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Add me to the parade. The whole series is good, but there's a major shift between the first trilogy (and coda) and the next 6 books. The Dread Empire series, or at least the middle trilogy, is also quite good. Garrett is my favorite of his writing, though.

 

—Alorael, who inherited the old classic House of God yesterday. It's sadly missing some pages. He'll have to acquire another copy or get something else to read.

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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

The Black Company was really pretty striking when it first came out. It was gritty fantasy, and also quirky in a way that reinforced the grittiness — odd details turned out to be vitally important, even though they didn't seem as though they obviously had to be. That could have come out as stupidly arbitrary, but it somehow made it over a threshold and worked, at least for me, as the brute facts of life not being tailored to human expectations. You ended up taking things a lot more seriously just because of how odd they seemed. I guess it's because a lot of very important details in the real world are things you'd never have expected, or could easily have overlooked. Cook managed to get enough grit in the story for the quirkiness to seem like added realism.

 

For instance, learning a person's true name was terribly important, just as in lots of stories; the quirky bit was that true names were things like Mary Smith, and you found them out by looking up old birth certificates, or something. Could have been dumb, but it worked; figuring out people's original given names wound up being a more gripping quest than any search for mystic runes or magic gems.

 

I agree that at some point the series went downhill, but I don't remember just when that was, for me. I think part of it was a weird form of villain creep. Characters that had been mere mini-bosses in the first trilogy somehow morphed into worse things than their original dread overlords had ever been. It wasn't blatantly inconsistent in terms of in-world rules — I'm sure there was some passable excuse — but it was pretty brutally inconsistent in flavor and style. Like some Gran Moff from Revenge of the Jedi appearing in Episode 7 as ten times the badass Darth Vader ever was.

 

Otherwise, even the first three volumes might not be as impressive now as they seemed at the time, simply because I think a lot of people have copied the look and feel of the Black Company, at least to some extent, and it doesn't seem so original any more. But I think it really was.

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The Black Company were the anti-heroes. A mercenary company brought in to do the dirty work for their employer and because they kept a recorded history, they fully expected to be cheated by their employer for doing their job. But no matter how evil their reputation was within a few chapters they found that they were being hired by an even greater evil.

 

The series was different because it looked at what was good and evil. The established rulers were evil and the rebels were the good guys. But here you got to see the world from the "evil" side and see that they were just trying to survive and provide stability so most people could have a normal life. After the first book you got to see that there were degrees of evil and even then preventing a worse evil could unite different factions.

 

The second series was the Black Company just wanting to go home. The journey had them fighting because of their past reputation that they didn't know existed. It became a myth story that you see in Lost and other TV shows where uncovering what happened in the past will explain what is happening in the present. It went downhill in quality because so many things didn't make sense until you get to the last few books and get the origin story of the Black Company.

 

One of the things I like were the asides like the perpetual games of Tonk that they played during the quiet periods. Much like Asprin's Dragon Poker in his Myth books, you get enough of the game rules to follow the game without still being able to play it yourself. Then after a long build up you have a hand where one player leaves for a few moments and the other players rig the deck so the missing player thinks he will win the hand only to find that everyone else has a better hand. Just one more prank to provide some humor.

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I've introduced some friends to The Black Company in the last couple of years and they've been won over as fervent enough fans to devour the full ten book series rapidly, so I think it's still stood the test of time.

 

Cook's style has something to it that really makes the stories work, but I think the genericness of the first trilogy really helps, surprisingly. The fact that names are often adjectives, or simply common English names, and towns are often nouns (or the oddly-named Barbara, which has stuck with me years later!) gives the whole thing a feeling of odd familiarity. It's not in a clear fantasyland. There's plenty of grim and gritty fantasy, but the Black Company isn't really grim. Bad things happen as a matter of course, but that's just the thing: it's a matter of course. It's all taken with weary lack of surprise. They play tonk whether they've got quiet work as glorified town guards or they're fending off supernatural horrors.

 

I can't even describe what sells it so well, but I think what really hurt the later books most is that the setting lost its oddity and became firmly placed. Specifically, placed in fantasy India. India's an underused setting, but having the Company getting mired in the local ethnic and religious politics sold the real strengths of the series short.

 

—Alorael, who always got the sense that there wasn't inflation of villainy. Just that the big villains were so big that their removal meant that secondary villains could credibly serve as immense dangers. They were only small fry relative to the really horrible existential threats.

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Despite the criticisms (which I won't argue with), I've been enjoying the GRRM Ice and Fire books. I'm currently about half way through Feast of Crows (#4). Yes, there is more violence than I would like, and yes it is hard to find a true "good guy", but I still find the story compelling. To be honest, the lack of a real hero doesn't bother me - everyone is shades of grey in the series, and I find that interesting.

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Anne Rice, The Wolf Gift.. and re reading "The Witching Hour" I do love Anne Rice's work.. :)

And I am also reading the Dexter books by Jeff Lindsay .

P.S - I too have started to read the GRRM Ice and Fire books.. Half way through the first book so far :) Pretty good so far :)

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I've been going through a backlog of books I bought and never got around to reading. Before a friend borrows it and it passes around through his friends and co-workers:

 

Shepherd Mead's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying written back in 1932. I needed a refresher in how to get something for almost nothing and the book expands on some points not in the later movie. It's a fast read with lots of illustrations and an almost power point presentation of the important points with examples.

 

I recommend it to anyone looking for a job that isn't in a service industry. It's intended for getting to the top in a manufacturing company where you avoid doing the manufacturing. So it works well in our current off shoring out sourcing environment.

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What do you think of it? It's on my list - I've enjoyed a number of Stephenson's books, but haven't gotten to Reamde yet.

 

Barely 40 pages in so far, which is still pretty much character exposition. It's promising, and the themes (and atmosphere) seem to overlap with Cryptonomicon somewhat. The style so far feels similar too.

 

Edit: It took me embarrassingly long to catch the Tolkien cameo in the character Donald Cameron, Cambridge professor and fantasy author. (The parallels just keep coming, like his obsession with language and inventing words. He writes his first draft in the in-universe language. To be frank, once he opens his mouth he practically becomes JRR. I'm pretty sure that when he mentions starting "rather with words and language and constructed all upon that foundation" he's either quoting or paraphrasing him. )

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Hmm.

I read mianly fantasy. Few last books will tell You nothing like:

Eugeniusz Dębski - O Włos od Piwa

Feliks W. Kres - Strażniczka Istnień

Wojciech Świdziniewski - Kłopoty w Hamdirholm

 

But lately i was visiting Books Antique Fair and for very low price i bought 5 first books of Robert E. Howard "Conan".

And that is what i am reading at the moment.

 

P.S> Low prices mean 2-3 PLN per book (for example new book cost 30-40 PLN).

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Well, they've signed the treaty, but according to Wikipedia the constitutional amendment for the currency change has neither the required 2/3 majority (national conservative opposition is too strong), nor popular support. The Euro isn't looking too hot right now, I guess.

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Barely 40 pages in so far, which is still pretty much character exposition. It's promising, and the themes (and atmosphere) seem to overlap with Cryptonomicon somewhat. The style so far feels similar too.

 

Edit: It took me embarrassingly long to catch the Tolkien cameo in the character Donald Cameron, Cambridge professor and fantasy author. (The parallels just keep coming, like his obsession with language and inventing words. He writes his first draft in the in-universe language. To be frank, once he opens his mouth he practically becomes JRR. I'm pretty sure that when he mentions starting "rather with words and language and constructed all upon that foundation" he's either quoting or paraphrasing him. )

Excellent, Cryptonomicon was my introduction to Stephenson, and one of my favorite all time books. Looking forward to Reamde!

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What do you think of it? It's on my list - I've enjoyed a number of Stephenson's books, but haven't gotten to Reamde yet.

I was disappointed. It started off okay, but halfway through

the plot was hijacked by a terrorist and everything about the virtual world ended up irrelevant.

 

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I'm 39% through REAMDE (this is the first book I'm reading on an e-reader) and am indeed missing a lot of what I loved about Cryptonomicon - the rambling asides, rapid shifts in style and perspective, attention to detail, etcetera.

 

The characters are great, but after this whetted my appetite with virtual currencies, cryptography, metaverses, crowd phenomena (WoR) etc., the endless chases and shootouts in Xiamen are a bit of a letdown.

By conservation of detail, I'm sure that the threads will come together at some point, but it feels a bit bogged down. Currently on the boat with Zula and Yuxia.

 

Edit: And yeah, the end was basically one huge shootout scene. No intriguing yet scientifically unsound mind virus, no van-Eck phreaking or cryptography. Thumbs down. :|

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have, at long last, starting in on Vlad Taltos with Jhereg. I read some of the Khaavren books long ago and gave up on Steven Brust, but I think he deserves a fair shot when he's not writing in a deliberately silly style. Or at leas a differently silly style.

 

—Alorael, who appreciates an author who can matter-of-factly mention, in passing, revivification of the dead as a matter of course and millenia-old undead at tea to make a point about someone being unnecessarily touchy.

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I liked those books when they first came out but the series somehow went downhill enough that I stopped reading it. I forget exactly what my complaints were, but I think it was mainly that he'd pulled out so many stops early in the series that he ran out of comparably interesting things to do after that. Just jumped the shark, I suppose.

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Some of the later stories are more in the style of the Khaavren series. Especially when the story isn't narrated by Vlad. Also Brust is building towards a future plot point that keeps the recent stories from being as straight forward as the first few ones.

 

He still has the occasional well written line. But not letting Vlad kill anything that gets in his way is slowing it down.

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Well, sometime over the summer I found a paperback copy of The Eye of the World, which got me to start rereading the Wheel of Time series. One thing I've noticed is that things were way less serious back then, which I guess is kind of obvious, considering how ignorant they were of the outside world at the time. I've just finished reading The Dragon Reborn a few days ago, although now I have to wait for the person who has the next book checked out to return it.

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Despite the criticisms (which I won't argue with), I've been enjoying the GRRM Ice and Fire books. I'm currently about half way through Feast of Crows (#4). Yes, there is more violence than I would like, and yes it is hard to find a true "good guy", but I still find the story compelling. To be honest, the lack of a real hero doesn't bother me - everyone is shades of grey in the series, and I find that interesting.

I finished Feast For Crows last week, and I have to say I liked it more than I expected. I had seen reviews saying that it was the slowest, least interesting of the books in the series. I will admit that it was a bit slower paced, but I loved the world-building aspects of it - reading about new places and new parts of the history. Also, it seemed to do some necessary tying up of loose ends after all the events that happened in Storm of Swords, and some "moving of pieces" to set up what I'm hoping are going be some really interesting events in the future. Now I'm looking forward to finding out what the other half of the characters were up to during all of this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've been reading a so-called pocket guide. I won't tell you what it's a guide for, but I will tell you that it's over 1000 pages long and has mass-market paperback dimensions. Someone has very odd ideas of how big my pockets are.

 

—Alorael, who also needs to avoid any riddle contests any time in the immediate future.

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I've been reading a so-called pocket guide. I won't tell you what it's a guide for, but I will tell you that it's over 1000 pages long and has mass-market paperback dimensions. Someone has very odd ideas of how big my pockets are.

 

is it the sort of book that would be primarily read by the kind of person who still wears cargo pants in 2013. because that would explain it

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It's a good book, except that you have to take the last chapter or so with a grain of salt. Hawking explains some stuff there that essentially nobody but he believes in, but he still gives the impression that it's as well accepted as the stuff in the previous chapters.

 

I read the whole book believing it was standard stuff, and now I have lost my copy, which particular topic was covered in that chapter?

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is it the sort of book that would be primarily read by the kind of person who still wears cargo pants in 2013. because that would explain it

Actually, a 1000-page book wouldn't fit in most cargo pants pockets either. I could manage a 825-page standard-sized paperback book, but barely. Also, what do you have against cargo pants?

 

Dikiyoba recently re-read Watership Down. It's not perfect, but it's a darn good book. Sadly, the sequel is pretty bad.

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I read the whole book believing it was standard stuff, and now I have lost my copy, which particular topic was covered in that chapter?

It's been a while since I read the thing, but I think it was the Euclidean spacetime stuff, where somehow in quantum gravity time isn't really any different from space at all. This leads to cosmology in which there isn't really any sharp 'Big Bang' beginning to time, or something. Far from being generally accepted, this is essentially just Hawking's own pet theory. It has a couple of cute features, but most people just find it bizarre and arbitrary. It hasn't fared particularly well in the years since that book was written, either. It never really caught on. Lots of people have looked for various alternatives to the Big Bang, in some kind of quantum theory, but there's no consensus that Hawking's version got this right.

 

Arg: I don't seem to have kept my copy. I used to move every few years and purge my library aggressively whenever I did. I must have decided that although it was a neat book there was nothing in it that I didn't already know well, so I wouldn't ever re-read it, so away it went.

 

So I can't check just what it was that I felt took a misleading turn.

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I also wear cargo pants on occasion. I haven't tried the cargo pockets, but I suspect that while it might fit in the pocket the book wouldn't make it through the opening on top.

 

—Alorael, who's also still chewing through Vlad Taltos books. He can see the breakdown of the author's marriage in them, which is interesting, but the series seems to peak early and then wander oddly. Disconnected, disaffected protagonists aren't very strong links to a world, and you can't sustain that for more than part of a book. Brust, to his credit, seems to have recognized this. Unfortunately his solution was no solution at all.

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I've been reading a so-called pocket guide. I won't tell you what it's a guide for, but I will tell you that it's over 1000 pages long and has mass-market paperback dimensions. Someone has very odd ideas of how big my pockets are.

 

—Alorael, who also needs to avoid any riddle contests any time in the immediate future.

 

Is it a spotter's guide to pockets?

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Lois McMaster Bujold's Captain Vorpatril's Alliance looks at the life and misadventures of Miles Vorkosigan's cousin Ivan. A simple job of helping out Imperial Security with getting information about a woman with possibly a false identity leads to rescuing a damsel in distress. Ivan's plan to solve her problem and his with the law would have worked except he forgot to consider what his relatives would do.

 

Much funnier than other books in the series with some great lines and phrases.

 

Ivan has found a safe niche in the military and intends to fight off any attempts to make him leave it.

"And still ducking promotions, are you, Captain Vorpatril?"

"Yes. And succeeding, no thanks to you."

 

... "I talk in my sleep? About classified ...?"

"It's kind of hard to tell." Tej composed her mouth into Ivan Xav's accent and cadence, and recited, "Don't eat that avocado, Admiral, it's gone blue. The blue ones have shifty eyes."

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I read Captain Vorpatril a while ago, too. It was worth reading, a nice little story if you didn't know the whole saga, and interesting to see a few persistent minor characters get some time in the limelight, if you do know the whole saga. On the other hand it's pretty, well, tepid compared to the peaks of the series, like Mirror Dance, say.

 

In some ways that's just what it has to be. The whole point of Ivan is that he doesn't have Miles's manic urgency. Even his big adventure is going to be a lot less edgy. But once the series gets round to Ivan's big adventure, you know you're in epilogue country.

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It's been a while since I read the thing, but I think it was the Euclidean spacetime stuff, where somehow in quantum gravity time isn't really any different from space at all. This leads to cosmology in which there isn't really any sharp 'Big Bang' beginning to time, or something. Far from being generally accepted, this is essentially just Hawking's own pet theory. It has a couple of cute features, but most people just find it bizarre and arbitrary. It hasn't fared particularly well in the years since that book was written, either. It never really caught on. Lots of people have looked for various alternatives to the Big Bang, in some kind of quantum theory, but there's no consensus that Hawking's version got this right.

 

Arg: I don't seem to have kept my copy. I used to move every few years and purge my library aggressively whenever I did. I must have decided that although it was a neat book there was nothing in it that I didn't already know well, so I wouldn't ever re-read it, so away it went.

 

So I can't check just what it was that I felt took a misleading turn.

 

In my ebook version, the explanation of Euclidean space-time, and imaginary time, starts around page 106.

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