Book Thread 2023

Finally got a copy of RF Kuang’s book Babel from my local library and am about halfway through. It is omg so good. I think I’m going to give it away as gifts. Will post a review when done, but it’s dominated early 2023 reading for me so far :)

A friend of mine recommended Babel a while back… sounds great.

I’m currently enjoying Fleishman is in Trouble.

And here’s another plug for my favorite book of 2022, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. It’s all about gamers and game design… perfect for this crowd!

This was one of the last books I finished in 2022, and it was easily one of my favorite reads.

Babel was awesome, yeah. So many complicated feelings.

I don’t read as much as most of y’all. I finished six novels in 2022 and nearly finished a seventh, and that is pretty good for me. I don’t know how to write reviews, so I left ratings.

The Sparrow Mary Doria Russell 2/5
Left Hand of Darkness LeGuin 5/5
Children of Time Adrian Tchaikovsky 4/5
Revelation Space Alastair Reynolds 1/5
Wool Hugh Howey 4/5
The Traitor Baru Cormorant Seth Dickinson 4/5
Before They Are Hanged - Abercrombie (100 pages away from finishing)

Hoping to hit 10 novels in '23.

This was also a solid 4/5 for me. But I would say, if you only have so much reading time in a year, to skip the sequels which get progressively worse. They weren’t as disappointing as the gap between The Passage and its sequels, but it’s still a fairly steep drop-off in my opinion.

I’d recommend the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone instead, for a somewhat similar flavor but tighter editing?

Just finished Time and Again, by Jack Finney, and really enjoyed it. I read it right after Invasion of the Body Snatchers (by Finney), which was excellent.

There are some very familiar components to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Spiderlight - Tolkien-esque high fantasy world (though no Elves or Dwarves), stark divisions between Light and Dark peoples, a party of adventurers right out of a D&D campaign. But Tchaikovsky very quickly blurs those lines: the Dark creatures aren’t all bad, the Light people are often jerks, the cleric’s faith isn’t as strong as she thought, etc. Much of the novel revolves around an intelligent spider (because of course it does, Tchaikovsky is nothing if not consistent in his love of arachnids) who struggles as he is forced into human company. His interactions with the rest of the (human) company are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, and run the emotional gamut as the story progresses. There’s a twist at the end that I didn’t find particularly surprising as it’s foreshadowed pretty heavily, but that didn’t bother me much as I thought the character progression along the journey was the real strength of the book. If you like the idea of some subversion of the standard fantasy tropes, you’ll likely enjoy this one.

One content warning: There’s a brief scene of sex between a human and half-human, which was not completely consensual. It’s not explicit at all, but some still might find it disturbing.

Be fair, he loves many arthropods.

Worth noting that Spiderlight is on Kindle Unlimited.

Does Spiderlight take place in the same universe as his Children of Time books? Or just coincidental that they both involve spiders?

Nah, Spiderlight is a stand-alone novel. With Tchaikovsky, spiders are a constant, not a coincidence - but nothing to do with a shared universe. :)

I went through a ridiculous number of books last year, but it looks like the only novel I gave 5 stars to was Voice Lessons by Rob Paulsen.

Tchaikovsky really likes spiders in particular and arthropods in general, they’re not completely universal in his work but they’re more likely to turn up than not whenever he writes something.

Somewhere upthread (well, last year’s thread) someone mentioned Hyperion by Dan Simmons, and I thought to myself, “I should pick that one up again, I think I read it a while ago, but it was on a plane and I don’t remember it.” It turns out that I really didn’t remember it and I’m really glad I read it again! I only started remembering things when I got to the Scholar’s story, which makes sense as it’s the most emotionally impactful one. And now that I have children it was honestly kind of heartbreaking, though there is hope at the end. Anyway, this comes with a strong recommendation, and now I’d like to read the Canterbury Tales (and perhaps the sequel(s)?). (For reference, here’s @tomchick’s review.)

Also upthread (again, last year’s thread) was a recommendation for Stephen King’s Fairy Tale. It happened to be available in the new releases / quick reads section of the local library so I grabbed it (and finished it just under the two-week deadline, though I started a couple days late). And it’s pretty good! I’m not really a Stephen King fan–I tried the first of the Dark Tower series and it was good but pretty ponderous and ultimately I didn’t click with it. This was much better. (Of course, he’s a much more practiced writer now, to say the least.) The best parts of the book, IMHO, were the parts concerning what it’s like to be a boy who lost his mother to an accident and his father to the bottle (spoiler for the first chapter of the book, in case anyone wants to go in blind, which I recommend, and it’s still a new release, after all). The second half of the book (after the through-the-looking-glass moment, so to speak) was compelling from a plot and pacing standpoint but I didn’t find it to reflect as much on the human condition as it might have–that is what fairy tales are primarily about, after all. The main themes of the book (mostly love–love for parents, children, siblings, strangers, animals; and secondarily fear) were solid, classic, and very well done. I really liked the narrator, as well; King narrates a pretty good teenage boy. Though, of course, it is a teenage boy as you remember being a teenage boy, not as a teenage boy actually is–the part where he loses his virginity gets a line or two, when we all know damn well no teenage boy is going to stop at that (spoiler for a minor bit in the epilogue)–which is arguably fair, as the narrator’s current age is unstated, and afterall who wants to hear an actual narration from a teenager?

I found the sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, sitting in one of the Little Libraries that are posted throughout my awesome neighborhood, so I’ll try it at no cost!

I’ve read quite a bit of Stephen King and i wouldn’t judge his work based on The Dark Tower series. Not all of his books are great, but if you want to give him another try I’d go with The Dark Half. Other good choices are: The Stand (very long), Insomnia, 11/22/63, Misery, The Green Mile. There are others that are good but this is what I can remember off the top of my head. I haven’t read some of his older classics to compare to these ones though.

Yep, I second this opinion. When I read the second and third books, I felt like they were terribly overwritten, taking way too long to get around to doing anything of import. Plus the world became progressively less believable as it went along.

But hey, free is a good price so all you’re losing is the reading time!

Agree again, the whole Craft series was great.

I don’t think Seth Dickinson gives a shit but I am with you, brother. I’ll hate-read the fourth book but really this is not good for anybody.

It seems to be a fairly common problem for authors with successful debuts who don’t feel they have to polish or rewrite or frankly agonize over every sentence in the sequel: but the sequel(s) end up lacking the tight writing/elan that drew you in in the first place.


I’ll say it. It’s Neal Stephenson syndrome. ;)

I will be a dissenting voice and say that while I do agree that the 2nd and 3rd books are not as individually strong as The Traitor Baru Cormorant I do think they are still excellent and I think it is very likely that just leaving it at one book would be a critically incomplete version of what Dickinson is doing with the series. Notably one not permitting the idea of things ever getting better or redemption. Obviously I will need book 4 for a holistic view of whether it ultimately succeeds.