What Book Did You Read Last Night??? (1 Viewer)

Cornu Ammonis

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Currently reading the first of these Brandon Sanderson Mistborn novels and a few chapters in I can tell it's going to be dreadful because everyone is just walking around "raising an eyebrow" at each other in lieu of having a personality.
I had never heard of him until yesterday when my friend was telling me about a €32million kickstarter that he was doing.
 

Cormcolash

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I've been reading some modern fantasy and my god it's woeful.

Read both of those Patrick Rothfuss novels, kind of a cool magic system and lore but terrible characters, terrible plot, terrible writing, top to bottom awful. Will probably read the third if he ever finishes it all the same.

Currently reading the first of these Brandon Sanderson Mistborn novels and a few chapters in I can tell it's going to be dreadful because everyone is just walking around "raising an eyebrow" at each other in lieu of having a personality.

The bar is so fucking low in the world of fantasy novels I had no idea.
The Rothfuss ones are great in places, but they're messy for sure. And it's been about 9 fucking years or something since he finished the second one...
 

magicbastarder

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currently reading 'a for andromeda' by fred hoyle; took a while to get going but it's getting good. some of the writing is kinda gauche ('he had the sort of hands you could imagine handling large objects' sort of stuff) but the plot is good after the slow start.
i'd barely been aware of the original TV series (unsurprisingly) but was surprised to see it was remade 15 years ago.
 

snakybus

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In which I dump all my book reviews on you all so I can go back in future years and remember what I read/thought.

Children Are Civilians Too by Heinrich Boll – I’ve been dipping in and out of this collection of minimalist short stories, mostly set in post WW2 Germany. Grand, I would say.

Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy – The Victorians sure did like the theme of the tragic, rebellious woman kicking against the forces of staid conservatism, huh? This was great anyway. All the things you expect from a sprawling Hardy epic – the chorus of comical country folk, non-nonsense agricultural types, lengthy depictions of nature and main characters being repeatedly put through the shit. All of which probably wasn’t a great choice for a January read (which is when I read this), but anyway.

Love Notes from A German Building Site by Adrian Duncan – A story about an Irish guy who works as a structural engineer in Berlin. I was recommended this by a certain hit writer who used to be ‘round these parts (take your pick) and while it was really good in places, I felt it was unfinished. The idea of the love notes was weird – they were just notes he took about the German language (sorry, spoiler) and I didn’t see why they were called this, other than supporting the catchy title, which may be an idiotic thing for me to say but, well, I just didn’t get it. Also, it’s a weird thing to say as a criticism of a book but it could have done with an edit and even a proofread. Some really inventive ideas in it all the same and good writing. I'll check out his further writings for sure.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – I was a bit disappointed by this, maybe because I was expecting it to be another Neuromancer. I think this has gotten a lot of kudos because he came up with the terms Metaverse and avatar back in the late ‘80s, and predicted Google Earth. But actually what’s really interesting about the book is his explorations of language and his bringing the idea of the namshub, which is a sort of ancient Sumerian curse, into the world of the Internet (which hadn’t happened yet). But the adventure story that makes up the main plot left me cold.

Use of Weapons by Iain M Banks – Another book by the writer who tends to generate the most conversation around these parts. I'm working my way through the Culture series one by one and as far as I know this is considered as one of the best. It was pretty enjoyable all right, although I’ll have to say the whole big-reveal thing that Iain Banks does is a bit airport-novelly, which is unfair because he was a literary writer in every other way and in this book was pretty outstanding in lots of places. For those familiar with this, did you find the dual-narrative a bit confusing for the first half of the book? Maybe that’s just me – the alternative narrative working backwards was a test for sure. When it headed toward the end it got a bit easier but to be honest I was never 100% clear what actually happened, and I actually didn’t care that much. There's a part of me that thinks that maybe M was the Neil Gaiman of his time - obvious brilliance but argh, just a touch lightweight.

The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke – Oddly, although I’ve known about Arthur C Clarke my whole life, this was the first book by him that I’ve read. It was predictably good, really well written and everything you’d expect from classic, 1970s sci fi. Solid, enjoyable stuff.

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K Dick – This was a surprise. Dick was a great ideas guy and in the past my only complaints were around his awkward prose style and offbeat hard-to-get humour. This is one of his less famous book from his “religious” phase that includes Valis so I was expecting more of the same. But it’s surprisingly engaging, with a smooth and balanced prose style that’s both interesting and fluid. It’s also a really interesting story about a bishop who goes through a crisis of belief over the course of a number of years and is quite poignant in this. It never tries to answer the questions the bishop asks, but leaves things open. The only complaint I had was that it’s a little light in dealing with the subject matter, but that was a small matter and I’m definitely going to read more 'religious Dick'.

The Other Name by Jon Fosse – Pretty extraordinary, haute-literary tome with lots of what that implies, such as highly experimental prose styles, not a huge amount of plot but lots of internalised musings, confusing characterisations and plotlines to the point that you’re unsure if the narrator is in a dream state a la a Beckett play character or something like that, and childish but quasi-philosophical conversations between scruffy old men and drunk women. But thoroughly, addictively readable and it amazes me how the main prose style choice (though there are others), the old one-sentence novel trick, achieves all of this and establishes tension in the right places. Plus it’s set in Norway, which is a great vibe if you mean literary business. Oh and this is parts 1 and 2 of a septology. May as well read the lot now.
 

magicbastarder

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i read 'use of weapons' recently and would agree with you regarding the reveal. i think sometimes he can let obvious plot holes in through the sprawling nature of his plotlines, so you're swamped with detail and miss out on them.
e.g. in 'the algebraist' - a non-culture M novel - FTL is not possible, but at times messages/information seems to get around instantaneously, which i guess we're just supposed to not spot.
 

Denny Oubidoux

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Recent reads for me

Xstabeth by David Keenan
In St Petersburg, Russia, Aneliya is torn between the love of her father and her father’s best friend. Her father dreams of becoming a great musician but suffers with a naivete that means he will never be taken seriously. Her father’s best friend has a penchant for vodka, strip clubs and moral philosophy.

When an angelic presence named Xstabeth enters their lives – a presence who simultaneously fulfils and disappears those she touches – Aneliya and her father’s world is transformed.
I gave up on This Is Memorial Device and don't know why I bought this but I did and I really liked it. The Russian parts struck me as highly unrealistic but I don't know if they were meant to be realistic or not so it didn't worry me too much.

The Malacia Tapestry by Brian Aldiss
In Malacia, a city where change is forbidden and radical ideas are crushed, a war like no other is about to commence...
This is the first time i've reread a book since I was about 12. I have a load of unread books to read. I read this about 15 years ago and loved it, I still loved it this time but not quite as much.

Uncentering the Earth: Copernicus and The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres by William T. Vollmann
In 1543, the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus lay on his deathbed, reportedly holding his just-published masterpiece, The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, in his hands. Placing the sun at the center of the universe, Copernicus launched modern science, leading to a completely new understanding of the universe, and humanity's place within it.
I've had this in a box for years. It seems Vollmann was asked to contribute to a series of books and I presume he did it for the money. This kind of scientific biography does not seem to be his thing although his writing is enjoyable enough.

The Man From London by Georges Simenon
On a foggy winter's evening in Dieppe, after the arrival of the daily ferry from England, a railway signalman habitually scrutinizes the port from his tiny, isolated cabin. When a scuffle on the quayside catches his eye, he is drawn to the scene of a brutal murder and his once quiet life changes forever
Easy, entertaining holiday reading
 

snakybus

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i read 'use of weapons' recently and would agree with you regarding the reveal. i think sometimes he can let obvious plot holes in through the sprawling nature of his plotlines, so you're swamped with detail and miss out on them.
e.g. in 'the algebraist' - a non-culture M novel - FTL is not possible, but at times messages/information seems to get around instantaneously, which i guess we're just supposed to not spot.
hmm yeah, that's one that I hope to get to eventually. Good otherwise?
 

magicbastarder

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i've been on a bit of a binge rereading iain m banks, and just finished 'matter'; it seems to be fairly widely regarded as one of the weakest Culture novels, but i really like it.
 

pete

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egg_

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Read both of those Patrick Rothfuss novels, kind of a cool magic system and lore but terrible characters, terrible plot, terrible writing, top to bottom awful. Will probably read the third if he ever finishes it all the same.
I disagree with all of this. I thought they were both (and especially the first one was) great. Way too long, and the main character was preposterously good at everything, and why in the name of god do authors love framing devices so much? ... but still it was a rip-roaring adventure story, and isn't that why people read fantasy?
 

egg_

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There's a part of me that thinks that maybe M was the Neil Gaiman of his time - obvious brilliance but argh, just a touch lightweight.
I actually started an essay once on why Iain Banks is better than Neil Gaiman. The basic premise of the essay was that in Gaiman's work imagination/belief is reality - like if you're a Gaiman character you need to belieeeeeve to enter a magical world where the rules are all different, and a big chunk of each book is exploring the ins and outs of those imaginary/magical rules. In Banks reality is reality, and even the big spaceships have to deal with it - and most of the ins and outs of the books are power dynamics between characters rather than the lore of the universe they're in. IMO the main overarching theme of Bank's sci-fi is exploring how an abundant anarchist society might work, whereas Gaiman's is "ooh imagine if believing in fairies made them subjectively real"

(I acknowledge that Bank's characters, even in his non sci-fi, are impossibly cool and beautiful, and that does take away from his character development a bit, and maybe makes his whole oeuvre a little bit lightweight ... but still he's better than Gaiman)
 

snakybus

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I think what you're describing in Gaiman's work is fairly standard magical realism - or rather, fabulism, as it's not political/set in South America - and something he's done quite a lot of, mixing in some horror and all that. I think he does it really well but I'm just not much into fantasy. As a (mainly) science fiction writer, of course Iain Banks is going to be dealing a different sort of thing - whether you buy into it or not depends, I guess, on who you are and what you like, and I like that more. But really I was more comparing tone and characterisation and deftness of plotting. Either way, FWIW I do agree.
 

Shine Vol. 2

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I disagree with all of this. I thought they were both (and especially the first one was) great. Way too long, and the main character was preposterously good at everything, and why in the name of god do authors love framing devices so much? ... but still it was a rip-roaring adventure story, and isn't that why people read fantasy?
It's not specifically why i read fantasy, no, even still i didn't find it rip-roaring at all, but that's ok, he has sold 20 million or something copies so he's doing fine and my opinion is in the minority. In fairness, they're better written than Mistborn.
 

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