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Originally Posted By: Goldenking
I finished Cloud Atlas a while ago, though discussion of that seems to be a moot point.


While the book club tanked, it did provide me with a lovely reading list. I already made it through "Stranger in a Strange Land", am working on "Into the Beautiful North" and intend to tackle "1Q84" at some point.
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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

Originally Posted By: Actaeon

While the book club tanked, it did provide me with a lovely reading list. I already made it through "Stranger in a Strange Land", am working on "Into the Beautiful North" and intend to tackle "1Q84" at some point.


clearly the problem is that you didn't make an appointment for a specific time when you'd get together and discuss the book

because see the third rule of book club is that if this is your first time at book club you have to book
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My favorite Martha Wells is still City of Bones, which I believe was her first. It has that first-novel density of invention, where you can see that the author poured in about ten years of imagination, and it's great, but you know they'll never be able to keep it up if they get a contract and have to write more books within just a year or two. Maybe it was only that the tropes it recycled all happened to be new to me, but I found it refreshingly original. For me it can even stand comparison with LLL, which few books can. DotN was certainly not as good.

 

I've never been a big fan of Donaldson, really. I liked the first Covenant trilogy because its evil was more actively repulsive than Tolkien's remote specters, but I too quickly got fed up with the super-annoying protagonists. I can tolerate a fair amount of anti- in my heroes, but when I start to really despise them, and to despise the author for pretending that they're at all sympathetic, I'm happier just tossing the book away.

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Thomas Covenant is despicable (ironic, considering the villain). Terisa Morgan of Mordant's Need is another Earth person sucked into fantasy land who mostly needs to grow up and stop feeling helpless sorry for herself for under-justified reasons. She's less despicable and more pathetic, which I think is entirely intentional but a terrible literary choice. For my money, Donaldson's best is the Gap Cycle, in which there's an even more intentionally despicable character but he's more villain who falls in with the right crowd so it's okay. Plus creepy aliens.

 

—Alorael, who found even that series difficult to swallow, in part because the first book is very different and very much an experiment that's somewhat interesting in concept but not very fun to read. And then it's essential for everything that follows, so you can't even skip it.

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Better is a hard call. They're very different. The first is a very tightly focused story about three players, none of whom are very developed. It's kind of like a space fable, or several nested space fables. The rest of the series reads more like traditional fairly hard science fiction noir, complete with much expanded cast, detailed explanations of technology, government, weird aliens, clones, cyborgs, conspiracies, cops (some of whom fight cops) and space battles. Except in Donaldson-style prose, so the prose is sparklingly adroit at best and a turgid purple at worst.

 

—Alorael, who also hasn't read those in years. They're also on his list to see if nostalgia has painted a rosier picture. And rosy is really not the right word either, given that it's also Donaldson and so the future is largely terrible, everyone in it is damaged, morally compromised, or both. Actually, maybe it's better because Donaldson doesn't set up the strange dichotomy between bucolic setting and really awful characters. The setting's not quite dystopian, but it definitely leans towards grimy, cynical future.

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The Gap books are a retelling of Norse myths (Volsung saga) and pick up in the second, but it doesn't sustain itself for the whole series. It's like Geneforge factions in that the more you read the more you see there are no likable characters.

 

Donaldson is different, but I can't invest that much time in reading another of his series. He's good a world building, but I can't stand the major characters.

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Finally [censored] finished Ink. It took forever, not because it was a hard read, it just dragged so much. It was beyond tiresome to read. It wasn't bad either, it's just that that two-book series was about a book longer than it should have been. Now reading Consider Phlebas, which is at least starting out much better.

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Zero History, by William Gibson. I quite enjoyed it, yet wondered why, because in most concrete ways I could think of, it was pretty lame. Gibson's books used to kind of sit around in their shades being cool, and then shoot you. His later ones sit around being cool, and then offer you a latte. So now, from the man who invented cyberspace, we have a novel about designer clothing, pretty much.

 

Ehh, if you've been at all interested in his Blue Ant books, you'll probably like this one too. Maybe that's a big if.

 

Also, The First World War, by the late John Keegan. It has a lot about the eastern fronts, which never bogged down in trench warfare like the western front. I guess the main new idea I got from it was just to see that what I had always thought of as the great debate about the war, on the western Allied side, is really a false dichotomy.

 

One side of the debate holds that the British and French generals were a bunch of heartless morons who blindly sent thousands to obviously pointless slaughter. The other points out that they tried constantly to improvise new methods, in a technologically unprecedented conflict, and eventually developed the modern combined arms tactics that broke the stalemate.

 

After reading this one last book about the war, I've decided that it was probably both. The commanders on both sides did constantly innovate, and did try to achieve results while avoiding high casualties. They just didn't innovate nearly enough, or fast enough. And the enormous human cost of that failure was obvious enough even at the time that they should have known they had to do more. None of them was stupid, but none of the was really brilliant, and it's hard to excuse any major industrial power for failing to put brilliant people in charge of an enterprise like the Great War.

 

The other big thing I learned from this book was that the German tragedy was not the mirror image of the Allied one, but almost the opposite. The German army was a lot more professional than any of the others, especially in the high command. Some of the higher German commanders were brilliant, and moreover they devolved authority down to much lower levels than the Allies did, to the point where mere colonels sometimes made huge strategic decisions for the Germans, and so decisions were made faster. The German army adapted its tactics quite quickly, as well. Where the Allied armies seemed to assume by default that whatever they were doing was right, the German army's working assumption seemed to be that anything could be improved. The main reason that the Allied innovations were never big enough was that the Germans were very quick with effectively countermeasures.

 

The problem on the German side was just that they should never have gotten into the whole mess in the first place, because it was clear from the start that it was unlikely to end well. Keegan is the first author I've seen who seems actually to have read the famous Schlieffen plan, which was arguably the ultimate cause of the whole damn thing. Von Schlieffen's pre-war grand plan was how imperial Germany thought it could beat everyone else single-handed, by overwhelming France quickly enough to be able to shift its forces east and fend off Russia before too late. What Keegan points out, and it's the first I've heard it, is that the plan was never even really a plan.

 

According to Keegan, the memorandum of von Schlieffen that was the final embodiment of the plan just tails off vaguely, shortly before the intended final battle around Paris, with implicit admissions that the numbers did not really add up. The existing French road network just did not permit enough German troops to move fast enough to get the job done. The failure wasn't completely absurd; war is tremendously uncertain, and the Schlieffen plan could arguably have given Germany a chance. But it was obvious even at the time that it was an enormous gamble with a high risk of catastrophic failure.

 

The brilliant and professional German high command seems to have taken that terrible gamble recklessly, partly in spite of their brilliant professionalism, but partly because of it. The existence of their proud military subculture — their exalted status in the semi-democratic society of imperial Germany, the public funding of their enormous armies — depended upon their being able to deliver a huge German victory. To have to confess beforehand that they had not made Germany strong enough to take on the world would have been as great a catastrophe for them as to lose a major war, and so for them there seemed to be little to lose. They took their best shot.

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Originally Posted By: Student of Trinity


The First World War, by the late John Keegan. It has a lot about the eastern fronts, which never bogged down in trench warfare like the western front. I guess the main new idea I got from it was just to see that what I had always thought of as the great debate about the war, on the western Allied side, is really a false dichotomy.

One side of the debate holds that the British and French generals were a bunch of heartless morons who blindly sent thousands to obviously pointless slaughter. The other points out that they tried constantly to improvise new methods, in a technologically unprecedented conflict, and eventually developed the modern combined arms tactics that broke the stalemate.

After reading this one last book about the war, I've decided that it was probably both. The commanders on both sides did constantly innovate, and did try to achieve results while avoiding high casualties. They just didn't innovate nearly enough, or fast enough. And the enormous human cost of that failure was obvious enough even at the time that they should have known they had to do more. None of them was stupid, but none of the was really brilliant, and it's hard to excuse any major industrial power for failing to put brilliant people in charge of an enterprise like the Great War.

The other big thing I learned from this book was that the German tragedy was not the mirror image of the Allied one, but almost the opposite. The German army was a lot more professional than any of the others, especially in the high command. Some of the higher German commanders were brilliant, and moreover they devolved authority down to much lower levels than the Allies did, to the point where mere colonels sometimes made huge strategic decisions for the Germans, and so decisions were made faster. The German army adapted its tactics quite quickly, as well. Where the Allied armies seemed to assume by default that whatever they were doing was right, the German army's working assumption seemed to be that anything could be improved. The main reason that the Allied innovations were never big enough was that the Germans were very quick with effectively countermeasures.

The problem on the German side was just that they should never have gotten into the whole mess in the first place, because it was clear from the start that it was unlikely to end well. Keegan is the first author I've seen who seems actually to have read the famous Schlieffen plan, which was arguably the ultimate cause of the whole damn thing.

Von Schlieffen's pre-war grand plan was how imperial Germany thought it could beat everyone else single-handed, by overwhelming France quickly enough to be able to shift its forces east and fend off Russia before too late. What Keegan points out, and it's the first I've heard it, is that the plan was never even really a plan.

According to Keegan, the memorandum of von Schlieffen that was the final embodiment of the plan just tails off vaguely, shortly before the intended final battle around Paris, with implicit admissions that the numbers did not really add up. The existing French road network just did not permit enough German troops to move fast enough to get the job done. The failure wasn't completely absurd; war is tremendously uncertain, and the Schlieffen plan could arguably have given Germany a chance. But it was obvious even at the time that it was an enormous gamble with a high risk of catastrophic failure.

The brilliant and professional German high command seems to have taken that terrible gamble recklessly, partly in spite of their brilliant professionalism, but partly because of it. The existence of their proud military subculture — their exalted status in the semi-democratic society of imperial Germany, the public funding of their enormous armies — depended upon their being able to deliver a huge German victory. To have to confess beforehand that they had not made Germany strong enough to take on the world would have been as great a catastrophe for them as to lose a major war, and so for them there seemed to be little to lose. They took their best shot.


Does Keegan elaborates on the religious significance of the war and how it played on the politics and military tactics of the time? (the anti-war convention held by the Tsar, etc...)
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He talks a bit about the Turks. Not extensive coverage, but probably adequate for a book of this one's scope. I dunno, though; I admit I sort of skimmed those parts, because I felt I already knew that story from a thick biography of Ataturk that I had read years before. In fact my memories about Turkey in the Great War are pretty fuzzy by now, so between not reading Keegan carefully, and not remembering the more detailed story well, I'm not a good judge at all of Keegan's coverage of the Ottoman side of the war. Sorry.

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Just finished rereading "the hobbit" and also found in the library a dual book of robert asprin and finished reading "myth directions", hilarious, absolutely hilarious. Now I start the second story "hit and myth". I just love how he starts each chapter with a short (sometimes fake) funny quote such as "That's funny, I never have any trouble with service when I'm shopping" -K. Kong.

 

And here is also another curious excerpt from "the hobbit"

(it comes right before

 

the telling of what happened to Thorin when the wood elves captured him

:

Originally Posted By: J.R.R.T.

These [The wood elves] are not wicked folk. If they have a fault it is distrust of strangers. Though their magic was strong, even in those days they were wary.

They differed from the High Elves of the West, and were more dangerous and less wise. For most of them (together with their scattered relations in the hills and mountains) were descended from the ancient tribes that never went to Faerie in the West.

There the Light-elves and the Deep-elves and the Sea-elves went and lived

for ages, and grew fairer and wiser and more learned, and invented their

magic and their cunning craft, in the making of beautiful and marvellous

things, before some came back into the Wide World.

In the Wide World the Wood-elves lingered in the twilight of our Sun and Moon but loved best the stars;

and they wandered in the great forests that grew tall in lands that

are now lost. They dwelt most often by the edges of the woods, from which

they could escape at times to hunt, or to ride and run over the open lands

by moonlight or starlight; and after the coming of Men they took ever more

and more to the gloaming and the dusk.

Still elves they were and remain, and that is Good People.

 

Faerie? Is there another reference to West-Earth with that name? Light Elves? Deep-Elves? Sea Elves?

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The Silmarillion clarifies this in describing the Great Journey to the Land of the Valar beyond the Great Sea (Faerie). Some of the elves turned aside before reaching the Great Sea and aren't considered the High Elves of the West. The remaining Elves are named by where they stayed: woods, underground, sea shore, ....
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Tolkien had a very elaborate mythology, including several invented languages and scripts. It all gets presented in his longer works. The Hobbit was kind of his beta version. It's canon, but most of its names have to be translated into the fictional languages to see what they referred to in the final version.

 

So it's Valinor, not Faerie, and so on. The figure referred to obliquely in The Hobbit as 'the necromancer' turns out to be the big bad guy of The Lord of the Rings, Sauron. Then in the deep background history of The Silmarilion you learn that Sauron, though in his own right a sort of demi-god, was only the henchman of a previous, bigger bad guy.

 

Opinions vary widely about how far it's worth getting into this stuff.

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I got several books finished over my vacation.

 

They Eat Puppies, Don't They? by Christopher Buckley (of Thank You For Smoking fame) is a satirical novel about a cynical defense lobbyist who team up with a woman who totally isn't Ann Coulter to start a cold war with China in order to sell a Predator drone the size of a 747. Their plan was to spread a rumor that the Dalai Lama was fatally poisoned with an extract from a baby panda, because they think that that only murdering baby pandas would generate sufficient moral outrage to start tensions. It's a drier and darker sense of humor, but very funny in parts.

 

The Victim's Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind by Bruce Bawer. Title says it all: a critique of the New Left from the left. It alternates between well-thought out, reasonable, and powerful arguments and a polemic screed. Really the only two chapters worth reading are the ones on women's studies and LGBT identity (he happens to be gay himself). The one on Chicano studies in also OK, I guess. Most of the other chapters almost border on concern trolling, but his overall point is still both correct and very important.

 

Nonbeliever Nation by David Niose. His basic point is that, despite people who don't believe in God or follow any sort of organized religion making up close to a quarter of the population, they are still happen to be one of the most politically toxic and generally hated groups out there, and are both widely smeared and legally/politically attacked by the political right and marginalized and downplayed to the point of total disregard by the political left*. He attributes this to their inability to organize- even the largest secular groups are poorly funded and only have a small fraction of the members that one would reasonably expect that they should have given the size of the population they draw from.

 

I'm now working on Joseph Stiglitz's The Price of Inequality and Paradise Lost (not by JS, of course).

 

Also, I got a Nexus. It makes accessing my library on the go suuuuuper convenient, and also I can now indulge myself by reading Fifty Shades of Gray at the office and in public without anyone knowing!

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Recently finished:

Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell

Wild Thing - Josh Bazell

The House of Silk; A Sherlock Holmes Novel - Anthony Horowitz

 

Currently reading:

Running With the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind - Sakyong Mipham Rinphoche

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House of Silk was a decent take on Holmes. My favorite, though, other than the originals, was "A Study in Emerald". Not only does it manage to blend the styles of two vastly different authors, it manages to say something about the human condition at the end of it all.

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Originally Posted By: Dantius

The Victim's Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind by Bruce Bawer. Title says it all: a critique of the New Left from the left. It alternates between well-thought out, reasonable, and powerful arguments and a polemic screed. Really the only two chapters worth reading are the ones on women's studies and LGBT identity (he happens to be gay himself). The one on Chicano studies in also OK, I guess. Most of the other chapters almost border on concern trolling, but his overall point is still both correct and very important.


Say, that sounds interesting. Having spent some time embroiled in WS stuff, I've become something of a believer, but I have to say I have my doubts; particularly concerning the consequentialist ethics, and also the idea that I am incapable of understanding certain things, and must therefore take some statements on faith. I wonder what Bawer makes of such things.
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Originally Posted By: Actaeon
House of Silk was a decent take on Holmes. My favorite, though, other than the originals, was "A Study in Emerald". Not only does it manage to blend the styles of two vastly different authors, it manages to say something about the human condition at the end of it all.


That was my first experience outside of canonical Holmes stories and I really enjoyed it. I felt like it really kept with Doyle's style except for the subject matter of the ending was definitely out of character, it was definitely a surprise for me, I really wasn't expecting it.
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Originally Posted By: Miramor
Say, that sounds interesting. Having spent some time embroiled in WS stuff, I've become something of a believer, but I have to say I have my doubts; particularly concerning the consequentialist ethics, and also the idea that I am incapable of understanding certain things, and must therefore take some statements on faith. I wonder what Bawer makes of such things.


I think one of his stronger arguments with WS in the vein of "being foce to take things on faith" is that the discipline has become so bogged down with intersectionalism that it finds itself int the position of being unable to criticize things that it very clearly should be criticizing. There's one anecdote where he's attending a talk at a woman's studies conference, and the speaker was talking about how criticism of violence against women committed in other cultures is inherently imperialist and racist, because it presumes that Western views like "you probably shouldn't kill people for having sex before marriage" are superior by definition to native opinions and that by trying to force our opinions on them we're actually oppressing both their men and women. I mean, I guess that's technically true in a certain sense, but it rather misses the larger point that, y'know, women are being murdered by a society that is orders of magnitude more patriarchal and repressive than ours and de-legitimizing any criticism of this based on the fact that I'm not a member of said culture seems like the last thing one would want to do to help fellow human beings.
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That sounds more like a very extreme postmodernist standpoint to me - "all views being equally valid," etc... Based on what I know of postmodernism anyway, which isn't a whole lot. Luckily I've never encountered anything quite that extreme IRL (seeing as such a viewpoint can be used to justify anything).

 

But yes, IMHO it's better to levy criticism and risk being a hypocrite, than to keep one's peace and not help anyone.

 

OTOH, the statement being anecdotal, I can't help but wonder if it's an outlier. There are a lot of WS writers, professors, and spokespeople out there; as with any large group, a few of them are bound to have a ridiculous opinion or two... Which once stated publicly, end up being used as propaganda against their peers.

 

(Not that that's the case with Bawer, necessarily. One just has to be weary of individuals' statements being taken as general opinion.)

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Dikiyoba tried to get into the Wheel of Time series, but halfway into the second book the gender relations are already unbearable (Women are mysterious! Men are helpless!) and Dikiyoba knows it's only going to get worse. Plus, while the writing is good, the books already need another round or two of editing to excise the fluff.

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Both very valid critiques of the series. Actually, I sort of got in to it for the fluff: I literally grabbed the biggest piece of fiction my library had that looked halfway tolerable (I was a bit too young for the Russians). I remain invested enough to finish the series, but can hardly fault those that burnt out.

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I once had a summer job that didn't pay all that well but had lots of slack time at unpredictable intervals, so I bought books for pages per dollar and read mostly Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky (in English). In retrospect, the dismal gloominess that I remember about that summer may not have been entirely from the job itself. I should have busted the piggy bank and gone on a P.G. Wodehouse binge, or something. Those were the days before laptops, back when portable electronics meant a cassette player the size of a small lunchbox, and if I could have afforded one I wouldn't have been buying books for pages per dollar.

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The pair SoT referenced, mostly. Perhaps some of you were reading Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky for fun in seventh grade, but I was more in to fantasy (having read all the Tolkien I could get my hands on). These days, I feel up to most pieces of fiction, barring perhaps "Ulysses", which simply doesn't appeal.

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This isn't exactly recreational reading, but nevertheless I thought it was worth discussion. One of my textbooks, World History in Brief: Major Patterns of Change and Continuity by Peter Stearns, used some very gendered language along the lines of Europe economically penetrating India during the early phases of the British Raj. I've asked around and done some searching of my own, and have found no indication that that is the sort of language used at the time to discuss the colonization process instigated by the British East India Company.

 

Therefore, I wanted to ask the esteemed minds of Spiderweb, what do you think the implications are of the author using such language anachronistically to describe the decline of the Mughal Empire and the ascendancy of British colonization in India?

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I'd be surprised if anyone really thought of it that way at the time. India is really big, and the Raj was really slow to get going. In fact I think that rules the penetration metaphor out even as retrospective summary. If we need a biological analogy, I reckon it was more like the proliferation of yeast in a big bowl of sugar water. At first there's just a bit of fizzing, and it only changes slowly, but gradually you get this mass of grey goop. Something like that.

 

The British Raj was partly an accident of Mughal law. The Mughal empire had been decentralized in practical terms for a long time, with the emperor assigning various arbitrarily chosen deputies the taxation rights for chunks of the empire, in return for handling their administration and paying fixed rents to the throne. It was a sort of tax farming system of the kind to which a lot of pre-modern empires seem to have resorted eventually.

 

This was the easily available mechanism by which, in 1765, the East India Company acquired legal authority within the Mughal empire over about an eighth of its territory. The emperor simply designated the company as his taxation deputy for three provinces, in return for an annual fee. It was a steal of a deal for the Company, and the emperor only made it under duress, after losing the battle of Buxar, but the point is that no explicit conquest of the Mughal empire by the British state was needed.

 

The Mughal empire was decentralized and commercialized enough that it could easily be assimilated piecemeal, under its own laws and customs, by an alien commercial entity that was armed to the teeth, but had not previously been in the business of government. The East India Company got into the business of government because in Mughal India, government was already a business. The line between 'economic penetration' and simple conquest was never sharp to begin with.

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Just finished Consider Phlebas, which was a massive improvement over the last book, seeing as it didn't take months and months ans considerable willpower to finish. It's nice to read the first Culture book when I've read some of Iain M. Banks' other stuff.

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I very quickly read through The Name of the Wind. Yes, long after everyone else, and violating my personal rule of never starting an unfinished series. It was well-written and entertaining, and yet I can't help but feel like it didn't live up to the hype. Nothing of any real import happened. The character is clever but lacks the audacity of Locke Lamora, and is smart, powerful, and multi-talented without every really doing much with any of it. The fact that the protagonist's age doesn't quite work out also bothers me. I know he's supposed to be precocious, but he just doesn't come across as someone in his early or mid teens.

 

I'm looking forward to the series, but I think as a single book it suffers from incompleteness.

 

—Alorael, who mostly got through it on the entertainment value of magic university presented as graduate school rather than undergrad and the hope that Kvothe would jump onto some insane, glorious scheme.

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While I was at the Festival of the Senses this past weekend, I stopped by the library's used book sale and bought a book (what else? <img src="graemlins/tongueold.gif" alt="tongue" title="tongue" height="15" width="15" /> ) titled <span style="font-style: italic">Far As Human Eye Could See</span> by Isaac Asimov. I haven't read beyond the front and back cover, but it sounds intriguing.

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I thought The Name of the Wind was pretty good. The Wise Man's Fear not quite as good though, especially the stuff about the Adem. They had a bit much of "noble savage" about them, I think; and I found their pop-psychology somewhat revolting. Yes, I do recall what Larry Niven had to say about mistaking a character's opinion for the author's, but even so...

 

 

Apparently men become murderous psychopaths if they don't get enough sexual attention? Geez.

 

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Miramor</div><div class="ubbcode-body">I thought <span style="font-style: italic">The Name of the Wind</span> was pretty good. <span style="font-style: italic">The Wise Man's Fear</span> not quite as good though, especially the stuff about the Adem. They had a bit much of "noble savage" about them, I think; and I found their pop-psychology somewhat revolting. Yes, I do recall what Larry Niven had to say about mistaking a character's opinion for the author's, but even so...

 

 

Apparently men become murderous psychopaths if they don't get enough sexual attention? Geez.

The Felurian storyline was a bit much too.

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Originally Posted By: Miramor
Have you read The Player of Games yet?

If not, read it. I know a lot of people like Use of Weapons, but IMO Player is Banks at his absolute peak in SF (at least thus far).


No, I don't have either of those, but I'll look into them. I do have The State of the Art.
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It was okaaaay, and I see that it had a purpose in the larger story of Kvothe and I can see what Rothfuss was trying to do with it, but it went on too long and got a bit monotonous. More exploration and explanation of the faerie world and slightly less gratuitous sex would have been nice. Not that gratuitous sex isn't important to any legend's legend, but it doesn't make for terribly exciting reading.

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I'm currently about two-thirds of the way through Hard Times, and, surprisingly, I'm really enjoying it.

 

Dickens is far from my favourite author; I assumed from the earlier works I'd read that I wouldn't enjoy any of his work, but HT really moves away from the caricatured representations of heroes and villains I knew Dickens for. Instead, it places (slightly) more three-dimensional characters into a world where social inequalities and criticisms of mid-19th Century law are given much greater focus than I'd anticipated. As Bernard Shaw notes, it's Dickens in a Marx state of mind, rising up against civilisation, and its (minor) redundancy aside, it's close to changing my mind about old Charlie completely.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've just started reading American gods, I'm at about chapter 4 and already enjoying it, Gaiman is truly a writing genious.

However reading this does make me wonder if novelists get payed for hidden commercials like movies do, or are all the references to specific brand names are just there to improve the atmosphere?

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I doubt it, I personally imagine (for most writers) it's just there for atmosphere. I dunno about anyone else, but it kind of ruins immersion for me when they say things like "cotton swab" instead of "q-tip", but I always hear them called q-tips, so that's prolly just me.

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No doubt there are ways to do gratuitous sex that isn't so boring, but gratuitous sex that happens far enough offstage to keep the book out of the porn section, that's probably difficult to manage. To give Rothfuss a bit of benefit of doubt, though, the episode is almost a trope for his sort of harking-back-to-old-legends story, so if something like it didn't happen to Kvothe, he'd almost have to explain why not. And then given that it happened to Kvothe, he is also the narrator, and so it wouldn't make so much sense for it to be summarized in a few brief lines. You would expect it to make an impact on him.

 

The only thing that really cries out about Rothfuss's series is the Mary Sue thing, that Kvothe is just the ultimate guy, and everything happens to him. But he lampshaded it from the beginning: that's the premise, that he's a legendary figure. Take it or leave it. Well, would I like to read the autobiography of a legendary demi-god? Yeah, actually. Why waste my time reading about another regular twerp like me? I already know what those guys' lives are like.

 

About Q-tips in stories: Some people would call them cotton swabs, some would call them Q-tips. It says a lot about the character, how they refer to things. Making a character brand-aware is characterization. Even if the brands are mentioned by an omniscient narrator, omniscient narrators usually have an implicit character viewpoint, and the narration tints the character. A character who lives in a world of Q-tips and Fords and Nikes is a different person from one who lives in a world of cotton swabs, sedans, and running shoes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Forgot to mention that I finished reading the Path of Daggers, and just recently finished Winter's Heart. Both were very good reads, especially the end of Winter's Heart (and no, I will not even say a smidgen of the end, not even in a spoiler!). I was hooked on the Path of Daggers due to the ending of the previous book, and the following cliffhanger caused by

Mat not showing up once throughout the entire book.

 

 

I can't wait to start the next book in the series...

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