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Based on the fact that this topic has over 1.5 million views, everyone's answer should be "What have you been reading recently?"

The topic is dead! Long live the topic!   —Alorael, who will throw in The Ringmaster's Daughter, a relatively normal and therefore still quite unusual novel by Jostein Gaarder. Unlike Sophie's Wor

It was in one of the introductions for a book. Part of the problem was he had a few children and was trying to save for their future educations.   The figure I've seen is that a basic paper back

A couple of weeks ago I read Endless Blue by Wen Spencer. My feelings about the book were somewhat mixed, as there were some elements I didn't care for and others which I had the nagging feeling could have been explored further.

 

I really felt like writing up a report on the book, which follows.

 

Click to reveal.. (Book Report)

The book is set in the context of an interstellar war between the human race and an alien race which seems to attack without any discernible purpose besides causing destruction. An important detail is that the humans have genetically engineered a subspecies of themselves referred to as 'reds' for use as shock troops. The two main problems of the novel are the need to win or end the war and the problem of the treatment of the reds, who though trained to behave brutally, are of fully human intelligence.

 

The story opens with the discovery that a failure mode of the faster-than-light propulsion technology which had been presumed to be totally destructive is not; the engine of a ship which had disappeared a decade before reappears without explanation (and without the rest of the ship), but encrusted with coral growth and dead sea creatures. The protagonists are selected to deliberately induce failure in their starship's propulsion to attempt to travel to the location of the lost ship (and presumably many other ships which had been lost in the same manner).

 

The location turns out to be a spherical space, referred to as the Sargasso, containing an ocean on its inner surface. Orbiting above the ocean (at smaller radii) are large rocks which present significant navigational hazards to the few spacecraft which manage to avoid hitting the water initially. It turns out that many ships belonging to a number of intelligent races have crashed in the ocean and the survivors of the wrecks have formed permanent communities which are mostly peaceful to each other.

 

Click to reveal.. (In which there are actual spoilers)

Shortly after arriving the heroes find that unlike in the larger human civilization, the reds have been allowed to interbreed with unmodified humans (as have 'blues', another genetically modified group created for. . . rather less warlike purposes). This demonstrates the artificiality of the distinctions among the subspecies, and most of the bad-guys are characterized by a desire to maintain the enslavement of the genetically modified individuals.

 

To short-circuit a chain of information which takes the protagonists the entire book to work out fully, it turns out that their enemies in the war (the nefrim) are not present in the Sargasso because on arrival they are transformed into the insubstantial seraphim. The seraphim are attempting to return to normal space an object, called the Shabd, whose absence has driven insane the nefrim still in normal space. To do so, the seraphim have directed a group of other beings (some humans and other aliens) to modify surviving spacecraft engines to be able to leave the Sargasso again. (The appearance of the engine at the beginning of the story is a result of this research.) The main antagonist is a power-hungry human military commander who wants to control the technology to escape. Eventually the shabd is recovered, the bad-guy vanquished (by the concentrated memory of his own evil deeds, no less), and the heroes return to normal space and end the war.

 

One of the things which irked me most about this book was that the author does a pretty nice job with inventing a strange setting, but then does very little with it. On the one hand he has the excuse that the protagonists aren't really in a position to research the details of the Sargasso's nature, but designing something like that and then explaining nothing about it is maddening. What keeps the rocks in orbit? Why is the volume filled with water and air? How is it lit? Is there night time? How big is it? The answers to some of the latter questions might have been covered; indeed I'm baffled about how they could not have been, but it's been a few weeks since I read the book, and perhaps I missed or forgot them.

 

I didn't care for the substantial number of sex scenes which appeared in the book, although I'm willing to agree that at a number of points they were important to furthering the subplot relating to the humanity of the modified humans (or rather the recognition of their humanity by the unmodified humans).

 

One key aspect of the plot that felt underdeveloped to me, or perhaps handled in a less than ideal way, was the interpretation of the situation of the nefrim. In the text this was mostly discussed using terminology borrowed from buddhism, but I mostly ignored this because I was reminded of ideas from Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, and I mostly looked at it in that light, namely that the nefrim appear to be working toward technological singularity, using the Shabd to integrate their individual minds into a single, overarching consciousness.

 

In A Fire Upon the Deep a group of humans attempt to jump-start their work on achieving technological singularity using equipment found at an old alien installation. Disaster occurs, however, when the resulting construct seizes control of its creators (or awakeners) and embarks on galactic conquest. The resulting super-intelligence, rather than withdrawing out of the galaxy as others habitually do, seeks to subjugate the many lesser intelligences within the galactic disc (and is only stopped by a counter weapon of similar antiquity which alters the structure of space in the region of conflict to both prevent faster-than-light travel and greatly curtail the scope of intelligence).

 

The situation in Endless Blue is different in that the nefrims' malevolence results not from achieving a unified intelligence but because of the disruption of the process, apparently the shock at being forcibly separated from their increasingly deeply connected mental network. This is, then, a treatment of a different aspect of technological singularity, asking 'What could go wrong in the attempt?' rather than 'What will be created by success?'

 

The latter question is possibly addressed somewhat with the Hak, another alien race who appear in a somewhat oracular capacity. The Hak have a physical appearance equivalent to large tortoises and spend nearly all of their time meditating; they claim, or their statements are interpreted by the humans to mean that they claim, to be more thoroughly enlightened than any other race present. Uniquely among the races presented, there is no evidence that the Hak arrived in the Sargasso accidentally or even that they require spacecraft at all. On the other hand, there is only the lack of evidence, never evidence to the contrary. The Hak never demonstrate any capabilities beyond those of the other races, besides having a more clear picture of what has happened to the nefrim. I'm not sure how ambiguous the author intended the Hak to be, since they could they should be interpreted either as having transcended (and so being mostly concerned with problems and ideas beyond the grasp of the other races) or as another race working toward that goal.

 

It's a bit late here (or early, really), so hopefully the above is fairly coherent. Also, I now have an unfortunate craving to reread some Vinge books.

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When reading a book makes you really want to re-read a book by a different author, that's usually not a good sign for the first book.

 

Oh, and I was pretty disappointed in Dirk Gently. The book I had vaguely imagined, from what people had told me about it over the years, was going to be much better.

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Originally Posted By: VCH
You know, I don't think I've ever written a book report, in school or otherwise. hmmm

Odd. When I was in elementary school I had to write them frequently, up to once a month in fourth and fifth grade. They were really just summaries to show that you had read a book and could describe it comprehensibly, so it was really pretty easy.

When I was in fourth grade the rules governing book reports required that the book be at least one hundred pages in length, and, somewhat bizarrely, each additional hundred pages counted as another book and book report. This meant that most months I did three or four book reports, by official reckoning, and I was quite proud at the time that in one month I reached six.
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Speaking of Douglas Adams, I recently got as a gift the sequel to Mostly Harmless that Eoin Colfer did. I do not know whether or not it's worth the read, do any of my fellow Spiderwebbers have opinions on it?

 

That said, I'm currently reading a selected anthology of HP Lovecraft stories, and also Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra.

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Originally Posted By: Impudent Strumpet!
Currently reading Thompson's The Rum Diary. I am, ashamedly, completely new to Thompson, but I am really enjoying this - it being the first book in three months I've chosen to read (as opposed to school reading lists) is helping too.


Still this, and I usually wouldn't update before starting a new book, but I am really loving the style of writing. New favourite author territory.
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I recently read the first two books (Dauntless and Fearless) of Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet series and found them worthwhile.

 

Here are some more book-reportish ramblings:

 

Click to reveal..

The main character, Captain Geary is an officer of the Alliance who is effectively promoted to admiral of the main Alliance fleet in first few pages of the first book. This arises because virtual all of more senior personnel in the fleet are massacred in a trap disguised as negotiations by the other side, the Syndicate Worlds (the 'Syndics'). Geary ends up in charge because he has recently been recovered from an escape pod in which he has been in suspended animation for approximately a century; in the intervening time he has been assumed to be dead but viewed as a hero. So, not only is he virtually worshipped by many but his date of rank far predates any other captain in the fleet.

 

At the start of the story the Alliance fleet is trapped in the Syndicate home star-system after a strike deep into enemy territory which turned out to be an ambush engineered by the Syndics. After the killing of the senior officers Geary is able to organize the fleet enough to fight his way out of the Syndic home system, but they are still extremely far from friendly territory, and must find a way to fight their way through without being surrounded and finished off.

 

A key plot element is that two modes of faster-than-light travel are available. The older mode can be used to make jumps to adjacent star systems, with transit times of a few to several weeks. Beginning a jump requires reaching a certain point on the outskirts of the first system and the jumping ship arrives at the corresponding point in the second system. The only equipment needed for this method is the ship's engines, as well as knowledge of the available, naturally occurring routes. The second method relies on man-made gates which are networked together so that a ship entering any gate can exit through any other gate in the same network ('hypernet'). This not only allows ships to travel directly to their destinations, but may also be faster than an equivalent single jump using the old method (although I'm not entirely clear on this point). Both sides in the war have their own, incompatible gate networks, which do not overlap (since obviously neither will allow the other to build gates in its territory).

 

The Alliance fleet was able to enter the Syndic home system directly because the equipment necessary to access the Syndic gate network was leaked to them in order to bring them into the trap. Only one ship in a group need to have this equipment for the entire group to be able to travel the gate network, in the case of the Alliance fleet only the flagship, Dauntless has the equipment.

 

In addition to trying to prevent the destruction of the majority of the Alliance's naval assets, Geary must try to return the hypernet access equipment the the Alliance where it can be duplicated. This would potentially allow all Alliance ships to use the Syndic hypernet, while the Syndics have not gained access to the Alliance hypernet. It is presumed that this would give them an edge which could turn the tide of the war. (I was about halfway through the first book when I recognized the reference of a ship named Dauntless, trapped deep behind enemy lines, carrying data vital to the survival of Civilization. The ship name doesn't quite fit right, as it should be Britannia, but then again it survives (at least for two books) to continue its mission. At any rate, this didn't look like coincidence to me, and made me happy.) However, the fleet cannot take much advantage of hypernet access for the time being since traveling to any system with a hypernet gate would mean that the syndics would be able to rapidly move in superior forces, so they must spend most of their time skulking in little visited systems.

 

Things which contain more spoilery material:

Click to reveal..

One component of the story thus far which I didn't find terribly convincing was the author's mechanism for the hero to change the rules so that his fleet actually stands a chance. Namely, supposedly in the hundred or so years that Geary has been out of circulation space fleets have ceased using carefully coordinated tactic and instead mostly rush at each other in undisciplined mobs. Geary begins retraining his fleet in using deliberate formations and tactics, which increases the relative strength of his force. While the basic idea that a well organized attack or defense can defeat a disorderly charge seems fairly sound, the justification for the supposedly now standard lack of tactics is a bit weak, namely that the vast majority of fleet officers are very poorly trained due to rapid turnover from high casualties.

 

Another aspect of degeneration which the protagonist is required to combat is that the Alliance fleet has become drastically more brutal, either not taking prisoners or executing prisoners after their surrender. This seemed like a reasonable move on the author's part, which serves both to establish the hero as a definitely good guy and to show that the Alliance is in serious danger of losing (philosophically speaking) regardless of the outcome of the battles.

 

A final major element, which has only just begun to show by the end of the second book is the implication of an alien power existing on the far side of the Syndicated Worlds from the Alliance. The evidence given is circumstantial, such as a vault which the fleet finds at an abandoned syndic outpost which has been previously broken into using odd tool sizes, the curious way in which the Syndics have pulled back their far border and reinforced systems with little discernible value and importance, and the curious way that both sides in the war developed hypernets at almost the same time, with the actual inventor being unclear. Suspicion is increased when it becomes clear that there are multiple ways that hypernet gates can be used as weapons against societies reliant on them, as their destruction could either destroy or strand ships currently in transit and can also be used as bombs with variable yield with a very high theoretical upper limit. I assume that when the author spends a substantial amount of space hinting at something like this he intended to take it somewhere; I'm curious to see where that turns out to be.

 

I'm rather looking forward to reading the remainder of this series, although it may be a while given the number of new books I still have left to read at the moment and the amount I've spent on books in the last couple of months. (I don't recall whether I've mentioned it before, but Borders closed down their really convenient location right near where I live, and I considered it my civic duty to help out with the clearing at the clearance sale.)

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Read Singularity Sky recently, which is, perhaps obviously, a pretty hard (Hard enough to deal with the relativity/FTL relationship) science fiction set a good deal of time after the sort of singularity that spawns an unknowable machine-god. That's the background, but not a major component of the plot, which is concerned with a pre-singularity colony suddenly being visited by a transcended group called the Festival that grants wishes in return for entertainment, and the equally pre-singularity government's response to that. The military pieces are very well-written, and as far as my limited ability can discern, equally hard on the science fiction scale. Main characters are two agents of a UNish organization trying to stop the pre-singularity culture from making total asses of themselves and a citizen on the quickly completely chaotic visited colony. The things that happened on the colony were the most interesting parts to me, as the other characters backgrounds remain vague and annoyingly secretive for most of the book, and the military portions have far too much jargon and almost none of the nice narration that says what's happening, just dialog.

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In my mind the best of Charles Stross is the Laundry series, which starts with Atrocity Archives. Also I loved Halting State. You do have to be fairly IT geekish to get it, but happily I guess that applies to a fair proportion of the readership of these forums.

 

Edit: Forgot to say, that's what I'm currently reading; the third one, which is The Fuller Memorandum.

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I just signed up to the forums. What's odd is that I am right now just finishing up Singularity Sky. I find it hard to read. I checked it out cause I loved The Family Trade so much that I finished it in 3 days. Singularity Sky has been a drag though. It's not bad, it's just so full of technobabble that I find it hard to follow.

 

Once I finish, I'm starting on Armageddon 2419 AD. It was available for free on my kindle. It's the novel that first introduced Buck Rogers. I've been wanting to read some early pulp fiction and that seemed like a good place to start.

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Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. series: Cruel Zinc Melodies and Gilded Latten Bones. Think the hard boiled detective like Sam Spade in a world of magic, Garrett is forced to do some things he hates like work and get out of bed before the sun is starting to go down. But if you blunder around and hit the right people sometimes you can find a solution. If that fails then there are always his friends.

 

For a series that started back in the 80's, it's nice to see some things haven't changed. Garrett is still living with the Dead Man, he's still dating Tinnie Tate, and still trying to avoid work. But when a bevy of beautiful women show up on his door step with a job from the owner of the brewery that's providing him with free beer, he can't say no. Just some minor pest control problems for the first one. The second has trying to find out why someone wants to kill his old friend Morley and now him.

 

Morley Dotes's First Rule -- "Never date anyone crazier than you."

Corollary -- "There are twelve kinds of crazy and romantic attachment is the worst."

 

Morley's other rule -- "Things would be better if the right people were killed."

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Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins. It offers a good explanation of the intersectional theory of oppression, in which we are to reject the understanding of any type of oppression in terms of one factor, such as sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, etc.

 

Put simply, the problems of a poor black woman are different than the problems of a middle-class white woman, and feminists need to realize that. It applies more broadly than that, of course, but that's the long and short of it.

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The Icarus Hunt, by Timothy Zahn

 

My local library sometimes sells under-read books, and I picked this one up for a dollar. Definitely my favourite Zahn (that I've read so far; it seems I've missed a few of his latest). In the broadest sense, it's your basic thriller plus mystery plot layered on your standard used sci-fi setting. Comes with all the expected stock characters, plus the stock characters that Zahn likes to use: quick-thinking protagonists, the benevolent industrialist, the sinister government that dominates through economics and guile rather than by conventional military might, strange alien physiology, etc. Zahn does a great job in picking a compromise between hard and soft science fiction. It's hard enough not to be pulp, but soft enough not to be boring.

 

Bottom line: it's just a really fun (re)read. Get it.

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I've been stocking up on free eBook things recently, although I'm too cheap to pay for something that doesn't exist.

 

(Protip for other people who crap diamonds and/or have a nook thingy: B&N gives away a free ebook every Friday. Some are almost decent)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ooh, I just finished reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it was very good. I'm looking forward to watching the movie, but I'm sure they'll botch it somehow.

 

I also read The Fourth Realm Trilogy by John Twelve Hawks. It's a very interesting series of books about parallel universes, specifically about travelers who can visit the other realms and about a shady government agency that wants to eliminate them. It's also describes how the government is using the internet and video cameras to watch it's citizens.

 

Right now I'm reading The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. It's about a man who wakes up in the hospital from a car accident to find a mysterious woman watching him who proclaims that they have known each other since the 13th century.

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last week i finished reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and went into a paranoid episode for a day or two. now i'm reading Kingdom of Fear which is exhilarating for different reasons.

 

afterwards, i think i'm done with Thompson for awhile, so I might start on Jack Kerouac

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Originally Posted By: Dantius
I just bought and started rereading Leviathan. I expect that this will make me [thoroughly pessimistic/start arguing for enlightened absolutism] for a while.

Wait, no, I already do that.


I'm guessing you're referring to Leviathan or The Matter, Forme and Power of a Common Wealth Ecclesiasticall and Civil, by Thomas Hobbes, and not the book with the actual title of Leviathan written by Scott Westerfeld. I ask because I just recently read the latter and the second book in his series, Behemoth, and while I found them quite engaging, even though they're written for a younger audience, I would be surprised if they were considered enlightening.
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Wait, so saying "Leviathan" now no longer carries the connotation of reading Hobbes? Well then, to clarify, I was referring to Hobbes' Leviathan, which I thought the comment on enlightened absolutism would have suggested. In my defense, some of the books written in that time period had ridiculously long titles and subtitles, and writing them out would be a pain. Nobody wants to say "Hey, I just finished reading The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe" when they could say "I just finished reading Marlowe's Faustus".

 

Then again, serious history books and academic papers today do still get titled like "[statement that's not really witty]:[What the paper's actually about]", which is still stupid, so I guess we haven't improved much since the 1600's.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius

Then again, serious history books and academic papers today do still get titled like "[statement that's not really witty]:[What the paper's actually about]", which is still stupid, so I guess we haven't improved much since the 1600's.


But don't those papers stick in your mind better than the ones with a small paragraph in place of a title?


I prefer "witty" over Zzzzzzzz.

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I took a quick break from Hobbes to polish off Godless: The Church of Liberalism by none other that the most famous female conservative alive today other than Palin- Ann Coulter. Let me tell you, the contrast between the her and Hobbes is absolutely stunning. Going from actual political philosophy to Coulter really makes the stupid psuedo-logic and political posturing (not to mention the dozens of outright lies a cursory Google search could uncover) stand out.

 

I was pretty much going "lololololololololololololololololol" the entire way through

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I havent read a book since Road of the Patriarch (RA Salvatore), 3 years ago. Its too bad as i'd like to get back into reading, but once i started writing that replaced it.

 

Best book i ever read was still-Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong. Read it twice.

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I read Beautiful Child by Torey Hayden after hearing one of my (now ex-)co-workers telling about it. It sounded interesting. True story. She's written several books about the experiences she's had with troubled children. I find psychology interesting, so after that book, I wanted to read more of hers. So now, in nearly three days I've read six more and I have the last one waiting for me. They would be One Child and its second part The Tiger’s Child, Murphy’s Boy (or Silent Boy), Ghost Girl, Somebody Else’s Kids, Just Another Kid and Twilight Children. In Finnish obviously. I had no interest in going through any kind of hassle trying to find them in English.

 

+ Finished the last one now. Still a pile of other books entirely waiting for me. I counted I'd loaned 17 books altogether. At first I was certain it'd definitely take at least over two weeks to read them all. Now I don't think so anymore. Sometimes it's a little weird to be able to read so fast. All stories end all too soon. And there's never enough new. :\

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  • 2 weeks later...
Originally Posted By: Goldenking
Speaking of Douglas Adams, I recently got as a gift the sequel to Mostly Harmless that Eoin Colfer did. I do not know whether or not it's worth the read, do any of my fellow Spiderwebbers have opinions on it?

That said, I'm currently reading a selected anthology of HP Lovecraft stories, and also Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra.


Okay. I finished the Eoin Colfer fan-fiction of Douglas Admas. It actually wasn't that bad, once you got used to it. The humor was heavily referential to earlier jokes Adams himself made, not to mention Colfer simplifying the characters into basic tropes of themselves, but once the plot got going and he started introducing new material, things got better. That said, I wouldn't recommend the book unless one really likes the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the first place.

I also finished Lovecraft. He's a good horror author, without a doubt, and it's curious to see that his conceptualizations of horror have far less to do with evil forces in mankind, and more to do with inherently wicked places. That said, I should have split my reading of him up more, as his works do follow a basic formula.

I'm halfway through Nietzsche, and so far it's been divine.

In the meantime, I've started (and nearly finished) The Prince by Machiavelli. It's funny, because when I read excerpts of it at first, years ago, I, in my youthful innocence, thought it was evil. Now, having developed my mind and my life more since then, I can see the wisdom and practicality in it far more.
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Originally Posted By: Treasured Gold
Lovecraft actually shuns the entire concept of "evil", for the most part.


I am not surprised, in all honesty.

Originally Posted By: Treasured Gold
And. Um. You know The Prince is satire, right?


Of course; it was written in order to gain favor with the new regime of the Medici family, and that is, in fact, the first message that the book delivers. As such, it was not necessarily what Machiavelli believed, but what he thought would gain him favor in the eyes of his audience. Machiavelli actually believed in humanism and a more republican form of government, as is commonly known, and displayed in his other works.

However, that doesn't mean there is nothing in it to be learned from the book.
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I've read The Prince a few years back. I'm not sure it's satire or not, or evil or not. I did find the advice therein pretty useless unless you were an Italian noble born a number of centuries ago. The most quoted chucks are probably still applicable, but a lot of the political landscape has changed.

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I'm not sure satire is exactly what The Prince is. If it's satire, it's unusually deadpan, and it hangs together a little too well.

 

Machiavelli was an idealist of government, living in a time and place when government was really dysfunctional. Part of his idealism was about government being nice and liberal and all, but part of it was simply about government working and being stable. I figure that The Prince is where he got fed up and focused just on the stability part. There's a strain of thought that says individual tyranny is better than anarchy because it's easier to satisfy the wishes of a single tyrant. When there's a new boss every month trying to make his pile in a hurry, that's much worse. I figure that's the viewpoint Machiavelli was pushed into by circumstances.

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There were a lot of difficulties with the Italian principalities during that era. Most of the advice was to avoid making the mistakes that would cause a leader to lose power. It was easy to see what others had done wrong.

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So I'm giving the Wheel of Time one final re-read. And, much like Brandon Sanderson, I'll be making a post here after I re-read each book. Unlike Sanderson, however, I don't have Harriet and Tom looking over my shoulder, so I'm able to talk both about the good and bad aspects of the books. And there's a lot in each category, believe you me.

 

A few notes before I get started. First, I'm not going to rush through the series. I read The Eye of the World on the bus to and from the university at a pace of about two chapters a day, three if the construction was bad.

 

Second, I will not be re-reading New Spring, partly because it's not necessary for the narrative, and party because it's my least favourite in the series (yes, it's even worse than the infamous Book Ten). I suppose I could make a post defending why I think so, if people want. But I don't really feel like it.

 

Third, I'm going to try spread out my compliments and criticism over the course of the series. Otherwise, I'd make one or two hugemassive posts at the beginning, and then burn out. So if you think I should have talked more about Jordan's worldbuilding, or his treatment of female characters, or how he implements the Hero of a Thousand Faces, or how the series is full of cruft... don't worry. I'll get to it.

 

Fourth, the majority of the posts will be in a spoiler section, and in the spoiler I'll be assuming you've read all the way to Book Twelve. It would be nice if others could spoil their comments appropriately as well, especially as I don't want Books Thirteen and Fourteen spoiled for me. As always with WoT, we know how the series is going to end, but I'd like the path there to be a mystery for now.

 

Finally, Brandon Sanderson's blog posts and Isam's summaries are to be considered required reading.

 

Ladies and non-ladies, I give you the Wheel of Time, in all its glory, in all its horror.

 

Click to reveal.. (Book One)

Okay, first off, let's make it clear: this book is very Tolkien. Very, very Tolkien. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with LotR derivatives. Not only was The Sword of Shannara the first fantasy novel I read, it was the first work of adult fiction I read. And I loved it to bits. Was I too young to know better? Perhaps. Still, the basic model of “inexperienced young male hero(es) are plucked out of their quiet village by a mysterious mystic and are set against a seemingly insurmountable evil” works.

 

The problem is that the rest of the series doesn't really follow that model, and thus the first book might set up false expectations for the rest of the series. Some other aspects of the first book also differ quite strongly from the rest of the series. For instance, almost everything is told from Rand's POV (there's one arc from Perrin's POV, and a couple of chapters from Nynaeve's). While Rand is the central character of the series, it becomes more and more of an ensemble cast as the series progresses. People who viewed WoT as “Rand's story” were probably not too thrilled with Book Three.

 

I'll page through the book now, and make the rest of my comments as they appear chronologically:

 

The prologue remains one of my favourite of the series. However, now that I'm familiar with WoT's system of magic, it has a different effect. The prologue throws you in a pool of references that are impossible to understand on your first read of the series, which gives it an 'exotic' atmosphere, for lack of a better word. As for the rest of the book, you're fed information about the history of the world and its magic system slowly and steadily, and you're also being fed biased and incorrect information as well. I find it a very good way of doing worldbuilding; you don't get the fact dumps that other series have. On the other hand, most series don't last for fourteen books, so they have to reveal their information a bit more quickly.

 

The pace of Book One (and the pace of the rest of the series) is slower than most other fantasy works. However, I didn't mind the speed, at least for this book. We need the detailed description of Hobbiton Emond's Field. I did enjoy the writing style. Again, I'll probably be sick of it soon enough, once I get to the dress descriptions.

 

Like Sanderson, I actually liked Nynaeve in Book One. Well, I didn't hate her. Right now, she's the mama bear out to protect her cubs. There's still some parts that are dumb (“Arg! All men are stupid! Grr! I will destroy you, Aes Sedai!”), but other segments are alright (Rand's reunion with her in Baerlon). Somewhere along the way, her character became 'tug on braid', 'complain about dresses', 'argue with Elayne'. And it's sad, because it's a waste of potential. While she's still a younger character, she's served as a doctor for an entire village, as well as being in a position of civil authority. She should have had some degree of maturity over the other Emond Fielders.

 

As for Emond's Field itself, it fits with the Tolkien model: the main heroes should come from a rustic society whose strength is in their simplicity and stubbornness. Why do 'hobbits' in fantasy always have 'stubborn refusal to give up' as their greatest attribute? There was one BoA scenario I had planned, way back when, where the singleton's townsfolk surrendered easily to enemies... but were resourceful and shrewd. Not going to go into all the story details here; I didn't have things fully fleshed out anyway. Would it have worked? I dunno; there's probably a reason why the status quo is the way it is.

 

At least Mat fits the Trickster archetype. Later on in the series he becomes one of my favourite characters. Too bad he's oh so very annoying now.

 

Let's see... chapter five...

 

Narg. NEVER FORGET!

 

Ahem. Moving on...

 

Apparently, WoT was originally supposed to be a trilogy. I don't see it. Maybe, in the original drafts, but by the time Book One was written, a lot of the series must have already been plotted out. For instance, take Min's visions in Baerlon. Some of them are historical and are revealed in Book One (Lan is a Malkieri king, Thom's nephew was gentled). Others are revealed very shortly (Mat picks up the dagger, Perrin becomes a Wolfbrother, Rand get Callandor). But others don't become fulfilled until much later (Rand becomes king of Illian in Book Seven, loses his hand in Book Eleven -- remind me to talk about Tyr, Odin, and Thor sometime). And as of Book Twelve, Perrin has yet to take the Broken Crown, Mat has yet to 'lose half the light' and gamble away his eye, and Rand has yet to go BeggarMode. Or die.

 

Of course, the obvious explanation is that Jordan just threw in a bunch of hooks without planning ahead, and as the series continued, tied things into previous prophesies he put in. I dunno. Reading Book One again, I found that almost every historical aside became relevant later. Compare this with, say, the Sword of Truth series, which is much less planned. Locales, events, and characters are introduced at the beginning of a book, only to be discarded at the end. Only rarely are they ever referenced again.

 

There are a few inconsistencies that I think I found, however; mostly to do with the Power. A couple are small things, such as Moiraine wielding a staff for most of the book. It's explained that this is just a 'focus', and Moiraine is clearly able to channel without it. We know from New Spring that Moiraine was the next closest thing to a wilder, so maybe the staff was just some mental crutch that she used. Even then, why don't we see other wilders with similar fetishes? Maybe they're there and I just forgot. There's also a whole lot of weird stuff Ishy does in this book and the next two. We can handwave a lot of it away and say that he's an experienced Forsaken and that anything can happen in T'A'R. Even then, the rules for T'A'R seem to be a lot looser in the earlier books.

 

Elayne and Gawyn are introduced in this book, but they really only have one scene, so I'll talk about them later.

 

As for the climax... Jordan was able to give most of the books in the series great climaxes. This one, though, is probably my least favourite. I think it's because Rand is, well, clueless as to what's going on for most of it. The Ishy confrontations in Books Two and Three are better, as I recall. We'll see if my opinion has changed. I did like some segments; Rand's horror when he realizes what he's doing when he's in Tarwin's Gap, and is unable to stop.

 

VITAL STATISTICS:

 

Achievements for Team Light: Stopped Aginor from using the Eye to release the Dark One, using the Eye to destroy the largest Trolloc army seen in the series.

 

Forsaken Count: Balthamel (killed by an Ent), Aginor (killed by Rand)

 

Seals Count: One (destroyed)

 

See? Not hugemassive at all.

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