YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 2
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- I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, with a heavier emphasis on fantasy.
- I tend to read slightly older books versus the newest releases.
- I hate spoilers. Any spoilers in my reviews should be safely hidden behind spoiler tags.
- I prefer to read a series after it’s complete, and I read all the books pretty close together.
- I’m 43, female, and live in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA in the U.S where I work as a programmer.
- My cat’s name is Ernest and he’s a freak.
Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.
# Review Link Title Author(s)
1 2019-01-04 Fool's Quest Robin Hobb
2 2019-01-12 Assassin's Fate Robin Hobb
3 2019-01-17 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
4 2019-01-19 Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
5 2019-01-22 The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood
6 2019-01-26 MaddAddam Margaret Atwood
7 2019-01-29 The First Fifteen Lives of Claire North
8 2019-02-03 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson
9 2019-02-06 Brown Girl in the Ring Nalo Hopkinson
10 2019-02-11 The Thousand Names Django Wexler
11 2019-02-11 The Penitent Damned Django Wexler
12 2019-02-17 The Shadow Throne Django Wexler
13 2019-02-18 The Shadow of Elysium Django Wexler
14 2019-02-25 The Price of Valor Django Wexler
15 2019-03-02 The Guns of Empire Django Wexler
16 2019-03-08 The Infernal Battalion Django Wexler
17 2019-03-10 Deathless Catherynne M. Valente
18 2019-03-15 Doomsday Book Connie Willis
19 2019-03-19 To Say Nothing of the Dog Connie Willis
20 2019-03-23 Blackout Connie Willis
21 2019-03-29 All Clear Connie Willis
22 2019-04-02 Haze L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
23 2019-04-06 The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N. K. Jemisin
24 2019-04-10 The Broken Kingdoms N. K. Jemisin
25 2019-04-16 The Kingdom of Gods N. K. Jemisin
26 2019-04-17 The Awakened Kingdom N. K. Jemisin
27 2019-04-19 Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
28 2019-04-21 Othello William Shakespeare
29 2019-04-24 Sea of Rust C. Robert Cargill
30 2019-05-01 Spinning Silver Naomi Novik
31 2019-05-05 The Long Earth Terry Pratchett and
32 2019-05-06 Nimona Noelle Stevenson
33 2019-05-09 Night Watch Sergei Lukyanenko
34 2019-05-12 Day Watch Sergei Lukyanenko
35 2019-05-14 The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham
36 2019-05-18 Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
37 2019-05-22 Behemoth Scott Westerfeld
38 2019-05-25 Goliath Scott Westerfeld
39 2019-05-27 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr.
40 2019-06-02 Karen Memory Elizabeth Bear
41 2019-06-05 Alphabet of Thorn Patricia A. McKillip
42 2019-06-12 Under Heaven Guy Gavriel Kay
43 2019-06-18 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay
44 2019-06-22 The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern
General Reading Stats
My average pages per day is a bit higher than usual so far. I’ve enjoyed the majority of what I’ve read this year as seen by my high average rating in the next section, so that’s probably a contributing factor. I imagine it will drop off some as the year progresses and I get tied up with work projects and probably some business travel.
My typical yearly average ratings are usually in the high 3.x’s, so I’m probably over-generous with my book ratings to begin with, but so far this year they’ve been even higher than usual. Like I mentioned above, I’ve enjoyed the majority of what I’ve read this year. From finishing up Robin Hobb’s Elderlings series, to Atwood’s MaddAddam series, to Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns, and most recently Connie Willis’ Oxford Time Travel series, I’ve enjoyed all the series books I’ve read. I think my least-favorite book so far this year was Snow Crash and even that one wasn’t bad, it just didn’t do much for me.
This graph is fairly boring so early in the year. I do always enjoy seeing what my median publication year is currently at, though. Right now it’s at 2011. The most recent book I’ve read this year was published in January 2018. It’s very rare for me to read any books published in the current year.
This is the chart that always justifies my thread title. Most of what I read falls under either fantasy or science fiction. Fantasy always has the higher number, often three times as high, so this year’s numbers are unusually close. I tend to gravitate toward fantasy series but mostly read standalone science fiction books, so this year I’m trying to fit in some of the science fiction series that I never seem to get to. I expect fantasy will still be significantly higher than science fiction by the end of the year based on my reading plans, but maybe not by quite as much as usual.
These pie charts are also pretty boring this early in the year. I have several new-to-me authors planned, so hopefully the “Authors Read for 1st Time” chart will look better by the end of the year. It’s unusual for me to have read more female than male authors, probably because I’m often reading a lot of older and/or more mainstream SF&F books in my quest to catch up on everything I missed in my early years. Keeping them equal isn’t something I make any significant effort toward; I mostly just read what I want to read regardless of who the author is. Despite that, it’s an easy metric to track so I track it for curiosity’s sake. My awareness of the numbers does probably influence my choices sometimes. I have some more female authors planned for the year, but I also have a lot of male authors planned. I expect the males will “win” the pie charts as usual in the end.
>5 BookstoogeLT: You’re a lot more adventurous than I am with the lesser-known and/or indie authors, though. Plus I’m probably too generous with some of my ratings. When I think back on various books I’ve read I rarely think I should have rated them higher, but sometimes I think I should have rated them half a star lower.
I’m about halfway through Haze now and I think it’s safe to say that whatever rating it ends up with will be under 4, so that should “help” lower my average a bit.
Haze is a standalone science fiction book by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. When I first started the book, it seemed like it was going to go in a direction that I would enjoy reading about. However, I ended up not caring for it much at all and was a bit bored by it. This is one of those occasions where I probably would have been better off abandoning it, but I’ve never been good at that and it’s not a terribly long book.
The story is set a few millennia in our future. Our existing governments are long gone and the ruling organization is the Federation. They’re in charge of everything, but there are a few rebel/splinter groups. Humanity has ventured into space and colonized other planets, but they haven’t discovered any aliens. The entire story is told from the third-person perspective of Roget, an agent for the Federation who gets sent on various missions, ranging from an undercover mission to investigate a murder on Earth to a mission to a mysterious planet to penetrate the haze surrounding it and make contact with the life forms on the planet, if any exist.
Roget was neither very interesting nor very likeable. He kind of bumbles along, reacting to things and doing what he’s told as best he can, all the while thinking Deep Thoughts and obsessing over the painting of a dog. I’m being a little melodramatic; there’s more to the story than that, but I personally didn’t get much out of it. There’s one point where Roget thinks something that I found quite offensive. This doesn’t really spoil anything about the plot, but I’ll put it in spoiler tags for those who don’t want any advance preconceptions.
The story is very political, with lots of discussion of different ways to handle different political concerns. I often enjoy stories with political intrigue, but there wasn’t really any intrigue here and it wasn’t very nuanced. There were times when I was interested in the story and curious about what would happen next, but over-all this was an easy book for me to put down. I also felt like some things were a little too repetitive or over-explained. We flip between two timelines a few years apart, and I kept trying to guess what the major connection between them would be. Unless I missed something, there really wasn’t much of a connection aside from showing us the events and thought processes that led to Roget’s final actions.
There were glimmers of promise in the story, but it mostly fell flat with me. This was the first book I’ve read by the author, and I do plan to try some of his fantasy work eventually.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin. I really enjoyed her Broken Earth trilogy (read in early 2018) and her Dreamblood duology (read in late 2016). I believe this series was one of her first published works and I’ve seen some mixed comments on it, so I’m trying to moderate my expectations based on that. I expect I’ll enjoy it more than my last book in any case!
Well, it's true for me, certainly.
Looking forward to seeing what you think of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms as I haven't tried any of Jemisin's work either but do have the starter books for a couple of her other series waiting on the tbr shelves for me.
I must say that I did laugh at your spoiler. Not because it got you upset but because it rings so true from a man's perspective. Every man thinks he's the center of the universe and God's personal gift to women. That is just how most of us are wired.
Anyway, I hope that Jemison's early work works out for you.
>13 AHS-Wolfy: Yes, I don’t think I would recommend Haze for a first attempt of Modesitt! I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve read by Jemisin so far. Her Broken Earth trilogy (starting with The Fifth Season) is probably my favorite. The story has stuck with me well, and I really liked some of the things she did with the story structure although I’ve also seen that those same things were a turn-off for other readers.
>14 BookstoogeLT: Haha, I’m now going to be looking suspiciously at all my male colleagues. ;) I’ll keep those other Modesitt books in mind for future attempts, thanks!
Speak for yourself. There are quite a few of us with low self-esteem.
>18 Busifer:, >19 Maddz: After reading some reviews and discussions about Haze, I’m under the impression it was one of his more polarizing books. Based on your reactions to some of his other work, though, it sounds like part of it might just be his normal writing style.
Now I'm interested. What was it about it that would suggest me joking? Your own experience, your view of group dynamics, etc? I'm guessing you don't agree and I'd like to hear the what and why, as I wrote from what I've experienced and from what I've seen of others. Please elucidate :-)
Many young (15-25 yo) men in Sweden would take it as a joke or as an insult, while the 50+ segment is more likely to actually think it for real. When they do a lot of people ridicule them.
I am, of course, talking from my Scandinavian perspective. As soon as we go abroad we meet this attitude quite regularly, even if degree and prevalence vary both between countries and within them.
My main point is that it is not universal, hard-wired, but a socialized behaviour. And some cultures are more keen on male dominance than others.
Not that any of you had asked for my opinion. However, to deal with culture and relative normativity is, to some extent, and I decided to not keep quiet ;-)
>27 Busifer: Within my own experiences here in the U.S. I have seen a few people like that in the workplace, both male and female. Really though, I can’t say I’ve known very many, but I don’t know what’s going on in the privacy of people’s heads and there is likely some obliviousness involved on my part. I think sexual harassment policies also would discourage people from flaunting those attitudes in a way that could cause offense, so I probably see less of it than there is. I saw evidence of it more often when I worked in Ohio as a buyer/planner in a manufacturing facility than I have working in IT here at our corporate offices in Atlanta.
>28 YouKneeK: Yeah, that one was a real low point in the Recluse Saga for me. I still recommend the Corean Chronicles over anything else by him.
To be honest though, I suspect a lot of it had to do with me not caring 2 figs for music in general.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the first book in N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy, and it was also the author’s first published book. I have read and greatly enjoyed her other series, Dreamblood and Broken Earth. This book maybe wasn’t quite as polished and didn’t have quite as much depth as her later works, but it still grabbed my interest from the first page and held it through the end.
Yeine’s mother was the daughter of the most powerful king in the world and would have been his heir, but she married a man from a distant barbarian land and abandoned her home to be his wife. When Yeine’s mother dies, she’s summoned by the grandfather she doesn’t know and informed that he is naming her his heir. The catch is that he’s also named two other heirs, her cousins, and there can only be one in the end. The palace is also populated with real gods who people can see and talk to, and they have their own agenda. The story goes off in a somewhat different direction than one might expect from that premise, but I don’t want to spoil anything.
The story is told from the first-person perspective of Yeine and it’s intentionally told in a somewhat disjointed fashion for reasons that become clear as you get further into the story. In some ways the writing style reminded me of The Fifth Season, although the story itself is very different. This is a complete story with everything resolved by the end, so I’m curious to see where Jemisin takes things in the second book. The ending was a bit different from what I had expected and I had somewhat mixed feelings about it, but I wasn’t dissatisfied by it either.
Looking back on the book, the story maybe didn’t have a ton of meat to it. A lot of time is spent with Yeine obsessing about both her past and her future and her relationships with some of the characters. I didn’t always think Yeine’s actions made a lot of sense, although I did sympathize with her. There were some characters who were more interesting to me that I would have enjoyed seeing more of. I was very much entertained while I read, but it wasn’t quite as compulsive of a read as the books in her other two series were for me.
The Broken Kingdoms, the second book in this series.
The Broken Kingdoms is the second book in N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. It’s set about ten years after the first book and, like the first book, it tells a complete story with a beginning and end. It mostly focuses on different characters, but some familiar characters from the first book show up too.
The story is told from the first-person perspective of Oree, a woman who can see gods, godlings, and magic but is otherwise blind. On a few rare occasions I thought she seemed to know things that she should not have been able to know without sight, even with her other heightened senses, but for the most part I bought into her blindness and sometimes felt, in a mental sort of way, kind of blind myself for not knowing exactly what was going on around her when she couldn’t see. Her ability to see magic and magical beings was a bit convenient though, since those things were often around during key action points in the story to help her see.
This book had more humor than the first book, or at least I laughed out loud more than I remember laughing when I read the first book. I enjoyed the first book a lot, but I enjoyed this a little more. I thought the story had more meat and the main character behaved in a more relatable way. I gave the first book 4 stars, but I’m giving this one 4.5 and rounding down to 4 on Goodreads. I look forward to seeing where she goes with the third book.
I have a few spoilery comments about the ending…
The Kingdom of Gods, book three in the above trilogy. There’s also a novella set after it that I’ll likely read.
The Kingdom of Gods is the third book in N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. Like the first two books it tells a complete story, although I think the background from the earlier books adds more depth that one wouldn’t get if they jumped straight to this book for some ungodly reason. If I were a godling, I’d be the godling of Reading Series Books in Consecutive Order. :)
The story is set several decades after the last book and the main character is a godling that we’ve met before, but he’s new as a POV character. I’m going to put his name in spoiler tags for those who want to be surprised:
For most of the book I was planning to give this a solid 4 stars, or possibly 4.5 and round down to 4 on Goodreads, but the ending made me very happy. And then, in my edition anyway, it was followed up with a short story called Not the End which takes place after this third book but provides some closure to the second book. It was a bit sappy, but it made me happy too. And then that was followed up with a glossary that totally cracked me up. Clearly the author made the mistake of letting her main character get a hold of it! So after all of those smiles at the end, I decided to rate it at 4.5 stars and round up to 5 on Goodreads.
I have a few more spoiler-filled comments, mostly about the ending.
I think with every book in this trilogy I’ve reached the almost-end feeling unhappy about how things were clearly going to end, only to find that the author still had one more trick up her sleeve that at least partially turned things around for me. I still had mixed feelings about the final endings of the first two books, but I really liked the end of this one. The short story at the end made me feel happier about the second book also, especially given the misinformation that Glee had intentionally given to Sieh during book three.
The Awakened Kingdom, a 250-page novella that I believe is set after the above trilogy. After this, I’ll have finished the series and will be moving on to other things.
The Awakened Kingdom is a novella set about 300 years after the third book in N. K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. It’s told from the point of view of a very young godling who is only a little over a month old. She visits humans for the first time, on the same planet where the previous books took place, and learns a lot about life in general and about herself.
This was cute, but it was my least-favorite of Jemisin’s work by a good margin. The main character has a very bouncy, hyper voice that made me cringe sometimes. It fit her age and her personality and her experiences, but it was a bit much for me. The message was also not terribly subtle. I kept getting flashbacks to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Angel One”, which was not at all a favorite of mine.
Nevertheless, it still held my interest and I did like the main character despite her childish voice, especially as she gained more knowledge and some maturity. I liked the way she looked at things, and I liked how hard she tried to do the right thing. It was also a very fast read. The Amazon product page claims my edition is 250 pages, but there’s absolutely no way. I checked the page counts for other editions and most of them show 124 pages. That’s in line with the amount of time it took me to read, so I’m going with that for my personal records.
Now I’m going to do my classic reads for the second quarter, starting with Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. My decision to read this was inspired by the references to it in Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, which I read recently.
Three Men in a Boat was originally published in 1889 and was one of my classic selections this quarter. I try to read one or two classics per quarter in the middle of what is otherwise a steady diet of SF&F. This particular choice was a more spur-of-the-moment decision, influenced by the references to it in Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog.
It’s quite a short book at around 185 pages and chock full of amusing anecdotes. It doesn’t have much of an actual story to it. Three friends decide to spend a fortnight traveling by boat up the Thames river for health and relaxation. This is literally the extent of the plot. There are no mysteries or twists and turns or anything like that. It also takes a while before the trip commences. The first two characters finally get into the boat after about 25% of the book, and the third man finally makes it into the boat after about 40%.
Even after the boat trip begins, there are many diversions as the characters reminisce about past events that they experienced or heard about. The narrative flows in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner as one anecdote leads to another and then to another before the author returns to the “present” to briefly describe a little more of their boat journey.
The lack of a story kept me from getting very engrossed, but I did laugh a lot while reading it. Most of the anecdotes were quite funny, although some of them were a bit slaptick-ish. The author had a humorous, sarcastic writing voice that I enjoyed and he was full of observations about human nature that modern readers can still easily relate to. I’m rating it at 3.5 stars and rounding down to 3 on Goodreads.
Othello by William Shakespeare. The timing worked out well; I should hopefully be able to read this over the weekend and have time to follow it up right away with a movie adaptation. Amazon has a Branagh version available to stream, so I’ll probably choose that based on past experiences.
We read Othello when I was in high school, but I remember absolutely nothing about it except the title. That’s the main reason I chose to read it this year. I think this was the last Shakespeare selection we were required to read, by which time I had already decided I didn’t like Shakespeare, so I probably didn’t go into it with a great attitude. Whether I like the story or not now remains to be seen, but I’m bound to get more out of it than I did back then.
Re Othello, didn’t Paul Robeson do a film adaptation? I seem to remember Lawrence Olivier also doing a version too, although it may be politically incorrect now as I think he blacked up. One thing to remember is that Moro in Italian is Black and was a nickname for several Italian families. I think either one of the Visconti or the Sforza families (Dukes of Milan) was nicknamed Il Moro.
Shakespeare definitely intends Othello to be understood as being black. Apart from many references to his skin colour, there is the passage whsre he explains how he wooed Desdemona by impressing her with his history - which includes being captured and enslaved as a child, then rising through battles and wounds to his current eminence.
>50 -pilgrim-: I’m a little over halfway through the play now and Othello’s skin color was made (repeatedly) clear from the beginning, although I did read it in the introductory info first. But I think probably the point Maddz was making in terms of political-incorrectness is that Olivier was a white actor who used makeup to appear black for the purposes of the role.
Othello wasn’t one of the plays we did at school - I think it was an A-level text in the 1970s and I did science at A-level. In any case, Shakespeare recycled stories from different sources for his non-historical plays. I’ve now checked the Wikipedia article and yes, the Robeson Othello was never filmed (but was released as audio) but the Olivier was.
>49 hfglen: Yes, that is well wrong. Try Timothy Holme instead!
Like you I did sciences at A-level, but I joined the A-level English class" trip to Stratford to see Donald Sinden play Othello. A great actor, not a great performance (he descended into scenery-chewing madness too rapidly, in ny opinion), but it did feel uncomfortable to see a man with such a quintessentially patrician English physiognomy "blacking up".
Still, we are in Shakespeare's world, where women were played by men; I suppose this was how the author himself would have expected Othello to be played. But maybe not blacked up? I suspect the plethora of referenced to Othello's skin colour in the text may be to remind the audience of something not actually visible to them.
I will say though that both the island of Corsica and the island of Sardinia has flags sporting a version of moor that go some time back, and that version is pitch black. I'm no expert on the history of the region, but I seem to remember these moors as a heritage from Aragonese heraldry (14th century), with an added St Georges cross on the Sardininan flag.
There's a 13th century version of the Corsican flag that has a very brown moor, though.
My guess is that "the Moor" (il moro) was used as a nickname for anyone who was perceived to have a dark complexion, regardless of actual skin tone or descent, or, in Shakespeare's case, perhaps simply as marking someone as being "not from here".
Othello was the Shakespeare tragedy that I chose to read for this year. I liked it reasonably well. I still didn’t like it as well as Hamlet, but I did like it better than Macbeth. Much of Othello is made up of characters plotting and carrying out those plots via dialogue, so it was more readable as a play than something like Macbeth where much of the story is action that isn’t shown on the page.
It does seem like, at least of the plays I’ve read, there are a lot of very similar themes, plot devices, and character types across the plays. The details of the stories may be different, but there are a lot of similarities. I’ve now read 4 Shakespeare plays in about 17 months, so I figure this makes me an expert. (Yes, I’m joking.) The familiarity of those themes made the story feel predictable and occasionally a bit tedious. I also get very frustrated with characters who believe the worst about somebody without tangible proof and without giving the other person a chance to explain themselves. Additionally, I had some trouble buying into the gullibility of Othello and some of the other characters. Aside from that, the story was very easy to follow and held my interest well. Given that this is a Shakespeare tragedy and I knew there would be many deaths by the end, I amused myself by predicting who would die and how.
When I finished reading the play, I immediately followed it up by watching one of the movie adaptations, the 1995 Kenneth Branagh version. When I did this with Hamlet, I enjoyed the experience but came away feeling like the version in my head from reading the play was slightly superior. In the case of Othello however, the movie was very much an improvement over my reading of the play. The actors played the characters far more convincingly than I had read them myself, especially Iago. Seeing how earnestly Iago spoke to the people he was deceiving made it easier to understand how they were deceived. I also felt Othello’s torment much more strongly through the actor’s portrayal of the character.
So, three stars for the reading experience, but I would give it 3.5 if not 4 stars if I were rating it based on the combined experience including the movie.
Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill. I don’t know anything about the book, but one friend on GR gave it 5 stars and another one abandoned it at 23%, so that makes me curious.
>58 YouKneeK: I think Shakespeare at his best was shrewd at portraying power and power balances, and what power do to the ones that try to wield it. How would you rate Othello against, say Henry IV through VI, or Richard III? I've always thought that I should read Othello, but I must admit that I'm more intrigued by his Histories than his Tragedies...
>60 Narilka: One nice thing is that they’re extremely fast reads because there are so few words on a page. I remembered them as being long and torturous in school, but I guess it’s just because we spent so long studying them. :) Even with reading nearly all the additional content and all the footnotes in my editions, and re-reading several passages for clarity, I can easily finish them in a day or two.
So I'm just curious what your experience has been.
Although the text has a lot of annotations, each one is usually very brief, mostly confined to one or two words to help clarify meanings. I’ve found them helpful, or at least not so intrusive as to be a hindrance. While reading, I have the play open on my Kindle and the annotations open on my tablet and I keep them side by side. This lets me quickly flick my eyes over to the corresponding annotations without really interrupting the flow of my reading. I like having it all in front of me; it’s distracting and slows me down if I have to click on links to open the annotations, especially since that covers part of the text.
The annotations do seem increasingly obvious to me as I’ve gotten more familiar with his writing, but some of them are still helpful to me. I particularly appreciate the explanations for familiar words that have a different meaning from what modern readers would expect. Many of those are obvious from the context, but there are things I would have misunderstood otherwise. One phrase that amused me in Othello was, “He says he will return incontinent”. Incontinent here means “immediately”. I incontinently guessed that this word didn’t mean what I thought it did, but I’m not sure I ever would have guessed it meant “immediately” if not for the fact that the character in question had just recently said he would “be returned forthwith”.
I do think I wouldn't suffer much confusion if I ignored all the extra material altogether, though. When I read older material without commentary, I usually find that everything sorts itself out eventually through context.
I was talking about things found in multiple Shakespeare works, like the evil character who plots against the good character for power and/or revenge, the innocent girl who gets caught up in the middle of things and is completely bewildered, the naïve character(s) who believe the lies they’re told and immediately over-react, etc. Just like some more modern authors tend to repeat similar character types or events throughout their unrelated works, making their stories feel more predictable.
Some years ago I co-wrote a convention freeform (a political LARP) and using stock characters was easier on the writers. Having stock characters made it easy to assign motivations and abilities, and to ensure everyone was in a plotline.
Sea of Rust is a standalone science fiction book that was a little different from anything I myself have ever read before, although I’ve heard it may have some similarities to Asimov’s work which I haven’t yet read. I really enjoyed this.
It's an artificial-life-takes-over-the-world story, but the robots have already won the war. The story begins 15 years after the last known human has been killed. We do get some flashback chapters that tell us how things came to be the way they are, but it’s a comparatively small part of the book. Now the artificial lifeforms have their own war going on. The large mainframe computers who were instrumental in defeating the humans are trying to absorb all of the individual robots into a Borg-like collective, so the individual robots are constantly on the run with failing robot parts and diminishing supplies.
The story is told from the first-person POV of a robot named Brittle. She’s full of shades of grey when it comes to morality. She does some pretty rotten stuff, but she still manages to be a sympathetic character. One tiny thing that I really loved about this book is that the chapters are numbered in binary. Considering that the story is being told to us by a robot, I thought that was perfect. It was a little bleak at times, but definitely not the bleakest thing I've ever read.
For the most part I was engrossed by the book, but it gets pretty action-heavy at times and this was one of those books where the action didn’t always hold my attention well. Some books do and some books don’t, and I’m never quite sure what makes the difference. There were also a few niggling things that I didn’t completely buy into. One was the emotions of the robots. Guilt, friendship, anger, etc. It was never explained how they developed this, and I don’t think an artificial lifeform developing sentience would automatically mean they develop human emotions to go along with that. I also wasn’t completely convinced that it should be that difficult for them to get supplies. These are pretty intelligent creatures; they ought to be able to reverse engineer their parts and figure out how to make new ones. I think the idea was that the mainframes were using their facets to maintain control of the necessary resources, so I mostly let that pass, but I was still occasionally bothered by moments of skepticism.
I have a couple brief comments for the spoiler tags:
I was not surprised when Brittle turned out to be the Judas Goat. I was convinced of that the moment she started talking about it, before she even mused that she herself could be one.
I would like to leave you with a thought that you may have heard before: There are only 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I’ve wanted to read this for a while, and the group I’m in over on GR is reading it for May so this seemed like a good time to slip it into the schedule. I’ve seen some mixed reviews for it, but I enjoyed both Uprooted and her Temeraire series so I hope to enjoy this one at least somewhat.
I have to admit, I laughed at your joke. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing :-D
Laughing at the joke may qualify you for geek status if you would like to claim it. I recently bought a t-shirt with that joke on it. I think wearing the joke probably makes one a geek whether they formally claim that title or not…
I love the idea of that joke being on a t-shirt.
Hope you enjoy Spinning Silver. As >74 2wonderY: said I did think it was just a wee bit too long, but I loved it anyway.
>75 Narilka: The group I’m in on GR read Sea of Rust last year which was how it got on my radar, but I didn’t join in at the time. I caught the book on sale later which was what motivated me to try it. I do wish in retrospect that I’d read it when the group did because it would have been an interesting book to discuss.
>76 clamairy: Regarding Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, it may have helped that my expectations were a little low from hearing those same grumblings, but I thought it was a well-written and enjoyable read, better than a lot of other books out there, even if it wasn’t quite as amazing as Broken Earth.
>77 Karlstar:, >78 -pilgrim-: I think I was a latecomer to the joke as I only remember first hearing it a couple of years ago, but it’s stuck with me since then.
>79 reading_fox: I did think the author told his story well. I’d love to hear what you and/or >75 Narilka: think of it if either of you do try it! I don’t know too many people who have read it.
Spinning Silver is a standalone fantasy novel that plays quite a bit with fairy tale themes, while still telling its own unique story. The main fairy tale that it pays homage to is Rumpelstiltskin, in a very loose way. There are elements that are inspired by that tale, but it is really a completely different story. There are also small references to other fairy tales. The first character we’re introduced to is Miryem, the daughter of a moneylender who lends money and then never asks for it back. When their resulting poverty affects her mother’s health, she decides to take some action of her own.
The format of this is different from anything else I remember reading in that it has multiple first-person POVs. It starts off with just a couple, but I counted about six by the end with some having more pages than others. I had read reviews warning of this already, so I went into the book prepared. I could see how it would be very difficult to follow in audio, but I really didn’t have any trouble reading it in a text format. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like the format enhanced the story versus just telling it in multiple third-person POVs. To my mind, the main distinguishing characteristic of a first-person POV is how it restricts the reader’s knowledge to only what that character knows, adding an element of suspense and sometimes confusion as the reader tries along with the main character to figure out what’s going on. With multiple first-person POVs, the reader’s knowledge is no longer restricted. Much like with a third-person multi-POV story, the reader can see the different things going on with different characters and imagine how things will connect and result in a cohesive story. I guess the first-person POV adds a little more intimacy to the tone, but I’ve always found characters equally compelling in either POV if they’re written well.
Anyway, for me I don’t think the POV choice really affected my opinion about the book one way or another, aside from occasionally wondering at the choice. The story held my attention well while I was reading it, but I never felt completely engrossed by it. Her other standalone fantasy, Uprooted, sucked me in much more strongly. I can’t really say why I enjoyed this one less, though. It was a good story, I liked the characters, and I was pretty much satisfied with the end. I did have a lot of outside distractions while I was trying to read it, so that likely impacted my enjoyment.
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, the first book in the Long Earth series. I’ve had this on my list for a few years, and I’ve even scheduled it to read a few times, but I’ve never felt very enthusiastic about reading it so I keep swapping it out for something else. I’m not even sure why. This year I’m determined to knock it off the list. Worst case, if I don’t like it enough to want to read the whole series, I can free up some space on my schedule and finally stop seeing it on my TBR list.
The Long Earth is the first book in a five-book science fiction series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. The main premise is that humans have discovered that it’s possible to “step” to a seemingly-unlimited number of alternate earths, all of which appear to be pristine wildernesses with no humans to be found. Many people take advantage of this discovery for a variety of purposes: to start new pioneer colonies, to exploit resources, to enjoy solitude, and to just explore.
I thought the premise was interesting, and there were interesting ideas throughout, but the execution was often dull. My interest was all over the place while I read it. Sometimes I was caught up in the story, other times I was completely bored, and everything in-between. It wandered off into side stories a lot, but sometimes it was the side stories I enjoyed more than the main narrative. Most if not all of the side stories did tie into the main narrative eventually.
This book didn’t feel like a complete story by itself. Several questions are answered, and others are hinted at, but this is clearly just the beginning of a longer story. I didn’t enjoy the first book enough to continue, though. Alternate universes are a science fiction trope I usually enjoy, but this one didn’t work that well for me.
Last year I tried my first graphic novel when I read Watchmen. Those who were around to read that review may remember that I had mixed reactions to it, both story-wise and format-wise. A while back I bought Nimona on sale, so I’m going to attempt my second graphic novel next. I suspect this one will prove simpler for somebody like me, a not-very-visual person who finds it more of a struggle to extract meaning from pictures than from words.
>99 -pilgrim-: It does seem like there is a pattern developing here with people who have read or tried to read this book.
Nimona is my second attempt at reading a graphic novel, and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than my first attempt. This is a fast read with very simple, straight-forward pictures and not even very many words. It probably would have been a better choice for my first graphic novel than Watchmen was.
The story opens with a young girl named Nimona imposing herself on a supervillain named Blackheart and insisting that she become his sidekick. She’s very gung-ho and bloodthirsty about the idea of helping Blackheart with his evil plans. We soon learn that there’s more to her than meets the eye as she shows off her shapeshifting abilities, but there’s more to Blackheart than meets the eye, too.
When I first started it, it seemed a little too young and “cutsie”. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. It really grew on me as I kept reading though, and it had more meat than I initially expected it to have. I loved Blackheart nearly from the beginning, but Nimona was really annoying to me at first. Her behavior made more sense by the end, although I thought her story could have been fleshed out better. We’re given enough information to get the gist of it, but there are a lot of gaps.
I very much enjoyed the character relationships, and also the light humor sprinkled throughout. It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, at least not for me, but I did smile or chuckle a few times. The artwork seemed a little odd to me, but I did appreciate its simplicity that made it easy for even me to follow.
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. I bought this book on sale 2.5 years ago but haven’t yet gotten around to trying it. Some of the discussion about it in my previous thread made it sound more appealing to me than it had previously, so I’m curious to try it now. Worst case, if I don’t like it, I’ll be able to knock another series off the list.
Now. I AM a huge fan of the Night Watch series. My enjoyment grew through the series though. I was very offput by the first book as I wasn't used to the switching between first and third (or second, I can't remember) points of view for the prologues and the short stories.
Yeah, the iron non-transfer makes no sense. So smelter operations in those worlds should be more valuable than anything.
Edited to put the following in spoiler tags as I can't really remember when this came up in the story and I don't want to spoil anything. It's a minor part of the book anyway, but just to be safe!
The discussions about creating laws to
Night Watch is the first book in a six-book series. I would consider this to be urban fantasy. It’s set in Moscow and focuses on “Others”, people with special abilities who walk among non-humans unrecognized, usually picking a side between the Light and the Dark and working in organized groups toward the goals of their chosen side. Since both sides seem primarily concerned with maintaining a balance, the lines between them are a little blurry. Rules are in place to keep conflict between the two sides from escalating into a war. If somebody strikes a blow for the Light, then the other side has the right to strike an equal blow for the Dark.
The structure is a little different; it consists of three individual stories. Each one tells a complete story, but follows the same main character and builds on the previous stories. This book was originally published in Russia in the late 1990’s. I read an English translation, of course. The only way I could read a Russian book in its original language would be if it were transliterated into the English alphabet and if it consisted solely of the word “nyet”. I enjoyed getting some sense of Russian culture through the book, although it wasn’t a very strong sense because the story focused mostly on the fantasy elements and very little on the day-to-day lives of normal people.
I didn’t always feel like I understood the motivations of the characters. I always had some sort of a “wait, what?” type of reaction at some point during the climactic events of each story. It seemed like characters took the long way around to work toward their goals, and the main character was often ineffective. The main character’s actions made more sense than anybody else’s since we were in his head, but even his actions didn’t always make sense to me. He was a likeable character though, a bit bumbling and confused, but well-meaning.
I think my biggest complaint about the book would be the constant and repetitive musings on morality as it related to the actions of the Light versus the Dark. In the first story when I was still learning about the setting, it was interesting to learn about the choices that the sides had made, why they had made them, and consider whether their choices were ultimately more or less harmful than alternate choices. But then in the second story the characters continued to muse over more-or-less the same things, and it started to get tiresome. By the third story, of which at least half seemed to consist of more repetition of these same thoughts, I had reached the “please make it stop” point. I liked the way the story had this moral gray area, but I didn’t need its existence beaten into my head so much.
Aside from those complaints, it was a quick read that held my attention well. I enjoyed the concepts introduced and I liked the stories and the characters. I’m not sure if the setting can sustain my interest for a full six books, but I liked the first book well enough to try the second. I’m rating it at 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads.
Day Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, the second book in this series.
Semi-spoilerish comments on the structure of the movies here.
How'd you find the musical lyrical thingy? That drove me batty and I just ended up skipping all the songs in the rest of the series, no matter if they might have a clue about the plot or not. I just didn't care! :-)
>110 BookstoogeLT: There was a good bit more moralizing in the first chapter of the second book, although this time it was from somebody on the Day Watch so at least it was a slightly different perspective. I’m still holding out hope that it won’t get as repetitive in this book, but we’ll see.
I read the music lyrics, but I didn’t really get anything out of them. They mostly seemed to reiterate the feelings the main character was having, which I already understood without the lyrics. Maybe it was supposed to add more weight to it, but it didn’t work for me. I usually don’t care much for songs or poetry inserted into stories, though.
I'm enjoying the story quite a bit so far, though.
Russians may be addressed by their surname, patronymic, contracted form of patronymic, forename plus patronymic, nickname, or a whole range of diminutives of the forename, which vary depending on degree of closeness, how much they like each other, and degree of emotion in the situation - so that the same person is called different things by different people.
And Western readers in the past have often been confused, not realising when the different names mean the same person.
So modern translators often transform all references to a given person into the standard form of the forename (thereby removing a lot of information about the interpersonal relationships).
Russians have a smaller pool of names to choose from. In reality, in an environment where there are several people with the same forename working together, they will settle on different diminutives. But if all names are being reduced to the standard form, those distinctions may be lost.
I have not read Night Watch in Russian. But perhaps in Russian all these Antons are Antonya, Tonya, Tosya, Antya and Tosha?
That does not preclude an intentional symbolic link between them though, of course.
>115 Maddz: Given the theme of choices and consequences
A lot of times several book characters have been conflated into a one for the purposes of the film. Major spoilers:
This gives the film a simpler symmetry.
The simplification was probably necessary to fit the time constraints of a film. Also a lot of characters come from Russian pagan mythology; they are not given a backstory in the film because those would be known to a Russian audience. I have watched Night Watch twice, once in English and once in Russian. The viewings were several years apart, but I have the strong impression that the English language version had been edited to remove a lot of references to characters' mythic pasts. Certainly it made a lot more sense on second viewing!
>116 -pilgrim-: Very interesting info, thanks. The translated books do still reflect different methods of address, and I saw something similar but not as pronounced a few months ago when I read Deathless. I haven’t found it too confusing to recognize that the different forms of address are for the same people because it has been pretty obvious from context, but I haven’t been very clear about what the rules are. I’ve just been operating under the general impression that addressing with a diminutive reflects a closer relationship but not always affection, and addressing with a two-part name reflects respect, or at least recognition of authority. I find it impossible to keep track of all the different forms of address being used for the same people, so most of the simplification has been happening in my own head as I mentally translate from the diminutives to the regular forename.
There may be some ranting and raving in my review for the second book. I just finished the second story. I was greatly enjoying it, until I got to the end. Then I closed the cover of my Kindle with harder-than-necessary emphasis, stomped over to my computer, and sat down and typed up a page of annoyed notes for my review. Such notes don’t always end up in my reviews, but I think at least some of them will this time.
Day Watch is the second book in the Russian Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko. Like the first book, it’s split up into three stories that build on each other to tell a larger story. Unlike the first book, each story focuses on different characters.
I had a lot of mixed feelings while reading this. First of all, one of my biggest complaints about the first book had been all of the repetitive musings on morality. In this book, I’m happy to say there wasn’t very much of it. There was a little in the first story, but it was from the perspective of a character on a different side of the conflict than the one who did all the moralizing in the first book, so it was relatively interesting and this time the author didn’t make the mistake of repeating the same thoughts all throughout the rest of the book.
I enjoyed the first story up until close to the end. I enjoyed seeing things from the perspective of the Day Watch, and I liked getting in the head of one of the characters who had been a villain in the first book. However, I was very annoyed near the end when
Then I really enjoyed the second story, until I got to the very end. There was a lot going on and I enjoyed speculating how it would all tie together, and I was particularly interested in what was going on with the main character. Then I got to the end, and it seemed like everything in the story had been a manipulation to
Then there was the third story. Up to this point the first two stories hadn’t appeared to be directly related, but the third story started shedding more light on events in both stories and tying things together into a larger plot. So I thought maybe I judged too soon at the end of the second story and I started getting interested in the big picture all over again. The end of the third story wasn’t as annoying to me, but I still felt like things were over-plotted when considering the final revelations. I had a similar reaction to the stories in the first book also.
So how do I rate this? I think I’m going to give it 3.5 stars like I did the first book, because I did enjoy most of my time spent reading it. This time though, I’m going to round down to 3 on Goodreads. I debated whether to read the next book. The stories are enjoyable, but I’m repeatedly dissatisfied by the endings. I was tempted to read “just one more book”, but I suspect my reaction to the third book would be similar and I’d get to the end of that book feeling just as undecided as I do now. If that pattern continued, I’d likely find myself at the end of the entire six-book series feeling horribly annoyed. :) I’ve therefore decided to move on to something new.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Wyndham before, and I’ve had this on my Kindle for over 2 years.
I reread The Day of the Triffids fairly recently; it was a UK Kindle Daily Deal a couple of years ago. I thought it rather dated now and of course most people know it from the film which has a completely different ending. Don't get me wrong, it's still very readable; you just have to relate it to the time it was written. I got some Keith Roberts in ebook last year; re-reading The Inner Wheel made me wince a bit.
>123 -pilgrim-: My favourite Wyndham is one of the stories in Jizzle. I find old school short stories more readable nowadays than novels; they're less obviously dated. Unfortunately, most near future SF from the 40s - 60s has been badly overtaken by events and scientific progress; I mean, let's face it - we're past 1984, 2001 and 2010; has any of that come to pass?
I think dated technology doesn’t bother me too much from older books, mostly because I expect it. Occasionally it will make me laugh and sometimes it starts to bother me if it’s really pronounced. It’s also easier for me to ignore if it’s in a field that I don’t know much about anyway, like agriculture or genetics. I do really like it when the book is set in the time when it was written like The War of the Worlds, because then nothing feels jarring. Maybe aliens didn’t actually invade earth in the late 1800’s (although apparently some people thought otherwise!), but I can imagine I’m reading a story about something that happened on some alternate earth and be content with that.
Actually, I think I’m more likely to have trouble with more recent books from the 80’s and 90’s, where many of the technology references feel normal enough but other things feel really dated. It also bothers me more if I think the author ignored technology from their own time that should have affected events in their book. Like Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, published in 1992, in which she completely ignores the existence of not only cell phones, but even answering machines. She has characters waiting by phones for fear of missing an important call, or asking other people to stay by the phone for them all day and write down any messages.
I wonder if it's to do with memory, especially one's own memory - if you've lived through that era yourself, it feels incredibly jarring. Cold War SF is from one's parent's memory. Another thing could be setting - if it's set on Earth, then the tech differences are glaringly obvious, but something in space or on an alien world is less so.
>125 Maddz:, >126 YouKneeK: 1984 was another of my school set texts. Apparently Orwell didn't have a time frame in mind when he wrote the novel; "1984" was his publisher's idea: to make it 'contemporary' by reversing the (then) current date (publ. 1948).
>128 -pilgrim-: That’s interesting about the title of 1984, I didn’t know that!
I made it through about 33% of Triffids last night. So far I’m still enjoying it quite a bit. I’ve seen the book talked about often enough that I knew it had something to do with apocalyptic plants, but I had managed to avoid absorbing any other plot details. The blindness introduced in the first chapter was a surprise and adds an extra dimension to the story that I wasn’t expecting.
They ARE interesting when they can be used as specimens of their time, demonstrating what was then "common sense", but mostly that's not why I read, so I rather skip those parts.
(In other cases the tempo drags. I love Left Hand of Darkness but has never managed to win over anyone who I have enticed to read it during the past 10-12 years. As late as two years ago I was met with "I can see why this was once an important book, but...")
In 2020, I’m planning to read a few of what I think of as medium-length series. I never seem to get to them because I usually pick one large series per year and then read smaller series and standalones the rest of the year. The only series I’m pretty firmly decided that I’ll at least try is the Kushiel series because I’ve been wanting to get to that for a very long time. I’m tentatively thinking I’ll pick two each of medium-sized fantasy and medium-sized science fiction series.
I'm trying to remember when he moved from a trilogy of short stories to just novel length stories. I can't remember if it was book 3 or 4. Either way, too late for you.
best of luck with the Triffids. I enjoyed the movie as a pre-teen but when I read the book in '11 I was very underwhelmed. Never read another thing by Wyndham since :-)
It is also worth noting that, if you are at all concerned with reading order, then you have the choice of by publication date or by internal chronology. For instance, the fifth book published, The Dispossessed, is actually first in the internal chronology. However, it's probably not the best one to start with.
I suppose the best suggestion might be to follow Ursula Le Guin's advice.
Wikipedia also has a complete list of Hainish novels & stories.
>133 ScoLgo: Thanks for that info. The complete list of short stories with the collections they’re in is particularly helpful; I hadn’t yet done any research on that. I’m not sure yet if I’ll make the effort to read the short stories, but knowing what collections they’re in would make it easier. I had read that bit from Le Guin before, so I was aware she didn’t consider it a series and that the reading order was flexible. I do like to read related books closely together though, even when they stand alone, to better appreciate whatever connections they do have between them. My plan is to read them in publication order. It feels more natural to me to discover things in the same order the author created them. I’m not usually confused by non-linear books, so a non-linear set of books isn’t much more trouble.
I have managed to collect all the short stories and will put in a plug for The Birthday of the World as that volume contains quite a few Hainish stories. The non-Ekumen tales in that collection are also very good. The kindle version also comes up for sale on Amazon from time to time. It's currently $7.99 but I picked it up for $1.99 a while back. It's easily worth that, IMHO.
Whenever you get around to it, I will follow along here to read your thoughts on the books.
The stories do stand on their own as well, but I thought you'd want to know.
I also enjoyed Worlds of Exile and Illusion, but it has been a long while since last time so I don't know how it has aged.
As >136 quondame: says The Dispossessed is a very good book. Pretty hard to read, though, so not recommended as a first UKL.
>136 quondame: Haha, favorites are difficult. I tend to have that reaction to just about any topic I’m asked to pick a favorite of.
>137 Busifer: Good info, thanks!
>138 Busifer: One of my holdups with getting to The Caves of Steel (aside from the sheer impossibility of reading everything I’m interested in) is that I understood it to follow after the other I, Robot books and then eventually lead to the related Foundation series. So I have this in my mind as part of a 17-book series of 6300+ pages. That page count puts it in the range of a “medium-size series” in my eyes, so it’s a candidate for next year’s picks, but not as high on my list as some others. Maybe if I do the same thing again in 2021…
>139 reading_fox: Her only non-Earthsea novel that I’ve read so far is The Lathe of Heaven which I had mixed feelings about. I loved the premise, but I had issues with the execution.
(I did think The Naked Sun was better than Caves, and they are more of a "series" (same protagonist) with Sun as no. 2, and both are fast whodunnit-type stories.)
>140 YouKneeK: I'm in the midst of reading Asimov's 'Robot' novels now. Just finished Robots and Empire a couple of days ago. As >141 Busifer: says, while each book builds more into the universe from the earlier books, and many of the characters do re-appear, each volume remains a self-contained mystery/adventure.
I also agree that the Foundation series is pretty much a separate thing from the Robots series. Asimov wrote Robots & Empire later in his career as a sort of bridge piece between the two series but I doubt he began the Robot short stories early on with that idea in mind.
Though I won't be re-reading the Foundation series at this time, I do plan to dive into the trilogy written by Mark W. Tiedemann next and will follow that with, Have Robot, Will Travel, then the Roger Macbride Allen and Mickey Zucker Reichert trilogies. Fourteen books seems like enough in this particular universe for this year! ;)
And I fully agree with you on Foundation vs Robots.
>139 reading_fox: Hah, no! It was a colleague who reads mainly fantasy but who wanted something interesting for her all female reading group. They mostly read non-genre fiction (contemporary relationship drama; how is that NOT a genre?), and she came to me with a shortlist of books that she was considering when it was her turn to suggest their next read.
What >141 Busifer: said. The robot stories are really my favorite of Asimov's writings, minus my rage at his treatment of Dr. Calvin, and I think his greatest contribution to the great dialog of SF.
On the topic of books that I’m long overdue to read, there have been a few conversations about Dune on various threads here, in which everybody’s comments have convinced me that I can and probably should just read it as a standalone for now. I bought it for my Kindle a couple months ago when it went on sale. Anyway, there’s a good chance that some people from the group I’m in over on GR will be reading it in either July, August, or September, in which case I plan to read it with them. I’ll know for sure if and when it will be read later this month. If it doesn’t win the vote I’ll probably go ahead and fit it in on my own anyway, so odds are good that I’ll finally shed my Dune ignorance before the end of the year.
As far as The Day of the Triffids goes, I’m still enjoying it far more than I had expected, although not without quibbles. It’s also still possible that I’ll hate the ending and become soured on the book in general as a result. I ought to finish it tonight, but probably be too late for me to have time to write a review until sometime tomorrow.
The sequels are rather different. Dune Messiah is definitely the weakest. They don't work as well, simply considered as stories. In each one, Frank Herbert explores the consequences of aspects of the universe he has created in Dune. I can often be found complaining that authors have obviously not thought through what would be the actual consequences of their "neat plot twist"s - Herbert is the opposite of that. Each sequel looks at such consequences: Dune Messiah considers the real impact of prescience, Children of Dune looks at the uses of extended life and cloning, others address the economic and societal impact of the ecological changes made (for example).
It is harder to find a protagonist to identify with as the series goes on and the millennia pass. Whether you enjoy the sequels depends on how much you were wondering about such questions.
The sequels, and prequels, by his son and collaborators, are, in my opinion, completely forgettable. They have the lack of narrative focus that characterises the later books, but are aimed at the pure "adventure" level, with no underlying ideas to compensate.
edited to add:
I concur whole heartedly with >146 -pilgrim-:, even while I really enjoyed the sequels. They're not for everyone and the prequels are complete trash and a shameless money grab by a man who lived in his daddy's shadow and a hack writer who can't write (not a fan of Kevin J. Anderson just in case you couldn't tell ;-) )
(And I was being polite, but don't actually disagree with anything that you said regarding the prequels!)
For what it is worth, I'm still a big Foundation fan and the Robot books too! The story collection The Complete Robot is one of my favorites.
The Day of the Triffids is a classic, standalone science fiction book published in 1951. I enjoyed this a great deal more than I expected to. Although I went into the story as blindly (ha) as I could, I’d read enough reviews over recent years to solidify the idea in my head that this book was about apocalyptic plants. There’s some truth in that, but there was more to it than that.
In the first chapter, we learn that there was some sort of light show in space that people believed was debris from a comet. Everybody who watched it, which was the vast majority of Earth’s population because it was an impressive sight, ended up blind the next day. Society completely broke down, and things were complicated by a recently discovered type of new carnivorous plant that grows very tall, can walk, and can fatally sting people.
I did have some quibbles with parts of the premise as well as other things. I’ll put more about that in the spoiler section at the end of my review. However, I enjoyed the story enough that I was willing to overlook the quibbles. The blindness really added an interesting element to the post-apocalyptic story for me. It made the story feel different from other apocalyptic books I’ve read, and it added some different types of things to think about and some different moral dilemmas.
The main character is Bill. He narrates the story and is one of the people who escaped blindness, but it would have been really interesting to also read from the perspective of one of the people who went blind. Bill was pretty likeable, as were some of the secondary characters. I also liked that there were reasonably intelligent and self-sufficient women in the book, which isn’t something you always see in the classics. There was a huge emphasis on women as baby-makers which made me roll my eyes a bit, but I also understood that babies would be pretty important in humanity’s survival over the long term, especially since they would replenish the seeing population.
I discovered after it was too late that the American Kindle edition has about 11,000 fewer words versus the original, in addition to Americanizing some of the words, despite the product page not saying it’s abridged. I verified that my edition was definitely the modified version. It felt like a complete and coherent story, but I was really disappointed to learn that I had missed out on so much text! I wouldn’t want to re-read it again right now even if the full version fell out of the sky and landed in my lap, especially since this means I would probably be really busy getting my roof and ceiling repaired. But maybe someday I’ll seek it out and read it.
I have some more comments that need to go behind spoiler tags:
Assuming it were possible for this virus to make it to earth, wouldn’t it then have affected everybody and not just the people who saw the lights from the weapons being destroyed? I guess all the people we read about who didn’t go blind had been indoors when it happened, so maybe they weren’t exposed and the virus died quickly, before they ventured out. On the other hand, it seems like the virus might still get in through open windows and ventilation systems and such.
If the lights themselves caused the blindness, I’m not sure that would make any more sense. After all, it isn’t night everywhere in the world at the same time. I guess it’s possible that the show lasted long enough that all the parts of the world got to see it during their night time, and the more limited communication technology of the time prevented people in earlier time zones from hearing about it in time to prevent their own exposure. We’re never really told how long it took for the people to go blind after seeing it, but the implication is that they watched the light show, went to bed, then woke up blind. If it were a direct result of the lights, it seems more likely it would have affected them more quickly, and affected people who started watching earlier before those who started watching later, allowing more people to escape exposure when they realized what was happening.
Yikes, that was a lot of rambling about whether the world could all go blind at once. :) My only other real complaint was that some of the characters believed the triffids were intelligent and that the noises they made were communication, yet nobody ever even once mentioned the idea of trying to learn to communicate with them. Such an endeavor probably wouldn’t have made sense in the context of the book, because there may not have been anybody with the skills or opportunity to do so when survival was pretty difficult even without the triffids, but I expected something to at least think about the idea even if nobody had the time or ability to try it.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. I don’t know much about this one, but it’s one of those books I’ve had on my Kindle for a long time and never seem to get around to. I’ve heard it’s more on the YA side of things, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on how it’s written.
If we ever all go blind and plants start eating us, I'll vote for YOU to start trying to communicate with them :-)
Of course, it makes me wonder what this book would look like if it was written today. Dang, that actually sounds really cool.
I saw there was a sequel, The Night of the Triffids written by a different author about 50 years later. I was moderately curious, but I had planned in advance to ignore it. Now I'm a little more curious.
It has been a very long time since I read it, but I seem to remember more explanation than you have given. I wonder whether those were the parts that got cut: either because the "science" of it now looks too dated, or because the editor decided those parts were boring?
(I remember how Jules Verne used to be criticised for writing good adventure stories with poor science; later it was revealed that he wrote a lot of scientific explanation, but it bored his first translators, so they just omitted them.)
In the version I read, the light show just went on for one night. In the first chapter, Bill was in the hospital with bandages over his eyes when the light show started. Then he woke up the next morning and nobody came to tend to him which was when he discovered everybody was blind. There was never any mention of him having to avoid looking at lights in the sky during the subsequent nights, although I guess that could be part of what was cut. But I think he discovered
What you may have had was a film novelisation - the Kindle version I have is badged as a 'books into film' series. Without a paper copy, I can't tell whether it's been abridged or not - it's been years since I read a paper version.
Bill had been in hospital for some time with his eyes bandaged.
I think that it was optical nerve damage. But it wasn't "Look at the pretty light...Arghh, I 'm blind!"; damage is done, the blindness follows shortly.
I agree that the "how" of the light show causing blindness was not particularly well done.
Doesn't the "viruses on comets" theory post-date Wyndham?
I don’t think this version was a novelization, but I haven’t seen the movie so I could be wrong. This link is the one I found explaining the difference between the versions and also how one can tell if they have the cut version. https://triffids.guidesite.co.uk/versions.php
>159 -pilgrim-: Yes, the explanation of Bill’s injury was definitely provided in my version, along with much detail on the subject going back to Bill’s childhood experiences up through his adulthood occupation. However odd it would have been, he did spend his injury convalescing in the hospital. He goes into some detail about his annoyance with the sponge baths every morning and other hospital routines he’s become accustomed to, the traffic patterns he hears through his window, and he knows exactly what’s supposed to happen at what times. He can tell what time it is despite his bandages because there are clocks with audible chimes somewhere in the vicinity. That implies he’s been there for some days fully conscious, long enough to learn the routine.
I skimmed through the early parts of chapter 1 again. Going by the above link, it looks like the only text missing in chapter 1, about 585 words, happened after Bill removed his bandages, when he was exploring the hospital. Bill tells the reader that it’s May 8 when he wakes up, the day his bandages were supposed to be removed. Later as he’s trying to figure out why the schedule is so messed up and where everybody is, he says, “You’ll find it in the records that on Tuesday, May 7, the Earth’s orbit passed through a cloud of comet debris.” Then he talks about having to spend the evening before in bed listening to everybody enjoying the spectacle that he couldn’t see.
It does say that in California there had been some green flashes noticed “the previous night”, which I would take to be the night of May 6, but nobody took the reports very seriously. I had forgotten that part. So it sounds like the show was just getting started maybe late on the 6th and then lasted through the 7th, being over by the 8th. Long enough for everybody on the planet to have seen it during their nighttime. But I don't think we're supposed to believe the light show itself caused the blindness based on the things Bill said later in the book.
I don't remember how the blinding related to the light show, whether directly or by being exposed to something else through being outside then. My point was more minor (and addressed the question of why people to the west were not forewarned): that the blinding was not an instant result of having looked at the light show (in the way that looking at the sun directly would be).
That link to the comparison site was fascinating. I definitely read the longer version, I remember Fedor
FWIW, my school copy appears to have been the 1970 Penguin edition:
>94 YouKneeK: Yup, same reaction to The Long Earth as well. I listened to it, and it seemed rather flat to me. (No pun intended.) I was happy enough to blame Baxter for the parts I didn't like, because after reading his Evolution some years ago I thought I could tell which bits were his fairly easily.
>153 YouKneeK: Loved this one, too. Don't think I found as much to quibble about as you did, but I was trying to take into consideration that it was fairly old by post-apocalyptic lit standards. Since then I've read his The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids. Both are quite good, but I would give the edge to The Chrysalids. After reading Triffids I watched a hilariously bad movie version that I can only recommend if you are slightly twisted and enjoy awful movies.
>159 -pilgrim-:, >161 -pilgrim-: Here's the wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia. The idea has a long history, so it's entirely possible this is what Wyndham was riffing on. Hoyle et al were later in the mid 70s. That edition was my original paper edition.
That bit about the polliwog surprised me. I don’t know if it’s a regional thing and maybe other people in the U.S. use the term polliwog, but I know exactly what a tadpole is and I would have had to look up a polliwog. I think I’ve heard the term before, but I didn’t know what it was.
>162 2wonderY: No, this will be my first time reading Westerfeld. I didn’t get a lot of reading time yesterday, only about 40 pages, but so far my first impression of Leviathan is good.
>163 clamairy: I haven’t yet tried any of Baxter’s solo work, but I’m far more reluctant to do so now. I don't have him on any of my lists anyway. LOL, I think I might pass on the hilariously bad movie. :) I will have to try reading more Wyndham at some point, though.
>164 2wonderY: Oh, I forgot to mention that in my review, but that part made me so mad.
>165 Maddz: I’m glad you were able to get a hold of a good edition!
I too prefer The Crysalids. - and his short stories.
The BBC did quite a good TV series of Day of the Triffids in the early eighties (although they struggled with the special effects for the triffids, on their budget); the 1961 film is indeed dire.
>165 Maddz: Very interesting, thank you. Yes, it was Hoyle that I was thinking of.
>164 2wonderY: Re Baxter, I've recently finished Alternate Histories which is an omnibus of the Time's Tapestry and Northland series. Both I thought went on for too long, especially Time's Tapestry. Structurally, I thought Weaver (book 4) would have been better as vignettes within the other books, loosing much of the everyday life in occupied UK (to me, that came across as padding). By the time we got to Weaver, I'd lost track of the various effects of the different prophecies.
>166 YouKneeK: Polliwog is from the Northern UK, probably Yorkshire. It features in Venetia which is how I knew the word. We used to visit Yorkshire when I was a child, but I don't recall Aunty Moore using the word - probably because we visited in summer. I only visited in spring when I was doing my masters in Leeds in my 20s so wouldn't have gone tadpole hunting. What I remember is fishing for crayfish with bacon rind.
Also, I am from California, polliwog and tadpole have been inter-changable words to me. I love them both, as well as the creature which bears the name. :)
I'm currently ploughing my way through The Weird and wanted a change. I ought to read my ER stuff first, but I could access these on the train so I went for it.
I do dislike pdf for novel-length reading; short form is OK, but much longer than a review paper is a real pain, especially if there is no bookmark function or a proper ToC.
Cases often happen after a total eclipse; because the total illumination level is low, someone incorrectly assumes that looking at the corona will be safe.
Leviathan is the first book in a young adult steampunk trilogy. Although it does have a young feel to it, and the story is straight-forward and a bit predictable, it was actually a vey fun, light read. I haven’t read a lot of steampunk, so I hadn’t read anything quite like this story, and I think that helped keep me interested.
The story is set right at the beginning of World War I on an alternate version of our Earth where technology has developed a bit differently. DNA was discovered earlier, leading to the creation of genetically engineered “beasties” such as living war machines that function a lot like hot air balloons, and lizards that can be used to deliver recorded messages. Other countries have spurned such creations as unnatural and have instead developed “mechanikal" creations such as war machines as tall as trees, with legs that can walk or run more efficiently over rough terrain than something with treads.
The story alternates between the third-person POV of two main characters who are around fifteen. Alek is an Austrian prince whose family is at the center of the conflict that kicks off World War I, in a similar manner to the real war. Deryn is a British girl who disguises herself as a boy to join the British Air Service. Both characters were very likeable. Deryn is spunky and fun, maybe a bit too good at everything that matters, but easy to cheer for. Alek has lived a more protected life and makes a lot of mistakes, but his ability to acknowledge those mistakes and try to do better made him a character I could appreciate and sympathize with.
This was just a light, fun read, perfect if you’re in the mood for something that isn’t very demanding. I imagine teenagers and possibly some younger children would also enjoy it. It has some war-related violence that isn’t described in any particularly gory detail, but otherwise I didn’t notice anything that I would imagine many people finding objectionable, either for themselves or for their children. I’m not always the best person to gauge that kind of thing, though.
This first book doesn’t have a proper ending. It doesn’t end on a cliff hanger in the sense that anybody’s life is in immediate peril at the end, but there were a lot of plot threads left hanging. I plan to continue on with the series. I’ll be traveling next week for a business conference, so something lighter like this may actually be perfect timing. I’m much more distracted while reading in public, at airports, on airplanes, etc., and more tired than normal in the evenings once I get back to my hotel, so simpler stories are often a good choice for me when I travel.
Behemoth, the second book in this trilogy.
Behemoth is the second book in the YA steampunk trilogy, Leviathan. I really don’t have a lot to say about this book, because most of what I said in my review of the first book still applies. Despite a fairly young tone, the story remains interesting, fun, and light, and it has proven to be a good travel read.
I forgot to mention this in my last review, but there is quite a bit of humor as well as some nice banter between characters. This book does add in the inevitable angsty relationship stuff, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story.
I look forward to finding out how the trilogy concludes.
Goliath, the final book in this trilogy.
The only other Westerfeld I've read (and enjoyed) is the only non-YA book I think he's written, The Risen Empire. It's a space opera originally released as a duology but later combined into one volume though confusingly published under the same title as the first in the duology.
Goliath is the final book in Westerfeld’s steampunk Leviathan trilogy. The entire trilogy was a fun, mostly light adventure story with likeable characters and a good dose of humor. This series worked very well for me as reading material while traveling for a business conference. I was very tired for most of the week due to a not-ideal travel schedule combined with a time zone change, and this was entertaining without being too demanding.
I was pretty satisfied with how the story was wrapped up. I did think it had a little less of the fun adventure that the previous two books were chock full of, becoming a little more introspective. It didn’t hold my interest quite as consistently as the previous two, but I still enjoyed it. I’m going to give this one 3.5 stars and round up to 4 on Goodreads.
I have some spoilery comments for the spoiler tags…
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Ha, I’ve only read the first chapter of Leibowitz, but I can see where some oomph may be required. It does seem to have a strange sort of humor, though. I laughed at the end of the first chapter when Brother Francis revealed what he thought a Fallout Shelter was --
Happily, no more travel is planned. Today has been the Day of Naps, but I expect I'll be back to a normal energy level by tomorrow.
Leibowitz has been long enough for me (it was '03 when I read it) that I can remember almost zero details. Nothing but vague impressions but strong enough ones that I know I don't want to re-read it to write a more detailed review :-D
On the downside, I’m having to read a physical copy since I couldn’t find it as an e-book. I’m having a great deal of difficulty telling what time it is because the stupid book won’t display the clock at the top of the page. I keep scanning the tops of the pages searching for it before remembering I have to look over at my phone. Reading before bed will likely be an annoyance also as I won’t be able to read with the lights relaxingly dimmed like I normally do. The trials of an e-book addict. ;)
Which makes a nice change for us UKans.
I think I’ll not be doing much reading in bed until I finish this book. I had to read laying the wrong way around last night so I could see the pages, and it was still a bit of a strain on the eyes so I only managed a few pages. My bedroom isn’t properly equipped for reading physical books at night. I don’t have any reading lamps on the nightstands because I got fed up with the cat attacking them in the middle of the night and I never used them anyway. The overhead light puts out a good general light when it's at full power, but the book itself blocks that light from reaching the pages if I try to read in a normal position.
>196 Karlstar: Thanks! I’ve recently finished Part I of III and so far I’m completely undecided as far as what I think of it, but it’s holding my attention.
>197 Maddz: The paperback edition I’m reading was borrowed from the library because I prefer not to purchase physical editions. I had read that there was a sequel, but reactions to it didn’t seem that great at the time I researched it. I decided that, at least for now, I’ll just read the original and leave it at that.
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a classic that was published in the late 1950’s. I had really mixed feelings about it. It was funny and yet depressing, interesting and yet also boring at times. I think I enjoyed it best in the earlier parts.
The book is split up into three stories that take place over hundreds of years. When it begins, we quickly learn that we’re in a post-apocalyptic setting. Earth had long ago destroyed itself with war, and much knowledge was lost because the survivors blamed science and scientists and tried to destroy both. The setting is mostly centered on an abbey dedicated to a scientific martyr named Leibowitz, and “Memorabilia” is reverently collected and stored until the day when mankind is willing and able to use it wisely. The Catholic religion plays a heavy role in this book.
Although the story has a serious tone, and is really rather depressing, there’s also some humor, especially in the first story. It was kind of a subtle humor sometimes, or maybe it was just unexpected due to the tone. Sometimes something I had read a sentence or two ago would belatedly hit me and make me laugh out loud.
I enjoyed the first two stories, but didn’t care for the third one as much where the story more often took a backseat to the philosophizing. In general I think this is one of those books where the main purpose was the message rather than the story. That can be problematic for me because the message is usually one I’ve already heard and/or read many times as was definitely the case with this book. Of course, that’s probably largely due to the influence of this very book, but for me, reading it decades later, the story needs to be that much more enjoyable to counteract the familiar message.
One comment for the spoiler tags:
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. I think this will be my first time reading anything she’s written.
I enjoyed the series very much, but I don’t think there’s any single aspect of it that I would be horrified to see changed, as long as the characters are likeable and the story is interesting and coherent. I may change my mind if I feel like a favorite character has been altered too much or if they’ve dropped scenes that I think are important to the overall plot, but right now I don’t feel like I care much.
Now if this were an adaptation of Hobb’s Elderlings series, that would be a different story. I probably wouldn’t even watch it because I’m so attached to the characters who live in my head that I wouldn’t want to watch any other interpretation of them that might influence how I see them.
I figured if this ever made it to a screen version that there would be significant changes so that doesn't bother me. Honestly, I'll just be happy if they don't go the Game of Thrones route and stay away from nudity, gore/graphic violence and sexual perversions.
Besides The Tick (which I am loving) I'm not sure what else I've seen that is an amazon original. Oh, the Man in the High Tower. That just bored me to tears...
I LIKED the first 2 Harry Potter movies the best. Sigh...
>204 BookstoogeLT: Yeah. In any case, I assume Sanderson feels the need to be diplomatic and positive about it, so I doubt he’d say much different even if he had major doubts about it. Is “The Man in the High Tower” a thing, or did you mean “The Man in the High Castle”? I think I watched a few minutes of the first episode once but didn’t make it all the way through. I hadn’t been crazy about the book to begin with so I’m not sure what I was thinking when I tried to watch it, but I quickly decided I didn’t want to.
Harriet was very vocal about choosing Sanderson so I'm just surprised I haven't heard more from her. She never struck me as the shrinking violet type. Maybe at this point she simply doesn't care anymore?
I've not gotten around to watch it yet, I have chores to do :(
For some reason I was thinking I had read Eye of the World just a couple of years ago but it turns it out it was back in '11 and I read the final book in '14. I am planning on a re-re-re-(you get the idea) read starting later this year.
>208 Busifer: Aaah, thank you for that clarification. I didn’t pay sufficient attention to any info published about it and thought it was going to be an ongoing series. Knowing it’s only 6 episodes actually makes me much more inclined to watch it since it won’t suck away spare time on a long-term basis if I end up enjoying it.
I did read the article and you are right, it was focused on Sanderson and WoT was just ancillary.
I've re-read and re-re-read earlier books pretty much before each new volume until around 10. But while JR/RJ wasn't into visiting brothels and killing off sympathetic but idiotic characters, there was a pretty high overall body count and rather a lot of lingering over just deserts.
Does leaving out some of the rougher parts mean they should also skip the scenes of Rand locked in a box or constantly bleeding from his side?
I also agree about the goofy parts. I will particularly be watching for the actors to be tugging their braids, smoothing their skirts, sniffing, and muttering. I imagine they'll surely tone those over-emphasized parts of the story down, but I'll be a bit disappointed if we don't see such things at least once.
That kind of thing is what I'm afraid of them focusing on instead of actually telling the best story they could. I'd forgotten how cruel the Forsaken, dark friends, etc could be.
I'll probably end up waiting to watch it until I've seen some reviews. I'm definitely not subjecting myself to visuals like in GoT...
>216 BookstoogeLT: Lets hope it doesn't go as far as GoT or Legend of the Seeker. I could have done without those parts. We re-watched the pilot of GoT and wondered why we ever watched another show.
I went into this book blind, and it was not at all what I was expecting from the title. I was expecting a story about memories being altered or stored or something like that, possibly cyberpunk. Instead, this is a steampunk novel set in the 1800’s with a kind of semi-wild west feel to it. It had a pretty slow start, although it did pick up steam as it went on.
The story is told from the first person POV of Karen Memery. I guess the title is a play on words and maybe intended to reflect the fact that the book is about her memories of the events she recounted. Karen is a prostitute. Despite this, there wasn’t anything I would consider explicit. Her job and its lifestyle is more of a background that influences events rather than an active part of the story. On the other hand, this book probably sets some sort of world record for the number of euphemisms used per page, especially in the beginning when Karen is explaining her life as a “seamstress”.
I was sometimes a bit bored. Instalove was introduced early in the book and Karen obsessed over the object of her affections more than I wanted to read about. Some plot elements were predictable, and the identity of the serial killer was made obvious fairly early in the story. Maybe that was the intent so that the reader could shout “no!” every time the characters talked about it being the wrong person.
My other main problem was that the steampunk setting didn’t feel consistently implemented. There was some cool technology that basically only made an appearance to advance the plot, while the rest of the setting seemed uninfluenced by the fact that advanced technology was possible. I also didn’t really feel like I grasped some of that technology.
On the other hand, I liked the voice of the main character, bad grammar and all, and I liked her despite my annoyance with her instalove obsession. That did get toned down a bit as the story progressed, or at least it became lest angsty, which helped. I also liked the other characters that she introduced, including the cat. Once the story picked up, it held my interest pretty well and I was interested in finding out what would happen. However, I didn’t enjoy it enough to continue with the related novella.
Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia A. McKillip. This will be my first McKillip book.
>220 quondame: and >221 clamairy: And thank you both for the additional McKillip recommendations. I’ve seen so much praise for her work that I’m sure I’ll give more of it a try eventually, regardless of my final opinion on the one I’m reading now.
To return to an earlier subject, I did watch two episodes of Good Omens this weekend – one yesterday and one today. I’m enjoying it quite a bit. It seems pretty true to the book from what I remember from reading it a little over a year ago. I think it may be putting a little less time into the parts of the book that I found less interesting and more time into my favorite parts (Aziraphale and Crowley), so that’s probably contributing to my enjoyment. The humor is definitely there, and it’s maybe toeing the “campy” line on occasion, but I’m looking forward to watching more of it. I don’t know if I’ll have time during the week, but probably next weekend otherwise.
I would had binge watched all of it if it wasn't for husband, who also want to watch it, and so I'm pacing myself... hard as it is.
I loved the sort of historical retrospective in the first half of e3!
Funny thing is, while I enjoyed her stuff the first time around, it wasn't until this cycle of re-reads that I really began to appreciate and truly enjoy the word-smithing going on.
>229 MrsLee: I could see Good Omens being a good show to rewatch. There’s a lot of detail that goes by fairly quickly and would be easy to miss the first time around. That’s interesting, I never got the Alistair Crowley reference. I didn’t even know who he was until I just Googled him. I just thought Crowley was a common name for demons for some unknown reason because there is/was a demon named Crowley on Supernatural. (I haven’t watched Supernatural in several seasons, although I read the next season is the last one.) Maybe both characters had the same name influence.
>230 Darth-Heather: I can’t wait to learn what you think about it! In my case, I read it because a group I’m in on GR is reading it from June 15 – July 15. I got antsy because I had to borrow it from the library and my library doesn’t have many copies, so I ended up reading it way too early and now I’m impatiently waiting for people to start talking about it. :)
**drumming my feet in frustration**
>235 BookstoogeLT: Haha, it does have some of that. I can’t remember now which season I stopped at. Maybe the 10th? That last thing I remember distinctly was watching the season with Amanda Tapping in it and being disappointed she didn’t have a more interesting role. I did enjoy the show for the most part, but I found it more and more difficult to return to it for each new season. It was kind of similar to my book series binge-reading issues – I felt like I had forgotten too much from the previous season by the time the next one started and I didn’t want to rewatch it to remind myself of the details. After the final season finishes airing, I might watch it through from the beginning. Then again, I might not. That’s a lot of episodes. If I do, I’ll have to pay more attention to Crowley. I’m rather deficient on demonic/occult/whatever lore knowledge. :) I pretty much just took the characters as they were presented and didn’t try to draw any parallels.
>236 YouKneeK: I suppose I could do a 99p Amazon Prime Deal when the show finishes, but otherwise Prime isn't worth it for me - 90% of my purchases are electronic downloads. We'll wait for the DVD or the BBC release.
>237 Maddz: Good Omens is scheduled to be shown on BBC in the autumn. I think as they had some role in production that was part of the deal.
Alphabet of Thorn is a short, standalone fantasy by Patricia A. McKillip. This was my first time reading any of her work, and I’ve seen comments in a few places that this was not necessarily the best book to start with, but I greatly enjoyed it. I guess I must have even better things to look forward to when I cycle back around to try more of her work.
The story is told from multiple POVs. One of the main POVs is focused on a teenage girl who was abandoned as a baby. She was taken in and raised by librarians in a castle where she works as a translator. A strange book written out of letters shaped like thorns falls into her hands, and she becomes obsessed with translating it. Another POV focuses on another teenage girl who has suddenly found herself the Queen after her father’s unexpected death. She is not what her people expect from a ruler, and nobody is sure if she'll be able to hold onto her crown or if her people will rebel. Most of the other POVs support those two POVs to some extent.
I enjoyed all the POVs. There were more than I expected from a book that’s only about 300 pages, but they were all interesting. I liked how a couple of the characters were so inexplicable to the people around them, and even to the reader at times, yet they were still intelligent and capable characters who just had their own ways of thinking about things and interacting with the world. I enjoyed how everything tied together at the end, and the build-up as the reader slowly starts to understand exactly what’s going on. I did think there were a few niggling logic issues here and there, but nothing too bothersome.
There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about the style of the story. It somehow had the feel of an older, classic fantasy even though it was somewhat-recently published in 2004. It didn’t feel dated or full of tropes or anything negative like that, it just had a classic feel. In the beginning, I thought this book might end up being a bit too romance-filled for my tastes. There’s a romance of some sort in nearly every POV. However, somehow it didn’t end up getting on my nerves. There was very little of the insecure angsty type stuff that I get so tired of, and it didn’t use any other romance tropes in a way that annoyed me.
I’m rating this at 4.5 stars and rounding down to 4 on Goodreads.
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve read and enjoyed a few works by Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve been fitting him in once a year in recent years and he was about due for a slot in my 2019 schedule. I plan to follow it up with River of Stars which I understand is set 400 years later in the same setting.
I just started The changeling Sea tonight and its pub date is '88, so McKillip has had some time to hone her skills, that is for sure. I hope you enjoy the rest of her books as well!
>223 Busifer: I finally watched the 3rd episode of Good Omens today and you were right, it was very good! I enjoyed the historical bits in the first half of the episode a lot also.
I got home from work a little over an hour early today and I thought I could use that extra time to fit in another Good Omens episode without feeling guilty. And then of course shortly after I had finished watching that, a work issue came up and I lost 2 hours to that. :)
He seems to turn up quite a lot in fantasy nowadays.
He would probably be extremely chuffed.
It was also fun playing 'spot the update'. On the whole extremely faithful to the original, I was impressed how mobile phones were integrated into a story that was written when landlines and answering machines were the norm. And little touches, such as some one's assumption that World War III would start in Ukraine...
Neil Gaimam did an excellent job. I can't imagine an adaptation by anyone else working half as well.
>251 YouKneeK: It is. I would recommend the book that I read, except that it is so long ago now that I have forgotten both title and author!
As for the message, my takeaway was mostly about humankind's propensity toward self destruction if not vigilant. I liked this quote: "How can a great and wise civilization have destroyed itself so completely? Perhaps by being materially great and materially wise and nothing else."
Under Heaven is a fantasy-ish story set in medieval China. There are fantastical elements, and they do play a pivotal role, but they aren’t at the forefront. My knowledge of Chinese history and geography is nearly non-existent, but I believe this book is based on fictitious locations and characters while being inspired by real ones. I enjoyed most aspects of the story, but I did feel like it occasionally dawdled and sometimes I got restless with it.
The story starts off with Shen Tai, a man who’s honoring his dead father during his mourning period by burying the dead at a battle site his father had been a part of. There are ghosts there that are slowly laid to rest as he buries the corresponding bodies. He buries bodies from both sides of the battle, and his actions are at first considered strange and then admirable. The admiration has unexpected results that bring about major changes for Shen Tai. This doesn’t even remotely encompass what this story is about, but the dawdling aspect means that I can’t really describe the plot without giving away things that are revealed pretty far into the book. The story starts out as one type of story, then slowly morphs into a different type of story around the halfway mark. Meanwhile, there are also some chapters that tell Tai’s sister’s story, and that is yet another type of story.
I’ve read a few books set in China, but not very many of them, and I enjoyed reading about a different and less-familiar setting. I don’t know how accurate the author’s portrayal of Chinese culture from that era was, but it felt believable while also being quite a bit different from the cultures portrayed in most fantasy I’ve read. I was intimidated by the names at first. The beginning of the book lists a large cast of characters with names I was afraid I would never be able to keep straight. In actuality, I didn’t need that list. The characters were introduced slowly, and the spellings among the most frequently seen characters were different enough that I was never confused. For all the characters, the author always gave the reader enough information to remember who they were when they showed back up in the story.
I was a little distracted by the mixed tenses. Some POVs were written in present tense and others were written in past tense. I think it was mostly (only?) the female POVs written in present tense? I tended to forget about it until the present tense showed up and jarred me a bit. It did give those sections a different feel that kind of added to the atmosphere, but I’m not sure if that was the whole point or if I missed something.
As I said, the story did occasionally feel slow when it dawdled a bit over the scene-setting and history and such, but it was never boring. I enjoyed the story and I liked the main characters. I think I was also more satisfied with the ending than I usually am with his books, although I would have enjoyed knowing more about what happened with some of the characters. One of the things I enjoy most about Guy Gavriel Kay’s writing is how he writes characters and their interactions with each other. I plan to continue on with River of Stars which I understand takes place in the same setting but about 400 years later.
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay.
River of Stars is a standalone follow-up book to Under Heaven. It’s set 400 years later, so it features different characters and a separate story and could be understood perfectly fine on its own. Events from the first book did have an influence on this book, and there are some references to characters and events from it. I enjoyed catching those little connections, but anything critical to the story is explained.
The story builds up slowly. It actually felt a little disjointed in the beginning until it started to become clear how everything tied together to provide necessary background for the meat of the story. The first book was political, but this one is much more heavily so. There are also some battles as conflicts escalate between the Kitai and neighboring tribes, but those scenes were kept fairly short. Fantasy elements play even less of a role in this book than in the first one, if that’s possible. There’s one pivotal moment involving a fantasy element, but the rest was just window dressing, and sparse window dressing at that.
I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first one. It did seem to hold my attention more consistently, but the characters and the story in the first book captured me more than those in this book. The characters did grow on me eventually, and I was more invested in everything by the end, but it took me a while to get there. I continued to enjoy the cultural references and the characters and history that were inspired by real people and events in Chinese history, which is something I know very little about.
This book has a very ambiguous ending. You don’t know quite what happened to one of the characters at the end, you only know what people thought and what evidence they tried and failed to find. That annoyed me a bit. As I approached the end, I kept flip-flopping in my expectations of how things would end up. I was getting anxious to finally find out how it would end, and then I didn’t find out.
I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I don’t know much about this except that I have the vague expectation from barely-remembered reviews that it’s supposed to be a bit creepy. This usually ends up meaning I won’t find it creepy, but you never know.
>260 haydninvienna: Good to know, thanks. I might be mixing it up with another book. I only had time for a couple short chapters last night, not enough to figure out where things are going, but I’m definitely intrigued!
>268 haydninvienna: Ah, ok. I’m only about 75 pages into The Night Circus now, but so far I’m pretty interested in it. I agree, there’s definitely no creepiness. I must have mixed it up with something else, or else I read a review from somebody who’s easily creeped out.
>272 Darth-Heather: That’s very possible. I’ve never (yet) read Something Wicked This Way Comes.
The Night Circus is a standalone fantasy set in our world during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, although I often forgot that I was reading a book with a historical setting because it wasn’t a big part of the story. A magician named Prospero believes his young daughter shows great magical promise, and he challenges another magician to a competition. They’ll each train their respective young students and then see who’s the best. Throughout the story, we learn about the inception and growth of a special circus that mysteriously shows up in different cities around the world, is only open from sunset to sunrise, and then disappears as mysteriously as it arrived.
I really enjoyed this in the beginning. I was curious about the circus, interested in the plot and the young people being trained in magic, curious to understand more about the competition, and I enjoyed the imaginative descriptions of the circus, the midnight dinners, and other things. But then the aforementioned imaginative descriptions just went on and on. And on and on. And on and on.
It isn’t that the writing was dry or anything like that. It wasn’t. It just started to feel tedious, like each new addition was really just more of the same in a different guise. The plot didn’t have enough meat to it, and I never really gained much of an attachment to the characters despite my initial interest in them. It was also quite predictable. Early on, as soon as you learn that
It did start to pick back up in the last 25%, though. The plot came back to the forefront and finally started to move forward, and there were some other characters I was more interested in who started to play a larger role in the story. I liked the ending pretty well too, but I don’t think the story is going to stick with me for very long.
Neuromancer by William Gibson.
I'd seen enough reviews from when it came out to know it wasn't for me. This is just the final confirmation.
Sadly, I don't have anything good to say about Neuromancer either :-( It was the first, and last, Gibson that I read. I was expecting the Grand Daddy of Cyberpunk but what I got was something that made Snowcrash look like the best book I'd ever read, in comparison!
Goodness, I'm just full of cheer and happiness this morning.
I don’t have the greatest of expectations for Neuromancer. I bought it on sale a couple years ago and I've added it to my schedule a couple of times, but kept swapping it back out for something else. Sometimes those low expectations help me though, so we’ll see. At least it’s short!
I'm a bit more positive that some of Jon Courtenay Grimwood's books would hold up a bit better, not least because they are set against an alternate history, and because he's more into the characters than the technological concepts. I'm still a bit wary about rereading any of them. I'd like for them to stay good ;-)
So far I’ve made it through 27 whole pages of Neuromancer and I only fell asleep twice. But I didn’t sleep as well or as long as usual last night, so there probably would have been a nap regardless of what I had been reading. I think I’m just not a big fan of cyberpunk, although I did really like the Nexus trilogy which is cyberpunkish and gave those books a consistent 4 stars. I liked Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom well enough to give it 3.5 stars and remember it with slight fondness despite thinking it had a stupid plot. The others I can remember reading were When Gravity Fails, Altered Carbon, and Snow Crash and I gave all of those 3 stars.
>284 MrsLee: Sandwich ratings would never have occurred to me if not for >278 BookstoogeLT:. :) I’m not sure I could carry the theme all the way up to 5 stars, because I really don’t eat sandwiches that much to begin with. If that chicken were turned into chicken salad and put on a croissant, we’d probably be up into 4-star territory. But for 5 star? I don’t know. Maybe a portabella mushroom sandwich, if it’s prepared well? Do you have a 5-star sandwich?
>285 Busifer: Ham at least has a clear origin. I look at bologna as being more of a mystery meat, like spam, with a questionable taste. Hotdogs are also rather mysterious, but I at least like the taste of those.
I was thinking more psychological/cultural analogy than the actual, well, ”meat” ;-)
I actually enjoy a good turkey bologna sandwich as a work lunch. Easy to make, portable, filled with protein and is still edible even if totally squashed out in the woods. But NOT what I want to eat for lunch on Saturday afternoon :-D
>287 YouKneeK: Goodness, what a fun little aside this has turned into. For me, a 4 star sandwich would be a toasted tomato sandwich. Toast, mayo, salt and pepper and sliced up raw tomatoes. Yum! I'm not sure what I'd do for a 5. maybe a reuben on rye? without saurkraut though! That would be a 2. I think a 1 would be an eggsalad sandwich...
However, my usual lunch is a salad or left-overs. I'm rather sensitive to tummy bugs, so I tend to avoid commercially-made pre-packed sandwiches (especially with the recent Listeria scare). Plus, most commercial sandwiches involve large amounts of shrubbery and multi-grain bread neither of which I tend to eat. It's the healthy options being rather unhealthy for me.
>291 Maddz: I typically have a salad for lunch also, especially on workdays. On weekends lunch is usually either leftover dinner or else I’ll just snack around. Dinner itself is inevitably something dinner-like, which does not include sandwiches in my book. With all that, eating a sandwich is a rare occurrence. I rarely have bread in the house. For just me, and for how rarely I eat them, there is little point in having sandwich-making materials on hand. A biscuit (the soft, thick, flaky US version; I’m not sure what those are called in the UK?) is a delicious but rare treat. I like rolls and other breads that one would typically eat with just butter, but I prefer them warm and soft.
Now that I think about it, isn't the 5 star sandwich really the MLT?
I used to do this back in Canberra while the kids were small. There was a small Italian bakery that used to make big, round loaves with a hard crust. Sometimes for a weekend lunch we’d buy one of those and I’d make some tapenade: kalamata olives, garlic, capers, anchovies, quick buzz in the blender, then cut thick slices of bread and spread the tapenade thick. We had 4 kids under 10 years old and they used to fight over it.
Recipe here, which looks pretty close to what I used to do.
And my sandwich scale:
5. Smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar
4. Roast beef with salad and horseradish
3. Tuna with mayonnaise
2. A plain ham or cheese sandwich
1. Egg and mayonnaise
>294 haydninvienna: The tapenade sounds interesting. I’m not sure I’d like it, but I’d be willing to try it and would probably be pleasantly surprised. I’m actually not sure if I’ve ever had an anchovy, but I know I like the rest of the ingredients.
>295 -pilgrim-: Pictures might help. This is what I’m calling a biscuit. (Link goes to KFC’s web site, a U.S. fast food chain.) That wouldn’t be a cookie in the UK would it? I tried Googling and it sounds like maybe what we call a biscuit in the US doesn’t have a UK equivalent. I saw some comparisons to scones, but that seems to me to be entirely different. I think of a scone as a type of dessert, with some sort of fruit or other sweet flavoring. A biscuit would be more appropriate as a side with a meal and in some cases is turned into a meal in itself by putting gravy on it, or turned into a breakfast sandwich with sausage and egg or something like that. But I think anything but butter ruins the glory of the biscuit!
>296 quondame: Mmm, now that sounds like a 5-star sandwich-ish thing that I could support! :)
I could also go for -pilgrim-'s smoked salmon as long as it was hot-smoked (and no cream cheese), or quondame's prosciutto etc. I think I've only ever had one reuben sandwich, and that was in the Qantas lounge in Los Angeles Airport once. I thought it was pretty good.
ETA also that the cookbook Cooking Out of This World contains this sentence (in an article on eating while reading): “If you are reading Mr Lovecraft’s decaying prose, Roquefort is not the thing to be nibbling.”.
(*the exception being grilled cheese sandwich, which needs no condiments)
>299 haydninvienna: On reflection, a more piquant soft cheese would be better. But I still feel cheese, or possibly sour cream, should be present.
This is certainly a mouth-watering digression!
The Wikipedia article may be helpful: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biscuit
>302 Sakerfalcon: A cheese scone sounds like something I would very much want to try! In the US, I agree with >306 jjwilson61: that the scones I’ve seen here aren’t anything like US biscuits. I’ve had scones at Panera and Starbucks, and I think a couple random other places that I can’t remember. The scones I’ve had all had a much drier texture than a good biscuit, and were more crumbly than I would expect a biscuit to be. I’d say biscuits have more air in them than scones do also.
So if, as >307 haydninvienna: says, US scones are “triangular rock cakes”, then maybe we just don’t have proper scones in the US? On the other hand, the description of a scone that >305 Maddz: provided sounds fairly similar to what I’ve experienced. If and when I next get the chance to visit the UK, I’ll have to seek out some scones for the purposes of making a scientific comparison!
>305 Maddz: I think I’ve only eaten at Cinnabon once. I didn’t much care for it either. If I’m going to indulge in that much sugar, I’d rather hold out for something that tastes better. I would definitely never consider calling them a scone or a biscuit. I’d just call it a cinnamon roll I guess, although I agree that pastry is a closer definition than scone or biscuit.
You could also look at the Great British Bake-Off for more recipe ideas.
There is a biscuit complication - some biscuits are dough dropped in blobs on a sheet or rolled and cut. other recipes involve rolling out the dough and layering with butter to create separated layers. I'd be interested to know if there are different terms for the two very different styles, but I've always heard both referred to as 'biscuits'.
>316 Darth-Heather: UK biscuits are generally dough rolled out thinly and cut into rounds, and baked on a sheet. They usually produce a dry, crisp product which is eaten as is, perhaps dunked in tea, perhaps iced. These may be sandwiched together with a filling - see custard creams or chocolate eclairs (not to be confused with an éclair which is a chocolate covered pastry with whipped cream filling).
Blob-style biscuits tend to be things like macaroons (extra-large amaretti). The main thing about a British biscuit is the dense, dry texture. Scones, buns and tea breads are more bread-like; cakes range from rich fruit to sponge cakes. Then you get hybrids like Jaffa Cakes - they're a sponge layer, with orange jelly covered in chocolate, Inland Revenue wanted to classify them as a biscuit (so it would attract 20% VAT) but McVities won the battle to keep them as a cake (0 rated).
Generally speaking, biscuits are dry, crisp and dense, scones and breads are bread-like - open crumb but tending to a dryish texture, cakes are open crumb and usually fairly moist. Scones, breads and cakes usually include a raising agent, and biscuits usually don't.
It is always interesting to get to understand these differences, were language doesn't really cut it and translations are arbitrary approximations.
ETA: And Speculaas is what every Brit biscuit wants to be when it grows up and goes to Heaven.
>319 hfglen:, >320 Maddz: I had never even heard of a rusk; I had to Google that one. I have heard of melba toast, although I don’t know if I’ve ever tried it. Wikipedia also says biscotti is a type of rusk, which I believe I may have had, but it didn't make much of an impression on me if so.
We really need to get to work on inventing a method for instantaneous transportation of foodstuffs. We could have monthly multi-cultural food exchanges from the comfort of our homes. :)
In a few minutes, the link below will lead to my new thread. Feel free to continue any conversations about books or baked goods or whatever, either here or there! ;)
Really, I’m starting to think we’re all being incredibly unimaginative with our simple star ratings. The other day (yesterday?) I saw a sarcastic comment in one of the LT redesign threads that people could use a photo of their cat as a book cover if they wanted to, and somehow my mind jumped to this thread with discussions about sandwich ratings, and I found myself thinking about how different pictures I have of my cat might be used to represent different book ratings. I don’t think I would actually do such a thing, if only because it would add too much time to the review process, but it amused me to consider it!
>328 quondame: There is a cheese which would be wonderful melted on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gjetost. It is like a less sweet caramel. Sliced paper thin and melted on toast/bagel, etc. it is amazing.
>331 MrsLee: Perhaps not in your site reviews, but in your threads here, your kitty photo ratings could be done? Hmmm? Pretty please? Maybe just now and then?