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Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. While not the most enthralling of novels, I'd say that it's refreshing to get a new perspective philosophically that doesn't crop up very often in literature.

 

Also, I'm reading Debt: the first five thousand years. This feels like an especially critical book in the modern socioeconomic context.

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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

I don't even know what Chodrekai are. I mean the standard grayish, bug-eyed humanoid alien.

 

—Alorael, who imagines aliens would come here for the same reason that we'd very gladly visit them: it's a big, lonely universe out there. It would be nice to see some potentially friendly faces, especially if they have no way to track you back to where you came from in case they tend to shoot first and make trade agreements later.

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Originally Posted By: Epiphany Without Borders
Some books are elaborately planned, but that can backfire as well. I get frustrated at books that lack grand conspiracies and still have heavy foreshadowing and everything tied together. Life isn't actually like that. If you want a stylized universe, that works. If you're going for realism, it can all be a little bit too pat.


if you're going for realism why read fiction
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I don't want realism per se, but when the author goes for realism I want enough followthrough to make it convincing.

 

—Alorael, who thinks maybe it would be more accurate to say that he doesn't want a nice Shakespearean ending with everything tied up with a bow unless he got a Shakespearean beginning and middle as well.

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Originally Posted By: FnordCola
I'm pretty sure if the government were interested in going after people based on their choice of conspiracy literature, they'd be more interested in those who read, say The Turner Diaries or Behold a Pale Horse


Turner Diaries is available online for free, but I don't remember where- it might be the Anti-Defamation League or some other group. I tried to read it once, it was probably the most shockingly appalling book I've ever read- and I didn't even make it past the part where they

Click to reveal..
graphically executed every white woman in the country not married to a white Christian male.


Dude makes Mein Kampf look like something Elie Wiesel wrote.
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This was one of my favorit threads to keep up with because it mainly focused on saying "I just/am read/reading this book." I use this to find new books to read that I dought I would find on my own.

 

Right now I am trudging away through Dante's Inferno. I think it kinda sucks, but not enough for me to stop reading.

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In Italian or in translation? I didn't love the translation either, but I'm told by Italian speakers that a lot of the appeal is the poetry, and that never survives the linguistic porting process.

 

—Alorael, who suspects that logistics get jettisoned for being logic with an -ist in there. Supremacists and racists only have space for some many ists, and that isn't one of them. Logic isn't high on their list anyway.

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Originally Posted By: Rowen
Right now I am trudging away through Dante's Inferno. I think it kinda sucks, but not enough for me to stop reading.


What translation are you reading? I've found that this drastically affects the reading, depending on whether the author is trying to keep a rhyme scheme or not, and to what extent if so.
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Quote:
Saidin raged inside Rand, and he loosed it all. Not to Heal.
"Rahvin!" he screamed, and balefire flew from his hands, molten light thicker than a man, driven by all the Power he could draw.
Quote:
"KA-ME-HA-ME-HA!"

After finishing Book Four I've been working from home a lot more, which means less reading on the bus. But better late than never, here's the review!
Click to reveal.. (Book Five)

Book Five. The Fires of Heaven. Or, as I like to call it, The One Where Everyone Walks Around A Lot. Because that's all that really happens for the first half of the book. Rand et. al. walk from the Waste to Cairhein. Nynaeve and Elayne walk from Tanchico to Salidar. Min et. al. walk from Tar Valon to Salidar. At first, it doesn't seem so bad. The majority of the first three books was just characters going from Point A to Point B. They worked fine, because Jordan made sure of two things: that there was tension along the journey, and that there was a meaningful destination. These things are missing from the first half of the book. Rand et. al. have some random encounters as they leave the Waste, but other than that the Rand chapters are pretty much devoid of conflict of any sort. It takes until they get into Cairhein and they start wading through corpses left by Couladin that they realize "Oh yeah, the plot." Nynaeve and Elayne I'll get to later. Min and Siuan and the rest have the least amount of tension (big bad Gareth Bryne's gonna getcha!), but to his credit Jordan doesn't draw this minor storyline out. We get to see Siuan's total fall from grace, which is interesting. I don't recall her being all that pivotal to the plot later on, though.

The Nynaeve & Elayne arc is very lacking in tension, at least at first. The whole point is "get back safely to Salidar". That's it. Their quest had its conclusion in Book Four, Book Five is just them returning from it. Booooring. And the worst thing is that the arc could have been given a lot more tension. Nynaeve picked up her own personal nemesis in the last book. A centuries old villain from three millenia ago. One of the thirteen big villains of the series. And she's tracking Nynaeve both in reality and through her dreams. This should be exciting. How do you screw this up?

By having the central focus of the arc being the power struggle between Nynaeve and Elayne. Like the bickering between Perrin and Faile last book, the blame for the constant arguing can be split evenly between both characters. It's like they alternate taking unreasonable positions, just so they can continue being at each other's throats for most of the book. These two need someone to shake them and remind them that they're on the same team. Eventually that happens, but far too late.

There's also the power struggle between Nynaeve and Egwene. This is basically a good thing: Egwene's character is developing, she's realizing Nynaeve's flaws and she's asserting her independence. Fine. But there's one small scene that takes place in the setting's dream realm that I must mention. I'd say it's the second worst moment of the series. Egwene is berating Nynaeve for being careless in the dream realm, and to prove her point about nightmares being real here, she conjures up rapists who begin assaulting Nynaeve.

What.

Okay, so this is obviously mirroring an object lesson that Amys gave Egwene earlier. But (a) it was a generic nightmare monster that leaped at Egwene's throat before she woke up, not a group of men that began ripping off her clothes, (B) Aiel are supposed to be batshit insane to begin with and ridiculously strict taskmasters, and © Amys wasn't Egwene's closest and most trusted childhood friend. And the worst part? This betrayal of trust never comes up again. Other parts of the chapter are relevant to Nynaeve later on ("Golly gee, I've never had to lie to Egwene before"), but this particular moment isn't ("I don't remember teaching my closest friend and protege that rape is an acceptable object lesson."). You'll hear a lot of people complaining about the events of Book Seven (I'll get to that, don't worry), but I never hear anyone talk about this little scene in this book.

It's really unfortunate, because a lot does end up happening in the Nynaeve & Elayne arc. We discover forkroot, see the protagonists accidentally start a war, get the menagerie sequence which works fine as comic relief, see periodic fights with Moggy, see Birgitte "untimely ripped", and so on. There's a lot to work with, though most of the actually exciting stuff happens after the halfway point of the book. But all this good stuff is overshadowed by the inter-party bickering. Again, a real shame these characters are wasted.

The last arc doesn't get interesting until Rand's army enters Cairhien. We get the big battle against the Shaido, with Sammy occasionally sniping. This sequence was interesting: we rarely get to see the fighting. Instead, it focuses on the characters' reactions during the lulls in the battle. Brings out the differences between the various characters, especially Rand and Mat. One thing I'm noticing with this series is that it builds up one antagonist, only to bait and switch partway through. I think playing with the reader's expectations is mostly a good thing. You've got Sammy being a perpetual thorn in Rand's side, and yet it's Rahvin's defeat that forms the climax of this book. Couladin is hyped to be Rand's personal nemesis, yet Rand idea of dueling him is repeatedly pointed out to be stupid, and it's Mat who ends up killing him. And instead of the Shaido threat disappearing once Couladin is dispatched, they remain a guerrilla force until much later on. Nothing is ever easy.

Basically everything after the battle is fast paced and exciting, and there's too many events for me to talk about them all here. We get Moiraine's sacrifice that also kills Lanfear. And she's definitely dead; walking through a doorway is pretty lethal. I don't think she'll be coming back or anything like that. Nope.

Seriously, though, without the benefit of hindsight, it's very easy to miss the little clues that she'll be coming back. Like Verin's blink-and-you-miss-it lies in Book Two, this is one of the better kept surprises in the series.

One curious thing I noticed on this reread: the protagonists basically fit the mold of other high fantasy characters. But the thirteen Forsaken don't really fit the mold of high fantasy antagonists. They aren't the Big Bad, nor are they just high level grunts. More than anything else, they resemble supervillains from comic books. They don't form a cohesive union, rather, they're more like a series's Rogues Gallery. And it works: all turned to evil due to some obsession, and now that they're stuck in a completely different society, there's nothing to distract them from their individual driving motives.

The climax works really well in this book. Nynaeve outwitting Moggy and capturing her is probably her best moment in the series, and she gets just as much credit for bringing down Rahvin as Rand does. We get a fair bit of balefire in this book; again, the side effects of balefire always seem to be good so far. But really, balefire is the nuclear equivalent in the series. And I'm not talking "radiation fallout" nuclear, I'm talking "hypothetically setting the atmosphere on fire" nuclear.

After spending the book helping Rand level up, Asmodean bites the dust. Who murders him is considered one of the great mysteries of the series, but I think the murderer's identity is pretty obvious once you think about it:
Click to reveal..
Narg

Man, there is so much more I could talk about, but it's late and I'm tired. I feel I'm doing injustice to the series by spending most of my time complaining about what's bad rather than pointing out what's good, but I'm finding it's easier to complain. With complaining, you can talk about why it sucks; when it's good, it's hard to write more than "this was good". Ah well.

Once again, the book is great once it picks up steam, but it takes so long to do so that I'm going to give it an overall negative review. It's not horrible (aside from the above mentioned dream rapists scene), but it's not as consistently good as the previous four books.

VITAL STATISTICS:
Achievements for Team Light: Destruction of the bulk of Shaido forces, liberation of Cairhein, liberation of Caemlyn, formation of Salidar.

Forsaken count: Two killed, one erased, total of five dead (for now), two erased.

Seals count: One destroyed (previously intact), total of four destroyed, two intact.

By the way, someone I know was moving away, and I picked up some of her surplus books. American Gods has been on my "To Read One Day" list for a while, but I was also recommended Nightfall. I've never read any Asimov; worth the read?

I also bought Design Patterns and Code Complete from Amazon. Squee! Both are seminal texts where I'm familiar with the material discussed, but haven't actually read them.
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I think Isaac Asimov's short story original version of Nightfall was better than when he padded it into a novel. He's prolific with over 300 books so some of his works are good and others are just to fill gaps in his output.

 

The latter psychohistory books were okay, but he wanted to stretch and tie together his earlier works into one series instead of keeping them separate.

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Yet, for some reason, my attempts to make "Narg" the top choice for favorite character in one of their polls was fruitless. All the rebel votes went to Bella.

 

Edit: Also, kudos for the double spoiler. I'm resisting the temptation to see how many of them you can nest before the universe implodes.

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Originally Posted By: Khoth
I've been reading Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan. He takes the science in his science fiction really seriously - it has to have more diagrams and graphs than any other fiction book ever, and that's not even including the 80000 word university-level explanation on the author's website.

I'm enjoying the book even though I'm not really following all the physics explanations.

(It's basically an exploration of how things would work if spacetime intervals worked like s<sup>2</sup> = x<sup>2</sup> + y<sup>2</sup> + z<sup>2</sup> + c<sup>2</sup>t<sup>2</sup>.)


I've read a little bit of this book as well now, but haven't had much time to continue.
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I think "lots" might be overstating it for the sex, but the violence is pretty substantial. And I did not mean it as a necessarily negative thing. While most older fantasy rather glosses over the brutality of medieval warfare, Martin wants us to see the faces of the dead. It's harsh and unflinching, and that's precisely what has set the series apart.

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Originally Posted By: Actaeon
I think "lots" might be overstating it for the sex, but the violence is pretty substantial.


there is a reason why the internet has nicknamed the author George Rape Rape Martin
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Originally Posted By: Actaeon
It's harsh and unflinching, and that's precisely what has set the series apart.

As the minority who doesn't really like Martin, I think this is part of the problem. He's so focused on being harsh and unflinching that I find everyone unlikeable and don't especially care that their lives are brutish, miserable, and short.

—Alorael, who doesn't need his morally gray situations to be full of people whose gray only escapes black by being surrounded by people who are even worse. And it doesn't help if even the most justified and righteous are still various kinds of insufferable.
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Actually, I agree entirely. As the even more shunned minority that prefers Wheel of Time to Song of Ice and Fire, I think Martin makes it hard for readers to root for the heros, either because they're homicidal maniacs, or they're liable to die in the next chapter. I would not, however, council someone against the series until they'd had a chance to assess that for themselves. Cormac McCarthy's work is blacker than Martin's, but also widely regarded as brilliant.

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Ive found it hard to read almost anything unless its on a computer. I used to read a lot and was a big fan of R.A. Salvatore and any of the great Chinese classic trilogies, now i cant pick up any book. Last book i tried to read was the first book on the wheel of time, couldnt get into it.

 

The only good thing about this is that any of jeff's really awesome games are almost exactly like reading a book. Does anyone else think so?

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I also like the Wheel of Time more. It has its flaws, to be sure, but I'd say its a very solid sprawling fantasy saga.

 

What are the classic Chinese trilogies?

 

—Alorael, who finds games always different from books. It's a completely different form of interaction with a medium, and even the most text-heavy games take very different approaches. He likes games, and he likes books, but he doesn't think there's actually any link between the two, really.

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Originally Posted By: Actaeon
I think Martin makes it hard for readers to root for the heros, either because they're homicidal maniacs, or they're liable to die in the next chapter.
I know a lot of people who love the "anyone can die" aspect of the series; it's what makes the series different from a lot of other fantasy series. Always being surprised by what happens next is the selling point of the series for them.

I'm morbidly curious how the series will unfold: every book, GRRM seems to be raising the "gore for the sake of gore, squick for the sake of squick, etc." bar. How much will the bar be raised by the seventh book?

Originally Posted By: Alorael
—Alorael, who doesn't need his morally gray situations to be full of people whose gray only escapes black by being surrounded by people who are even worse. And it doesn't help if even the most justified and righteous are still various kinds of insufferable.
I'd rather this than series where the protagonists are good and perfect and flawless and the antagonists are maximally horrid. Think The Sword of Truth: there's a fine line between perfect protagonists and strawman protagonists.
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Actually, the Sword of Truth also makes the protagonists fairly horrid. But it's biggest flaw is just not being very good. While I don't think perfect protagonists and monstrous villains make for good long fantasy series, or even for particularly great fantasy, it can work in light fantasy.

 

—Alorael, who is okay with series in which anyone can die. You can even have people die with well-done drama. You can kill everyone. But it really helps to get people to care about the deaths, not just how much spectacle you can pack into the dying. That genre's usually horror, not fantasy.

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Originally Posted By: This * is a veiled reference.

What are the classic Chinese trilogies?


The three Chinese "classics" are Journey to the West (west being India in this case), Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Dream of the Red Mansion.

(I know this because I'm watching the Three Kingdoms TV miniseries- all 75 hours of it (!). It's quite good, if somewhat convoluted. It's probably one of the few TV things I'd recommend)
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There are usually four, and Water Margin is included in the list. None of them are trilogies, and there aren't three of them.

 

—Alorael, who supposes he could see breaking Three Kingdoms into a trilogy. You arbitrarily split in into three parts, and name them after the kingdoms. Done.

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If you want to get that technical, it is well to remember that all presents are really slightly in the past. If you have posted in response, you have already finished reading the thread, as well as your own post. "Currently" might more accurately refer to the moment your post is being read. However, unless we discover the technology for psychic paper, or a quantum wave function as per Alorael's post, it would be rather difficult to accurately reflect that.

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Originally Posted By: Actaeon
If you want to get that technical, it is well to remember that all presents are really slightly in the past.


not all of them

this year's christmas presents are still nearly two months in the future
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WOW!

Incest, pedophilia and pedicide all in the first 100 pages (no rape yet but I'm not holding my breath).

I wouldn't let any person under the age of 15 (and many over 15) to read it.

 

About the wheel of time series: I liked the stories until the first battle between the protagonist and the first big bad, where they go around and start flinging at each other a spell which is supposed to remove the object it hits and all the effects it had on history; which basically should have caused a huge change on the fight as it goes along, and eventually someone is hit and everything he has caused, the wars and atrocities he had committed, remain unchanged as if the spell is a simple boom spell.

 

After this I lost all faith in the series, I kept reading a few more and then stopped.

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If you'd read a little more carefully you'd know that that's not how the spell works at all. I'll admit Balefire is handled a little oddly, but it does only erase someone from the last few hours, at most, of history.

 

—Alorael, who is currently reading more Michael Stackpole. The guy isn't a good author. Sometimes he's a terrible author. But he does have fun, and sometimes a fun yarn can make up for a lot.

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Originally Posted By: Anterior Motives
If you'd read a little more carefully you'd know that that's not how the spell works at all. I'll admit Balefire is handled a little oddly, but it does only erase someone from the last few hours, at most, of history.


depends who uses it, some1 strong in might (like Rand using that sword which he retrieved from that fortress) could erase whole town from history completely (that's how Moiraine explained it to Rand when he used Balefire).
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Balefire gets a bit more fleshed out as the series progresses, particularly in "Fires of Heaven". Based on what's been written, I think it's safe to say that Moiraine might have overstated it somewhat.

 

The plot point that really amuses me is Ta'veren: it's the ultimate cop-out for "farm boy to general/lord/etc" syndrome. Not that most fantasy doesn't do something of the sort, but just not usually so blatantly.

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I don't recall Moiraine ever saying that balefire could remove something from history completely. At most, it could retroactively remove stuff days earlier. The biggest use of balefire that I can recall happens in Book Twelve:

Click to reveal.. (Book Twelve)
At one point, a character uses balefire to destroy an entire villa, and I don't think it was retroactively deleted more than a day. Even then, it causes massive 'strain' on reality, and that's with the villa being isolated in the middle of nowhere.
For those who have no clue what we're talking about:
Click to reveal..
Balefire is basically a beam weapon; anything the beam touches is destroyed. The key point is that the target is erased before it was hit. So if you use balefire to destroy a bridge at 5:00, retroactively the bridge will disappear from existence at 4:45. Everything that interacted with the bridge in that span of time will also be retroactively altered, and so on.

 

The only really strange thing about balefire is that people's memories are not altered. So if you were walking across the bridge at 4:45, you might suddenly find yourself with a broken leg at 5:00, even though you remember getting across the bridge safely. The paradox of differing memories and reality, and the strain of retroactively altering events, is why people of every faction are reluctant to use balefire. Erase something that's causally linked to too many other things, and you risk unravelling reality instead.

 

Balefire is viewed the same way people on the Manhattan project viewed the Bomb. Not the "oh, no, we might cause fallout for years to come" reaction, but the "oh, no, we might set the entire atmosphere on fire" reaction.

 

Also: t-shirt.

 

EDIT: There's this hilarious use of ta'veren-ness at the beginning of Book Six. Bug me if I don't mention it in my next review.

 

EDIT: I can't spell ta'veren.

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