Jump to content

What have you been reading recently?


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 2.3k
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

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

  • 2 months later...

I might as well dust off this topic a bit, considering I forgot to update my status in the Wheel of Time series...

 

So, yeah. I finished Crossroads of Twilight a month or so ago. Twas a pretty interesting book. I have started to see a little trend going on in the series. The farther I've gotten into it, the more and more modern devices (or close to) are being invented/used.

 

*cough*strikers*cough*

 

 

I've also heard that the series has now been finished (sadly, Robert died, and a new author had to finish it for him). Can't wait to see how it ends.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I might as well dust off this topic a bit, considering I forgot to update my status in the Wheel of Time series...

 

So, yeah. I finished Crossroads of Twilight a month or so ago. Twas a pretty interesting book. I have started to see a little trend going on in the series. The farther I've gotten into it, the more and more modern devices (or close to) are being invented/used.

 

*cough*strikers*cough*

 

 

I've also heard that the series has now been finished (sadly, Robert died, and a new author had to finish it for him). Can't wait to see how it ends.

Wait, you actually liked Crossroads of Twilight? It's generally considered to be the worst book in the series. Absolutely nothing happens throughout the book. I'm almost done reading A Memory of Light, the fourteenth an final volume which was released last week. I'm very much enjoying it, and I actually think Brandon Sanderson writes the series better than Robert Jordan did.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Sanderson does a good job of toning down some of Jordan's less savory tendencies (long descriptions of tedious events which don't further plot or character, one dimensional female characters). In an ideal world, Brandon would go back through and trim down the series to about ten books of greater quality, and those Spiderwebbers that despise the series would understand our enjoyment of it. Alternatively they could make it into a set of film or mini-series and do the same thing. I don't know that it has the edgy-ness that made A Song of Ice and Fire popular, though. While I enjoyed reading the final book, I don't have near the same affection for the series as I did when I picked it up ten years ago as a twelve year old. Or perhaps that's just me trying to protect myself from withdrawal.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I'm now working on Keith Basso's Portraits of "The Whiteman" which is turning out to be very interesting. It's about linguistic representations of whites by the Apache tribe of Native Americans in the United States.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Recently read The Siren Depths by Martha Wells. Third in a series that now looks to be stretching indefinitely. Nice in some ways, if you've gotten interested in the characters, but the main plot turns out to be largely arbitrary. Stuff happens just because the author says it happens. That's always true, of course, but I find I prefer it when it somehow doesn't seem that way as you're reading.

 

I like the illusion of causality. When too many important things are just invented out of nowhere, without any sense that they follow logically from some fundamental facts, then it starts to seem that anything can happen, at any time, and so nothing that happens really means anything. I start to feel that I might as well just flip to the end and check the final status of the major characters, because how they got that way will not have mattered at all.

 

This is an interesting issue, now that I think about it. My own effort at writing a novel is turning out to be largely about this. I'm trying to make everything happen for a reason. Not necessarily a profound reason, but not just because I say so. In my case it's a big constraint that there is no actual magic and only a little bit of quasi-magical technology. I'm also trying to make all the important characters intelligent and responsible adults for whom irrational tantrums are not an excuse for doing dumb things. This is landing me practically in hoodunnit territory, as far as the effort to rationalize everything is concerned.

 

Even if everybody's smart and there is no magic, I think you can still wind up with an arbitrary plot that doesn't really grip, if you just fail to give enough detail about critical things. There's a gunfight, the bad guys miss, the good guys don't. Well, okay; but why? If it's just because you write that that's the way it happened, it all kind of falls apart, at least for me. If you want to keep my interest, I have to see that the bad guys were drunk, or their sights were off, or the good guys used a smokescreen, or something. The thing I appreciated most about The Lies of Locke Lamora was how consistently that story did that kind of thing. Almost nothing important was just stated to have happened. Almost everything that happened had a little story in its own right, showing how it happened.

 

I'm not just asking for more descriptive detail about events. I want logical connection in the details, showing how one detail leads to another. Lavish detail isn't enough, if every detail is arbitrary.

 

I'm also not asking that everything that happens be rigidly attached to some grand design. I've quite enjoyed stories by Lawrence Watt-Evans in which important consequences sometimes follow from sheer accident, like a character dropping an important item at an inopportune time. That's the kind of detail I appreciate: the character climbs a tree in a hurry to escape some predator, and in the effort to do this, his gun falls out of his pocket. The guy isn't implausibly clumsy. He just fails to be preternaturally deft. I can see how it happens, I can believe that it happens, and when I know that things like this can and do happen in the author's story, I start to care a little more about everything that happens. I'm more impressed when the character pulls off some feat, for knowing that he did it even with accidental dropping turned on. In a way that's silly, of course. The author just decided that the character would drop something at one point, and figure out how to cope with that, and then not drop anything later, when it really counted. But nonetheless it works. I feel as though dropping items was turned on throughout the book, because it happened plausibly once.

 

Maybe all I'm saying is that "Show, don't tell" applies to plot as well as character. Don't just tell me how it turns out. Show me how it happens. The Siren Depths seemed to me to fail to do that enough. I kind of blew through it without being all that invested in the events, even though I cared about the characters.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting, and that's an apt comparison for Martha Wells. In fact, I think I said in this very thread that The Death of the Necromancer is like a poor foreshadowing of Lies of Locke Lamora. Wells's characters are just too shallow, so we don't see what's going on in their heads. Their actions seem to spontaneous and too many extrinsic elements impede.

 

In my slow re-read of the Gap Cycle by Stephen R. Donaldson I'm noticing something similar. I still think it might be his best writing, but there are a few too many times where characters do things that are poorly planned or just plain stupid (Nick, to some extent Morn) for insufficiently explained reasons. Then Morn becomes an unstoppable force and it's not clear why she can suddenly do these things and why no one is stopping her. The plot still holds together enough, and the prose is of a good enough quality (not quite purple, but at that sweet spot just before purple) that I'll put up with it.

 

—Alorael, who thinks that maybe some of why it works is the way Donaldson emphasizes over and over how damaged the characters are. Morn is the victim of trauma after trauma and is functioning on hijacking her own brain. Angus is a monster made up up psychopathology. Nick is a tough exterior on a very brittle shell and the plot's in large part about his implosion when things slip out of his control. If the plot is about things going wrong out of everyone's control it's more okay to have unforeseen curveballs make strange things happen. Then the point isn't the events, it's the character's reactions to them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I read A Memory of Light right when it came out, and I liked it a lot. Not very spoiler-y comments in a spoiler tag....

 

I felt like a lot was left hanging, most notably Nakomi. We were also pretty much left hanging on the rivalry between the Seanchan and the Aiel and how it relates to the future of the main lands, but I guess that was intentional, because it was supposed to related to the outriggers. Still, the WoT was always as much a glimpse into people's lives at the turning of an Age as it was a narrative with a strong direction, and in that light, a few of the arcs made more sense as not ever getting resolved.

 

This may sound strange, but I feel as though the series really should have been about 18-20 books long, instead of 15 (if you count NS). There was enough to resolve that RJ could've given us another three books at least, if not more.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I'm kind of surprised that A Memory of Light was long enough that it had to be split into three separate books. Apparently it would have been "prohibitively" long.

 

Pertaining to the subject, I've gotten a bit into The Gathering Storm, and it's been a little difficult trying to distinguish Jordan's writing style from Brandon's. Still a good book so far.

 

On a side note, it turns out I had to keep Knife of Dreams and pay for it since the binding was damaged... I really shouldn't be too surprised, since a section of the book was actually able to fall out, but it was already broken to begin with.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting, and that's an apt comparison for Martha Wells. In fact, I think I said in this very thread that The Death of the Necromancer is like a poor foreshadowing of Lies of Locke Lamora. Wells's characters are just too shallow, so we don't see what's going on in their heads. Their actions seem to spontaneous and too many extrinsic elements impede.

 

Yeah, Death of the Necromancer was not too bad, but far from Wells's best. For me her best book is still the one of hers I read first, City of Bones. It still has some arbitrary jumps, but it's a book that reads fast and then seems to take a long time to summarize, because there are so many interesting little stories going on in it. I've always suspected that Wells might have worked all that into CoB over many years, and then once she landed a contract, she was unable to maintain that density of invention while keeping up a higher rate of production. I don't actually know how she wrote CoB, though. For all I know she tossed it off between other projects. It does feel rather rushed at the end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

On a side note, it turns out I had to keep Knife of Dreams and pay for it since the binding was damaged... I really shouldn't be too surprised, since a section of the book was actually able to fall out, but it was already broken to begin with.

Ick. Where'd you borrow it from?

 

The public library Dikiyoba uses always wants books with damaged bindings back because it's relatively easy to fix them with the proper glue (well, maybe not if sections are already falling out). Incidentally, two of the five Wheel of Time books Dikiyoba checked out from there had damaged bindings.

Link to post
Share on other sites

My old copies of the Wheel of Time books were also destroyed after a second reading. I think they're fat enough that they strain normal binding, but I've also got plenty of other paperback doorstoppers that haven't disintegrated. Maybe the first printing (or whatever printing I have) was a bad batch.

 

—Alorael, who takes lots of care with his books, too. No leaving them open to mark his place. No leaving them in a hot car where the glue might melt. No exposure to moisture. Absolutely no dog-earing. He even tries not to crack the spine, although with a book as thick as Jordan's tomes it's nearly impossible.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I'm now working on Keith Basso's Portraits of "The Whiteman" which is turning out to be very interesting. It's about linguistic representations of whites by the Apache tribe of Native Americans in the United States.

 

I finished Basso. The jokes weren't that funny, but I'm too culture-bound to truly appreciate them anyway. The explanations made sense, at least, of the jokes. Moreover, they provide as a good access for an explanation of cultural practices of joking in general and the social effects of play.

 

I'm now reading Kerouac's Big Sur. I thought his earlier writing was good (and it was) but this prosaic picture of alcohol-inspired insanity and its heavy tolls is gripping.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, I was expecting the library to take the book back and repair it, too, but I guess it was a lost cause in their eyes. I was kind of surprised it got that bad, since I also like to take care of books I check out.

 

The only reason I can think of that weakened the binding that much would be accidentally leaving the book in a car all night in chilly temperatures (and accidentally dropping it on an angle on the bus sure didn't help).

Link to post
Share on other sites

After reading Jennifer Government back in 2006, I finally bought two more books by Max Barry; Company and Syrup. The latter has yet to arrive, but I read the former in a single night last week. Same thing happened back then. They're just impossible to put down.

 

Edit: Syrup's here, and I just ordered Machine Man to complete my collection.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hopefully "Towers of Midnight" and "A Memory of Light" measure up.

 

I just finished 1Q84, which was decent, but could probably have accomplished the same effect in half the length. I believe that completes my attempt to read all of the potential choices for our ill-fated bookclub. Speaking of which, does anyone want to try that again? With an actual live AIM/CalRef discussion at the end of it?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, it's good, too. He's got a thing for Russian rulers. But he makes you think that a couple of them were some of the best arguments autocracy ever had.

 

He got into it, at least in part, because his son was hemophiliac. So he got interested in the role that Alexei's hemophilia had played in the collapse of the Romanov monarchy. Massie's son survived, however, though he has had some severe health troubles related to his disease. He has had an interesting career of his own. Among other things he turned out to be naturally resistant to HIV. He was an associate priest at the church I attended when we lived in Boston, so I knew him a bit. He really needed a liver transplant for a long time, but he went too quickly from not-quite-sick-enough to too-sick. Somehow he hung in there, and medical technology advanced, and he finally got a transplant a couple of years ago. His health is now much better, and with the new liver, he doesn't even have hemophilia any more.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished A Memory of Light the final volume (telephone book) in the Wheel of Time series. Brandon Sanderson managed to do in one book what Robert Jordan would have taken three to write. Pretty much every loose thread was tied together to explain what was happening and who was on the Shadow's side with all the different names. Several nice plot twists and uses of small scenes in earlier books in the Last Battle.

 

Better than the last few Robert Jordan books in the series. Some of the scenes were a bit short especially with the complexity of the battle scenes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished The Wasp Factory this evening. I don't know if it's because I read it for my Gender and Identity class and knew what to expect, or if I'm desensitized to a lot of stuff, or if I'm slightly mentally unhinged, but I did not get shocked or disturbed by anything in there. Of course, I'm only assuming it was meant to be shocking because a lot of reviews and articles I've read suggested I should have been, and because various classmates called it 'disgusting', but I actually really enjoyed it...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished The Wasp Factory this evening. I don't know if it's because I read it for my Gender and Identity class and knew what to expect, or if I'm desensitized to a lot of stuff, or if I'm slightly mentally unhinged, but I did not get shocked or disturbed by anything in there. Of course, I'm only assuming it was meant to be shocking because a lot of reviews and articles I've read suggested I should have been, and because various classmates called it 'disgusting', but I actually really enjoyed it...

 

if you've read any of banks' SF novels you probably kind of already had an idea what to expect, he touches on a lot of the same themes in those as he does in his literary novels

Link to post
Share on other sites

if you've read any of banks' SF novels you probably kind of already had an idea what to expect, he touches on a lot of the same themes in those as he does in his literary novels

 

he's been on my list for a while, but this was the first time i've read anything by him, hence my surprise at not being shocked, not even at the murder scenes. i ordered the state of art and matter from amazon this evening, so i'll see how i like them.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

The first five novels in the Temeraire series. There are a couple of flaws, most notably the overuse of action-heavy, in media res-type openings, and I might very well be missing some flaws relating to the time period and settings, but overall it's fine reading. The other two books in the series might stumble, though, since I've seen some bad reviews.

 

The Wisdom of Birds. It focuses too much on European history and reproduction, but the writing is elegant and varied, the information is well explained, and the illustrations complement the writing. A really, really good book.

 

Dikiyoba.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The first five novels in the Temeraire series.

I love this series. Haven't read it in awhile, and unfortunately I lost the first four. Now I only have VoE, which is coincidentally the last one I read :/

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, Tongues of Serpents wasn't very good, but Crucible of Gold was fine. It did spent too much time in the Incan Empire and not enough time in Brazil, though.

 

Tongues of Serpents wasn't incredible, but it was better than Empire of Ivory. I feel exactly as you do about Crucible of Gold.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hoping to read scorpion Soup by Tahir Shah but instead I read psychology articles: Allport and Postman on rumor, jackobson on communication and hierarchy, Weiner on feedback, Heider's theory on consistence, Shanon and Weaver on communication, Bateson and Wazlawick and Anzieu and Martin on motivations In communication.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I'm alternating Gap Cycle books with Michelle West (Sagara)'s The House War books. I'm still convinced that she's one of the sadly unrecognized luminaries of epic fantasy, in the vein of Jordan but better and GRRM but over the top instead of gritty. An interesting aspect of the beginning of the series is that it's something of a retelling of an earlier series. There's more emphasis on some characters who only got some screen time before, and some characters who were only background get time in the limelight, but what really stands out is how much the author has improved. The first duology in the world was quite good, but this iteration is better.

 

 

 

On the other hand, it also tips into melodrama a little too much for many people's taste, probably. It's an accurate depiction of the rollercoaster emotions of a preteen, probably, but there's only so much angst and guilt one can stomach. I've been reading at the same time as a friend, and we've occasionally had to look at each other, clutch our chests, and moan, "Duster!"

 

 

 

—Alorael, who has noticed that the last Thomas Covenant book is also due out this year. Maybe he'll start an Unbeliever rereading and then pick up the Last Chronicles and go through the whole series in one binge.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Aside from The Brothers Karamazov, which has been going well so far, I'm reading The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg. It's a really fascinating essay that attempts to reconstruct peasant culture in Europe during the sixteenth century based on a limited supply of literature available at the time and the transcripts of a heretic's trial. The heretic, a miller in Italy, advocates a peculiar type of theology and cosmogony that draws aspects from the texts he read; however, more critically, it has many wholly unique aspects that indicate he was synthesizing aspects of peasant oral culture into his belief system. Thus, the previously shrouded "lower" culture that has been obscured by the material dominance of the "higher culture" of the nobility, church, and well-educated in Europe at the time begins to be revealed, and its influence on future trends can be examined further.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Tongues of Serpents wasn't incredible, but it was better than Empire of Ivory.

Empire of Ivory had its flaws, but its ending

where Temeraire and Laurence give the cure to the French

is one of the best in the series.

 

Dikiyoba.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...