Book Thread 2022

FWIW, Head Full of Ghosts came out seven years ago and predates a lot (but not all) of that.

That’s fair, and there’s no doubt that Tremblay’s book is well written. His prose is really good and his writing is solid. I guess my frustration is with what’s facing outward from the genre more generally so that every story feels like attending a horror convention–with panels on tropes and history and horror nerds gleefully swapping trivia–instead of experiencing a scary narrative.

I see the Kindle version is $2 right now.

I libraried the ebooks with neither muss nor fuss.

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

This is the fourth book in the “A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen” series.

This book ties into a story began in book 2. I really enjoyed this book even though Erikson loves to introduce so many new characters with each book that you spend a lot of time trying to remember what character has done what. The books make me think of a RPG game where you get to play the different characters and do their quests. Not to say that it isn’t well written, just that it is crowded with people and plot.

This book went a little lighter on the gods and warrens story line, or maybe I am just settling into those parts easier now. Some of the gods have become very interesting characters, and I have become less concerned with trying to remember all the warren info and lore he likes to give. This book went over 1,000 pages, but I read it in two weeks or so, which is quick for me.

I’ve been lax in keeping you all updated on my reading habits. I know it’s top of mind for many of you.

The Doors of Eden by Adrian Tchiakovsky was very, very good. It’s quite long (600-odd pages) but paced like a thriller so it goes by quickly. As a thriller I found it pretty compelling, trying to figure out who’s behind all the stuff and if they’ll be able to beat the bad guys and so on (with the disclaimer that I’m not really a thriller reader). The sci-fi hook was also very well done, I think, and I now know a bit more about the various epochs of earth’s geological/biological history than I did before, and even better, want to learn more about e.g. the Permian extinction.
The only complaints I have about are minor (the resolution at the end seemed a bit too pat and feel-good-diversity-and-inclusion-is-the-solution) and trivial (the interludes were written by a professor at the “University of California”, which, as anyone who’s been in academia anywhere near the UC system knows, is not how you describe your affiliation, it’s always the “University of California at [blank]”, because there’s a gradation between the campuses and everyone damn well wants you to know it).


The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells was also pretty good. You may know Martha Wells from her Murderbot series, and I think her fantasy worldbuilding here is probably just as good as that in the Murderbot stories (though it’s been a while since I read them). The story focuses on avian shapeshifters with a particular social structure, and it uses an outsider as the main character to explain things to the reader (I briefly tried to find the TV Tropes article on this trope but couldn’t think of the name). My complaint is just that the main character suffered a bit from whiny-broody-young-man syndrome (think Harry Potter, Hamlet, etc) which is a pet peeve of mine. Still, I’ll look up the sequel.


Robopocalypse by Daniel Howard Wilson was recommended by @Adam_B, I’m pretty sure, though I scrolled up a while to try to find it but gave up because I’m lazy, and I’m not confident I could use Discourse’s search without jeopardizing all the typing I’ve already done here. It was definitely a fun read, but felt a bit more like someone was writing a book drawn from a game, in a weird way. It seemed like they had thought out the course of this robot uprising and then added characters and scenery as mostly window-dressing to move the plot along. The little summary bits before and after each vignette that tied the events depicted to the overall course of the war really reinforced this idea to me. Nevertheless, it was a fun and quick read, and I appreciate the recommendation. It brings World War Z to mind–I think it’s pretty similar in style, though WWZ was a much better book (though it was a while ago that I read it).


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is undoubtedly the “best” book of the bunch (Booker Prize winner! I didn’t know they gave that to Americans). Reading about it after the fact, everyone seems to have been blown away by how “experimental” it was, but honestly, it wasn’t that weird. It was written kind of like a play, with multiple voices going back and forth, and some of the chapters were the author’s characters, and some of the chapters were excerpts from historical sources laid out as if they were lines in a play. (I think the historical sources were real, in that I recognized some of the books (e.g. A Team of Rivals), but they could have been fictional, too.) Once I paused to work out what was going on (after the first ten pages), it didn’t feel like I was reading an experimental novel, just a good one.

It really made me reflect on life and death, and what regrets we’re carrying with us or leaving behind. It was a tough read–not because of literary obscurity or anything like that, but because there’s a lot of sadness, as it’s focused around the death of a child. Still, I found it hopeful in the end.

I strongly recommend it, especially to anyone who’s big-L Literature Curious, but maybe has been intimidated by (or lacking patience for) the other favorites of the literati. You don’t need an English degree or anything (though I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff I missed), and it’s not too hard to make sense of (on a basic level, at least). I really thought it would be overly pretentious (especially as the author bio lists him as one of Time’s 100 most influential people, ugh), but it absolutely wasn’t. It was just good.

Neal Stephenson marks 30 years since Snow Crash came out (which must mean The Big U and Zodiac came out… ugh… even longer ago) and is extremely coy about something. Either he’s working on a fascinating new project or he’s dealing with a very personal issue.

https://twitter.com/nealstephenson/status/1534225527141064706?t=EawicQHyxZvtRkGDnL7mqg&s=19

https://twitter.com/nealstephenson/status/1534225528269307904?t=NKKY2x1tlkQQdY1dnjIEVQ&s=19

So I guess I hope he finds success in whatever the hell he’s laying between the lines. And maybe I should squeeze in another reread of Snow Crash.

Dreadgod, Book 11 of the Cradle series will be released July 5th.

Huzzah!!

It’s planned to be 12 books total correct?

That would be a spoiler! It’s best not to know how many books, so it could end or continue at the end of any given book.

It will be interesting to see if @Adam_B is right and the last book’s developments really are bad developments for the series.

Oh, it’s a Blockchain/Bitcoinlike/AR/VR thing.

Never mind.

I too finished this recently (off your recommendation)! Overall loved it and mostly agree with your points.

However!

These characters are horny as fuck. Not in the sense of explicit sex-scenes (mostly), but lord a’mighty huge swathes of their internal narration would work as Sir Mix-A-Lot songs. Just constantly talking about who and how and why and how frequently they want to bone whomever else.

This is not what I come to my epic fantasy for, to be real honest.

On top of that, it’s pretty transparent how the author went down a big ol’ list-o-queerness checking boxes. Here’s your gay woman, here’s your trans man, here’s your trans woman, here’s your bi couple, here’s your pan-poly-trans situation, here’s your asexual dude, here’s your kinky pan dude, just on down the list.

This is not necessarily problematic as the kids say, but it’s pretty obvious.

I get that the author came into this with the clear intention to write a sex-positive, queer-affirming Epic Fantasy with Maps. And he did! And it’s quite a skillful narrative, and a good series of books.

I just kinda don’t care about all that and found it distracting more than anything else (and a little eye-rolling at times, like okay dude I GET IT MOVE ON).

Then again, maybe that part is Not For Me and that’s okay. And hell, I bet some queer or just curious teenagers are going to read this and feel affirmed and seen in a way that matters to them, and that’s great because all people should be able to have those good feels.

Anyway, my lawn needs constant vigilance, is what I’m trying to say.

Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. Haven’t read the Crimson Empire trilogy but have felt the same way about several other books and short stories.

I kinda felt that way with Abercrombie’s new series. The first book had more sex in it than all his other books combined. The previous books had sex but it was an aside, in A Little Hatred there is literally sex or a discussion of it in almost every chapter for half the book. Now I noticed and was glad that the second book didn’t have all that. I have nothing against sex, but I want plot and interesting characters more. And just them having sex doesn’t make for either.

I am working my way through the first Dragonlance novel. It’s been eons since I read the series, but it holds up better than I thought it would.

I just finished this up. I live in the general area, but reading through this still had me going, “Man, West Virginia is fucked up!”

I realize that it is a genre where some people are there for the sex, but my worst example of that ever was Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, which was my first urban fantasy exposure. It goes at least like three or four books without any sex at all, like… barely a little bit of kissing or such maybe. And then by book 12 or so occasionally she remembers to inject a little bit of plot between lengthy and very kinky sex scenes (an infamous one involves a wereswan in his animal form. I won’t elaborate further). And when people complained she dismissed them as being prudes who didn’t like kink. No, lady, I just want you to write the goddamn mystery horror shit that was where this series started, not just mash all your characters’ genitals together over and over.

I stuck around much further into the series than I should have hoping it might pick back up.

Yeah! I really really liked the first ~6 novels – they’re really well-executed mystery/horror adventures, like you said. Then at some point – Narcissus In Chains is the book I remember barely making it through and then bailing on the series – it’s just all boners all the time.

The thing that really annoys me about it is how Hamilton uses jazz-hands magic gobbledygook to sidestep any responsibility or consent issues to get to the humpin’. Oh, Anita can’t control herself because THE MAGIC MADE HER DO IT so here’s ten pages of wereleopard cock.

I mean, you wanna be horny, go be horny, no worries. But if you want to be treated like an adult, actually engage with the adult side of the bonin’.

No kidding. I just read about the murders. This got me:

One of the things that is so wild about this case is the sheer volume of likely suspects; I listed four of them above, but there were something like 30 viable suspects once police started investigating the disappearance as a crime.

There were also numerous cases of decapitations and/or dismemberments in the area. I mentioned some of them in the summary of William Bernard Hacker as a suspect, but there were also two other active serial killers in the area who dismembered and/or decapitated their victims (William Dean Wickline aka “The Butcher” and the still-unidentified “Mad Butcher of Fayette County”). And apparently pretty much everyone owned–or had access to–a machete. The number of machetes just casually owned, borrowed, and found by people in the area at the time is fairly bizarre.

This is definitely the part that got me. I read it yesterday and they are listing out all of these unsolved decapitations happening in this specific area and I’m just shaking my head going, “What the fuck?!” Then the dude gets sent to prison for murder and --surprise!-- the decapitations stop. He gets out, and guess what?