Book Thread 2023

Yeah, EA is just techbro MLM without even the excuse of having some cheap product to sell.

So it’s trickle down economics or the prosperity gospel repackaged with fancier economic-ish buzzwords so people can feel good about it again?

Congrats to Travis! I just finished Legends & Lattes had a lot of fun with it. I do need more of the Thimble foods - I’ve had an urge to make cinnamon buns from scratch to go with my lattes ever since.

Also - new Alix Harrow? Wishlisted for Christmas!

Well, not exactly. It says that if you are a genius better equipped to allocate resources than the common man (actual genius not required of course, you just have to think you are), it is your duty to become as rich and powerful as you possibly can so that you can then personally do said resource allocation where it will do the most good. That’s distinct from trickle-down, because that assumes that enriching the wealthy will naturally percolate down to the masses via the normal action of the economy so they don’t really need to take any special action, and it’s distinct from the prosperity gospel, because that says wealth is drawn to people as a moral reward.

They’re all ways of justifying being rich as moral and something that should be rewarded with further wealth, but the path taken to get there is pretty different and has different incentives/expectations.

Needed something lightweight after reading Lincoln, so picked up one of my old books: Harry Turtledove’s The Misplaced Legion (well actually 4, as this is book 1 in the Videssos Cycle). This is pure comfort food; these books are probably among the most read in my collection (I’ve read them quite a few times, and friends I’ve lent them to have read them more than once). This is a classical “fish out of water” story; a Roman detachment in Gaul gets magically transported to Videssos aka Magical Byzantium in the time of Anna Komnenos, complete with Varangians, Norman Dukes, Seljuq Turks, and Mongols. Into this mix march the Romans, with their hobnailed caligae and heavy infantry tactics.

Turtledove is a good but not a great writer; his characters, inevitably, often end up sounding very similar and there is always a stoic hero (in case you’re wondering who the self-insert is). He is pretty great as a writer of alternate history, though. Sadly, at some point during his career, he took a turn toward writing in multiple POV, which - IMO - does not play to his strengths. The Videssos Cycle, fortunately, sticks to a few POVs, primarily that of the Roman tribune Marcus Scaurus. And it is about a historical period that Turtledove knows exceedingly well (having a Ph.D. in Byzantine History). The combination of fantasy and historical fiction is a rare combination, and even more rarely done this well.

The books have their weaknesses, and the plot starts to feel a bit stretched in the last two parts, as Turtledove takes us on a whirlwind tour of the Videssian world before the final cataclysmic battle between good and evil. But it’s a trip I still enjoy, even 30 years after I first set eyes upon these books. IMO, Turtledove’s best work.

If you’re in the mood for more, I strongly recommend Zeke Faux’s Number Go Up as another excellent book on the topic. I liked it more than Lewis’s take.

In the 90s I read a bunch pf Turtledove. Some of his other books were decent but Videssos stands out as the only one I could see rereading. Of course I haven’t done that in 30 years so I guess I’m unlikely to go back to it.

I reread his The Guns Of The South in the last few years and thought that held up pretty well. It was certainly nice to read about how the might of the Yankees eventually overcame white supremacists of the future.

I don’t reread a lot, but this series is one of those books I’ve reread more than once. The pseudo-historical setting is definitely a big part of it. I lost patience with Turtledove after reading one of his interminable WW2 retreads, but even today, I’d probably buy any book he wrote in Videssos.

I think generally, he holds up pretty well, though (as long as one knows what one is getting into).

I finished reading the Justice of Kings by Richard Swan the first book in what will be a Trilogy. The second book is out and I believe a third book will be available soon. The story is about a type of Imperial Circuit Judge who travels in the name of the Emperor of a Medieval Society with some magic abilities, The magic surrounds his ability to talk to the dead and force people to tell truth.

The story is a mystery at heart with a meta plot involving political changes in the empire especially dealing with the order of these Justices and their powers. The story is told by the Justice’s female clerk who was a street urchin that he takes on as an apprentice.

I read the book due to a lot of positive reviews on Goodreads and Booktube. I am glad I read the book but not sure I will continue the series. It is a dark type of world prone to violence. Not sure if it fits the tag of Grim Dark but I tend to not enjoy those type of stories. I have other books I am more interested in at the moment but may come back to this in the future.

I would say if you like stories that involve the law (it gave me the feeling of Old English Law) and you like mysteries especially with a bit of horror elements than you might like the series.

Grimdark or Crapsack? A little grimdark can be a good thing, but there is a strain of grimdark which goes clear off the cliff to the point where good or noble cannot exist, and everything is just various shades of terrible. Depressing to read and - in their own way - even more unrealistic than high fantasy.

The book is on the dark side but not where noble cannot exist.

Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House is an urban fantasy, set at a Yale University where its societies are not just groupings of the powerful, but practicing magicians. Alex comes to the school as an outsider under sponsorship of Lethe, a group charged with monitoring the magic and preventing collateral damage. There is, of course, immediately much collateral damage to investigate, while at the same time she struggles with her past and adjusting to her new life.

I found Ninth House to be well written with plenty of excitement and well-developed characters, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. I’m fortunate enough not to have suffered anywhere near the way Alex did in her youth, but even so I found some of the descriptions of her past disturbing - abuse of power, sexual violence, substance abuse, emotional trauma, violent death. And it doesn’t get a whole lot better in her present life, lots more of the same, although with much more opportunity for Alex to fight back. Anyone who does have such things in their past could very well find the story traumatizing. In addition to that, the way the plot wraps up has a whole host of twists that come so fast as to give the reader mental whiplash. It felt impossible that Alex had no idea of the underlying truth despite everything she went through in the bulk of the book.

So there are some caveats, but I still would recommend this one to fans of the genre. It reminded me quite a bit of Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, without the Narnia-in-drag bits. Just bear in mind that there’s a good amount of dark content that may not be for everyone.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

This is a sci-fi book in what I would call the tradition of Michael Crichton mixed with some Stephen King. Crouch himself lists Crichton as a influence and I can see it. As for the King part I have read only one Stephen King book (11-23-63) and while Crouch doesn’t mention any influence from King this book reminds me of some aspects in the King book.

The first 2/3 of this book are really good. Crouch presents a mystery and leaves the protagonist to figure it out. While time travel isn’t involved there is a good deal of travel in the book. No spoilers here. The end of the book isn’t bad, I just think perhaps Crouch wrote an ending that isn’t as satisfying as the story that got you there. I would recommend it as others may not feel about the ending as I did.

There is a good deal of science in the book that Crouch tries to explain through one of his characters and I didn’t think it was as confusing as some have described it. He doesn’t go into Neal Stephenson depth on it but he gives you enough.

Loved Ninth House and am eagerly awaiting the Amazon series.

Also, the sequel Hell Bent has been out for a few months and is also a lot of fun.

I like the promo tagline ;)

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@ineffablebob

I finished reading Thursday Murder Club and enjoyed it a lot. I am finding that I enjoy stories especially mystery types that have the rapid small chapters style.

I was on the fence about reading the series until you wrote your comments about it up above in the thread and do thank you for your push into reading it. I will start reading the second book once my hold at the library bears fruit.

Glad you enjoyed the Thursday Murder Club! Richard Osman is one accomplished human being, tons of good work in comedy and television even before he wrote these best-selling novels.

David Drake’s website was updated to notify the world that he passed away.

https://david-drake.com/

I was most into his work when I was in high school. I thought reading his work was like looking at a video of an explosion in slow motion. There was a time when I thought being a member of “Hammer’s Slammers” would be cooler than being a member of the Mobile Infantry.

I remember reading Hammer’s Slammers

Read a fw of the HS, and while I liked them for what they are, I always felt his strength was more in plotting than in writing itself, though. My favorite of his stuff were the series were he wrote the plot outline for other authors: the Belisaurus series (with Eric Flint) and the Raj Whitehall series (with S. M. Stirling).