach might be an interesting way to approach it.
>71 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed this so much. I don't know how you'll like the movie based on this review. If you ever get a chance, borrow it from the library, netlfix, prime, whatever. One thing, that I don't think will be much of a spoiler, is that there is a bit more romance in the movie (not outside my comfort zone, thankfully) and not nearly so much "mecha".
As for Dune? Oh yeah!!
And yes, the fremen are based on the arabic culture, and has a lot of islamic overtones in terms of phrases and such. Definitely a good plan to think of it as a standalone though :-D
>78 Maddz: Yep, the mini-series had William Hurt. I found the mini-series to be more faithful to the book but it was made by SyFy so the budget was a bit on the skympy syde. I keep hearing rumors of a new Dune movie but until it hits the big screen, I'm skeptical :-/
>71 YouKneeK: Yay, Dune!!
I had no idea Edge of Tomorrow was based on a book. I'm adding that to my wishlist. I liked the movie a lot.
Since Dune is probably going to take me a while, I just wanted to pop in and say that I’m really enjoying it so far. Also, I think it might be increasing my water intake. ;) I’m only up to about 225 pages, but hope to make better progress this weekend.
>83 YouKneeK: Oh my goodness, you soft water fat offworlder! Shai Hulud save us from your foreign ways...like reading on the weekend ;-)
Glad to hear it is working for you. I've been surprised by peoples' reaction to Dune so now I no longer consider it a must or no/go based on someone's other preferences. I just tell them to read it. I know we were talking about the movie/mini-series above. As a child of the 80's I do recommend the David Lynch movie. It is surreal AND it has Sting as Feyd Rautha! How can you resist that? :-D
>83 YouKneeK: Yes, get lots of cool fresh water. Certainly beats what they're drinking. ;o)
>84 BookstoogeLT: LOL :) And Patrick Stewart is in that movie too, right? That is kind of tempting. I recall seeing a funny YouTube video about Patrick Stewart explaining how he didn't know who Sting was. I can’t remember how on earth I ever ran across that video; maybe somebody here or on one of the other book sites posted it?
>85 clamairy: Haha, that’s for sure!
You folks all know there's a new Dune movie coming, right? I'm probably the last to know!
>88 Karlstar: I've heard that, saw a link too. But until it actually is released, I'm remaining a skeptic. I'm also trying not to get too excited about it :-D
Review: Dune by Frank Herbert
This was my first time reading Dune. I knew very little about the story, little bits and pieces from seeing it referenced so often, but nothing tangible. I was hooked on the story from the start, but for some reason my interest dropped off a little bit in the second part and I never fully regained the momentum I’d had at first. Part of this may have just been due to distractions that came up. I wasn’t bored by it, but it somehow didn’t keep me hooked.
Despite being a popular science fiction classic, this actually reminded me of an epic fantasy story in many ways. The setting was science-fiction-ish with spaceships, multiple inhabited planets, futuristic technology, and so forth. The story and the main plot devices struck me more as fantasy, though. In the beginning, we’re introduced to a teenaged Paul Atreides, who has special skills and may be destined for greatness. This classic epic-fantasy-style intro is probably one of the reasons I was hooked on the story in the beginning. Another reason this felt like fantasy to me was because of
For the most part, the book didn’t feel too dated. I thought it was very readable, although there was a lot of rapid head-hopping. We were told what nearly every main character in a scene was thinking, which is a writing tactic I’ve always found a little distracting, but as usual I managed to get used to it after I’d been reading for a while.
I did think the story was kind of straight-forward. There’s a lot of foreshadowing and the aforementioned
I enjoyed how detailed and strong the world-building was. I also liked Paul and some of the other secondary characters and I particularly enjoyed some of their interactions with each other. Those interactions were done well when they were done, and I actually wished there had been more of them. I’d consider this to be a character-driven book, but it’s more on the introspective side.
The many people who have assured me at various times that this works well as a standalone were all correct. I was satisfied with how the story wrapped up, and I’m content to stop here without feeling like I’m missing out on anything. I’m glad to finally shed my Dune ignorance. I didn’t come away from it as enthusiastic about it as some of its long-time fans, but I did still enjoy it. 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3 on Goodreads because I did occasionally stall out while reading it and took more frequent reading breaks than I normally would have.
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. I know absolutely nothing about this book or the author, but the title is interesting. It was on the list I take many of my reading selections from, so I picked it up when it went on sale early this year.
>88 Karlstar: I for one had no clue, so at least you weren’t the very last. ;)
>90 YouKneeK: Good call on keeping this as a standalone, especially given your rating and review. Given your thoughts on Herbert's writing style, etc, I also wouldn't bother trying much else by him. I've always found Dune to be his most accessible book and everything else "goes up" from there. I also happen to think that Dune is his best book and that he'd be one of those swallowed by time authors if not for Dune.
I found it really interesting that you found this very fantasy'ish. Not because you did, but because I don't and I'm wondering why. Maybe because I've never though of
All in all, being such a huge fan of Dune, I've learned to be happy when someone reads it and doesn't hate it. Obviously, not everyone can be as bookishly awesome as me! ;-)
>91 YouKneeK: Huh, that is weird, because I thought it was you who'd shown me the link to the article about the new movie. Shoot, I wonder who it was then?!?!?
>90 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed it! I think this is one of those books that could be considered Science Fantasy.
>92 BookstoogeLT: LOL, I suppose it’s possible the movie link came from me, but I completely don’t remember anything like that. I suspect it was somebody else, because I rarely notice movie/TV news. The Wheel of Time is the only thing I’ve been following with any particular interest, and I’ve just been passively waiting for Tor to dump news about it in my in-box rather than seeking anything out.
I do agree about mental powers being more of a SF trope. I tend to buy into it more easily if the people with the mental powers are aliens, I guess because I think anything goes with aliens! I think it was more the feel of the over-all story that gave me the fantasy vibe rather than any one thing, but I think of
>93 Narilka: Thanks!
>90 YouKneeK: I will be intrigued how the Mark Hodder book turns out. Springheeled Jack is an interesting Victorian urban legend that seems to have pretty-much died out now.
And, since you have mentioned your liking for some of Dune's minor characters - what are your thoughts on Duncan Idaho?
>95 -pilgrim-: I’m not familiar with the legend, although I may look it up after I finish the book. Apparently The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack features many real people who lived in England in the mid-1800’s, although the author claims to not be representing them accurately. Since my knowledge of that time period is poor, any cleverness in regard to the historical setting is going completely over my head, but so far the story is holding my attention quite well (with a brief exception) at about 75 pages in. It isn’t uproariously funny in a Pratchett sort of way, but there is some humor that has startled a few chuckles out of me. I’m also somewhat amused to find myself reading steampunk for the third time this year. I’d hardly run across it at all prior to this year, but I seem to be stumbling into it left and right this year.
In Dune, I liked Idaho pretty well, but I don’t know that I had many thoughts about him. He was likeable enough, but he seemed to be introduced to fulfill a few specific functions for the plot and didn't come across as his own entity to me as much as other characters did.
>92 BookstoogeLT: >93 Narilka: >94 YouKneeK: I regard almost all the SF I've read as actually fantasy, especially those that rely on mental powers. Dune is way into the fantasy realm on my meter, if I had one. I kinda understand that some people can pretend that if it's all space ships and aliens it's different stuff than if there are magic gates and fae. From a story pov, not so much really, just a matter of taste. Sometime I'd like to compare Heavy Time and Forgotten Beasts of Eld to check for differences and similarities between two works I consider to be at the poles of the SF vs Fantasy classifications.
>96 YouKneeK: When I read Dune, I found Idaho to be a rather likeable character,
As I read on in the Dune series, I was pleased to discover that Duncan's personality becomes a central plot point in one of the later books (God Emperor of Dune, I think),
Watching a minor character become major, like this, is often fun, and how well you warmed to Idaho is probably relevant to your probable enjoyment of the later books. With the exception of Dune Messiah, which, as I have mentioned in another thread, is rather weak, and basically seems to have been written to get the author out of the end situation of Dune and to a point where the story can continue, the later books are very much books exploring ideas, often ones raised rather peripherally in the original book, rather than being character-driven.
>97 quondame: For classification purposes I typically go by the trope, because aside from hard SF, I agree that most science fiction relies on fantastical ideas rather than purely scientific ideas. I think that was true from its earliest days, if some of the classics I’ve read are any indication. As another example, I classify time travel as science fiction even though time travel is a fantastical concept rather than a scientific one. Stories that feature time travel still have that science fiction feel, based on what I’ve come to expect from science fiction, and they’re more likely to scratch the science fiction itch. Dune, on the other hand, seemed to scratch my fantasy itch more than my science fiction itch despite its SF tropes. Maybe I need some sort of powder or cream for all these itches…
>98 -pilgrim-: Since I still don’t have any plans to read the sequels, Idaho isn’t likely to have any impact on my enjoyment of the later books. :) But I did read your spoilers and it sounds like the story goes in directions I would not have predicted. (My reading of the spoilers is further proof that I’m being very serious about not reading further into the series, since I would never intentionally read spoilers for a book I intend to read.)
>99 YouKneeK: I'm currently finishing a fantasy series Imager Portfolio which to me reads more like a lot of SF, particularly the alternative history genre. It's daily life with major problems and one fantastic element in the world building. My itch is more for books that can make me live in other where seeing through other eyes, and historical fictions, SF, fantasy urban or classic or steampunk can all, if well crafted, accomplish that. Dune did it in spades.
>100 quondame: When you say you're finishing Imager Portfolio, how many books are you reading? I had to give up after book 3, I think, but I never even checked to see how many more there might be. Have you read any of his Recluse novels?
>94 YouKneeK: I get Tor news via FB, which is one of the few things that pops up reliably, that's where I saw the Dune movie news. I'm more of a Gurney Halleck fan.
>90 YouKneeK: It's nice to see that someone else enjoyed the book but didn't feel compelled to read the rest of the series.
>102 Karlstar: I really liked Halleck too. :)
>103 mattries37315: I was happy when I first learned that Dune stands alone well. Treating it as a standalone got it into my reading schedule faster. I might have reconsidered trying some of the sequels if I’d absolutely loved the first book, but even in that case I would have saved them for an unspecified far future date.
>101 Karlstar: Endgames is the 12th. I have read a number of the Recluse books, the early ones and the more recent ones. I've read a number of his other books, both before and after I started keeping records in 2007. His world building is solid, and his characters rarely differ from type a, and his soapboxes are all the same height.
>105 quondame: 12! I thought that series when it started was supposed to be a trilogy... so it is basically the Recluse series in a different world with a slightly different magic system? I also 2nd claimairy's message, that's a great phrase there!
>107 Karlstar: It's 3 different series 3, 5, 4. The middle 5 deal with the founding of the Collegium and the first Rex. Very high body count.
>107 Karlstar: And now I feel the need to start measuring my own soapboxes.
Review: The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder
The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack is the first book in a steampunk series called “Burton & Swinburne”. This was a crazy, fun book. It’s kinda sorta set in the Victorian era and features many historical figures who are misused to serve the author’s evil purposes. I could imagine this book would surely drive some people crazy, but I really enjoyed it even while recognizing it has some flaws.
The main characters, Burton and Swinburne, are two of the aforementioned real people from history. The story focuses mainly on Burton, but Swinburne plays more of a role eventually. Near the beginning of the book, Burton has returned to London after learning that a man he knew well has shot himself. While walking home drunk from a pub, he’s accosted by a strangely costumed man on spring-loaded stilts who leaps out of nowhere, beats him up, and yells at him to do what he’s supposed to do. Burton has never seen this man before and has no idea what he’s talking about.
In addition to the steampunk-type technology, there are also genetically altered creatures. They’re a bit silly, but fun. I particularly enjoyed the potty-mouth parakeets; I’m not sure what that says about me! Of course, nothing could beat the broom cats. Has there ever been a cat owner in all of history who has NEVER tried to convince their cat to serve as a broom? This is probably why modern cats love Roombas so much. (Lest anybody read this book and end up horribly disappointed, broom cats do not play a significant role in this book. They’re just briefly mentioned.)
This is probably not a book to read if unrealistic science bothers you. The genetic creations are pretty unlikely, and even the technological creations are more than a small stretch in the context of the story. The book might also bother people who want their historical figures to be portrayed consistent with how history portrays them. The history wasn’t much of a problem for me since I don’t know UK history well, and for the rest of it I found that I was able to suspend my disbelief pretty easily and just go with the flow. I found it a lot of fun, the story kept me interested as I worked to connect the scattered dots, and it made me laugh a lot. If I have one complaint, it was that people seemed to go off the deep end awfully easily, which made it difficult for me to buy into some of the characters' behaviors. Some of the characters did have experiences that would have been shocking and horrible to actually experience, yet I believe humans are more resilient than they were portrayed in this book.
I did like that my edition had some brief explanations at the end of the book about both the real legend of spring heeled jack as well as the many historical figures who showed up in the book. I was a little bit overwhelmed in the very beginning by all of these characters who had wiki entries when I touched their names in my Kindle, because only a few were familiar to me. However, the character introductions eventually settled down and I was able to keep everybody straight. I didn’t worry too much about who they really were while I read the book, but I was more interested in reading that historical info at the end of the book after I had already spent a few hundred pages with their fictional counterparts.
This book tells a complete story. I’m not sure if the setting can sustain my interest for an entire six-book series, but I enjoyed this first one well enough that I’m going to continue on to the second and see how things go.
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, the second book in this series.
Review: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder
This book answers a question that few readers have ever bothered to ask: just how many fantasy elements can you cram into a short steampunk novel, anyway? The answer? Quite a few! We have
This book was about as crazy and fun as the first book. For anybody who read the first book and was annoyed that its science wasn’t very scientific, you’ll probably not want to bother with this one. If you enjoyed the first book, I think you’ll likely enjoy this one also. I enjoyed the first story a bit more, but this book has stronger camaraderie between the characters and I enjoyed that.
I also really enjoyed the bit at the end which kind of explains all the fantasy elements. It doesn’t explain them in a scientific way of course, but it does explain them in an internally consistent way that I thought worked pretty well, and it tied together nicely with events from the first book.
Like the first book, this one tells a complete story. There are just enough dangling threads to make it clear what the next book will be about, and I look forward to reading it.
Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, the third book in this series.
>111 YouKneeK: It is the choice of Burton and Swinburne as protagonists that intrigues me. Is much flagellation involved?
>112 -pilgrim-: There’s occasional reference to it, but it’s isn’t really seen “on the page”. We mostly see Swinburne as overly excitable, loud, somewhat mercurial, quick to rush into danger for the thrill and the experience of it, and very loyal to his friends. Burton is by contrast steadier and more rational, although equally loyal.
>114 -pilgrim-: That is saying quite something, if Burton is being held up as the "steadying influence"!
>115 AHS-Wolfy: I’d love to hear what you think if you give them a try! I know so few people who have read these.
>116 YouKneeK: The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack is on my Overdrive list. It's been there a while now so I may have to give it a try soon.
Burton is also a main character in To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and the rest of the Riverworld series. Probably not as 'fun' of a read though - and likely very dated now. It's been a long time since I visited those books...
>117 ScoLgo: I would also love to hear your thoughts if you try it! It sounds like this book is on a lot of people’s radar and/or TBR, so maybe I can look forward to slowly seeing other people read it as they get around to it. :)
I’d heard of To Your Scattered Bodies Go, but I've never read it. It would be interesting to get another take on Burton as a character at some point. I had never even heard of him (so far as I can remember, anyway) prior to reading this series.
>119 Maddz: Well, Isabella did burn the really interesting volumes, "for the sake of her late husband's reputation"...
Personally I find her an even more fascinating personality than her husband.
I have read Burton, and I havec read about Burton, but I have never actually read a fictional version of him. The man himself was such a larger than life character that I can't imagine how he could be fictionalized!
>117 ScoLgo: Wait, what? It is the same Sir Richard Francis Burton in both books? Very cool! How strange is that for 2 different authors to use the same historical character in completely different books?
>118 YouKneeK: You should definitely read To Your Scattered Bodies Go. I hadn't heard of him before reading TYSBG either.
>119 Maddz: Nope, never. :) It’s mentioned a time or two in the series I’m reading though. Maybe someday I’ll fit it in as one of my classic selections.
>120 -pilgrim-: Isabella shows up a very little bit in the series I’m reading. Minor spoiler for early in the first book:
>121 Karlstar: Plus the book >119 Maddz: mentioned, so we’re up to 3 different authors. Now I’m wondering if he’s been in any other books I’ve read and I just didn’t notice because I didn’t recognize his name…
>119 Maddz: Sorry Maddz, I did forget your reference! I do not recall seeing SRFB in any other books, but who knows.
Review: Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon by Mark Hodder
Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon is the third book in the Burton & Swinburne series. It started off great, then it started to get a bit tedious about midway through. In the end, it made me angry.
The story jumps between two main time periods, and at first the reader is likely to be confused about what's going on and how things in the earlier time period led to the things in the later time period. At first I really enjoyed the story. I also enjoyed the characters, who I’ve become increasingly attached to throughout the series. I also enjoyed trying to puzzle out what was going on with the later time period and trying to guess what would happen in the earlier one.
Then at some point, I’m not really sure why, I started to lose interest. I still enjoyed the character interactions and parts of the story, but the book became easier to put down. Maybe it was just a bit too much travel and a few too many similar events, but it started to feel a little tedious.
The last chapter or two of the story made me mad, and particularly the very end. First, we’re given an explanation for everything that I found difficult to buy into. Then I didn’t like some of the events that happened towards the end. At the very end, I thought the author went off the rails and messed up the relatively consistent logic he had going on.
I’m rating this at 3 stars, which feels a little too generous given my frustration at the end, but I did enjoy most of it and it had some great moments so I can’t bring myself to rate it lower. The end left me with doubts about the remaining three books in the series, though. I plan to give the fourth book a try and then decide from there if I want to keep going, but first I’m going to take a short break to participate in a group read of an unrelated book.
I’ll put a few more excessively long details about my complaints in the spoiler tags:
We were also told that the Nāga had manipulated all the events, all the way back to causing Future Edward to become obsessed with changing what his ancestor had done, to lead to the equivalence they sought so they could be free. I found that difficult to buy into. That was an awful lot of manipulation that relied on an almost omniscient understanding of how small changes would affect everything. I’ve had similar problems with other books that have used a similar device, where you have some entity influencing a convoluted sequence of events to achieve a fairly straight-forward objective that surely could have been achieved more easily with other means.
Aside from my issues with some of the logic in the story, I also just wasn’t happy with how things ended. We end with Burton killing Queen Victoria and we have no idea what happens next, which is a really frustrating ending. Also, a lot of great characters were killed. (Or in the case of Swinburne, were transformed into talking plant life in a remote region of Africa.) At least the parakeets Pox and Malady apparently thrived! If this were the last book in the series, I would have been particularly unhappy about Swinburne’s fate. As it is, I’m wondering how this series has three more books. The series is “Burton and Swinburne”, after all. Even if we assume Burton gets back to his own time period, Swinburne hardly seems to be in any position to participate in ongoing stories. So I assume there will be more time manipulation of some sort, and I’m worried it may further muddle a story that no longer makes a lot of sense.
Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett. The group I’m in over on GR is reading this for August. It looks like it’s a standalone book, and it’s short, so I’m going to slip it into my schedule.
Elysium is... different. I liked it a lot. I'll stay tuned for your thoughts on it...
>124 YouKneeK: Man, after your last couple of reviews I was expecting more of the same. And there are 3 more books after this? I'm guessing either the story goes out into left field OR time stuff makes your re-tread everything :-(
As for Elysium, after reading just 3 reviews here on LT I know it's not a book for me. Hope it works out over on devilreads ;-)
>125 ScoLgo: I only read one short chapter before bed last night because I was really tired. I liked the writing style based on the first chapter, so I’m hopeful. When I flipped to chapter 2, the words that caught my eyes as I was closing the Kindle made me go “Huh?” and I almost kept reading, but I reminded myself I needed sleep. I’m looking forward to getting off the computer and reading more.
(I was apparently even more tired than I realized, because I slept until almost 8am! This never happens. I’m usually awake by 6am, and on very rare non-workdays I may sleep until 7am. Never later. Usually the cat won’t allow such shenanigans anyway. I have a vague memory of him waking me up and making me pet him, but I must have fallen back asleep.)
>126 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, I was expecting more of the same too! Even if he manages to turn it around for me in book 4 enough that I continue to the end, I’ll be worried about what he might do at the end of the last book. I don’t know if this was originally intended to be a trilogy, but it read sort of like the author had built up a nice, relatively stable tower of blocks and then decided he was done with the game and gleefully smashed it with his fist.
Review: Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Elysium is a standalone science fiction novel by Jennifer Marie Brissett. It’s a short, fast read and it held my interest from start to finish.
In the first chapter, we meet Adrianne and Antoine, a couple whose relationship seems to be ending. There are also some slightly weird things, things that only Adrianne sees. In the second chapter, we meet Adrian and Antoine. Everything is different, and yet it’s really not. I don’t think I can say anything else about the story without spoiling the fun for potential readers.
It’s actually clear from the beginning what’s going on, at least in a general sense, but how and why remains a mystery for a while. The story was kind of repetitive, yet it didn’t annoy me. I enjoyed catching the connections. Admittedly many of them would have been impossible to miss, but there were also some things I thought were more subtle and I enjoyed noticing those. At the end of the book, there’s a brief section that explains the inspiration for the story. I didn’t catch that at all on my own, so I enjoyed the explanation.
This wasn’t a perfect book, but it held my interest very well. It engaged my brain and I enjoyed reading it. Some aspects seemed a little unclear. Several times while writing this review, I started to write about something I thought didn’t make sense, but then an answer came to me immediately afterward. So I kind of feel like there were plot holes, but they keep moving or something. :) I’m writing this within an hour of finishing the book, so after I’ve had more time to let it settle I may either come up with some real holes or else the story will solidify into something more substantial in my mind.
I have a couple more comments that need to go in the spoiler tags:
The first chapter seemed a bit discordant with the rest. Obviously Antoine/Antoinette leaving Adrian/Adrianne in some manner was one of the consistent themes in all the stories, but I think in most (all?) of the other stories, it wasn’t a willing choice. He/she was sick, or gets killed, or disappears, or something. In the first chapter, it appears he's about to make a choice to leave Adrianne.
The Secret of Abdu El-Yezdi. This is the fourth book in the Burton & Swinburne series I’ve been reading. This series is on probation after the third book, so whether or not I continue will depend on my reaction to this one.
My reviews/posts may be less frequent for a few weeks. I’ve agreed to consult on a project for another (non-competing) company in my off hours, something my manager actually recommended me for. I don’t yet know the full scope of the project, but I expect it to eat into much of my spare time at least through the end of the month. It officially starts next week, but I’ll need to do some prep work this week.
Review: The Secret of Abdu El-Yezdi by Mark Hodder
This is the fourth book in Hodder’s steampunk series, Burton & Swinburne. Those who read my review of the third book may remember that I was annoyed by an illogical twist near the end that soured me on a series I had mostly been enjoying. This book builds on that illogical twist and adds some additional illogic of its own.
It’s still a fun series in many ways. I really like the characters, and the books make me laugh out loud quite often. This book’s story is fairly straight-forward, more than some of the others in the series anyway. The reader already knows the “secret” of Abdu El-Yezdi from the moment he’s first mentioned and can predict where many things are going based on that knowledge and other information provided beforehand. I did like many aspects of where this story went, aside from my complaints about the illogical events.
I debated with myself about whether to continue on and read the last two books in the series. I’m enjoying them but I’m also frustrated by them at times, and the premise is starting to lose some of its appeal. I’ve decided to stop here. I’ll miss the characters and I feel slightly bad about abandoning my fictional friends, but I’m ready to move on to other things. I’m also reasonably happy with where things were at the end of this book, and I’m not confident that I would be able to say the same by the end of the series.
A couple spoilers with a little bit more detail about some of my complaints…
Burton’s manipulation causes the “Great Amnesia”, where nobody can remember what happened in the previous 3 years because his actions have prevented Spring-Heeled Jack from going back in time 3 years and interfering with the timeline as he originally had. This goes against the entire premise the author has been repeating, that each instance of time travel creates an alternate branch of events. Now suddenly he’s proposing that, this one time, it all happened in the same branch. Plus it just doesn’t make sense to me that people wouldn’t remember events that happened as they happened just because they might have happened differently this time.
I know time travel stories always have their issues, but this series is developing more internal inconsistencies than I can tolerate. One of the characters himself points out another paradox created. Crowley interfered with the current branch of time because it was the only one where he didn’t exist, he didn’t know why, and by doing so he caused the death of his parents which was what prevented him from existing. Since Burton points this out, we know that the author is aware of the paradoxes and hasn’t confused himself about his own story. This is one reason I’ve decided to stop with the series, because I know I can likely expect more of them, and it’s just getting a bit too convoluted and illogical for me. The implication that time is deteriorating due to all the people messing around with time seems like an attempt to create a catch-all explanation, but it isn’t one that works for me.
Odyssey by Homer. It’s time for my third-quarter classic selection. I read Iliad last year and it was an interesting and worthwhile experience that also had some entertainment value, but it wasn’t really an enjoyable experience. I mean, I can remember with great amusement the experience of reading pages and pages where characters were introduced, exchanged their life histories and genealogies with each other, and then were promptly killed in some horrible manner, but it wasn’t all that fun to read. :) I’m hoping the story of Odyssey may appeal to me a bit more. Since I read Lattimore's translation of Iliad, I’ve decided to read his translation of Odyssey also to maintain a consistent feel.
>131 YouKneeK: The odyssey eh? Man, when you pick "classics", you really pick Classics! :-D
>135 quondame: Haha, yes, so far it’s been much more readable! I didn’t realize it took quite a while before his “odyssey” actually started, so for a little while I was wondering if this wasn’t the story I thought it was going to be because it seemed to be more about his son. I did eventually get to the part where his odyssey started, although I'm still not very far into it.
I have read the Odyssey, in the Lattimore translation, as part of my degree course (second degree, my first being physics) - and so paralleling some books with the Greek text.
A book of Roman myth is the first book that I can remember reading (age 3), and Ulysses was my childhood hero (I can remember planning to name my firstborn son Telemachus!), so actually reading the Odyssey was a huge let-down.
The "wily Odysseus" of the sobriquet turned out to be, for me, a rather unpalatable mixture of deceitful (I am particularly thinking of repeated dishonourable behaviour in the Iliad here) and downright vicious. I found it particularly hard to stomach his behaviour when he finally got home.
I will be very interested to see whether you have the same reaction.
>137 -pilgrim-: We read some of the stories in a simplified form when I was in middle school and I enjoyed them quite a bit. That had been my first exposure to it as far as I remember. As an adult, other books that referenced Odysseus have occasionally given me exposure to the idea that he wasn’t nearly as heroic as we 7th graders thought he was.
Odyssey by Homer
Despite my lower rating, I just want to emphasize from the start that I do find the work itself quite impressive. It’s a humongous poem, traditionally performed orally. It was written nearly 3000 years ago and yet still has a major influence on modern culture today. My ratings are always based primarily on how much I did (or didn’t) enjoy reading the book, and that doesn't always correlate to the book's literary merit.
After reading Lattimore’s translation of Iliad last year, I chose to read Lattimore’s translation of Odyssey this year. I had originally chosen Lattimore because I wanted to read a more “traditional” version, and I wanted it to be in a poetic format so I might get some feel of what it had been like to hear the original. I then stuck with Lattimore for the sake of consistency in format and word choices. At some point, probably many years in the future, I may try other translations.
One thing I have enjoyed about both of these works is the repetition of certain phrases throughout that helps enhance that epic poetry feel, sort of like the way the chorus of a song is repeated many times. Some of the phrases amused me, like “what sort of word escaped your teeth’s barrier” and others just made me appreciate the epic-poeticness of it like how people would respond to questions with various versions of the phrase “I will give you an accurate answer”. As various people travel to different islands, the residents on the islands tend to ask the visitors about who they are and where they came from and how they got there, often saying, “for I do not think you could have traveled on foot to this country.” Somehow this became funnier and funnier to me the more it was repeated. It just came across to me as so sarcastic, because it’s not like these people didn’t know what boats (or “hollow ships”) were.
The story itself I didn’t find that interesting. It also wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I was expecting it to be more about Odysseus’ odyssey, but that actually only took up about half of the poem if that. The rest of it focused on what was going on at his home and with his family while he was gone, and on what happened when his odyssey was finished. Most of his journey is told by Odysseus himself to his current hosts when he's near the end of his journey, and there really wasn’t as much detail or adventure as I expected. The things that happened were often interesting and adventurous, but they were told quickly. These stories were mostly familiar to me already, usually with no more detail added beyond what I already knew. There was also a ton of foreshadowing. We were often told “this is what’s going to happen” and then, a few books later, that’s what happened. Surprise! That kind of thing makes a read feel more tedious to me. I like twists and surprises.
Similar to Iliad, the main character isn’t an easy person to like. Odysseus complains a lot and is demanding, and I’m not sure he’s familiar with the word honesty. When the narrator is telling the story, we see him lie frequently. When Odysseus is narrating his own story of his journeys, I suspect the reader/listener wasn’t supposed to take much of it at face value. He usually painted himself and his actions in a good light, but I suspect he caused a lot of his own problems and played more of a role in the loss of his companions than he admitted. Between all of the characters, there are enough tears in this book to explain the formation of the islands. To some extent I also struggled with not judging the characters based on what I assume for them would have been normal cultural expectations, like the constant aforementioned tears and also how characters expected to be able to show up as a stranger on somebody’s doorstep and be given expensive gifts just for gracing them with their presence, and be conveyed to wherever they needed to go even if it was a huge inconvenience for the people doing the conveying.
So in summary it’s an impressive work, and I’m glad I read it for the sake of understanding its cultural significance, but it’s not the kind of thing that I really enjoyed reading. It did have its moments though when I was caught up in the story, and there were things I liked about it.
Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist. Yep, it’s time to start my next long series read! This was the book that got me hooked on the fantasy genre. I first read it when I was in my early 20’s after being exposed to Krondor through a rather unique computer game that was written like a book. I was curious when I saw the game was based on actual books, and ended up reading about 16 of the books before I caught up to what had been published at the time. I never sought it out after that, so there are another 15 or so books I’ve never read. I did think some of the later books I read dropped off in quality, so we’ll see how it goes this time. I’m also curious if I’ll enjoy those earlier books quite as much now that I have more fantasy under my belt. I’ll take short breaks between each subseries to read unrelated standalones, but my thread will probably be pretty boring over the next several months for people who aren’t interested in this series.
Has anybody here read Jimmy and the Crawler? That one seems harder to get a hold of, at least here in the US. It’s not on Kindle, and my library system doesn’t have it. It’s available to order in paperback, but I don’t normally buy physical books and I’d probably just turn around and donate it to the library when I was done. The price isn’t beyond what I’m willing to pay for a special occasion, it won’t hurt my budget at all, but it’s a bit much for a 144-page book. ($9ish on Abe, $11ish on Amazon.) So I’m just wondering if anybody has any opinions about it that might help sway me one way or another. I might just skip it if people thought it was bad and/or thought it didn’t add much to the over-all series. Jimmy was one of my favorite characters though, so I might be tempted to go ahead and get it just because of the title.
>139 YouKneeK: Did your copy include a forward to the poem? Mine explained a lot of the concepts/ideas, like how hospitality was vitally important to the ancient greeks, which helped my enjoyment of the poem.
I just checked. I had no idea the Riftwar Cycle ended up being 31 books! If I remember right Feist went through a period of depression somewhere mid-series and it was reflected in his writing. Since I've only read the first 5 I have no idea how true this is though it would explain the drop in quality you mentioned. Maybe when you get to the Empire trilogy it will help motivate me to finish that sub-series :)
You'll enjoy Feist. Of all the Tolkien:Apprentices, Feist may have been the best. The later books in the series weren't so good and I think he's still at it. I re-read them a couple years ago and the Suck Fairy had barely touched them. He did terrific characters tho the villains were comic book level. The 1st trilogy is terrific and some of the sequels were worthy.
>140 Narilka: I don’t think mine had the same one yours did. It sounds like yours was a lot more interesting! I must not have researched carefully enough when I chose my edition, or maybe it was the only Lattimore edition I could find at the time, but mine had very little commentary. There was an introductory outline written by Lattimore about the poem, which I read after I finished the poem itself. Some of that was interesting, but a lot of it was a repeat of things I had just read in the poem, so my eyes started to glaze over. I didn’t want to read it first for fear of spoilers, and he pretty much outlined the entire story, so I would have been annoyed if I'd read it first because I hate spoilers even for 3000-year-old poems. ;)
Oh that’s interesting, I didn’t know Feist went through a period of depression, and it definitely could explain the drop in quality as you say. I remember that I really liked the Empire trilogy back when I last read it. I’d love to exchange thoughts with you about it if you finish it around the same time. :)
>141 Jasper: That’s great to hear Feist hasn’t been infected by the Suck Fairy! :) Of the books I read, I actually remember next to nothing about the stories themselves, just a few vague images and details and the fact that I was engrossed by them, but I remember some of the characters more vividly. I expect some of the stories will come back to me a bit as I read. When he published Magician’s End in 2013, it was listed as the “final volume in the epic Riftware Cycle”, so I believe he’s done, or at least believed himself to be done at the time. You never know when authors will go back to things if inspiration strikes, but his most recent publication is King of Ashes which is in a brand new setting.
>139 YouKneeK: wow, you read it in poem form. I hadn't realized you were going so hardcore. Good job.
Best of luck with Midkemia. I have not read that Jimmy story, so I can't answer one way or another.
>142 YouKneeK: 'I hate spoilers even for 3000-year-old poems. ;)'
That's funny :0)
Feist came to Books Kinokuniya in Singapore some years ago so I went and stood in line to see him and only then realised that I had to pay for a book first before I could get it autographed. I had my younger son in his stroller and told my older son to stay with him and hold my place while I went to choose a book. So while I was trying to work out from LT what books I wanted (since I hadn't read his books in a while) so I could take it to the cashier at the other end of the shop and back again, my then 6 year old kept nagging me to get back to the line - with the great man (I don't see many famous people) sitting just metres away.
Anyhow, grabbed some books (I believe I got the Empire series then, since it's a stand-alone trilogy within the series), paid for it and got back in line with time to spare. But I wasn't in the best mood by the time I got up to the desk and asked Feist to autograph them, which didn't make for the best memories of the experience.
>139 YouKneeK: I hadn't even heard of Jimmy and the Crawler so I looked it up, in case I'd seen it under a different name. Have you looked at the LT reviews?
>142 YouKneeK: I read the Lattimore version with a line by line companion volume alongside. It was s good way to do it - the companion explained something on the spot, of something Jared or sounded a bit odd, but otherwise I just skimmed it after reading each book. I was also reading some of the text in Greek, as this was part of a degree course (yes, I did two completely different degrees in different decades); hence the hardcore approach.
However I think that method paid off. I also read s textbook on the culture of the period which, although incredibly dry, made me appreciate how totally different the docs and value system was to my own.
Being shamed by failure to show adequate hospitality was definitely a thing, as was abusing the system by deliberately trying to push one's host into failing to be hospitable to your huge entourage, in order to humiliate him and damage his reputation.
I loved how Odysseus' prime complaint against Polyphrmous is not that cannibalism is wrong, but that eating your guests makes you a very poor hist!
The "how to treat a ξένος rule" seems to have arisen to protect travellers, and counterbalance the cultural norm whereby the strong pegging on the weak is completely acceptable.
There is nothing in ancient Greek culture that resembles an ethic whereby you gain merit by helping the poor or the weak; they are evidently out of favour with the gods, and therefore fair game.
Living in a Christian, or post-Christian, society, we take it for granted that altruism is a virtue. Although some of the classical philosophers developed the idea that certain altruistic behaviours are civic virtues, as they promote a stronger society, which benefits its citizens, in the Homeric period there world there was no perceived merit in altruism. Generosity was admired, because it was a show of strength (it displayed that you were wealthy enough to afford this).
>143 BookstoogeLT: Haha, reading it in poem form may sound impressive, but I wouldn’t consider Lattimore hardcore. He translated it around the 1960’s I think, so the language is easy to understand and it isn’t like reading some cryptic, short poem where you have no idea what you just read or what the author was trying to say. Everything is spelled out clearly. Sometimes it’s spelled out ad nauseum. It just has a cool rhythmic/poetic feel to it that lets you imagine what it might have been like to hear it "back in the day". :)
>144 humouress: I’m sorry you didn’t have a better experience getting the books autographed! I’ve actually never gone to a book signing, or really had much interest in meeting a famous person (author, actor, singer, whatever), although I can somewhat see the appeal when I consider the possibility of meeting one of my very favorites. I haven’t looked at any reviews yet for Jimmy and the Crawler, mostly for fear of running into spoilers. I may do that as a last resort when I get to the point of needing to make a decision, or I might just buy it and find out for myself.
>145 -pilgrim-: When I read the Iliad, my edition had quite a bit more commentary, so I was surprised at how little there was in my edition of Odyssey. In addition to its lengthy introduction, my edition of Iliad had quite a lot of footnotes. I had the footnotes open on my tablet and the text open on my e-reader so I could just read the footnotes at the same time and see it all in context quickly, but I skimmed more and read less as I progressed. The problem I’ve found with footnotes for most classics is that they often insult my intelligence, telling me something that’s obvious from the text itself. Worse, sometimes they spoil the story and rob me of the chance to make my own connections by telling me how something that just happened relates to something that will happen.
The introduction in my version of Iliad was more interesting than the one in my version of Odyssey and provided some historical context that was helpful for me at the time. However, it was a rare occasion when I read the introduction before the main text because I expected the poem to be more difficult to understand than it was and I figured I would need all the help I could get. The historical parts did help me understand the story better I think, but the introduction also spoiled most of the story and robbed the key events of their impact since I already knew what was coming. I’ve sworn off making such a mistake again. Normally I read introductions after I’ve read the story itself and that works better for me. Large sections of them are repetitive and obvious when you’ve just read the story for yourself, but there are usually some interesting things to enhance one’s understanding or put a new spin on things.
>146 YouKneeK: I agree with you completely about footnotes being often insulting to one's intelligence; they seem to be aimed at the reader with the lowest possible level of background knowledge. But they are still my preferred form of acquiring necessary background information without getting told the whole plot in advance, as academic introductions so often do.
In my experience footnotes rarely go in for discussing events further ahead, except in cryptic terms like "cf. Book 12, lines 2012-14" - and one can always choose to not follow such links, in order to avoid spoilers. (That said, I would not be particularly Ashley for possible spoilers in this particular context, since I have known the plot of these two poems for as long as I can remember!)
The footnotes in the companion that I was reading were so extensive because they spent a lot of time giving the original Greek for specific lines, and glossing competing translations.
I don't think that either the Iliad or the Odyssey can work properly in a prose translation. Without the rhythm to remind you that these were meant to be sung, rather than read, the repetitive phrases, and frequent recaps, would become extremely tedious.
>147 -pilgrim-: I’ve encountered footnotes that have been far more explicit about what the footnoted text is a harbinger of. I’ve also seen the more cryptic footnotes like what you describe, but even those are problematic for me. It’s just too easy to extrapolate things based on small clues, especially if those clues are highlighted in some manner. A non-specific “remember this, this is important” type of flag can be enough to make me guess why the thing must be important.
Have you tried any of the prose translations? I’ve been curious if those translators might omit or rephrase some of the repetitive bits to make them less jarring in that format. Now that I’ve had one poetic experience for both, I could see myself someday trying a prose translation out of curiosity.
>148 YouKneeK: In my teens I started E.V. Rieu's prose translation of the Iliad, borrowed from my father. It was the classic translation of its era.
I could not finish it, even though I was extremely involved in classical Greek culture at that time: I had read a lot of the plays (both comedies and tragedy) and had been inspired by reading Plato's The Republic in translation to learn Ancient Greek, in order to read the original.
Of course, the spoiler factor may be an issue here. I already knew the plot from childhood versions, and the lack of rhyme removed the sender of poetry and metre, which just left me with the repetition. Probably the worst of both worlds (for me).
Retellings are fine. But I think the form of the Iliad itself is integrally shaped by its structure, which is designed to be sung or recited.
It is perhaps most obvious with the Iliad, but in don't think the Odyssey would fare any better.
>149 humouress: Haha, that’s probably the most effective way to do it and have the best of both worlds, although it’s extremely rare for me to actually want to read the same book twice in a close enough succession to benefit from it!
>150 -pilgrim-: It makes sense that reading such a familiar story in a format that didn’t appeal would not have been a good combination.
I also just have to take a moment to say how very much I'm enjoying my re-read of Magician: Apprentice. It has so many elements that I've come to recognize as being things that work well for me, so I can see clearly now how it dragged me into the fantasy genre so easily.
>139 YouKneeK: >146 YouKneeK: I just went and checked that a version of the story Ulysses on film came out when I was 6. I would have seen it at least twice before I was 8. Also my mother & older brother or I read aloud "classical" literature until I was about 13 and, having gotten over my dyslexia, was reading everything for myself. So in terms of plot elements little could have been new. I did enjoy the more recent translations by Robert Fagles - I am still partial to Odysseus in spite of the smear campaign Circe mounted against him.
>152 quondame: Ulysses was my childhood hero, but it was his treatment of Melanthius in Book 22 that finally broke my sympathy for him (already diluted by his attitude in Philoctetes (by Sophocles)).
>153 -pilgrim-: Disloyalty was a major breech in that society, and nobody was behaving well. I haven't read the Sophocles, but don't quite expect boy scout behavior from Mycenaean warriors. Those guys were the vikings of their day at best.
>151 YouKneeK: Glad to hear that Magician is going along swimmingly. Has it aged well?
>152 quondame: I haven’t seen it in any visual form, although that might be interesting at some point. Circe keeps showing up on my feed lately, at least over on GR, but I haven’t read it. The group I’m in there read Song of Achilles (same author) a few months after I finished Iliad last year, and I’ll likely read that someday, but I decided to pass it up at the time the group read it. I assumed it would be horribly depressing by the end and I think I had read some other emotionally-heavy books around the time and so I wasn’t in the mood to read another one.
>155 BookstoogeLT: It does really seem like it has aged well to me. I'm a little over a third into it and I’m not getting any cheesy 80’s vibes. Also, while it definitely has that classic epic fantasy feel, I’m also not feeling like this is a story I’ve read a million times. It has a comfort read type feel to it. Pug may be the classic orphan boy with great potential, but he’s not surrounded by horrible people the way such fantasy orphan boys often are. Most of the characters populating the story are likeable, at least so far, and I’m smiling a lot at the dialogue.
>154 quondame: Screwing over a friend is usually seen as dishonourable in most warrior cultures. And just because he now smells really bad! Then lying to him, and pretending to have repented - because you have realised that he still has something that he wants, and want to take that from him too...
Odysseus seems to behave badly according to his own cultural norms, as well as by ours.
But just as the Vikings had their trickster good in Loki, it seems that the Greeks needed the release from their honour code in terms of tales about s successful liar.
It is not that Odysseus
>157 -pilgrim-: I think what makes Odysseus different from other Mycenaean characters is that he figures in more different sorts of stories over a very long period of his life, and is shown reacting to things in rather a variety of ways. Some of those stories are quite different than what remains from the period and we really don't feel the context of the bronze age audience or know the political points Sophocles was trying to make. Do you feel that the Homeric Odysseus and classical Hellene Odysseus can be equated and judged as an individual?
Honor codes are tricky, because in history people are more often seen actually behaving with ordinary greed and selfishness and spite and covering up with it, and in fictions it is the breeches that make the story. I'm not saying that individuals with integrity don't or didn't exist, just that they are often startling exceptions.
>159 Karlstar: Pug or Tomas?
Arutha. ;) He and Jimmy were my favorite characters, although admittedly it took a couple books before I started to appreciate Arutha. He doesn’t get a whole lot of page time early on, and I don’t think Jimmy shows up at all until maybe the 2nd or 3rd book?
But between Pug or Tomas? I’m not sure I can choose right now, at about 50% in. I really like both, and for mostly the same reasons. I may have more opinions after their stories start diverging more. I remember some aspects of that, but not many details.
I hope you have better luck finding Jimmy and the Crawler than I did if you decide to read it! Right now I’m leaning toward buying it, but of course I’m still in the “I love this series” glow of the very first book. :) It’s the 17th book on my list if I decide to read it, so I have a while. It seems to be grouped as the last book in the subseries with the novelizations of the computer games. I know I read the first three in that group, but I can't remember any of my opinions about them at all.
Reading this is really making me want to dig the Betrayal at Krondor game back out, though. I’ll probably give into the temptation once I get up to the corresponding book in the series, #14, although I may not make it all the way through to the end of the game. I played through it plenty of times already in my younger years anyway. :)
>160 YouKneeK: WHEEEEE WHOOOOOO WHEEEEEE WHOOOOO
ALERT ALERT ALERT ALERT
All citizens, we have a Class Two Nostalgia storm bearing down directly on us! Take what precautionary measures have been recommended by the authorities and ride the storm out. Do NOT, we repeat, DO NOT try to act like you are 18 again, consequences could be fatal.
Stay tuned for up to the minute updates at NostalgiaWeather.com
regarding magician It's one of my favourites, but (like dune) I've only ventured a little deeper into the series before deciding not to bother with the rest. The Empire trilogy co-written with Janny Wurts is great though, I think there's an old discussion thread with her somewhere in the GD archives. -
In the UK Magician is published as one volume, I believe the US has it split into two which makes little sense from the readers side, as the story doesn't neatly stop.
>161 BookstoogeLT: LOL! :)
>162 reading_fox: I really enjoyed the Empire trilogy also, so I’m looking forward to reading that one again. I have a note to look for that discussion thread after I finish re-reading the series. Yes, Magician is published as two books here in the US. I’ve never been sure if it was originally published as two books here, or if it was only split into two after he added back in the previously-cut text for his preferred edition back in 1991. I’ve only ever read the preferred edition.
>158 quondame: I think the issue is that we are discussing "wily Odysseus". So, whatever other aspects of his character can mutate over the centuries, his Honeric epithet is what makes him him.
My feeling is that he fulfills the role taken by the trickster deity in many cultures that had a strong warrior ethos.
In terms of who "Homer" composed his poems for, then yes, we are not that will informed, anymore than we know much about the identity of the poet himself. But why did these oral epics survive (and other contemporary works not)? Their continued transmission, culminating in being written down, showed that they resonated with meaning for their audiences over the centuries. A manuscript may survive by chance. But an oral epic only survives as long as it is worth memorising - and that does not happen to artistic worlds of simply historic influence. The poems only survive because they continued to resonate with successive generations. So Homeric Odysseus IS the same character as "Athenian" Odysseus (if we can describe the "man of Ithaca" that way!), in his essence, because Athenian audiences considered him so.
The "chivalric age" in Europe never existed, in the sense that there never were knights who behaved like those in the Arthurian romances. It existed as the era when men and women aspired to the ideals represented in those romances, even though real life was a messy, complicated thing that falls short of that.
Much literature and poetry is about people behaving as people would like people to. The Homeric epics are not a history of the Trojan War, even though that was an actual, historical event. But it does record how people wereexpected to behave. The actions that it condemns and the ones that it praises tell us a lot about the ethics and values of that Bronze Age people (although not necessarily about how they actually acted).
In that sense, honour codes are tricky things. I disagree that there has to be a breach of them to make a story. Often it is the converse, the idealised character who actually behaves in the way that people are supposed to behave, that creates the conflict needed for story.
In the transmission of mythic characters (as opposed to their re-imagining for overtly literary purposes), they do not change in their essence. What may change over the centuries is societal approval of them.
In Philoctetes, the moral high ground remains with the archer, even as the audience admires Odysseus' cunning. But the action of Odysseus, as described in the play, is simply a lengthy elaboration of what is mentioned in passing in the Iliad. "Silver-tongued Odysseus" in action. But what Homer approved of, Sophocles posts on a more ambiguous light.
>164 -pilgrim-: As the classical Greeks weren't the Homeric Mycenaeans, I can make the same difference between their instances of Odysseus, and Mallory's Arthur vs T.H. White's Arthur. It probably was the same people culturally who wrote down the extant Homeric texts and watched Sophocles's plays, so maybe the connection is closer, but the tragic plays seemed more didactic than the fireside narratives.
"Often it is the converse, the idealized character who actually behaves in the way that people are supposed to behave, that creates the conflict needed for story", yes but because someone else or even the idealized character at an earlier time, violated at least the letter of honorable behavior. There probably are "conflict of honors" stories, in which tragedy is the result of everyone behaving according to some agreed upon best practice, but they aren't the majority.
>163 YouKneeK: Magician was just one book in the hardcover edition, at least the first one, it was split for the paperback editions. Arutha is a very good choice!
Do you have a system that will still play Betrayal at Krondor?
>166 Karlstar: I don’t think I’ve played it on this computer before, but the GOG versions of older games usually work fine for me since they come packaged with the DOSBox emulator. I know I’ve played GOG’s release of Betrayal at Krondor before on previous modern PCs without issues, and I’ve played other older games from GOG without significant issue on my current Windows 10 PC.
BAK is currently $3.89 on GOG if you want to fall down the rabbit hole too. :) It comes packaged with Betrayal in Antara (same game producers but not related to Feist’s books) which I played and enjoyed many years ago, but reports about the GOG edition indicate that BIA is buggy and you can’t get past chapter 4, so you're really only getting BAK. BAK works fine though to the best of my knowledge.
Looks like Return to Krondor, the sequel to Betrayal at Krondor, is $1.99. I haven’t purchased that one from them, although I did play the game a couple times back when it first came out. I liked BAK better, but this one gave me some entertainment also. That’s the problem with GOG… they sell all these old nostalgic games so cheaply that I normally try not to log into their site lest I’m tempted by things I can afford but don’t have time for. :)
>165 quondame: We have Mallory's text, as he wrote it. It did not have to stay valued, loved and appreciated through the following centuries, for it to reach us. All that it required was that a copy survived.
We don't have the texts of what the Mycenaeans listened to. All we have is what the Greeks of the "classic era" wrote down. There is no reason to suppose that they altered it, but it would not have reached us unless they considered it to be not only of artistic merit, but "true". We cannot tell what the Mycenaeans would have said about the works of Sophocles, but we do know that 5th century BCE Athenians considered those plays to be an accurate portrayal of the mythical hero of which Homer spoke.
Homer's epics were considered to be historical. Sophocles' plays were written to be performed as part of a religious festival.
Whilst it is reasonable to assume that not every Greek of that era believed in the state religion, or his local cultus (just as not every modern Iranian citizen is a convinced believer), we do know (from the example of Socrates) that overt atheism was punishable by death. Whatever their private beliefs, and whatever political messages they may have wished to convey in the subtext of their plays, the plays themselves had to be religiously orthodox. So any plays that survive, having won prizes and being performed at such festivals, can be taken as orthodox portrayals of the mythic being.
There probably are "conflict of honors" stories, in which tragedy is the result of everyone behaving according to some agreed upon best practice, but they aren't the majority.
What do you base that assertion on ?
I seem to remember that this "conflict of honour" was considered the essence of classic tragedy.
>168 -pilgrim-: And here I thought it was don't piss off the gods. But someone always does because you can't please both Hera and Zeus. Or Athena and Poseidon or ... As to Odysseus, no doubt he was a jerk, but he didn't throw his on kid on the altar or entomb his niece.
>169 quondame: Wouldn't you call "obey God X - and break your obligations to God Y in the process", "no, obey Y - and thereby piss off X" exactly the sort of conflict of honour obligations that we have been talking about?
(And, because no one ever claimed that the gods were admirable entities, when considered as people, conflicting orders like this seem to be the norm.)
I cannot currently think of any mythic figure who invites the ire of the gods by deliberately defying them - except Prometheus.
Antigone is screwed because she is trapped between duty to her uncle (both filial and that of subject to her sovereign) and to her brother (both sororal and that enjoined by pious obligations regarding the treatment of the dead).
Orestes is screwed because of conflicting filial duties - those towards his mother and to his dead father.
Agamemnon is screwed, like a lot of Greek heroes, because he doesn't think before he vows.
I agree that Agamemnon and Kreon are also "jerks". And the gods are, par excellence.
Unfortunately, Odysseus is too.
>170 -pilgrim-: I don't see the X vs Y playing that way. More X favors A so X's enemy Y screws with A. In the mythic level. The tragedies maybe more so.
Prometheus was a Titan, so different rules, really.
Arachne actually directly baited Athena and insulted the other gods.
Tantalus fed his sons to the Gods, which pissed them off a bit.
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