Book Thread 2021

Let’s start off 2021 with something cheesy.

Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization by Paul Kindstedt

The title says it all - this book takes a trip through the history of western civilization and points out where cheese fits in along the way. The cheese is part of the larger impact of agriculture, of course, since you need animals to get the milk to make the cheese. I found it particularly interesting when the author explained how the geography and/or societal restrictions impacted the types of cheese being made - for instance, when highland farmers developed low-salt methods of cheesemaking since it was hard to transport the salt up the mountains.

That sounds like a great vacation read. I want to read that book sitting by a lake.

For me, I demolished Murderbot 4 (Exit Strategy) in a single sitting. Network Effect should be coming up within a week or so from the library, I’m so excited! Wells is a treasure.

Been working my way through the Laundry Files. They’re good enough to keep me reading but not like jazzed about it…well, until the vampire one and now the one that follows the autism-spectrum math vampire as a narrator. I’m getting pretty bored. Might just be done with them. The Bond one was probably the highlight for me; that was clever and well executed.

Picked up The Twelve again from the library and find myself once again flagging as I try to slog through Cronin’s turgid prose and ponderous, meandering storytelling. This is the sequel to The Passage, where feral science vampires who are definitely not magic collapse the US in a combo zombie/plague apocalypse, but Jesus an immortal girl with magic science blood wanders the wasteland having feelings about whether or not society is worth rebuilding or something. Love the premise, but all the Christian allusions and downright glacial pacing might doom this one for me again.

For the moment I’m starting up an Iron Druid reread. I put it solidly a tier below Alex Verus, Dresden, and Rivers of London, but I still enjoy the hell out of those books. Bonus points for being actually honest-to-goodness finished.

100%. And you’ll love Network Effect, which I just finished. Not that you had any doubt, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, that was a series that did not pay off its early promise. Not unlike the Chuck Hogan (supposedly Guillermo del Toro was involved but I don’t know how much) vampire series starting with The Strain…I liked that first book and then wow did the sequel suck. I don’t think I even bothered with the third?

I just finished Escape from Five Shadows by Elmore Leonard. Leonard is my favorite page-turner writer. He does great dialog, has characters I always like, though they are often the same character book after book, and just writes so well. He’s exquisite.

This is one of his westerns from the 1950s. He always wrote with an eye towards selling, and westerns were hot back then so that’s what he wrote. He switched to crime in the 1960s and stuck with that for the rest of his career.

I’ve read all his crime books and many of his westerns, but the westerns are the last things of his I still have yet to read. Every book has been a pleasure.

Started reading KSR’s Ministry for the Future. Starts out a bit depressing, but if I know KSR, he’s got some hope tucked in his back pocket. Sobering though.

Yeah, I had a similar experience. Barely made it through The Passage and just couldn’t stomach The Twelve. I had really high hopes for this series and spent years salivating, waiting for him to finish the trilogy. Such a disappointment.

Just finished the new Rebus, always quality.

Reading Red Rising , which I think was recommended here. Pretty good although it took me a bit to get used to the first person present tense narrative.

I’m almost done with Will Wight’s Uncrowned, part of the Cradle series. Finally a book in the series that’s just plain fun. In a series in which characters are like RPG characters in a video game (a premise I find mildly annoying), finally you have a book in which they’re taking part in a tournament! So the themes of the book actually fit the setting perfectly, and I think that’s why it’s just been a blast to read.

I think this is the last book I have in the Series, which isn’t finished yet. So I can finally start digging into my book backlog in earnest again.

What? No. Finishing Uncrowned will leave you unsatisfied and hollow. You need to grab the next book, Wintersteel immediately for continuation and an absurd amount of enjoyment.

So I keep seeing people on this site praising the Will Wight Cradle series and I tried the first book Unsouled a while back and I stopped reading maybe 100-150 pages in.

Trying to explain what I didn’t care for will take some effort b/c I didn’t bounce off the series for a common or obvious reason. The writing seemed at least decent and the fantasy ideas were interesting but I had issues with the society that was depicted in the first book.

I like fantasy and I like RPGs, and I’ve even enjoyed some LitRPG books, but the society depicted in Unsouled seemed ridiculous to me and I had very little interest in the characters as well. I’m not complaining about the fantasy macguffin elements which were fine but rather I couldn’t really care about the society - the society depicted felt so hierarchical and anti-individualistic that I felt no connection to the characters. This is one of my limitations for sci-fi and fantasy: you can make up all kinds of interesting hypothetical societies but the internal logic needs to meet a certain threshold so that I can care about the characters.

I gather that the author was trying to depict a culture outside of typical American/Western norms, which can be very interesting (it’s actually a selling point to me in a lot of genre fiction) but I felt like the society just made no sense and was also lame and unsympathetic.

Am I just crazy here? Or is the early part of book 1 not indicative of the overall work? Did I just fail to “get” what Wight is doing?

I’m curious b/c I’ve actually tried that first book a couple of times based on the many references here and on BF and man I just couldn’t even.

Just know that that’s one tiny society (which you’re not meant to like) in a much, much broader set of them in the wider setting. You might not like the others either, but they’re different.

I just woke up at 5am on a Sunday for no good reason and couldn’t sleep, so I finished Uncrowned. Damned cliff-hangers. Don’t they all end in some kind of cliff-hanger though? Doesn’t Wintersteel also end in a cliff-hanger?

It definitely ends in a satisfying manner, though of course it leaves you wanting more, but not the cliff hanger it was in Uncrowned. That was mean and soured me on the whole book.

It’s more of a feudal society, with power not being military might but magic might. The ones at the top are in charge because of that magical power they wield.




Wells is friggin’ brilliant.

Yeah, I really enjoy the Murderbot stories. Are her fantasy novels good?


Aside: Would rather see an RPG about SecBot than Geralt. Also, I think Henry Cavill would be a poor choice for the role in a TV show about the series.

SecUnit but sure, it’s a great character.


One on hand: Yay!
On the other hand: My backlog is already too big, and I’m going to end up ignoring it for more Martha Wells.