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What have you been reading recently?

Alorael at Large

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I've started learning Japanese; learning lists of words is so boring to me that I decided to read "real" books in Japanese. I read slowly, learn the vocabulary and the grammar on the way and it feels really better. 😀

The book I chose is マインドクロン (Mindclone) by David T. Wolf.

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Books. Oh no.


The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom, by H. W. Brands. Pretty good. Relatively breezy; not really a parallel bio so much as the story of the end of slavery in America as related through the acts of two pivotal figures. Not enough detail on Lincoln and colonization, perhaps inevitably.

Tolstoy: Selected Stories, by Leo Tolstoy. Alright. Too often straightforwardly moral/allegorical, intermittently brilliant (cf "The Death of Ivan Ilych"). Tolstoy is a guy who I can respect even when I disagree with his particular moral positions, which is not infrequent.

The Underdogs, by Mariano Azuela. The Novel of the Mexican Revolution; I found it only intermittently effective; its fragmentary structure and deliberate emotional distance from the characters and events in it were kind of wearying.

If Death Ever Slept, by Rex Stout. Another Nero Wolfe novel. This one was pretty haphazard. It feels like Stout himself didn't know "whodunnit" till the last chapter.

What Have I Done?: The Stories of Mark Clifton, by Mark Clifton. Post-Golden Age, pre-New Wave science fiction with thematic preoccupations of paradox, psychology, hypocrisy, etc. Some of it fluff, some of it quite good (Clifton won the Cordwainer Smith Award for Unjust Obscurity some years ago). It's sad that Clifton died before being able to develop further as an author, as the later stories are much stronger than the earlier ones.

The Great Thinking Machine: "The Problem of Cell 13" and Other Stories, by Jacques Futrelle. Futrelle is famous for the title story here, and for dying on the Titanic. These are fairly barebones puzzle-story-type detective stories. They were entertaining, but Futrelle is remembered for that one story for a reason.

The Best Martin Hewitt Detective Stories, by Arthur Morrison. Quite good; appearing during the Great Hiatus, Hewitt is kind of a deliberate anti-Holmes, being a brilliant detective who happens to be an extremely normal guy.

The Best Dr. Thorndyke Detective Stories, by R. Austin Freeman. The inverted detective stories- a form Freeman invented- are good, especially the first, "The Case of Oscar Brodski." The more-conventional stories here are inconsistent and can feel kinda padded.

The Best Max Carrados Detective Stories, by Ernest Bramah. Notable as the first blind detective of fiction; these stories incorporate popular melodrama into detective fiction in a way that has been retrospectively seen as foreshadowing Golden Age detective stories (the first batch of Carrados stories appeared in 1913). Charming, but not all-timers.


I am currently soldiering my way through the thorough and very dense "Passage through Armageddon: The Russians in War and Revolution, 1914-1918" by W. Bruce Lincoln. I am at last to 1917. They just offed Rasputin. The end is in sight.

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