swynn reads and runs in 2020: Thread 2
This is a continuation of the topic swynn reads and runs in 2020: Thread 1.
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I'm Steve, 51, a technical services librarian at a medium-sized public university. I live in Missouri with my wife and son and Buddy, a Terrier-mix chaser of all chaseables whose name is also his vocation.
My reading follows my whims, but is heaviest with science fiction and fantasy. I also read good amounts of mysteries, thrillers, and horror. I think I'd like to read more non-fiction in 2020, but we'll see what happens.
I'm usually reading at least three books: something on the Kindle app, read whenever I'm standing in line or when the lights are off; a paperback, usually from my own shelves, read while walking Buddy; and something borrowed from the library. I usually have a stack of things borrowed from the library, which I call "The Tower of Due." Here's what it looks like now:
(A) The DAWs
For several years now, I've been reading through the catalog of DAW, the first American imprint exclusively devoted to science fiction & fantasy publishing. It launched in 1972 under the editorship of Donald A. Wollheim (hence the name), and continues today, publishing new books at a rate faster than I'm catching up. Last year I read 31 of them, and hope to read at least that many this year.
DAWs so far: 3
Next up: Dorsai! by Gordon Dickson
For the last few years, Liz (lyzard) and I have been reading through American bestsellers at a rate of one per month. I'm running behind (by 3 books, I think), and my goal this year is to catch up.
Bestsellers so far: 4
Next Up: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
More Not Straight Not White Not Dudes
My reading list skews white and male. Go figure. For the last couple of years I've tracked proportion of non-straight, non-white, and non-male authors in an effort to be more conscious of this. I met 2/3 of my targets last year: 10% LGBTQ, 15% authors of color, and 48% women, trans women and nonbinary authors. Targets this year are 10%, 20%, and 50%. Recommendations welcome.
(C) Not Straight: 7/70 (10%)
(D) Not White: 13/70 (18%)
(E) Not Dudes: 37/70 (52%)
Every spring, my employer sponsors a Children's Literature Festival, at which invited authors and illustrators talk about their craft to students from the region's elementary schools. Every year I try to read at least one book by each guest author, and every year I fail. But I keep trying.
(F) CLF authors: 6/11
Other Good Intentions
(G) Read more books off my own shelves.
So far: 15
Continue more series than I start. I recently reviewed old threads to count the number of series I've started and not finished, and came up with 293. Granted, I'm not actually *interested* in continuing all 293, and I think I can hear Liz calling, "Amateur," but still I find that number daunting. So this year: continue more series than I start. And try to finish one every month or so. And I mean it this year.
Bastable Children series by E. Nesbit
Book of the Ancestor series by Mark Lawrence
Daevabad trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty
Dread Nation series by Justina Ireland
Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir
Oswald Bastable series by Michael Moorcock
Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
Renegades series by Marissa Meyer
Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Southern Reach series by Jeff VanderMeer
World War II trilogy by James Jones
Angel Dare series by Christa Faust
Bastable Children series by E. Nesbit
Book of the Ancestor series by Mark Lawrence
Death on Demand series by Carolyn G. Hart
Dorsai series by Gordon R. Dickson
Dread Nation series by Justina Ireland
Emma Merrigan series by Lynn Abbey
Fu-Manchu series by Sax Rohmer
Green Star series by Lin Carter
Karen Memory series by Elizabeth Bear
Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi
Oswald Bastable series by Michael Moorcock
Queens of Fennbirn series by Kendare Blake
Tensorate series by JY Yang
Time of Heroes series by David Drake
Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
Angel Dare series by Christa Faust
Bastable Children series by E. Nesbit
Dread Nation series by Justina Ireland
Emma Merrigan series by Lynn Abbey
Green Star series by Lin Carter
Karen Memory series by Elizabeth Bear
Locked Tomb series by Tamsyn Muir
Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi
Time of Heroes series by David Drake
Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden
1) Stone Mad / Elizabeth Bear (EIJ)
2) The Immoral Majority / Ben Howe
3) Gnome-A-Geddon / K.A. Holt (CEF)
4) Choke Hold / Christa Faust (EIJ)
5) Red Sister / Mark Lawrence (H)
6) The Cardinal / Henry Morton Robinson (B)
7) Factfulness / Hans Rosling
8) Your House Will Pay / Steph Cha (DE)
9) The Story of the Treasure Seekers / E. Nesbit (EH)
10) One Dark Throne / Kendare Blake (DEI)
11) Red At the Bone / Jacqueline Woodson (CDE)
12) Out of Time / Lynn Abbey (EG)
13) A Properly Unhaunted Place / William Alexander (F)
14) Winter of the Witch / Katherine Arden (EIJ)
15) City of Brass / S.A. Chakraborty (EH)
16) The Return of Dr. Fu-Manchu / Sax Rohmer (I)
17) The Storm / David Drake (I)
18) The Wouldbegoods / E. Nesbit (EIJ)
19) Behind Time / Lynn Abbey (EGI)
20) From Here to Eternity / James Jones (H)
21) Gay on God's Campus / Jonathan Coley
22) Blood diaries / Marissa Moss
23) The Red Threads of Fortune / JY Yang (CDEI)
24) What is a Girl Worth / Rachael Denhollander (E)
25) The New Treasure Seekers / E. Nesbit (EJ)
26) The Only Plane in the Sky / Garrett M. Graff
27) Daybreak - 2250 A.D. / Andre Norton (E)
28) Grey Sister / Mark Lawrence (I)
29) Design for Murder / Carolyn G. Hart (EI)
30) Annihilation / Jeff VanderMeer (H)
31) The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away / Ronald L. Smith (DF)
32) Move Over / E. Pettit (E)
33) Renegades / Marissa Meyer (EI)
34) The Warlord of the Air / Michael Moorcock (I)
35) Shady Characters / Keith Houston
36) The Silver Chalice / Thomas Costain (B)
37) Dread Nation / Justina Ireland (DEH)
38) I Want the Stars! / Tom Purdom - Demons' World / Kenneth Bulmer (G)
39) The Impeachers / Brenda Wineapple (E)
40) The Land Leviathan / Michael Moorcock (AGI)
41) No Ashes in the Fire / Darnell L. Moore (CD)
42) The Night Tiger / Yangszee Choo (DE)
43) Sands of Mars / Arthur C. Clarke
44) Catfishing on Catnet / Naomi Kritzer (E)
45) A Game of Thrones / George R.R. Martin (H)
46) Strange Exit / Parker Peevyhouse (E)
47) Taking Time / Lynn Abbey (E)
48) The Witling / Vernor Vinge (A)
49) Deathless Divide / Justina Ireland (DEIJ)
50) Not As A Stranger / Morton Thompson (B)
51) The Golden People ; Exile from Xanadu / Fred Saberhagen ; Lan Wright (G)
52) The Flying Eyes / J. Hunter Holly (EG)
53) Invisible Chains / Michelle Renee Lane (DE)
54) Salt Fish Girl / Larissa Lai (CDE)
55) In the Green Star's Glow / Lin Carter (AIJ)
57) The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories / Gene Wolfe (G)
58) Vampire of the Mists / Christie Golden (EG)
59) The City in the Middle of the Night / Charlie Jane Anders (CE)
60) Children of Virtue and Vengeance / Tomi Adeyemi (DEIJ)
61) Marjorie Morningstar / Herman Wouk (B)
62) Dorsai! / Gordon R. Dickson (AGI)
63) Down Time / Lynn Abbey (EGJ)
64) The Minikins of Yam / Thomas Burnett Swann (AG)
65) Cradle of the Sun ; Wizards of Zenchuria / Brian Stableford ; Kenneth Bulmer (G)
66) Tomorrow Knight / Michael Kurland (AG)
67) Gideon the Ninth / Tamsyn Muir (CEHJ)
68) Points of Departure / Pat Murphy (EG)
69) Raven Boys / Maggie Stiefvater (EH)
70) 26 Marathons / Meb Keflezighi (D)
71) Don't Bite the Sun / Tanith Lee (EGH)
72) Br-r-r-! / Groff Conklin, ed. (G)
73) Sea Siege / Andre Norton (EG)
74) The Female Man / Joanna Russ (EG)
75) The Reality Bubble / Ziya Tong (DE)
76) Sign of the Labrys / Margaret St. Clair (EG)
77) Recursion / Blake Crouch
78) Tribesmen of Gor / John Norman (AGI)
79) Middlegame / Seanan McGuire (CE)
80) Supernova Era / Cixin Liu (D)
81) Authority / Jeff VanderMeer (I)
82) The Anvil of the World / Kage Baker (EGH)
83) The Fourth Monkey / J.D. Barker (H)
84) A Memory Called Empire Arkady Martine (CEHJ)
85) Don't Go Near the Water / William Brinkley (B)
86) The Ten Thousand Doors of January / Alix E. Harrow (E)
87) To Be Taught, If Fortunate / Becky Chambers (CE)
88) Flesh and Spirit / Carol Berg (EH)
89) The Deep / Rivers Solomon (CDE)
90) The Light Brigade / Kameron Hurley (CE)
Here's the post about the "... and runs" part of "swynn reads and runs"
I'm still not running as much as I used to, but Buddy has become *very* enthusiastic about daily runs. Which is great for consistency. (I think he's especially enthusiastic about the house rule, "Dogs Who Run Get Milk Bones.")
I'd hoped to do a 5K monthly through 2020 but the Coronavirus spoiled that by canceling every 5K in reasonable distance since early March. Fortunately, I've kept the runs up anyway.
In this thread you'll see weekly updates about weekly progress my cumulative mileage for the year. I'll also name a "soundtrack" of the week, something that came up on my playlist that week that kept my feet moving. My playlist is heavy with rock -- especially bluesy guitar-driven rock and industrial metal, but also (thanks to my teutophilia) German pop. Recommendations are welcome.
This isn't everybody's thing, so I'll mark the running stuff prominently with asterisks and caps: **RUNNING POST**. Skip or seek, as your inclination demands.
The long Perry Rhodan intro is here.
In brief: it's a kind of German "Flash Gordon," but with more words in print than Star Trek and Star Wars combined. I'm currently on adventure 121 of 3,059 and making progress at a rate of about one per week, so there's little danger of running out soon.
Happy new thread, Steve!
>4 swynn: I always read your running posts, you make me listen to new music.
Glad Buddy is enjoying running with you.
Happy new thread, Steve!
I really like the way you've arranged your reading; but then you know me: I love a list. :)
Looking forward to comparing notes on Not As A Stranger with you...
I'd meant to make a longer Perry Rhodan post up in #5, but it got postponed for priorities when my mother called. Everything is fine, but she's going a bit stir crazy. She is an extremely social person, and being homebound in the current crisis is wearing on her, especially since my father's passing last fall means that alone is *all* alone except for company by telephone. We had a very good (and long) call, which -- dear self -- I really should have initiated instead of dinking around with the thread.
Anyway: Perry Rhodan!
Perry Rhodan 118: Der Robot-Sergeant (published in English as Sgt. Robot)
Perry Rhodan 119: Saat des Verderbens (published in English as Seeds of Ruin)
Perry Rhodan 120: Der Planet Mechanica (published in English as Planet Mechanica
Perry Rhodan 121: Das Erbe der Echsen (published in English as Heritage of the Lizard People)
These four Hefte comprise a story arc dealing with an outbreak of Speckmoos, literally "bacon moss," about which: yum, but it's probably better translated as "fatty moss" or "lipo-moss" or something more scientificky than bacony.
The remarkable thing about Speckmoos is that its spores are heavy with carbohydrates that can be absorbed through the respiratory system. On planets infested with Speckmoos, inhabitants can subsist entirely by breathing. Bad news is, the spores are so calorie-rich that inhabitants die of hypernutrition without eating a thing. (Though really: is dying of bacon so bad a thing, even if it's bacon moss?)
Our heroes first discover Speckmoos in episode 118 on Azgola, a lightly-settled planet off the usual trade routes. The spores' appearance on Azgola is no accident, since it coincided with a visits by two unidentified spacecraft. Perry Rhodan evacuates survivors on Azgola but doesn't get a closer look at the mysterious spaceships until episode 119, when they appear on the planet Snarfot.
Two ships appear on Snarfot: first, a scout ship designed to locate warm worlds with oxygen-rich atmospheres. When the scout finds such a world it notifies the second ship, a seed ship that releases drones to distribute spores in the atmosphere. Perry sends teleporters from the Mutant Corps to investigate the ships. The teleporters succeed in disabling the scout and seed ships but speculate that there must be a third ship, to harvest the spores.
Stakes rise in episode 120 when samples of the spores are accidentally released on Arkon II, contaminating one of the three home planets of the Arkonide Empire. The planet is placed under quarantine while scientists scramble to find a way to clean up the spores. (Spooky, yeah? Maybe they should try handwashing and social distancing.) The best prospect is to locate the hypothetical Harvester Ship, and engineer a solution from its technology. Meanwhile, working from a signal that was communicating with the scout and seed ships, Arkon's Robot Brain triangulates a likely location for the ships' home planet. The Terrans send a team to the system where they discover a planet they christen "Mechanica," swarming with machine activity but empty of organic life.
Based on information gathered on Mechanica, Perry and his team conclude that the machines were built by a race of lizard people who built the machines and the ships to farm other planets for Speckmoos spores when their own planet became too cold to sustain them. The lizard people are now long gone but their superbly engineered machines remain. Perry's team also decipher the communication signals used the ships and Mechanica's control base. In Episode 121 they apply this knowledge to counterfeit a signal calling the harvester ship to Azgola, where the big showdown takes place.
It's the usual pulpy adventure, but this time with an uncomfortable amount of casual comments about weight gain and loss. The story would certainly be written differently today. Or I would hope.
And, just because this is almost certainly the last time I'll get to say it in casual conversation: bacon moss.
>16 swynn: (Though really: is dying of bacon so bad a thing, even if it's bacon moss?)
Nooo, on balance I'mma say nooo.
The lizard people are now long gone but their superbly engineered machines remain.
Sounds like BMWs....
>20 lyzard: Yes, poor lizard people. Happily, the universe is large and lizard people abound: Perrypedia lists about 70 lizard-like alien species under the heading, "Echsenwesen." We've already met the Topsiders, and I expect they'll return sometime ...
I wanted my message this year to be fairly universal in a time we all should be pulling together, whatever our beliefs. Happy Celebration, Happy Sunday, Steve.
42) The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
Ren is a houseboy in 1930s Malysia. Ren's dying employer lost a finger years ago but believes that he cannot rest in peace unless the finger is reunited with his body. So he asks Ren to locate the finger and bury it in his grave. Meanwhile, dance hall girl Ji Lin accidentally comes into possession of a preserved, severed finger, apparently a client's good luck charm. I quite liked this. The plot is delightfully intricate and points to social issues such as class inequality and colonialism without ever feeling preachy; and the world, which (I assume) mines Malaysian and Confucian folklore and wisdom, feels fresh and rich. Recommended.
(Ron, I liked it better than you did. My sense is that we had different responses to its convoluted plot, which you did not enjoy as well as I did.)
43) The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
Science fiction author Martin Gibson voyages to the new Mars colony on a research trip. He finds the colony small and provincial, but over a series of incidents finds it more and more like home. The prose is dry, the dialog is clunky, the plot is episodic, and the most interesting character is the planet Mars itself. On the other hand, Clarke's enthusiasm for hard-science world-building is both infectious and charmingly dated with misguessed details.
44) Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer
Steph is a teenage girl who has been on the run with her mother all her life from a manipulative sociopath of a father. Other than her mother, the one constant in Steph's migrant life has been the social network CatNet, where she meets a group of half-anonymous friends who provide mutual support. Then a well-intentioned prank with a sex-ed robot brings Steph to her father's attention, and her entire CatNet support group is at risk.
Author Kritzer's 2015 short story, Cat Pictures Please, introduced an AI with all the information of the Internet at its disposal. This scenario would usually generate a technothriller or horror story, but Kritzer's AI introduces itself by saying "I don't want to be evil," and uses its powers to help people, asking only cat pictures in return. It's a charming story and won the Hugo and Locus awards that year. Wisely, Kritzer does not try to stretch that charm to novel length, but includes it as a character trait hung on a more conventional narrative. The mood changes, but the book works, and there is a brilliant satirical scene featuring a sex-ed robot that ... aw, go read it yourself.
45) A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
I'm waaay late to the party on this one. I haven't seen the HBO series -- go ahead and pop-culture-scold me, you won't be the first or last -- which I was putting off until I'd read the books. Of which I've now read one. I have nothing to add to the conversation, and I'm not sure I can disentangle my response from the hype and media machine the franchise has become. Frankly, I maybe should have waited a couple more years for the hype to settle.
So I'll just say I liked it, but found it rambly. I'll probably read more but I have other tonne-tomes to try first.
46) Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse
After the environmental apocalypse, a selected group of young adults was chosen to preserve the human race. They were put in orbit, in cold storage, and hooked into a VR world to prepare them for a return to a healed and hospitable planet. The ship is now near the end of its mission and its systems are failing, but first all of its passengers have to be removed from the sim. It's okay. It is very fast-paced, and for me becomes too frenetic. It also tries to hit heavier points about loss and survivors' guilt, but -- again, for me -- the resolution undercuts these themes.
47) Taking Time by Lynn Abbey
Third in Abbey's series featuring middle-aged dimension-hopping curse-hunting librarian Emma Merrigan. In this one, Emma finally has some space to establish a relationship with her mother Eleanor, but finds herself behaving as the responsible adult in the relationship. She also meets the leadership of the curse-hunting organization and is unimpressed. Meanwhile she investigates a complicated curse that seems to work in ways the experts say is impossible.
Again: it's okay. There are several appealing ideas here, and it's better than the last book, whose resolution I found exasperating. But the author and I seem to be interested in different things, since Abby spends the most time on the Emma/Eleanor relationship, which I find the least engaging of all the subplots.
There is one more book in this series, and I will finish it for the sake of completeness, but I'm responding very differently to the series now than I did to the first book years ago.
And gosh those Photoshopped covers. Did they *ever* look like a good idea?
I'm not sure I can disentangle my response from the hype and media machine the franchise has become
And this is why I'm at least ten years behind with pretty much everything: I always think a book / film / show should have the chance to stand or fall on its own merits. I'm quite accustomed to being out of everyone else's loop. :)
(Of course by choice most of my reading is now pushing 100 years behind - eep! - but I do definitely like to look at films in particular well-divorced from the overhype / backlash cycle.)
>35 lyzard: Advantages and disadvantages, yes, and I seem to have hit a sour spot where there is enough residual hype from the television series that I'm not sure how much of my response is picked up from pop-culture allusions ... but with the series' finale last year it's too late to enjoy their currency. Bad timing, but oh well. If I read a volume once every few years I'll still probably catch up before The Winds of Winter appears ...
... (is a joke I haven't earned yet.)
Mileage last week: 21 miles
Mileage this year: 316 miles
Longest run: 5 miles
Target mileage this week: 22 miles
Soundtrack: Saigon by John Prine
John Prine isn't usually in my running playlist, but he has been this week. May he rest in some of that stuff he sang about.
>38 swynn: I look forward to your thoughts when you get to the Emma Merrigan series. I remember being enthusiastic about it on my first reading; I hope it works that way for you.
John Conway, inventor of the "Game of Life", has passed away from complications of COVID-19.
In its story about Conway's passing, CNN calls the Game of Life "one of the first computer games," which I think is misleading though technically accurate. In game-theoretic terms it is a "zero-player game," since the entire game is fully determined by its initial state: you set it up, then watch it go. It's a game in the same sense that felling dominoes is a game.
It's more common to think of GOL as "cellular automaton,"which is a 2-dimensional grid of cells -- like a sheet of graph paper -- together with a set of rules that define how cells should be colored over a series of steps which, extending the game metaphor, you can think of as "turns" or rounds of play. In the game of life, cells have only two possible states: filled ("alive") or empty ("dead"). Whether a cell is alive or dead in any round depends entirely on the life or death of cells in its neighborhood in the previous round. Specifically:
1. A live cell with 2 or 3 live neighbors lives to the next round
2. A dead cell with 3 live neighbors is alive in the next round
3. All other cells are dead in the next round
Simple, right? And dull? Wrong.
It is difficult to overstate GOL's influence in mathematics and computer science. An entire vocabulary has developed to describe patterns that appear in the "game," there is a wiki devoted to it, and it has generated numerous interesting research questions some of which remain unsolved (for example: Does a pattern exist that repeats itself over 19 rounds?). The game of life is a textbook case of how simple rules can generate complicated systems. And of course it has spawned variations, including a competitive version central to David Brin's novel Glory Season.
As you may have guessed by now, I've spent a nontrivial amount of time filling cells of an m x n grid then pressing "Start" and watching what happens.
As usual, Wikipedia has a pretty good article, with helpful visuals.
Conway also spent a lot of time thinking about games that are more like what you'd think of as games. In fact, he cowrote Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, a classic textbook of mathematical game theory. I've spent hours in its pages also.
>40 swynn: Well, he *was* 82, so it wasn't a ripped-from-us-before-his-time departure....
He's irreplaceable, and his loss resonated with all digital natives as well as us naturalized analoguers.
>27 swynn: Steve, I think my reaction was a little harsh on the book because when I think back on it I remember things I liked and not what bothered me. I am glad you liked it.
>28 swynn: ! I almost started reading Sands of Mars yesterday. I had it in my hand and I have it now on my TBR shelf. But I decided I might do a re-read of 2001 first but didn't start it. Instead I decided to reorganize my bookshelves a bit and never did start a book.
>40 swynn: I briefly played the game of life back around 1974 in college. I don't recall now if it was for a population genetics class or computer science. I didn't have a chance to get obsessive with it - I used up my extra mainframe time with Star Trek.
>44 alcottacre: I hope you can get to them! Especially, I hope you can find the Kritzer because it's a hoot.
>45 qebo: Welcome, Katherine! It's been awhile. I guess I should have checked the In Memoriam thread first. I'll go drop a post there.
>48 swynn: Sporadically lurking. Not reading much, not writing reviews, didn't start a thread this year.
>50 swynn: Sands of Mars would be a re-read for me but I don't remember it at all. I held on to various (but not all) Clarke books from my youth, several from the Science Fiction Book club days in my teens and twenties. I think the only unread Clarke I have is Beyond the Fall of Night which I have saved for some time.
>51 RBeffa: I was going to say that I've read Beyond the Fall of Night, but I was thinking of Against the Fall of Night, which I enjoyed but would want to reread before tackling the sequel.
Mileage last week: 27 miles
Mileage this year: 343 miles
Longest run: 8 miles
Target mileage this week: 23 miles
Soundtrack: America (You're Freaking Me Out) by The Menzingers
48) DAW #179: The Witling by Vernor Vinge
This is Vinge's debut novel, a short adventure about a group of scientists stranded on a world whose natives have various psychic abilities, most notably teleportation. Natives who lack such gifts are called "witlings," and relegated to the lowest tier of society. The scientists of course are witlings but so, it turns out, is the crown prince, who is intrigued by the foreigners and the technology they've developed in order to compensate for their lack of powers. He also falls in love with one of them.
This is my first Vinge, and it's okay. The plot and characters don't inspire me to prioritize more of his work, but the hard-sf content is appealing. I did enjoy how Vinge develops a sort of engineering science of teleportation, imagining how physical forces would affect and be affected by the phenomenon. That kind of tinkering I could enjoy at greater length.
49) Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
This is the sequel to Ireland's alt-history zombie novel Dread Nation. Following the destruction of the first volume, our principals Jane and Katherine flee to Nicodemus, a Black settlement nearby. But Nicodemus is no haven, for the usual reasons, complicated by the fact that they arrive with many other survivors of Summerland who are overwhelmingly white and unwilling to submit to the town's leadership. Then, when the situation in Nicodemus goes South (as it must), Jane and Katherine are separated and ... things get really complicated.
This one is a bit more ambitious than the first novel, structurally and thematically, but it mostly worked for me. There is a stakes-changing event about halfway through, so jarring that it makes Deathless Divide feel like two very different books under a single cover. It took me a while to warm to Ireland's strategy in the second half, but I came around. She closes with hints for a third book, and I'm up for it.
50) Not As A Stranger by Morton Thompson
It's not as bad as Anthony Adverse. It's shorter, for one thing, though it did not feel that way from the middle. But at least NAAS doesn't ask me to sympathize with a slave trader just because he can't think of a better way to become filthy rich. I mean, frame it like that and it's no contest.
Still, it's a godawful long slog. It follows the education and early career of Lucas Marsh, who knows from childhood that he wants to be a doctor. Lucas's ambition is opposed by his mother on spiritual grounds, and by his father on financial ones (Who ever heard of a rich doctor?) but doctoring is all Lucas wants to do, and he proves to be a natural about it. Without his father's support he finds that he must put himself through medical school and to that end marries Katrina: a brilliant surgical nurse who is so unlovely and socially dull that no man could want her but has frugally built a nest egg large enough to finance Lucas's education. (Played in the film adaptation by Olivia de Havilland -- who, if she is able to pull off unlovely and socially dull is an even better actress than I realized.) Lucas is openly contemptuous of Katrina, and his story arc consists of ignoring and resenting her until he realizes late in the story that she's a really good nurse and he doesn't deserve her. Which he certainly does not -- but one also finds oneself impatient with Katrina who so meekly accepts his behavior, and with Morton Thompson who apparently can't imagine giving her the will to push back.
Besides the soap opera, Thompson has a muckraking agenda, and he's better at that than he is at character drama. He critically observes the behavior of doctors-in-training and doctors-in-practice. He has anecdotes about doctors who work only for profit, and others who barely work at all, still others who practice polite murder, and how the entire brotherhood provides cover for everything from errors in judgment to gross incompetence. These stories have more interest, at least for me, than Lucas's strutting but there are so many anecdotes, and so many of them repeat points already made, that one wonders whether Thompson will ever just get on with it. (SPOILER: he does, but goodness does it ever take a long time.)
This was the bestselling novel in 1954, and still wins much love from readers on the bookish social media sites. Alas, its charms are lost on me.
It's not as bad as Anthony Adverse
And it's not as full of Russian names as Doctor Zhivago!
if she is able to pull off unlovely and socially dull is an even better actress than I realized
Not exactly, though she is glammed down of course; but she can do crushed and repressed with the best of them (have you seen The Heiress?), and mostly goes down that road. Plus the accent, though whether we're supposed to find that as intolerable as good ol' Lucas does...
I'm still searching for a better and less unfairly generalised phrase, but---do you get I mean when I call this 'the male narrative'? Though I commented that equivalent 'female' narrative' involves 'will she or won't she marry?', it occurred to me later that we've had female versions of this sort of thing - Gone With The Wind and Forever Amber - but when the protagonist is female, it always ends in them being punished by not getting what they want - invariably, A MAN - whereas in the male version the protagonist gets everything...even if under the guise of learning lessons.
The medical detail was horrifying but easily the most interesting part of the book, just because that stuff was rarely if ever written about; but the rest---jeez louise!
>62 swynn: Yuck. Film: Blech. Sum total judgment of ergs used remaining upright/conscious experiencing Morton's bilirubin-laced leavings: Wasted.
And it's not as full of Russian names as Doctor Zhivago!
I'm definitely not looking forward to Dr. Z. Besides your own reaction, I had an English professor who pronounced it the only case in her experience of the movie being better than the book. And most persuasively, my sister read it in college and gives it the same position that I give to Anthony Adverse. All those stupid names, she says.
On the other hand, there is a magic in low expectations. Let's see whether it works.
But first: Marjorie Morningstar, which so far is better than Not As A Stranger.
I think I understand what you mean by "the male narrative." If I understand it correctly, I think it is closely linked to classical stories that pair a hero's ascent with with character flaws that bring about his tragic downfall. Somewhere in literary history -- I don't know where, but assume it flourishes first with Romanticism -- comes the idea that the hero's flaws are forgivable for the grandiosity of his ambition, or that they are redeemable through the Love of a Good Woman.
It is not entirely clear to me that it is a "male" thing, though it does seem obvious that most such characters are male, and that women characters who exhibit either ambition or the flaws that come with it are less likely to be given favorable readings. Or if they do, then women are less likely to be redeemable through the love of a romantic partner, though they might be able to be redeemed through love of/for a child. Might Mildred Pierce be an example of this, or So Big's Selina DeJong?
Do I have the idea? I have a feeling Marjorie Morningstar is going to fall in one of these categories. I'm too near the beginning to predict which one but I'm leaning toward tragic downfall.
Mileage last week: 22 miles
Mileage this year: 365 miles
Longest run: 9 miles
Target mileage this week: 23 miles
Soundtrack: Die Kreatur by Die Kreatur
"Die Kreatur" ("The Creature") is a duo composed of Dero Gol, frontman for the industrial rock band Oomph! and Chris Harms, frontman for the gothic metal band Lord of the Lost. I've expressed my enthusiasm here for Oomph! a couple of times; my enthusiasm for Lord of the Lost is ... well ... less, but I do love the Gol/Harms chemistry, the video's campy Hammer-horror aesthetic, and of course the very runnable music. Looking forward to the full album.
Der Mensch ist böse von Natur
Der Mensch, er braucht die Kreatur
Er gab dem Tier den Namen 'Schwein'
Und glaubt dabei nur er sei rein.
"The human is evil by nature
The human needs the creature
He named the animal 'swine,'
And so believes he alone is pure."
Hm. Yes, doesn't he just.
51) The Golden People ; Exile From Xanadu by Fred Saberhagen and Lan Wright
The Golden People is Fred Saberhagen's debut novel, set in the same universe as his 1961 story, "The Planeteer." Mostly it takes place on the planet Golden, which is surrounded by a field that causes technology to fail except in a very small region. There's also a curious artifact which is maximally distant from the region where technology works. Adam Mann is part of the team sent to Golden to establish a colony and trade with the locals. Adventure ensues, and when the mission is accomplished Mann quits the corps and hangs out on Golden. Years later, Mann is visited by some old friends, genetically-engineered psychics who plan to reach the artifact under their own power. It's okay but feels like too many ideas for the length, most of them borrowed from better stories, reassembled into a first novel.
Exile From Xanadu is easily the better story of this Ace Double. Martin Regan is the sole survivor from a sabotaged spacecraft; as he recovers he is mistakenly identified as his bunkmate Manuel Cabrera, darling son of a powerful family and almost certainly the intended target of the sabotage. When Martin regains consciousness he corrects the mistake but the incorrect rumor has already spread. The Cabrera family offers Regan sanctuary: to keep him safe, they say, but Regan knows the family didn't get where it is by humanitarian impulses. I had never heard of Lan Wright so had low expectations, and found this a very pleasant surprise. It's a well-structured Ambler-style spy thriller set in a space-opera world, and a surprising bunch of fun. So who is this Lan Wright? Wikipedia credits him with five other novels, but says that he stopped writing to devote more attention to his "employment." Alas, Wright could have had Saberhagen's career and instead he chose to make a living wage. Selfish.
52) The Flying Eyes by J. Hunter Holly
I am delighted to report that this is a real book, and that its cover accurately depicts its premise, which is an invasion of flying eyeballs with hypnotic powers. That is all.
What do you mean, is it any good? It is a book about FLYING EYEBALLS WITH HYPNOTIC POWERS. What more do you want? Sheesh.
>73 swynn: I never read that one but I remember the cover. How could one unsee that? I'll keep my eye out for it - one never knows.
>74 richardderus: What appealed to me about the Wright was its tightness. There just wasn't much waste: it knew where it wanted to go and how to get there and then it went. Especially after Saberhagen's grab bag of tropes, I appreciated how Wright knew whom to imitate and how. The magic of low expectations may be involved, but based on Exile From Xanadu I'd read more of his stuff.
And: hope you find it!
>75 RBeffa: My goodness that's been haunting your memory a long time. Lucky.
53) Invisible Chains by Michelle Renee Lane
This one was on the Stoker ballot for Best First Novel. It's a historical paranormal thriller set in antebellum Louisiana, featuring Creole girl Jacqueline, who escapes slavery shortly after a mysterious stranger who has been welcomed into the household turns out to be a vampire and slaughters everyone but her. At first the vampire seems to be her gallant protector, but as Jacqueline herself notes early on, "There aren't any happily ever afters." There are some bits that seemed overdone to me -- TW for racist violence and rape -- and one long section that didn't seem to serve a purpose other than introducing characters who might reappear in sequels, of which one is strongly foreshadowed. But I did appreciate the theme that one's rescuer is not necessarily one's friend, and I'm curious enough about where Lane is taking this that I'd pick up that sequel.
54) Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai
Last year I read and loved Larissa Lai's bewildering The Tiger Flu (Comments here), So I picked up this, her second novel, which once again is a rich mix of themes and genres -- bodyshifting folklore anticapitalist dystopian dimension-hopping parable -- with fish (I mean, lots of fish). Once again I am not entirely sure what happened but once again I was helplessly enchanted. Larissa Lai is the real stuff, y'all, check her out.
55) DAW #180: In The Green Star's Glow by Lin Carter
Fifth and thank goodness last in Lin Carter's ERB pastiche, "The Green Star." The first couple of books were okay fun, but then the third and fourth got pretty uncomfortable with racist tropes and borderline pedophilia. The icky stuff is toned down in this one, but it won't make up for what's come before. Especially since we still must endure the narrator's raptures over the "exciting bodies" of 13-year-old Amazons thank you Humbert Humbert in space. The resolution feels hurried, but at this point hurry-up-and-finish is exactly what I was wanting so yay for that. The cover is by Michael Whelan, who also provides several interior illustrations which are an unexpected treat, and they deserve a better story. Best news of all though: it's done.
FORTY BUCKS FOR A PAPERBACK?!
Nope. The library copy will do, once it's reopened.
Possibly the issue with the books I'm complaining about is a lack of grandiosity. :)
I just can't see the attraction in these books where the protagonist behaves likes a complete shit for hundreds and hundreds of pages, yet for some reason we're supposed to stay invested and be glad that he finally gets what he wants.
This is not to say that I need a protagonist to be well-behaved or even just "nice"; but there has to be something, some reason why I should be interested, why I want to follow along on the journey; and in too many of these books I just don't find that.
It is not entirely clear to me that it is a "male" thing, though it does seem obvious that most such characters are male, and that women characters who exhibit either ambition or the flaws that come with it are less likely to be given favorable readings.
You're right of course, male dominated but not male exclusive, which is why I do shy away from "the male narrative". Maybe just "the shit narrative"? :D
But it is sadly true that even now female protagonists in general are given far less moral leeway. And you've hit on a side-issue both fascinating and infuriating, the shift in moral judgement in (heh!) "the mother narrative". (The ur-book in that sub-genre would be Olive Higgins Prouty's Stella Dallas.)
I read some early Lin Carter but never read him again after Tolkien: A Look Behind the Lord of the Rings in 1969, where he made numerous egregious errors about the books, to my total disgust. Probably read The Wizard of Lemuria and some of the collaborations with Howard and Sprague de Camp of Conan. That predated the Green Star books.
>86 lyzard: Both of those books would have been improved by flying eyeballs. (By which of course I mean the fictional sort, not the sort that are launched by excessive rolling.)
>87 ronincats: I've not read Carter's book about Tolkien, and on your recommenation probably never will. Even without that my opinion of him is permanently soured by the Green Star series.
Mileage last week: 16 miles
Mileage this year: 381 miles
Longest run: 4 miles
Target mileage this week: 23 miles
Soundtrack: 80 Millionen by MoTrip (from a song by Max Giesinger)
So the new series of "Sing Meinen Song" is running on German television, which probably bumps the needle on very few visitors' radar, except maybe Anita's since I understand the series idea was stolen from Dutch television.
The idea of "Sing Meinen Song" (i.e., "Sing My Song") is that a half-dozen popular vocalists get together and sing each others' songs. Sure, some of the performers are more appealing than others but by definition everybody involved is a professional, so the show tends to avoid some of the tendencies I find annoying in talent-show series like "American Idol" or "The Voice." Still, the performances aren't usually the sort of thing I share here.
But the first episode of this season has a standout performance: Hip hop singer MoTrip's take on Max Giesinger's "80 Millionen." Giesinger's original (which you can see here) is a pleasant-enough pop love song about the chances of love:
Where I come from live one thousand people
In the next town about twice as much
Three hundred thousand inthe next big city
And almost four million in Berlin
I was alone for the last five years,
Looking for the winning lottery ticket
Seven nights a week too little at home
Like a roller coaster on continuous ride
Come so far and seen so much,
So much has happened that we don't understand
I still don't know but I still ask myself
How did you find me?
One in 80 million
It was a big hit for Giesinger, so somebody was going to sing it on the show, and the prize went to MoTrip, a hip hop vocalist born in Lebanon whose family emigrated to Germany during the civil war. MoTrip took the romantic confection and made it something better:
Where I come from burn 10,000 candles
Because the skyline has caught fire
We all carry longing in the heart
And dream about it for so long
To start over
Burnt earth in the rain we don't blossom
Our gaze sunk in the stars
Of our homeland very little was left
We moved on when the distance called us
Come so far and seen so much,
So much has happened that we don't understand
Climbed mountains to stand here today
Swam through seas to escape the war
Marched under tears
But here I found my identity
Everything lost in the night as we fled
And then found myself here
As one in 80 million.
>90 alcottacre: Too bad about Lai. She has one more book that isn't available in any of the libraries I have access to, so I guess I'll just have to buy it.
And as for the Green Star series: good choice.
>91 swynn: Sounds like it is too bad for the both of us on the Lai, Steve! I hope you can track down the third book.
>89 swynn: I sometimes watch the Dutch version called "Best Singers" (funny how names are changed in different countries), it completely depends on me liking the singer of that episode. There were some very moving performances through the years.
Most notable performances Henk Poort (a Dutch musical star) with Floor Jansen (singer of Finnish metalband Nightwish) singing The Phantom of the Opera: https://youtu.be/plCScjvDOJM and Henk Poort singing The Sound of Silence https://youtu.be/q_BJaM-UrXc
>93 FAMeulstee: Wow, that is a powerful instrument Jansen has. I checked out some Nightwish performances on Youtube, and am a new fan. Thanks, Anita!
>28 swynn: I started reading Sands of Mars yesterday. At 200 or so pages I should finish in a couple days. I'm a little surprised at how few of his books I have read. I did enjoy that short story collection a couple months ago and I think that is how I have mostly encountered Clarke, through short stories over the years. The start of Sands of Mars was underwhelming but as I got further I began to appreciate a sort of charm to it. I don't know what I expected but this wasn't it. My 1974 edition has an introduction by Clarke (written in 1966) where he expresses his satisfaction with the book and essentially says he wouldn't change a thing in his first novel (and that was at 15 years past first publication). This feels a bit like an old time Heinlein juvenile.
>95 RBeffa: I agree, Sands of Mars is a very readable book and I'm glad you were enjoying it. (I expect that didn't change.) It definitely has the same "gee-whiz" charm that I associate with the Heinlein juveniles.
Mileage last week: 23 miles
Mileage this year: 404 miles
Longest run: 9 miles
Target mileage this week: 20 miles
Soundtrack: The House is Rockin' by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Actually, the version that came up on my playlist is by Kenny Wayne Shepherd, but if I'm gonna share it then let's make it the original.
56) Hymns of the Republic by S.C. Gwynne
This is a popular account of the last year of the Civil War, from the newly-promoted General Grant's appearance in Washington, D.C. in early March 1864, to General Lee's surrender at Appomattox in April 1865. Most of the content will be familiar to anyone who has read a few books about the war, but the structure offers an interesting perspective that sees earlier events primarily for their influence on the endgame. (Though the story about Confederate spies conspiring with an exiled Yankee pacifist in Canada was new to me.) Also, the writing is engaging and occasionally even snarky.
57) The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories by Gene Wolfe
Date: 1980 (stories copyright 1970-1978)
Gene Wolfe is among the authors whom I really should've read by now. This is a terrific collection that hits several of my favorite themes: religion and imagination and ambiguous narratives and rich crafty prose. There are no duds here, but for me the standouts in this field of excellence are "Alien Stones," "Tracking Song," and the fantastic "Death of Dr. Island."
The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories
A boy deals with his parents' divorce and drug habits by having conversations with characters from pulp fiction.
A starship crew investigates a mysterious artifact.
A short Christmas story, placing the figure of "La Befana," who travels from village to village looking for the Christ child, into a space-opera setting.
The Hero As Werwolf
In a future when most humans have been upgraded to a peaceful genius race, a few humans remain "feral" either by choice or because genetic incompatibaility. Two such "ferals" hunt the masters for food.
Michael Moss sells contraband Disney memorabilia while dodging the Mickey Mafia -- Disney villains who use unusual methods to protect the corporation's intellectual property.
The Death of Dr. Island
Nicholas Devore wakes up alone on an island, which turns out to be a therapeutic facility in orbit around Jupiter. Two other patients are on the island with Nicholas, and the facility itself is an AI which speaks to the patients through the rocks and waves.
In the far future, aliens visit earth and try to make sense of human documents. One legend they find particularly interesting is a Vietnamese story of "feather tigers", who have a unique method of hunting.
Hour of Trust
A future American has become a battleground for warring corporations. The story consists of a pitch from a corporate rep, to potential financial partners for their operations in Detroit. The pitch is intended to feature live footage of a successful military action, but live footage is a funny thing.
An amnesiac hero crosses a wintery world of various humanoid tribes, dealing with frequent violence and maybe cannibalism, as he tries to return to the great sky-sled from which he may have fallen.
The Toy Theater
A puppeteer visits the distant planet Sarg to pay his respects to a master puppeteer Stromboli.
The Doctor of Death Island
Inventor Alan Alvard is awakened from cryogenic sleep to find that he is serving a life sentence for murdering his former partner. Worse, he is now immortal. Alvard believes that he has a bargaining chip: his invention "Genre Jinn" is a tool that transfers characters between books: Alvard launches a plague of Dickens characters, which he agrees to reverse only in exchange for total freedom.
Very short story featuring a conversation with a bowling ball from Deneb, and lots of puns.
The Eyeflash Miracles
A boy without retinas crosses a future United States in search of a mythical "Sugarland." Because of his condition, he has no identity but can occasionally perform miracles. I think: it's very surreal and I'm not entirely certain what was going on.
Seven American Nights
An Iranian visitor to a near-future New York goes to the theater, falls in love, and takes drugs.
58) Vampire of the Mists / Christie Golden
A broody elf vampire travels to the gothic land of Barovia to find vengeance for his lost love. There he finds a broody vampire constantly looking for his lost love to be born. It's Anne Rice sifted through Dungeons and Dragons and excessively broody. It's been sitting on my shelves for ages and can finally go out the door.
#56 It's all in the writing, so it's good that this one kept you turning pages.
#57 "Three Fingers" and "Hour of Trust" are the two stories that make Wolfe a hero in my eyes.
#58 Tedious sounding, so good riddance to mediocre timewaster.
>99 swynn: I haven't read any Gene Wolfe, but your review prompted me to request The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction which contains most, but not all, of the stories in The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories, and Other Stories. Thanks for the push!
>99 swynn: Wow. I remember that as a great book. I'm not sure I ever owned a copy but I read it in the early 80's. Baird Searles was my favorite book reviewer and wrote a regular column in Asimov's magazine which I read steadily back then. As I recall this was one of his strong recommendations - he turned me on to a lot of great books. I imagine I might have the title story in an anthology
>101 richardderus: "Three Fingers" is a manic gem that would have been the standout story in almost any other anthology. "Hour of Trust" isn't in this volume, so I'll look forward to that one.
>102 Dejah_Thoris: I look forward to your thoughts! I'm going to read more Wolfe myself. You know, soon.
>103 RBeffa: I read Asimov's intermittently through the 80's, thanks to a subscription at my local public library. The reviews column always seemed to have recommendations that I didn't have access to. I do wonder how I would have responded to Wolfe in my late teens/early twenties; oh well, better late than never.
I can't remember anything about it, but I remember being tremendously awed by Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus back in the 70s.
59) The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
This follows a group of characters living on a tidally-locked colony world. In a narrow habitable band between constant burning daylight and constant freezing night there are two large human cities: rigidly ordered Xiosphant and anything-goes Argelo. Early in the book one of the viewpoint characters, Sophie, makes a foolhardy gesture of love that violates the Xiosphant code so she is exiled to, and essentially condemned to execution by, the constant freezing night. But instead of dying she encounters "crocodiles," indigenes who live on the planet's night side and whom colonists regard as predators or cattle and in any case not intelligent. Sophie establishes a psychic link with the crocodiles, who rescue her, so that she can return to the city. Back in Xiosphant Sophie continues to seek the attention of the vain and insensitive Bianca, and Sophie's and Bianca's lives intersect with that of the other viewpoint character Mouth, the sole survivor of a catastrophe that wiped out her entire culture. Adventures follow, cities are visited, politics discussed, rebellions plotted, friendships made and betrayed, alien weirdness explored.
I read and was underwhelmed by Anders's first novel, All the Birds in the Sky. This one suits my taste better: the setting is richer, the rhetorical points more nuanced, and the aliens are pretty cool. There are still bits that don't work for me, but if Anders sometimes misses her mark I'm willing to cut her some slack in recognition of her higher aim.
This is my first read for the "Best Novel" category in this year's Hugo ballot. If the other nominees are at least this good I'll be a happy reader.
>107 swynn: I haven't read either All the Birds in the Sky or The City in the Middle of the Night, but I have the latter on my Kindle to read, probably next month.
I've got it and The Ten Thousand Doors of January still to read of the Hugo Novel nominees. I have to admit I'm not sure I'm terribly excited by either, although your review give me hope for the Anders book, at least.
60) Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
Following the events of Children of Blood and Bone, magic has returned to Orisha but old rivalries and power imbalances remain; and though our heroes now have magic restored to them, so also do the nobles who banished it in the first place. Heroes from the first book are now driven apart by competing motivations, by heated misunderstandings, and -- oh my goodness you would not believe how much -- by hormones. Very very YA, I'm sayin. (It's almost as if having adolescents run the world might maybe have some disadvantages.) (Not that adolescents couldn't do a better job than late-life infants, mind you, in case anybody's handicapping crappy leadership.)
I liked the first book a lot, so this one was disappointing. It doesn't seem to know where it wants to go, but goes there anyway making up for its lack of direction with Sturm und Drang; then
>111 swynn: Oh dear. I thought I was being overly critical, but yes to the spoiler and how annoying was that.
>112 richardderus: I had to laugh, Richard. My thought as I was reading Steve's review was "Oh, dear."
>111 swynn: And yes, oh dear - yet another YA series that I've heard good things about (at least the first book) and have been tempted to read but given my frequent, er, unhappiness with YA, I think I should give this one a pass. Thanks for helping me clarify that. And I'm sorry it was disappointing.
Steve, I'm sure you already know the *gaak* poetry *shudder* of Walter Mehring. One of his most haunting poems, Charité, has a lovely musical setting. You should know these things.
>112 richardderus: It wasn't quite, "Then she woke and it was all a dream," but the effect was similar. Disappointing.
>113 Dejah_Thoris: Yeah, I definitely wouldn't recommend this second book to someone already disinclined to like YA. The first one though, maybe still.
>114 richardderus: Haunting is the word all right. Thank you, Richard.
>115 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul!
Mileage last 2 weeks: 6 miles
Mileage this year: 410 miles
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: We'll see
A flare-up of plantar fasciitis, probably exacerbated by erratic weather, has kept me off of my feet for the last couple of weeks. I'm hoping to ease back into a little more mileage by this weekend.
Slow running weeks call for slower music, so here's Charles Bradley mining Black Sabbath for soul:
Soundtrack: Changes by Charles Bradley
61) Marjorie Morningstar / Herman Wouk
Marjorie Morgenstern is a Jewish girl from a middle-class New York family, with an ambition to be something more than just another middle-class wife. She aspires to become "Marjorie Morningstar, shining light of stage and screen. While working in the theatrical crew at a summer resort (and den of Sodomites, says her mother, which diminishes its attraction negatively), Marjorie meets the modestly talented songwriter Noel Airman with whom she carries on an extended relationship that eventually becomes an affair and the center of her attention ... or of the novel's attention, at least.
There's much to like here, and as an annual bestseller it is a tremendous improvement over 1954's. I loved the affectionate glimpses of mid-20th century middle-class Jewish life (especially of a comically chaotic Seder), the insight into New York theater business, and the occasional philosophizing about shifting mores and the century's central moral crisis. But the title character wastes way too many thoughts on men and too much time as a sounding board for men's ideas; there's really even very little about Marjorie's attempts to break into show business, other than an early incident in which she is offered a starring role in exchange for financially backing the production. After that, her theatrical experiences are mostly offstage and always overshadowed by her relationships with men, who are allowed to expostulate at length their theories about the universe. I'd much have preferred more Marjorie without the men: surely anecdotes could have been told about bottom-rung New York theaters. And surely Marjorie must have had some ideas of her own. Or you know, an author who would have imagined some for her.
It's not at all bad, just a little long and disappointing. I'd read more Wouk, though I suspect I'd like his war stories more.
62) DAW #181: Dorsai! / Gordon Dickson
Date: 1976 (revised from a 1960 revision of a 1959 magazine serial)
This is a re-read for me, though it has been many a year since my first reading. I remember liking it a lot, since there is plenty of action and it features a clever young hero who finds unexpected solutions to problems his elders can't solve. My feelings on this visit are considerably more mixed. It's still a well-paced story that mostly stays out of its own way but now the solutions seem overtidy, the hero too perfect, the elders too dim. And its takes on gender roles and genetics haven't aged well.
63) Down Time / Lynn Abbey
Fourth and last in Abbey's urban-fantasy series featuring middle-aged dimension-hopping curse-hunting librarian Emma Merrigan. In this one, Emma and mother Eleanor book a Caribbean cruise in hopes of repairing their relationship and taking a break from curse-hunting. Inevitably, they discover a curse on board -- but curse-hunting at sea is uniquely dangerous.
Like previous entries in the series, the pacing here is thrown off by a disagreement between myself and the author about what is interesting. We spend about half the book on a cruise ship, where the plot can advance only marginally because curse-hunting at sea is prohibited. So instead we are treated to descriptions of shipboard amenities so detailed that one wonders whether the author had written off a Caribbean cruise as a work vacation and wanted ample justification in case of audit. By the time the plot gets rolling we are already approaching the end.
I very much like the premise of this series, but was consistently disappointed by execution. The idea of a "curse" should be an interesting way to explore actions and consequences through multiple generations, in varying historical and ethical contexts. But too often the curse stories were secondary to minutiae of Emma's life and relationships which were too seldom interesting on their own terms.
>120 Dejah_Thoris: I think elevated expectations were a problem for me, based on my very positive memories of it. You may very well like it, Dejah, and I hope you do. It's a 1976 version of a story from 1960, and with that context in mind it's a pretty good adventure story.
And thanks on MM -- how far did you get before calling it?
The Female Narrative, male version. :D
Yeah, much easier to take than some of our recent works but still very frustrating in the end. The casual Jewishness of the book almost made up for the rest (though given the time setting I found the complete lack of antisemitism strange and frankly unconvincing); but the dismissal of Marjorie's attempts at a career, however doomed, in favour of her pursuit of a self-evidently equally doomed relationship just got more and more exasperating.
BTW I am yet again postponing Exodus because there seems to be no promise that the library I need will be reopening in time. If this keeps up we'll be back on a even keel! :)
64) DAW #182: The Minikins of Yam / Thomas Burnett Swann
Old Kingdom Egypt. Omens predict famine, and the boy-pharoah Pepy learns that his sister (and future wife) is plotting with the priest of Ra to ritually murder him and assume the throne. Desperate, Pepy calls for help to his late father's friend, the warrior Harkhuf. But Harkhuf is far away south of Nubia in Yam. Nevertheless, with help from the magical and sexually promiscuous beings called Minikin, Harkhuf comes to Pepy's aid, and together they seek the source of the Nile in order to prevent the prophesied famine.
Thomas Burnett Swann has been one of the pleasant surprises of the DAW project. He writes historical fantasies that play with folklore and mythology and are not quite like anything else. I liked this one in general, though there are some uncomfortable allusions to sexualization of children so TW for that.
>122 swynn: Not very, lol. Truthfully, I just wasn't in the mood for it at the time. I may go back to it someday - my mother is a fan - but it's not as if I lack for books I want to read.
In addition to the Dorsai series, I need to tackle the Lensmen, so Triplanetary is up some time soon as well. I'm not sure how I've managed to miss both of these series over the years. I'm guessing you've read it before?
>123 lyzard: And I'm just devastated about Exodus. I was so looking forward a book with heartbreak, tragedy and politics in June. It would have been just the ticket in this time of plague.
ETA: >124 swynn: I've even heard of the author or the book - good glory.
>123 lyzard: There are allusions to antisemitism but yeah, it is mostly conspicuous by its absence. Especially since other bestsellers have introduced Jewish characters just to call attention to antisemitism.
I'm hopeful to complete at least one bestseller in June: my library doesn't have a copy of Don't Go Near the Water but we're hoping to resume some lending and borrowing in the next couple of weeks with other libraries in our consortium, so I hope I'll be able to request it soon. In the meantime, I have the ever-looming Tower of Due, and maybe I'll squeeze in Oil! for the Boston challenge.
>125 Dejah_Thoris: As you probably guessed, I won't recommend a hurry back to Marjorie Morningstar
I read Triplanetary a few years ago, when Roni organized a group read. It didn't click with me and I did not continue. Roni tells me that Triplanetary is the weakest of the series and I should give at least First Lensman a try. And I mean to. Someday.
Re: Thomas Burnett Swann. If you want to give him a try, I recommend How Are the Mighty Fallen, which is a historical fantasy romance based on the Biblical story of David and Jonathan. Plus monsters. I'm not usually for romance much as you know, but. You know, monsters.
>118 swynn: I was too young to appreciate much about this book or its film when I was dating the film student in the 1970s. I was bored into a coma by the book and spent the entire film, um, making myself distracting to my appreciative-but-annoyed seatmate. The ending of the film
>120 Dejah_Thoris: Curiously, that was the same year as Morningstar, and I liked it lots better.
>121 swynn: No thanks.
>124 swynn: I do love some TBSwann! Ever so queer in the most plausibly deniable ways.
>127 swynn: I think I'll tell myself I'm going to read the first three Lensmen books - and I can stop after that if I want to. It's educational, right?
How Mighty Are the Fallen is not in my library system- nor is there an ebook version, apparently. I'll try my local used bookstore. Thanks for the suggestion - I'm usually ok with some romance, but what's not to like about, well, you know, monsters?
>128 richardderus: I think this was my third time reading The Number of the Beast, and as much as I love Heinlein I just don't love this particular book, although I like parts of it very much. I can easily see liking it more than Marjorie Morningstar, though.
>128 richardderus: Yes, the ending is definitely a disappointment. I haven't seen the film, but what you say reflects the book's. With respect to Swann, I'm probably missing some queer subtext but the surtext is often transgressive enough. I'm looking forward to more.
>129 Dejah_Thoris: Of course, all reading is eduational!
I hope you can find How Are the Mighty Fallen but I've enjoyed all the Swann books I've read so far -- there have been four so far in the DAW project: Green Phoenix, a story about Aeneas in Italy; How Are the Mighty Fallen, about David and Jonathan; The Not-World, a sort-of steampunk sort-of fairy book featuring the English poet Thomas Chatterton; and THe Minikins of Yam. They've each been a delight.
>130 BLBera: Hope you like The City in the Middle of the Night, Beth! I think I too will remember very little of Marjorie Morningstar fairly soon.
>131 ronincats: OOh, I ought to join. Thanks, Roni!
65) Cradle of the Sun / The Wizards of Senchuria by Brian Stableford and Kenneth Bulmer
This is an Ace Double. Cradle of the Sun (Brian Stablefored) has a dying-Earth sort of setting, with humans, post-humans, and superevolved intelligent rats teaming up to fight an unknown enemy that saps the life-force of all intelligent beings. The Wizards of Senchuria (Kenneth Bulmer) features dimension-hopping warriors who stumble into a world where wizards harvest emotions to power advanced weapons. Both stories emphasize action and imaginative environments. Both are perfectly serviceable adventures.
66) DAW #183: Tomorrow Knight by Michael Kurland
A knight in the Army of the Holy Crusade learns that he lives in a tourist attraction: his world is divided in to different sectors, each sector recreating conflicts from Earth's history repeatedly staged for the entertainment of extraterrestrial visitors. He encounters outlaws who aim to escape the sectors and, ultimately, overthrow the system. It's quite fun, though with an open-ended conclusion that demands a sequel -- which as far as I can tell was never published.
67 Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
Another Best Novel nominee from the Hugo ballot. This one involves space necromancers, all brought to a mystery planet for a competition whose rules and goals are not entirely clear, but whose winner will be rewarded with a powerful position. Our hero is a sort of bodyguard to a necromancer she hates (and who is also her only friend), and she expresses her frustration through continuous snark. It's a comic political thriller weird murder mystery with a high body count. Outer space weird doesn't often work for me, but it does here and I'm looking forward to the next.
68) Points of Departure by Pat Murphy
Date: 1991 (stories originally published 1979-1990)
Here's another author I should have read a long time ago. The stories in this collection were mostly published in the 1980s in various anthologies and magazines. They are quite good, with vivid imagery. strong structure, and economical prose, most of them around 10 pages long. Failed relationships are a recurring theme, including (TW) some abusive ones. My favorites are "Orange Blossom Time" and "Rachel in Love," but none are duds.
Dead Men on TV. The daughter of a movie star builds her life around watching his old movies.
Women in the Trees. A woman in an abusive relationship finds friendship with the women living in the trees outside her home.
Don't Look Back. A woman visits places from her past -- an old apartment, a former professor, a former workplace -- to find that in every case she seems to have been replaced by somebody resembling her.
Orange Blossom Time A man comes to the aid of a woman being assaulted. The two develop a not-quite-romantic relationship, complicated by the woman's being unstuck in time.
In the Islands. A marine biologist establishes a partnership with an amphibian boy, and contemplates his options when the boy informs him he plans to leave permanently for the sea.
Touch of the Bear. A Neanderthal man brought into the present is living out his last days on a preserve, when an old friend looks him up for one more bear hunt.
On a Hot Summer Night in a Place Far Away. A hammock vendor meets a woman who never sleeps.
Sweetly the Waves Call to Me A student completing her thesis on selkie folklore finds some of the superstitions irresistibly compelling.
His Vegetable Wife A loner space colonist plants and cultivates a wife.
Good-Bye, Cynthia A woman remembers her sister Cynthia, who disappeared after saying she was going to meet the woman from Planet X.
Prescience. A fortune-teller contemplates whether she should begin a romantic relationship, knowing how it will end.
Clay Devils. A poor woman in an unidentified Latin country makes devil figurines. An American trader offers her good money for them, but she becomes concerned that the devils are not just innocent figurines.
A Falling Star is a Rock from Outer Space After she sees a falling star, a woman seems to acquire an invisible roommate.
Four Lean Hounds. High fantasy story about a thief learns that she may be the daughter of the Lady of the Wind. The Lady is not a kind spirit, and is responsible for famine in many lands, but the thief has no particular reason to love any of the people affected. She sets out to meet her mother to build a relationship, but prophecy says that the Lady of the Wind's daughter is the only power who can defeat her.
On the Dark Side of the Station Where the Train Never Stops. A loner space pilot falls in love with a guy who is not good for her.
In the Abode of the Snows. The son of a Himalayan explorer finds his father's old journal, and sets out in search of the Yeti.
Rachel in Love. When her guardian dies, a chimpanzee imprinted with the mind of a young girl is taken into a facility whose primary purpose is breeding primates for the research market.
Recycling Strategies for the Inner City An urban junk collector finds some of her pieces self-assembling into what may be a spaceship.
Bones. An Irish giant travels to England to call Irish immigrants home.
69) Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Blue comes from a family of fortune-tellers, and though she isn't psychic herself she is a sort of amplifier for psychic energy. Through a series of plot developments, Blue joins a group of boys from a local prep school who are hunting for the grave of Glendower, a sleeping Welsh king, who is supposed to grant a favor to whoever wakes him.
This was recommended by Amber (scaifea), and though I don't think I share her enthusiasm for the series (yet), I am intrigued enough to continue.
70) 26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi
Meb Keflezighi is an Olympic marathoner, also the runner who won the Boston Marathon in 2014, the year after the bombing. This is a memoir of his career, with one chapter for each of the 26 marathons he ran as a professional. He pairs each race with a lesson for running and life, typically generic inspirational lessons about perseverance and learning from mistakes and dealing with disappointments. But really: I'm here for the race reports and Meb delivers. I am a runner of a very different class -- he runs races in about two hours; my best were about four -- so I relish his stories of what it's like to train and compete as an elite. (And wow does a huge amount of it deal with managing injuries.) Still, some of the joys and pains are ones I recognize.
With the inspirational angle the book might have a wider audience, but it strikes me that it's still a book aimed at runners: he uses running jargon without explanation, and sometimes refers to the reader's own experience at races. If you're in the target audience though, this has some stories you're unlikely to find elsewhere. For the religiously disinclined who see "faith" in the subtitle: don't worry, religion is not emphasis.
Here's an interesting performance.
Michael Patrick Kelly is an Irish-American pop-rock musician living Germany who mostly sings in English. Today he released a "concert" recorded in the Cologne Cathedral -- a popular tourist site that usually sees thousands of visitors a day but which has been standing empty due to the coronavirus lockdown. The venue offers striking visuals and acoustics, and is worth a listen. On a couple of songs he is joined by guests: one is Lebanese-German hip-hop artist MoTrip, whose version of "80 Millionen" was running soundtrack a few weeks ago. The other guest (on "Salve Regina") is Jennifer Haben, lead singer of the symphonic-metal band Beyond the Black.
>139 richardderus: The Paris boat is still a good chunk from the end, but it's even farther from the beginning. I'm curious why you bailed there specifically?
>140 swynn: First I had to overcome my prejudice against the Kelly Family, I managed to do so and saw a nice concert (music) and an overwhelming and alienating experience (the empty cathedral) and a heartwarming message. Thanks Steve.
>141 swynn: I don't know that it was a conscious decision so much as, "you fucked him so now you're crossing an ocean to get him to, what exactly?" It felt like a perfect moment of co-dependence, that 70s psychobabble concept we were just discovering.
Pop psychology lacks nuance, of course, but it does provide context for aesthetic responses. Plus my sister the bookstore owner called her "Marjorie Doormat" which, I figured, was a pretty good clue as to where we were headed.
>142 FAMeulstee: Ignorance is my excuse for lack of prejudice against the Kelly Family, though I gather there's a story to tell there. MPK sometimes tries to pose as a rock star, which I find forced -- as a rock star he's a pretty good aging teen idol -- but his singer-songwriter, guy-with-a-guitar stuff can be effective. The concert's last piece, "Hope," is my favorite from his repertoire and it fits the setting well.
>143 scaifea: Looking forward to it, Amber!
>144 richardderus: "Marjorie Doormat" is harsh, but not inaccurate, and the effect is frustrating. I think that Wouk wanted to make a point about the value of religious conventions, and couldn't do that without having Marjorie choose a contented traditional domesticity at the end. I do not share Wouk's value for religious conventions, so I suppose I was bound to be disappointed in the resolution.
>145 swynn: Winter isn't renowned for her tender and sweet nature. She is, after all, related to me.
Since I exceed your wrath for the conventionally-religious aspects of society, I suspect that I wasn't going to get a lot of good vibrations from the pointlessness of the exercise as made clear by the ending. I was not a huge fan of Sister Carrie either, though at least she got some acclaim for her talents before realizing the hedonistic lifestyle is all ashes, ashes, and she Needs A...a...no, she cannot fill the void within...
Anyway. Endings are very, very hard at the best of times. Wouk painted himself into a corner with Marjorie. She wasn't talented and certainly wasn't very interesting. So what else could she do but return to her roots?
This prize is probably on the radar of very few visitors here, so I feel obliged to call attention to the 2020 Kurd Lasswitz Award. The Kurd Lasswitz Award is one of the premier awards of German-language fandom. It's selected by professionals in the industry -- authors, translators, editors, publishers, etc. -- so I think of it as a sort of German Nebula Award.
Anyway, I feel obliged to mention it because it nods this year to one of my pet obsessions.
The prize for Best German-Language Novel went to Andreas Eschbach's Perry Rhodan - Das größte Abenteuer, an 850-page biographical novel chronicling Perry Rhodan's early years. This is Eschbach's 10th win in the category (most recently last year for his surveillance-state thriller NSA - Nationales Sicherheits-Amt). It is Perry Rhodan's first (I know, I know: Perry Rhodan has not been showered with literary awards of all sorts? Shocking.)
In categories you might find more interesting, the prize for "Best Foreign Work" went to Margaret Atwood's "Die Zeuginnen" (The Testaments); and "Best Translation" went to China Miéville's "Die letzten Tagen von Neu-Paris" (The Last Days of New Paris). (I love that there are separate awards for "works" and for "translations" of foreign-language works -- a distinction of awards that I expect could only emerge in a market heavy with translated works.)
>119 swynn: >133 swynn: I recall always liking Gordon Dickson's stories. And I always had a strong affection for those Ace Doubles that gave me so much entertainment in my younger years. I've picked up about a dozen of them this past decade as i run across them, including the one you just read - but even tho I have several sitting on my TBR shelf I have not read one recently. So, my next book will be a double - better now than never and it pairs an Andre Norton story with one by Dickson, "Mankind on the Run". It is an oldie, a 35center from 1956.
>136 swynn: I liked Pat Murphy's short stories in the magazines (Asimov's mostly) in the 80's, and especially Rachel In Love. I seem to recall Bones was pretty good as well. I probably read almost every one of those stories. Touch of the Bear was the first i think.
I'm not optimistic. "Perry Rhodan" is Eschbach's 17th novel for adults, not counting his other work for the PR franchise. Only three of those 17 novels (The Carpetmakers, One Trillion Dollars, and Lord of All Things) have been translated into English. Winning the Kurd-Lasswitz Award doesn't seem to help chances any, because only one of Lasswitz winners (Lord of All Things) has been translated to English.
It's not impossible, and the Perry Rhodan franchise has some recognition in English-speaking fandom which might help its chances. Or hurt them. I'd bet against it.
>149 RBeffa: I have very fond memories of Gordon Dickson's adventures, which probably affected my enjoyment of the reread thanks to the magic of elevated expectations. I ought to reread some more, especially ones I didn't read in the longago.
I must have read some Pat Murphy, but I honestly don't remember. So the fact that I found her collection terrific is another parable about how stories change with the reader.
Speaking of Perry Rhodan, here's an update:
Perry Rhodan 122 : Der Tod des Lordadmirals
Perry Rhodan 123 : Saboteure in A-1
Perry Rhodan 124 : Das Psycho-Duell
Perry Rhodan 125 : Retter des Imperiums
While Perry was fighting bacon moss, Atlan has been dealing with discontent and rebellion. Atlan is Emperor of Arkon and one of Perry's closest allies -- a good thing, too, because the Arkonide Empire could easily crush Terra if they took a mind to it. And that threat becomes a real possibility as Atlan's authority is challenged.
In Episode 122, Lord Admiral Thekus of Arkon is assassinated. Thekus was a political oppenent of Atlan's which makes a proper investigation crucial. Atlan asks Perry for help in the investigation, and Perry sends agents who build a look-alike Thekus robot, spread the news that the Lord Admiral was resurrected with Terran technology. The bait is taken, and an underground conspiracy is discovered.
In Episode 123 saboteurs break into the inner workings of the Robot Regent, the giant positronic brain responsible for managing day-to-day operations of the empire. Perry and Atlan believe the saboteurs intend to destroy the Robot Regent, which the Terrans are able to prevent. But it develops that perhaps the saboteurs had something more sinister in mind.
In Episode 124 the nativist rebel Carbá challenges Atlan for the throne. Carbá is clearly under the influence of the Akons from the Blue System, who have repeatedly tried to defeat Arkon and destroy Terra, but the Regent does not recognize this -- apparently, the saboteurs of Episode 123 were able to compromise its judgement. The dispute between Atlan and Carbá is settled by a virtual trial, the "psycho-duel," to be decided by the Robot Regent. Atlan loses the challenge, cedes the throne to Carbá, and escapes to Terran ships.
In Episode 125 Atlan concludes that the only remaining option is to destroy the Robot Regent, a goal that the Regent's tight security makes impossible. Well, almost impossible: the Terrans hatch a plan that involves the Akons' time shifter (introduced in Episode 105). Their idea is to go back in time 6000 years to plan a time bomb with a 6,000-year fuse. The only (heh) problem is that the time shifter is in the Akons' possession, so they'll have to steal it first ...
The story arc closes with the Robot Regent destroyed, which makes the Arkonide Empire even more dependent on Terran support. Episode 125 also includes the death of Auris von Las-Toor, an agent of Akon who was being set up as a love interest for Perry Rhodan. Poor guy: everybody he loves dies. You'd feel bad for him if he wasn't such an asshole.
The political storyline highlights the series' early politics, such as they are. I'm probably reading with rosy lenses, but the series doesn't seem to me so much imperialistic as naive about empire and oblivious to any critique of it. We're expected to root for colonizers: Episode 122 has a brief scene of revolt on a colony world, where Terrans come to the aid of the colonizers. The conflict between Atlan and Carbá is potentially more interesting, because they disagree mostly on the degree of influence the newcomer Terrans should have in the Arkonide Empire. Carbá feels that the Terrans pose a threat to Arkon: humans are taking jobs from Arkonides and are gaining a worrisome volume of power. This is in fact the case: Perry expects that humans will eventually take over the empire from the Arkonides, and is working for the day. Atlan knows this, and accepts it because he feels that his Arkonides are past their prime. There's a strong sense in which the Terrans are colonizing the colonizers. It's an interesting situation, though it's hard to work up much sympathy for either side. Alas, we don't explore this irony much, since subtleties are not the series' strong point. Its strong point, of course, is explosions, and those it delivers.
71) DAW #184: Don't Bite the Sun by Tanith Lee
In a post-scarcity future young adults spend their days doing whatever they like, which involves a lot of sex and drugs and high-risk behavior -- except that there really is no risk because if you happen to die then you wake up with a new body. In fact, it's fairly common for youths to commit suicide in order to change sex or shape or hair color. When our narrator gets bored with the endless leisure she goes looking for something more fulfilling. Work, perhaps? She discovers that work is reserved for adults and even for them consists only of unchallenging make-work while important or complex tasks are left for machines. She joins an archaeological expedition, but the role of assisstant on a dig mostly demands that she stay out of the way of the dig's leader and his machines. It is only when she is separated from the dig crew, isolated in the wilderness away from machines and artificial stimulation that she gets a glimpse of what she is looking for.
Mixed feelings about this one. It's loosely plotted, repetitive, lacks resolution, and the theme is simplistic (it may be the case that postscarcity leisure would be soul-crushing but damn I'd like to prove it experimentally); on the other hand the world is interesting as is the narrator's voice, and the prose is engaging. I'm looking forward to the sequel (DAW #226) which I understand is more satisfying.
>156 swynn: The pointlessness of endless leisure is corrosive...such a seductive ideological trope!
Splendid Sunday, Steve.
72) Br-r-r-! / edited by Groff Conklin
Pretty good collection of weird stories originally published between 1917 and 1957. Hghlights are several: Sturgeon's "It" is a classic and bears rereading well. Beaumont's "Nursery Rhyme" is spooky not only on its own merits but also for timely it still feels. David Keller's "The Worm" has such a strong thematic resemblance to Ray Bradbury's "The Foghorn" that Bradbury's story will seem to me an imitation from now on. The only duds for me were Blackwood's "An Egyptian Hornet," which I'll excuse for being very brief, and Asimov/Pohl's "Legal Rights" which I won't because it is not.
It by Theodore Sturgeon
An amorphous swamp monster threatens a farmer's family.
Nursery Rhyme by Charles Beaumont
A young black man running from a mob tries to convince his father to take him in and provide him an alibi.
Doomsday Deferred by Will Jenkins (i.e., Murray Leinster)
A butterfly hunter in Brazil meets a swarm of ants who have a disturbingly high collective intelligence.
Warm, Dark Places by Horace Gold
A dry cleaner is cursed to find things inhabiting warm dark places: first in the pockets of the garments he cleans, then in his own pockets, then ...
Legal Rites by Isaac Asmov and Frederick Pohl
A ghost sues to evict the human living hin his house.
An Egyptian Hornet by Algernon Blackwood
A reverend encounters a hornet en route to his bath.
The White Goddess by Idris Seabright (i.e., Margaret St. Clair)
A thief tries to steal from a woman who has ways of guarding her property and exacting punishment.
The Handler by Ray Bradbury
An undertaker endures the insults and ridicule of his neighbors, knowing that he will have opportunity for revenge someday.
The Sound Machine by Roald Dahl
A scientist develops a machine that amplifies sounds beyond human hearing, and picks up noises of distress from the garden.
The Worm by David H. Keller
A miller finds his home being eaten by a giant worm.
>157 richardderus: It feels to me like so much sour grapes. Or, from the other side, a myth whose purpose is to keep us grateful for work we'd really rather not do.
Mileage last 2 weeks: 11 miles
Mileage this year: 421 miles
Longest run: 3 miles
Target mileage this week: We'll see
The plantar fasciitis continues to make running difficult. Realistically, it will probably continue for several more weeks.
Soundtrack: Break Your Body by Shaârghot
73) Sea Siege by Andre Norton
In a near-future 1970, teenager Griff Gunston is living with his researcher father on the Caribbean island of San Isadore. Griff wants to go to the States to become a fighter pilot, but Dad insists he stay so that he can help with researching mysterious red algae blooms which, oh hey, are radioactive. (Thanks, Dad.) Meanwhile, ships are disappearing, maybe being sunk by Russian subs, and the sea creatures are behaving strangely. Mid-book, everything cuts loose: somewhere off on the continents, somebody starts a nuclear war. When the effects reach San Isadore, they come not only with wind and wave but also an invasion of sea creatures led by giant intelligent octopods.
It's an odd mixture of Caribbean adventure, Cold-War thriller, creature horror, environmentalist parable and survival drama. And it mostly works up to the big invasion halfway through, but after the sea serpents and octopus masters invade, it's all falling action. The second half of the book is filled with refugees arriving on San Isadore, a few halfhearted action sequences, and a pensive ending wondering whether humans can ever live in harmony with nature.
>162 swynn: Still, I can't hate a book featuring giant sea-serpent-riding octoprinces of darkness.
74 The Female Man by Joanna Russ
The plot, such as it is, involves women of four parallel realities comparing notes on the status of women in each other's world. Joanna comes from a world much like our own; Janet from a future man-free utopia; Jeannine from a world where WWII never happened so there was never a recovery from the Great Depression nor any women's movement; and Jael from world where men and women are literally at war. Through a variety of means, the J's visit one another's worlds and eventually return to their respective own with new perspectives.
This one has been sitting on my unread shelves for a very long time. I picked it up because I kept hearing it mentioned as a landmark of feminist science fiction; and repeatedly put it off because I kept hearing it described as plotless and polemic. And it's true: the plot is light and the arguments are many, and add to that a nonlinear structure that sometimes makes it a puzzle to figure out the little that is happening. But for all that it's also engaging: the prose is excellent, the dialog sharp, the jokes frequent. Maybe it's the magic of low expectations, but I enjoyed it much more than expected.
>164 swynn: Half a dozen years ago I re-read Russ's "When It Changed". I had read it ages ago in one of the Dangerous Visions anthologies and I still liked it a lot. It had a manless society and it spurred me to finally have a go at The Female Man which I too had sitting around for a long time without ever giving it a go. As i remember when I tried it I didn't get very far. It was donated the next time I went to the library.
75) The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong
Tong looks at various "blind spots" that limit our perception of reality. She begins with biological limitations -- we do not perceive reality for example on microscopic or astronomic scales, nor can we see or hear outside a certain range; but science can help us transcend those limitations, with instuments that can render visible very small or very large phenomena, or detect light or sound that our senses cannot. Similarly, she argues, we have societal and civilizational "blind spots" whose effects we ignore at our peril: the sources of our food, water and power; the destinations of our garbage; the invasion of our time, space, and labor by ideas and agents that do not necessarily serve our well-being. Here, too, science can offer ways to reveal the invisible and show ways for improvement.
Or not. Tong's concerns are valid and even worrisome, and the book is a thought-provoking collection. But each chapter felt like a summary of some even more worrisome book; and while the problems are real, the paths to solution remain opaque to me. Guess I need to read some more.
If it inspires you to read more on the topic, then it's done more than merely inform it's ignited your curiosity.
Nothing to report, actually -- I'm giving the foot a couple of weeks rest. Getting old sucks. Just not as much as the alternative. If anyone knows of an option (C), I'm ready for it.
Anyway, for some reason this track has been on infinite loop in my head:
Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine)
76) Sign of the Labrys by Margaret St. Clair
The setting is a postapocalyptic future, in which the global population has been devastated by yeast plagues. The remnant have escaped to underground complexes, where problems of scarcity have been solved: there is much more space than people left to fill it; an abundance of resources scavenged from pre-apocalyptic stores; and a nutritious fungus grows on the walls. People generally avoid each other, because the social distancing required to flatten the curve has become instinctual, leaving a general discomfort with social nearness. (No, St. Clair doesn't use those terms, but we get the idea.)
Sam Sewell is a regular guy who spends his days in a hazmat suit disposing of yeast victims and his evenings comfortably alone until a government agent demands information abot the terrorist Despoina. The agent insists that Sam knows Despoina, but Sam has never heard of her and certainly never met her. Then he is contacted by Despoina's agents, who (they say) wants Sam to meet her. So Sam sets out to find Despoina in the lowest levels of the underground structure, some of which can't be reached by physical means. Soon he finds himself between creepy government dudes on the one hand and subversive Wiccans on the other, fighting for control of what's left of humanity.
It's an odd book, in the way that A.E. Van Vogt or Ian Wallace are odd: ad hoc plotting, random narrative twists, weird imagery, red herrings, loose threads, and the occasional feeling on starting a new chapter that you've stumbled into a different novel. It really shouldn't work, but is so cheerfully bonkers you can't hate it and I think I might even love it.
77) Recursion by Blake Crouch
Helena Smith is a neuroscientist nearing the end of her grants, researching ways to record and recover memories as a treatment for Alzheimer's. Into her life steps a gazillionaire who offers her unlimited funding to pursue her work at his fully-equipped private lab. With gobs of money she quickly develops the technology for restoring memories, but also accidentally invents time travel. Then things start to get strange.
If you need to ask whether it's plausible then you're probably not the audience for this one. It's fast, it's loads of fun, and it has timey-wimey weirdness. If that's enough for you then it's pretty good.
Belated congrats on reaching 75!
Recursion looked interesting to me when it was on the new shelf at the library but your kind of mixed reaction to it doesn't make me inclined to push it higher on the stack. Maybe when I'm in the right mood I'll pick it up.
>179 richardderus: I think I liked them about equally. Must have hit me at just the right time.
78) DAW #185: Tribesmen of Gor by John Norman
Tenth in Norman's Gor series (for recent visitors: it's like John Carter with antifeminist bondage kink). In this one, series hero Tarl Cabot receives information that the kurii -- alien antagonists of Gor's priest-kings -- are about to attack the planet, and his only clues are cryptic warnings about "Abdul" and about a steel tower in the desert. So Cabot goes running to the desert, where a bunch of Sheikdoms are on the brink of war. There are a couple of pretty good action sequences but to get there you have to wade through pages and pages of the series' trademark BDSM baggage and rambly pontifications about the natural roles of the sexes.
If BDSM is your thing (and just in case it needs saying: Follow Your Bliss) then you're probably aware of the series and have formed your own opinion. Others should probably avoid.
79) Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
Another Hugo nominee for Best Novel (And my goodness, voting is due by July 15? Where does the time go in a pandemic?)
Roger and Dodger are twins: Roger is a genius at language, Dodger a genius at math, and both are the vat-born tools of an evil alchemist. Their fate is either to help the alchemist rule the universe, or to find themselves scrapped as a failed experiment. I'll skip details because figuring out the baroque backstory is half the fun. Suffice to say there is elaborate secret history, alchemical wizardry and peril. I am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it more, because there is much to admire here in premise, conception, and structure. It feels overly long, though, through a middle where nothing seems to be happening except for Roger and Dodger negotiating their relationship. About a hundred pages from the end, the pace accelerates rapidly at which point it becomes clear that McGuire has been laying the foundation all along for the final confrontation. But the pacing through that long middle affects my enthusiasm for it. Others no doubt will feel differently (and have obviously: it's been nominated for a Hugo), and I think the audience that loved All the Birds in the Sky will find this one appealing for similar reasons.
No bestsellers or Boston books this month, but I've just received a package from Graham Holroyd Books (thanks, Abebooks!) containing Don't Go Near the Water so I'll jump into that as soon as I finish my current paperback, and with any luck finish both it and By Love Possessed in July.
Hm ... "By Love Possessed" ... y'all know my feeling about love stories. But "possessed" sounds promising, no?
>185 swynn: But "possessed" sounds promising, no?
*flees screaming with laughter*
>186 richardderus: Rats. And it's 570 pages because of course it is.
>188 Dejah_Thoris: In terms of enjoyment I'd rank the ones I've so far read:
Gideon the Ninth
The City in the Middle of the Night
On the other hand, I think Middlegame is the most technically accomplished book and I'll probably be very reluctant to rank it last.
I'm currently in the middle of A Memory Called Empire and liking it very much.
How about you?
>189 swynn: But McGuire has written innumerable books, whereas Muir is a freshly published novelist. Surely that puts a finger on the scale when thinking of voting?
I am deeply impressed with myself for not gloating over your bullheaded misguided determination to read...
...wait, I think I blew my resolve, damn
>189 swynn: I read A Memory Called Empire when it came out, so that's a bit over a year now. I liked it very much and thought it was an impressive debut. I'd like to reread it after I've finished the others, but:
The Light Brigade or A Memory Called Empire
Gideon the Ninth
For sheer enjoyment, Gideon the Ninth probably rises to the top. I'm surprised I liked The Light Brigade as much as I did - I seriously doubt it will win.
I have both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The City in the Middle of the Night on my Kindle (I got deals on the both). I also have Song for a New Day out from the library - I want to find out what was so special about it that it beat such strong competition for the Nebula. I really thought Gideon the Ninth would take it - or, failing that, A Memory Called Empire.
>192 Dejah_Thoris: I read the "Newsflesh" trilogy and was whelmed. Since then I've been routinely under- and precisely never over-.
>191 Dejah_Thoris: I'm delighted to see two I haven't finished yet at the top of your list. More good reading!
I haven't read any of Hurley's fiction. I have read and enjoyed Geek Feminist Revolution and of course "We Have Always Fought," so I've meant to get around to her fiction. I even have The Mirror Empire on Kindle, but just haven't gotten there yet. Looks like The Light Brigade will be my first taste.
I'm lousy at handicapping awards, so haven't much of a clue what might win. I can imagine any of the three I've read so far as contenders even if none of them screamed "Chosen One!" at me.
Re: Seanan McGuire: I've read several of her works and found them fine. My favorite (before Middlegame anyway) was the first Toby Daye novel Rosemary and Rue. I'd meant at the time to continue the series but now it's been so long I'll have to reread book 1 to do that. Others (Feed, the Indexing series, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day) have ranged from "I don't get it" to "Pretty good."
>190 richardderus: re: voting for new blood. Actually, the thing that will probably weigh the heaviest is my enjoyment. So that's probably the order I'll enter them on the ballot.
... your bullheaded misguided determination to read ...
I did not read Anthony. F*****g. Adverse. to stop now.
>195 swynn: You couldn't just call that aroysgevorfeneh gelt and move to the next weirdly obscure book? It's what I'd tell you to do if asked.
Not that you did, or would, of course.
>196 richardderus: Despite my whining, the bestseller project has been an interesting exercise. Besides the view into changing tastes, it's also helping my cultural literacy: I now see references to past bestsellers and bestselling authors popping up here and there, and I now have personal points of reference to Costain or James Jones or American Winston Churchill.
I blame Anthony Adverse, but really I'm getting a kick out of it. Plus: moaning rights.
You know not what you do, Grasshopper...your moaning rights for this one are withdrawn!
>198 richardderus: I refuse to relinquish them. I will offer to post a warning though, similar to my **RUNNING POST** header, thusly:
**I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO RICHARD POST**
>199 swynn: Your offer is barely acceptable to Kalliope. She will refrain from smite-age this time.
80) Supernova Era by Cixin Liu
Radiation from a supernova kills everyone on Earth over the age of 13. Because preteen bodies are able to regenerate cells at such a high rate that they can shrug off the effects of radiation poisoning. Alas, it seems we all lose that ability that disappears on our 14th birthday. (You have questions. Yes I have them too but they won't be answered so let's just move on shall we?)
When scientists figure out what happens there remains about a year to educate preteen children about all of the various tasks that make a modern industrialized society work: power plant engineering, jet fighter piloting, presidenting. This education goes more smoothly than you might expect, but once the adults all die things go bad pretty quickly: the children spend some time working through emotional separation issues, then work to rebuild society on a basis of play, then realize they're sitting around with the greatest toys in the world like tanks and fighter jets and bombs and there's no point in having such toys if you can't play with them, right?
It has all of Cixin Liu's weaknesses and strengths: flat characters and a preference for exposition over drama, but also terrific ideas and a genius for parable. I've like his other works better though: there's a section discussing war games which for my taste lingered too long over children killing each other. Also the ending was abrupt and unsatisfying. Of Liu's works available in English, I found this the weakest.
81) Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
Second in VanderMeer's "Southern Reach" series, and following the brilliant creepy Annihilation. The series' premise is that some event has turned a chunk of Florida into "pristine wilderness", which is a polite way of saying that human developments have been replaced by green space and weird things. The first volume followed an expedition into "Area X" which descends into madness and blood. (But mostly madness.) This second volume takes place at the Southern Reach, which houses the offices where expeditions are planned and dispatched and explorers debriefed.
Three members of Annihilation's expedition have returned, though not along any known physical paths. One explorer, The Biologist, for example has simply appeared in a parking lot. The novel follows Control, the Southern Reach's director, who is charged with figuring out what's going on. This task is complicated by resistance among the Southern Reach staff, and even Control's own supervisors seem to be withholding information on them. Also complicated by random weirdness: The plant and dead rat left behind by the previous Director, the rambling incantation scribbled on the walls of a closet, the Biologist's insistence she is not the Biologist, the rabbits ...
It's mesmerizing and strange, though a strangeness of a different sort than the nature-horror of Annihilation. The bureaucratic setting makes Kafka's influence feel as strong as Lovecraft's. It's also longer, maybe a bit too long, but ends strong with a promise for a surpassingly weird third act.
In this difficult year with an unprecedented pandemic and where the ills of the past intrude sadly upon the present there must still be room for positivity. Be rightly proud of your country. To all my American friends, enjoy your 4th of July weekend.
>205 PaulCranswick: Thanks for the holiday wishes Paul! (We celebrated the day as All Countries Matter Day, though found mysteriously little enthusiasm for the idea among the people we told.) The pandemic did suppress festivities, but also seemed to encourage neighbors to buy twice the usual amount of fireworks and detonate same all weekend long. We're not fireworks people, so that was fun.
On the other hand, it was a lovely weekend for long walks with Buddy, and we grilled on the 4th so actual fund was also had.
82) The Anvil of the World / Kage Baker
This is a collection of three connected fantasy novellas featuring an ensemble cast that includes an assassin tired of killing; a gourmet chef; and the Falstaffian spawn of a demon father and nature goddess mother. It's fun and funny and wraps with a surprisingly moving denouement.
83) The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
Oh my goodness no. This is one of those serial killer thrillers where the killer has a ridiculously specific M.O., has discovered that laws of physics and common sense do not apply to him, and spends the book gloating about his super-de-dooper genius, while all the goodguys scramble as if determined to prove him right. There is blood. There is awful prose. There is intent to stretch it out for several more books -- a ride which, reader, I exit here.
>208 swynn: There's two more already done! I've ordered them for you, so you can continue to revel in the gloire that is Barker.
as though I'd waste good money
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