The Book Thread - August 2013

It’s August, so time for a new thread!

I just started reading (listening) to Entangled by Graham Hancock. Hancock typically writes non-fiction books about lost civilizations and theories around them. (Some call his ideas crackpot, mind you). Anyway he took all of that research/knowledge and turned it into a great fiction story. I’m only about 10 chapters in but I’m really liking Entangled so far. The story is told with 2 parallel characters - one in the stone age and one in modern world. There are fantastical elements entering the story (out of body experiences, telepathy so far) that intertwine with historical fiction.

Really enjoying it so far. Caveat: I’ve seen complaints on Amazon/Audible about some of the content being pretty harsh/violent at times.

I’m alternating between Wool (which is really good) and Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan (only 5 chapters in so far but I like it).

I’m also reading Wool (Kindle) and really like it so far - but I’m only a little ways in. Altered Carbon I read a long time ago - it was OK, but I have an issue with their transfer of consciousness stuff (on a scientific level). That bothered me enough to sour me on the novel itself.

I bailed on The Restorer by Amanda Stevens (I think that was her last name, anyway). It’s generally in the urban fantasy/paranormal romance vein with an interesting premise - a main character who works restoring cemeteries and blogs about the subject, and who can see ghosts but was trained by her father never to acknowledge this because if the ghosts know she can they’ll never leave her alone and they’re dangerous. Unfortunately, I found the prose rather purple, the characters not terribly believable, it was fond of repeating itself, and it definitely seemed to be leaning in the direction of romance novel rather than fantasy. Romance novels are Not for Me ™.

Now working on Stina Leicht’s And Blue Skies From Pain, the second in her The Fey and the Fallen series set in 1970s northern Ireland. I had mixed feelings about the first book (the main character’s a bit of an asshole but also goes through hell) but it was definitely original and interesting enough to keep going. And this one is so far so good.

I bought Wool a couple days ago when Amazon had a Kindle sale on it for $1.99. I’m on the third novella in the omnibus and really like what he’s doing so far.

As for AC, the consciousness transfer is silly but makes for some interesting plot situations.

Thanks for the recommendation on Wool. I went through the first part in a few minutes, and look forward to parts 2-8 this weekend! Looks like a good read, and I’m glad to support independent publishers.

I’m reading Altered Carbon as well, but I can’t seem to get that into it. It’ll probably be in my B squad of books. Wool I really liked and thought there was some cool world building going on.

Finished The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester for the fourth time or so. I really enjoy this novel even if it is showing its age. Dystopian future, mega-corps, teleportation, and a stranded psychotic bent on revenge, what isn’t to like?

I really need to read The Stars My Destination again. It is a good book. That and The Demolished Man. Two classics.

Alfred Bester was an amazing talent who wrote far too little.

Finished the new Lost Fleet novel Guardian, and started Demille’s The Talbot Odyssey.

I just finished the (audiobook version) Many Colored Land by Julian May after hearing how wonderful it is for so many years.

And… I liked it just fine. I appreciated the cleverness of telling a traditional fantasy story complete with all the standard tropes in the middle of a “semi-hard” science-fiction story. I liked that the author sets up the later books by introducing a bunch of characters early that (presumably) are used in a pre-planned couple of sequels. And I appreciated the combination of huge epic scope with relatively limited victories in the first book; nothing annoys me more than a Matrix-style, massive, Earth-shattering victory at the end of the first book that gets ret-conned into a minor blip at the beginning of the second book/movie. The actual science fiction has held up fairly well. I liked it well enough that I plan on getting the second book.

That said, I think I would have appreciated this a great deal more if I had read it back in 1983. The language sounds strangely stilted, the cultural/gender attitudes are a little archaic, and there is a fair amount of self-conscious, unintended, non-racist racism. It wouldn’t have seemed odd back thirty years or so, but it was a bit weird.

I have to compliment the audiobook narrator, she did a good job with the voices and the French.

I think the original Julian May series will hold up pretty well as you read through it, granting the problems you point out are all accurate. But I would give the followup books taking place in the future a miss. Even the original books are borderline soap-operas, and I think May got a little too enamored of Marc Remillard, so the later stories almost read like fan-fiction. I guess they’re not horrible, just disappointing after the first series.

Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind.

Finished the third of the Long Price Quartet.

Started The Lonely Sea, a collection of Alistair MacLean short stories. I found a bunch of MacLean trade paperacks for $2 each at BN, so I picked this one up.

I actually don’t think I’ve read it, and I had not thought I had missed any MacLean, but I might have, it’s been 40 years…

I love Alistair MacLean - grew up on him after my Dad gave me a copy of the Black Shrike. My favorite was The Secret Ways. I was hoping he would come to the kindle one day but alas does not seem meant to be.

Thanks for the blast from the past.

He is probably most famous for Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone

I also remember a really depressing story by MacLean about this destroyer on a stupid mission getting more and more shot up over time, with almost everyone getting killed for no good reason.

I thought I had read all his novels, but judging from the list in The Lonely Sea I might have missed one or two.I loved the leading British thriller writers of that era, MacLean, Desmond Bagley(my favorite), Colin Forbes. etc.

HMS Ulysses,his first novel,IIRC.

Yeah. It was well-written, but pretty damn hopeless. Of course a lot of the war was like that.

I’m in the middle of American Gods by Neil Gaiman at the moment. A bit late to the party, especially considering so many of my literary-minded friends have recommended it to me, but I found a nice hardcover at a second-hand store and decided to shill out the $5 for it.

Great read so far. I really like the world and the pace that it is emerging at. Still have a ways to go but it’s great so far!

I’m reading Thomas Cobb’s western, Shavetail right now and so far it’s good (ocassionally very good) but not great. Two factors are counting against it:

First, I read Robert Olmstead’s absolutely incredible Far Bright Star last year. It’s probably in my top five westerns of all time and it deals with similar themes to Shavetail.

Secondly, a cover blurb compares Shavetail to Blood Meridian which is just ridiculous. It does a disservice to the book it’s trying to promote by setting false expectations.

Anyway, I’m only half way through so it’s possible that the second half will dramatically change my opinion. And I don’t mean to disparage the book as it’s a perfectly fine and enjoyable western which I would recommend to anyone. It just an example of the dangers of false expectations.

Speaking of McCarthy, I’m thinking it’s time to read something else by him and I’m wondering which novel his fans would recommend next. So far I’ve read The Road, Blood Meridian and No Country For Old Men. I loved all of them (the latter two more than The Road). All The Pretty Horses is obviously the next most popular of his books but that means committing to the trilogy. Which I’m not opposed to if folks feel strong enough about the recommendation, it’s just a consideration.