The Book Thread - July 2014

You mean the guy the first book was named after and was the main POV for that book? Who would ever expect that to be the main series character?

I read the first couple of chapters and I found it… unreadable. The writing style was tiresome, and the story was just plain boring. Does it get better or is it not for me? Why do you say he is a master of the English language? To me, I’d put it that he likes the sound of his written voice a little too much… is that mastery to others?

The Tyranny of the Night and Lord of the Silent Kingdom by Glen Cook. I’d say Cook would be one of my favourite fantasy writers. This is a good solid fantasy world with interesting characters and intrigue. Gun powder is coming into fashion, and is being used to kill “gods”. The lead character is a spy for some foreign country, who was raised and trained as a slave warrior, and has been sent to do missions in the other “western” medieval-style countries.

I think the series weakens, like most do for me, as it progresses. The interesting ideas which drove the first book or so, get topped in some way, and the topping ideas doesn’t has the balance of the initial ideas. It doesn’t feel so much like a contrived worldbuilding designed to be sold for video game design, as Sanderson’s books and worlds seem to me.

Really enjoyed this book, good fun mafia backstory intertwined with the modern day medical/mafia drama, all culminating a slightly gross conclusion. Then I went looking for book two, and there’s no kindle version. I guess his publisher doesn’t like money. Shame.

I get that perspective - the impression that he likes the sound of his written voice. I hate that shit. And no, “liking the sound of his own voice” is not, in my book, a determination of any level of skill – it’s a huge red flag. Many clever writers fall into that trap and my threshold for that kind of bullshit is very thin. I think a lot of readers have their guards up (as I do) when they sense this possibility, and on rare occasions might miss an instance of a writer having actually pulled it off, as I feel Harkaway did in his first novel. And I’m not alone on Qt3 by a long-shot.

The tiresome thing you bring up is interesting. For me, I usually start to fatigue on a book (and get irritated with it) when I don’t find a pattern in the weaving of a story thread that I can (or want to) attach myself to, and I would speculate that you may have hit your own fatigue threshold before either detecting or attaching yourself to such a pattern in this one. This happened to me with books like Gravity’s Rainbow and Ulysses, for example. Both arguably great books (at least from an objective point of view) but each time I’ve tried, I just haven’t been able to muster the energy to slog through them. I know (or think I know) from others accounts that something must be there, but for whatever reason I’m just not grappling on.

Book #2 (Wild Thing) is on Kindle (link). I just finished it tonight. Not as good as Beat the Reaper by a long shot, but I had fun.

Could have sworn someone recommended The Luminaries in this thread, but I can’t find their post now. Started it and got sucked in. Thank you, whoever you are. I think the trick to making it through this kind of book is to have a healthy and liberal respect for modern fiction while keeping an eye out for post-modern aspects.

I like Cook a lot, but I do. Wish sometimes he. would write more. Complete sentences. Sometimes. His. Pro-. -se. just seems to disintegrate, if you know what I mean :) Apart from the prose, about which I may possibly have exaggerated the problems for effect, the weakness in this particular series now seems to come from a sort of soap-opera effect in which the various characters are spending an awful lot of time on their shticks and not so much on moving the story forward. In this last book, there is really not all that much opposition, but there’s plenty of silliness that seems to me to be at odds with the generally deadly stuff in the previous books.

It’s an avant-garde style, well, it would have been avant-garde back in 1900, anyway, but it’s a deliberately unconventional tour-de-force style that requires you to appreciate that kind of prose. If you don’t, there’s no-harm-no-foul, but there’s also no point to reading it.

This is one of my favorite books but I was decidedly on the fence for the first couple of chapters. Were the convoluted, overly clever sentences annoying or fantastic? It’s a fine line. What pushed me over the edge was this quote regarding Old Man Lubitsch’s bees:

Air conditioning by slave labour, if you believe that a hive is run by an autocrat, but Old Man Lubitsch has long ago explained that the Queen is an asset, cherished and nurtured but not obeyed, and that the hives are a functioning biological machine. He cannot decide if they represent an eerie social harmony or a grim nightmare of mechanistic subservience to a purposeless and endlessly repeating pattern.”

One I read that I knew I was along for the ride. (This was also Harkaway’s first book and I think he settles into his prose as it goes. His two subsequent books are much more polished which makes them easy to read but I miss the slightly mad unpredictability of his sentences from The Gone Away World.)

That was me! The demands of the structure Catton adheres to cause the book to slog a little at times but it picks back up and I loved it in the end.

Dude, you totally got my hopes up because I had been looking on my phone, and yes, it’s there, but I can’t buy it anyway, most likely because of non US licensing restrictions. Pity.

To get me through the day, I’m reading London Falling by Paul Cornell. London police procedural where the villain appears to be a supernatural serial killer. Not totally convinced yet, but I’m only about a quarter in.

Larry Correia book 5 of Monster Hunter International just came out. I’m consuming this book. Monsters and military fiction, I love this Larry as much as I love John Ringo. Speaking of which just finished Under a graveyard sky, by Mr Ringo. The best zombie novel series I’ve ever read! I wish MR Ringo would take on X-Com. I’ve always wanted to read about an alien invasion where we turn the tech against them and had multiple species to deal with and learn about. His Looking Glass was close, but turned into Star Trek after a few books, which was fine as well, but he just ended the series without a grand conclusion.

I also enjoyed and reread Lee Stephen’s Epic Series. The closest thing to a book about X-Com that feels close to the source material, despite the subject matter, it somehow feels less military than it should (after consuming all things Ringo). Still its a great series, The sad thing is that the last book in the series is sitting at a cliff hanger, but according to twitter he just submitted 20 chapters to the publisher. So the next book is hopefully coming soon.

I really enjoyed that one, particularly its depiction of magic. My favorite thing for books to do with magic is have it have a recognizable formal structure and pseudo-logic to its function but for the effects to nonetheless be terrifying, alien, and sort of fundamentally wrong. I feel like that’s true in London Falling, and also, e.g. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which did a lot to cement that one for me.

Just finished The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” (audiobook version). This one was actually pretty fun for me, as I think it’s the first “proper” murder-mystery that I’ve read in a looooong time that isn’t told in a fantasy or sci-fi setting (e.g., the Dresden Files). As I understand it, the book hews to the time-honored conventions of “detective fiction” set out by Mickey Spillane et al: the protagonist is a down-on-his-luck private investigator, he’s on the cusp of losing his business, he’s just been wronged by a stunningly beautiful dame, etc., etc. This has not tended to be my general cup of tea, but I really enjoyed this book, which is sort of surprising in retrospect.

It’s not surprising that I enjoyed the writing – I picked it up because “Robert Galbraith” is an alias for JK Rowling and I already knew that I would like her writing style (I can understand why she chose a pseudonym here – the book is definitely not for younger kids), and I knew that Rowling has the discipline to write out a tight, well-plotted story.

What surprised me is how much I liked it despite the almost total lack of action in the book. I kept waiting for the attempt to waylay the PI in an alley or for the thugs to rough him up with a dire warning to drop the case, but it never happened. Instead there was simply a lot of great dialog, some good procedural stuff, and nice “B” and “C” plotlines involving the detective’s new secretary and the detective’s own past. It also gave you enough information to solve the central mystery yourself, and encourages you to do so.

Anyway, I really liked it though I’m not sure how it stands up to other works in the genre. I’ll probably pick up the next book in the series (Silkworm) next month. For those who like audiobooks, the narrator on this one (Robert Glenister) was excellent.

I’ve never been a fan of the cliche of the PI roughed up in noir stories. It’s sort of a Bond villain thing - most of the time, it would make a lot more sense to quickly and cleanly kill the PI rather than “send a message” that they know for sure will be ignored. So it’s nice when you read something in the genre that sensibly avoids that one.

I’m reading the first Mistborn book and loving it. I have all sorts of ideas in my head where he could go in the sequels.

So does he. He’s actually writing new series in the setting (not in same place/time as original) just because he has some fun ideas of what to do with a higher-tech world with the same magic system (eg - guns and bullets with metal burners=fun)

Got caught up with Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. It’s been an interesting ride. I wasn’t real fond of the first book but my enjoyment has steadily increased over installments and at this point I’m genuinely hooked. I think it’s because the character herself is going through an arc from basically rock bottom (just emerging from 14 years as a fish in a park lake to find her life pretty much destroyed, her web of relationships all but gone, and oh yeah, plenty of PTSD) to, despite continued drama and peril, a pretty good overall situation with a number of trusted allies, a serious romantic relationship, and many of her enemies scattered or dead. Of course, that just means she’s in a position to confront some of the deeper (and more dangerous) mysteries of the setting in future books…

Now I’m working on A.M. Dellamonica’s Indigo Springs, an intriguing urban fantasy where a young woman’s discovery of “chantments” (junk objects with particular magic powers) spirals out of control in some very public ways. It’s split between a present day (presumably) interview with the protagonist in a military prison, where the magic’s apparently done bad things to her sanity and sense of temporal location, and her relatively lucid narration of past events to the interviewer, although there are hints that the present day situation will no doubt go a little more action-heavy further into the book (or possibly for the sequel, which I have queued up next). Her first mistake? Telling her friends about the magic.

Just got my hands on Max Gladstone’s latest Full Fathom Five 5 days before release date through some weird time-travel bookselling reality breach at Readercon. Looks good so far.

I must say that the second half was a lot better. Enough for me to be disappointed when I went to Amazon to check out the next one to find it much further down the road than I expected.