The Book Thread - December 2009

Am curbing my book spending for now (God I hate not being employed) but seeing how I have 2-3 unread Vlad Taltos books and it’s been forever since I’ve hit the series, decided to start all over again from the beginning. Considering how short they (~200 pages) are it shouldn’t take too long.

Currently in the middle of Rick Atkinson’s The Day of Battle, the second volume in his Liberation Trilogy, which covers the war in Sicily and Italy 1943-44. Inept planning, poor coordination, lack of exit strategy (or really any grand strategy), poor logistics, inappropriate leadership, and the sideshow quality of the theater of operations bears some startling parallels to certain conflicts of the last few years. Makes for some very frustrating reading (but is a great book).

— Alan

I’m unemployed too.

I find these handy:

  1. A library, or
  2. Project Gutenberg

I plan to finish The Blade Itself once finals week is over.

Once that book is done I have a collection of Shirley Jackson stories I bought used I’ve been wanting to read for a month now. I originally checked this book out at the local library based on another collection of stories that includes her story: The Lottery. I never took the time to read it and ran out of renewals (I was reading other stuff when I picked it up) so I just returned it and bout this copy used on Amazon.

It’s rare that I enjoy both novels and short stories from the same author because they each require very different writing styles, and not all authors know how to pull them both off effectively. She does a fine job of it though.

We just bought a few cases of books used at a garage sale for ten cents each too. I haven’t gone through all of the books yet (my wife picked half and so did I, and there are a little over 100 of them), but there are some interesting titles in the mix I’ll probably start reading around Christmas time, most notably the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koonts. I read the first one a couple years ago and was happy to see it and the rest of them for a dime each at the garage sale, so I will gobble them up between heaping helpings of Christmas ham and potatoes.

when i was out of work for 6 months many years ago i did a lot of reading thanks to my local libraries. it was a horrible time in my life, but it was a GREAT time for reading. i would tear through 3 books a day and i used the time to fill in huge gaps in my reading.

it contains my absolute favorite of her stories; “The Daemon Lover.”

So, I finished up Dreamsnake, by Vonda N. McIntyre. As I mentioned in the previous thread, this won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards in 1979.

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes scifi. It still holds up and didn’t feel at all dated to me. It’s basically the story of a journey of a healer through a post apocalyptic world that somewhat reminded of the Fallout series. She heals people with the aid of genetically modified snakes, so if you aren’t a fan of snakes, you might not want to read it, but otherwise, this was a great book that I think more people should get acquainted with.

Sweet! Fallout-y fiction!

Speaking of which, I just started Nevil Shutes’ On the Beach and am enjoying the wonderful writing and well-realized world. Just a couple pages in but really digging it.

Read this many years ago (for high school if I remember correctly) as a literary counter to Alas, Babylon. Wasn’t too bad but of course ultimately extremely depressing. A disaster book of a fairly different stripe.

— Alan

I finally finished The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (the book that The Witcher game is based on) and it was rather good - now I’m annoyed that the sequel was checked out of my local library YESTERDAY by someone else.

So I’m putting off the new Paul Auster book after all.

Reading Steven Erikson short novellas in the world of Malazan that were just collected and released by Tor here in the US. I had always thought about buying the fancy limited editions before but just couldn’t justify the cost. That being said, I finished the first of the three, and it was very well written. You don’t need much of any background on the series at large to enjoy them, but of course having a bit does let you get a few of the side comments, places and names.

Also, semi-getting a promotion at work, and my boss is having me read “The First 90 Days” - by Michael Watkins. Normally I avoid business books like the plague, but am humoring him for this one. It’s on success strategies for new leaders in their first 90 days on the job to help set them up on the “road to success!” We’ll see. I’ll take it slow and make it a lunchtime reader.

i can’t wait to tuck into that at some point.

i am currently blowing through Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I picked this up in the “free to a good home” section of our library and it’s just paranoia atop paranoia for the first 200 pages i’ve read. not exactly riveting, but it’s certainly drawing me into the post stalin russia

I blew through Walter Jon Williams’ “This is Not a Game”, a reasonably entertaining but not amazing thriller set around an ARG company, this morning. I liked it, but he’s written much more impressive books.

Followed it up with Maggie Stiefvater’s “Shiver”, a YA novel about a romance between a girl and a boy who happens to be a werewolf. Somewhat unusual take on werewolves in that it holds that what triggers the change is not the moon, but rather low temperatures (to go wolf) and high temperatures (to go human), resulting in werewolves spending the winter as wolves and the summer human, though with the human side dwindling from year to year until they’re just wolves with a little bit extra. The boy’s on the point of no return, so one of the things the plot concerns is keeping him from being cold long enough to make that final change to wolf. Pretty good.

Now I’m reading Martin Millar’s “Lonely Werewolf Girl”, a rather tongue-in-cheek book about a very messed-up teenage werewolf, daughter of the ruling werewolf family. (It was a slow day at work.)

Yeah, me too. The book starts pretty strong, and then falls off as the plot is revealed.

About 100 pages into the new Wheel of Time book, wondering if his widow is as unskilled in her choice in replacing her dead author as she was as his editor.

The beginning is very Jordan, not much Sanderson. But it stays fairly Jordanesque even in the obviously Sanderson bits. So, if you don’t like it by the first 100 pages. Just stop and move on. There are too many other good books to suffer through one you don’t like.

Though if you have to know what happened, the WoT Encyclopedia has very good chapter summaries. They are only through the prologue and the first 2 chapters at the moment for the new book.

I’m not reading enough :(

I finished up a collection of shorts from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s magazine, and am on now to More than Human by Theodore Sturgeon.

I just finished “Shriek: an Afterword”, by Jeff Vandermeer, his followup to “City of Saints and Madmen”. Janice Shriek is writing a memoir about her brother Duncan, thinking him to be dead. In fact, though, he’s alive, and has made a bunch of emendations to the manuscript – two unreliable narrators for the price of one.

I thought it was really incredible – he’s playing some of the stylistic games of “City”, but it feels more integrated into the story he’s telling. By 50 pages in, it’s easy to forget how artificial the set-up seems; it just flows very cleanly, rather than cleverness for its own sake.

I also just finished Adrian McKinty’s “Dead I Well May Be”, which I liked a lot. The main character is very funny, even if I didn’t think the plot was great. (I posted something to that effect in my blog, and McKinty was nice enough to write some comments about my critique.) I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of his books. (Or listening, really – I got this one from audible, and I think that the book’s style is particularly suited to being read aloud.)

And, finally, I read “The Name of the Wind.” I liked it, all in all, and I’ll read the second book when he finishes it, but I guess I don’t see what all the fuss is about – it didn’t stand out for me more than a dozen other books I’ve read this year.

Right now, I’m reading “Perdido Street Station” and listening to “Dr. Bloodmoney.” The latter’s an interesting throwback to a time when you could write about a world-wide catastrophe in under 300 pages.

I really love “City of Saints and Madmen”. In fact, I name most of my game characters Dradin. Have you read Nabakov’s “Pale Fire”? I never got around to “Shriek” because it sounds incredibly similar to “Pale Fire” and I don’t need to read the same book twice.

I’ve read “Pale Fire”; it’s one of my favorite books. I know that Vandermeer has mentioned “Pale Fire”, but I think the two books are very dissimilar in just about every way. For one thing, “Shriek” is much more straightforward.

Also, in “Pale Fire”, the real novel is in the commentary, but in “Shriek” Duncan’s commentary can’t be more than 10% of the word count. There’s also not the fundamental disconnect between narrators that we have in Shade/Kinbote – Duncan’s emendations focus around details (“Janice had my motives here wrong”, or “Janice thinks this part of my journal represents my feelings, but I was actually quoting someone else”), not fundamental misunderstandings of the central text.

Frankly, if you asked me to point out the exact reasons I love Name of the Wind so much, I don’t think I could. It just grabbed me. Hard.

I should note that while Lonely Werewolf Girl is getting some attention still, I am primarily reading Stephen Hunt’s The Court of the Air due to it being a library book that is a) very long and b) due in 11 days, whereas I own Lonely Werewolf Girl. (A used purchase on the strength of Neil Gaiman’s recommendation of the author - man’s yet to steer me wrong.)