Book Thread: September 2017


#1

Last thread I mentioned Ascendant by Craig Alanson. Finished it and its sequel, Transcendent. Both are quite good! Much better than I expected.


#2

NK Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, first in the trilogy she’s just finished up this month. Very good. Epic conflict on a world with terrible tectonic activity and an oppressed class of special individuals (orogenes) capable of controlling geology with their minds.


#3

I’m reading Carl Gustav Jung’s Answer to Job and Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Hopefully I’ll finish both this month and then get to either Good Omens or American Gods.


#4

I read Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. A very good novel. The Terran Federation is pretty far from my ideal society, but I did not find the book to be merely an unsubtle idealization for a militaristic society. It was also quite fascinating to see so many staple elements of 1950s sci-fi being mentioned or referenced without being made a big point out of. Or in other words: this was clearly science fiction, not a novel dressed in sci-fi trappings.


#5

I finished Outrageby Vincent Bugliosi. It is Bugliosi’s take on the OJ Simpson trial. I had actually bought the book before Simpson was released from the Nevada jail a few months back and when that hit the news I thought I would read this.

Before starting let me say that I have read Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and Four Days in November, which I thought were excellent books. This book doesn’t meet that standard, but it is interesting if you have a background on Buglisosi.

Bugliosi makes it perfectly clear from almost the first page that he wrote this book because his publisher wanted him to. In fact, he spends the first 30 pages or so explaining why he didn’t want to write it but eventually did. He also explains why he thinks Simpson was guilty as could be and why the trial was a travesty.

He lists 5 reasons why, in his opinion, Simpson was found not guilty. Perhaps the most damning reason (interesting reasons?) were the incompetence of the prosecutors and the make up, and mental frame of mind of the jury.

If you are interested in why Simpson was found not guilty, from the viewpoint of a very good prosecutor (and later a defense attorney) then you would learn something from this book. If you are not acquainted with Buglisosi you may want to start with one of his other books first.


#6

Started book 4 of John Walker’s Rise of Mankind 8-part series. The Amazon summary scrape doesn’t reveal much, so I’ll try to make up for that: standard space battle porn (I hate using that word, but people are using it, so) involving an evolving humankind sort of tentatively joining an inter-galactic alliance of other “cultures” (us + humanoid aliens) and fighting off an “other” race or culture while also dealing with other numerous subplots. Mostly a procedural thing, with a decent amount of character building and some new takes on the genre or subgenre or subsubgenre.

It’s not bad, especially if you’re a sucker for this stuff as I am. And it’s a quick read.

Edit: My one big complaint: how it describes computer programming and hacking. Ack.


#7

I’ve been reading mostly fluffy sci-fi for the last few months, so I decided to veer off into non-fiction a bit and return to one of my favorite categories (Military History) with Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.

Mark Bowden is of course, the author of Blackhawk Down, one of my favorite books of all time. This doesn’t QUITE reach the same heights as the story is far larger and not quite as… er, “cinematic”, but it’s still a great piece of journalism and story-telling. Bowden has meticulously researched many of the facets of the battle, and he went out of his way to tell the story from the viewpoints of the American Marines, the NVA and Viet Cong forces (especially in the first third of the book), and also those of the unaffiliated civilians that died in the thousands during the month-long battle.


#8

Finished Othello. Continuing my Shakespeare-a-thon with Twelfth Night.


#9

I’ve been reading Theft Of Swords: The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. I really don’t understand why I only found out about him now. His books are fantasy books that are easy to read, not unlike Brandon Sandersens style, and rather intriguiging. They kinda feel like pulp fantasy, but on the other hand, its some of the best books I’ve read for quite a while.

I cannot recommend them enough, especially if you are a fan of Brandon Sandersen, they should be an easy fit.

edit: How do you link the amazon store page like that? oh!!


#10

I enjoyed that trilogy and its prequels a lot.


#11

Just re-read Starship Troopers myself, for the first time in a few years. There are parts of it I still like, but I’d conflated parts of The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman with the Heinlein book. The Forever War is a very, very good companion read and I would recommend it while Starship Troopers is still fresh in the mind.


#12

Finishing up The Pen & the Sword, the second book in the “Destiny’s Crucible” series by Olan Thorensen, and sequel to the much-better titled Cast Under an Alien Sun.

In the June thread, @Steel_Wind made the contention that this series was “Outlander, for men”. This book pretty much proves him right, but also essentially strikes the “for men” part off the end of it. The vast majority of the book is concerned with the romance between the main character (a guy transplanted from modern California into what is essentially an alternate-history 1700s England) and the feisty, nobleman’s daughter who is chafing under the sexist rules of that society. This romance was preordained in the previous book and it proceeds about the way you’d expect it to, with misunderstandings and eventual love, etc. It’s predictable but still enjoyable.

The last third is sort of a Bernard Cornwell-esque military adventure which plays out pretty competently.

Thorensen’s writing has improved a great deal between the first and second books, though he is still prone to rehashing what doesn’t need to be reviewed and a LOT of unnecessary exposition. I enjoyed it enough to want to get the third book.

From an audiobook perspective, the narration is pretty mediocre. The production is uneven with volume and tone jumping all over the place between scenes, and there are a lot of places where the narrator is thrown for a loop between pages and they didn’t bother to get another take to correct the error.


#13

Fantasy book and gaming nerds, here’s one for you.


I really enjoyed it, which is good since I fall right into the target audience. If you’ve never played D&D or real Tolkien, it may not be nearly as enjoyable. But I think most of us on QT3 are the target demographic. It’s the first in a series, but none of the rest is out yet.


#14

I recently got The Forever War at a used book store. I shall make it my next read.


#15

Miramon is burying the lede to some degree here, the first book in this series won the Hugo in 2016, the second won the Hugo this year, and the third just came out in August so the arc is now complete.

I’ve had my eye on this series since last year’s Hugo rewards, but decided to wait until it was complete before starting it. (I’ve had enough frustration over the years and am trying to follow this general rule in the future.) I’m glad I did as I couldn’t put the first one down last weekend and I won’t have to wait to finish the story now. :) I’m now about 20% of the way through the second book. I highly recommend the first book.


#16

I’m about a quarter (fifth?) the way into The Pen and the Sword. The romance, which was foreshadowed early in the 1st book, is just starting now.

I’m not too sure about the series yet. Clearly, I am enjoying it, as I’d just dump it if I didn’t. I have tons of new books to listen to (monthly audible credits build up). So I have to say it’s holding my interest. Part of it is the essence of the situation he is in: what would YOU do? Joe is a likable protagonist, though he doesn’t seem to be a flawed one, other than he is probably too trusting, I think. We’ll see if that take pans out as the series unfolds.

The slow burn buildup in the 1st book appears to be the pattern adopted by the author in the second. I would agree that the author’s skills are developing as well.

I hesitate to assign a number score to this as one man’s “7/10” is another’s 3/10. I’ll call it “good” and leave it at that.

In terms of the narrator, I’ve enjoyed him. He’s no Roy Dotrice or Steven Fry, but it’s a likable voice for a likable protagonist.

I think my greatest problem with the series so far is than when the POV shifts away from “Yosef”, I almost completely lose interest. The pirates were the exception in the 1st book, but the Narthani bore me to tears. It’s just endless exposition interspersed with mustache twirling.


#17

I think I have read a short story set in the Forever War universe. I’ve considered reading the series before, thanks for the recommendation.

I read Stormfront by Jim Butcher, the first novel in the Dresden Files series. It was ok, I enjoyed it. It relies a bit on various P.I. genre conventions, but that is also part of the charm so I don’t mean it as criticism. It was actually pretty dark at times, but handled it quite well. I am not as sold on this series as I was on the PC Grant/Rivers of London series after having read the first book, but I’ll probably read the next couple of books in the future and see how it develops.


#18

On The Pen and the Sword:

To be clear, I think the narrator does a decent job – it’s the production and editing that is weak.

Yes, exactly! And the ironic thing is that if we (the audience) went into the situation “blind” just like the main characters it would make for better drama. Having the same situation described in the exact same way from two sides doesn’t serve much purpose… this is especially bad in the last couple chapters. If I were reading a physical book, I would be very tempted to just flip forward through the Narthani sections.


#19

I like Rivers of London better overall, but Dresden gets rapidly better from those first couple books.


#20

Ouch, 15 novels so far. The first one was a quick read, though.