The Second Apocalypse

Miscellaneous Chatter => Literature => Topic started by: Wilshire on January 04, 2022, 07:01:07 pm

Title: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on January 04, 2022, 07:01:07 pm
New year, new books! Or trying to finish old ones. Or rereads. Or...

This year I'm going to try to read more consistently. Despite reading 27 books, I didn't complete any books after August last year, which feels bad. Plenty of things I still want to read.

Startide Rising by David Brin
Malice by John Gwynne
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
Dune by Herbert
Among Others by Jo Walton
The Torch that Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe
Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood
Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker
The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie
The Wisdom of Crowds Joe Abercrombie
The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

January (1)
1) Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker

February (2)
1) The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron

March (3)
1) The Plague of Swords by Miles Cameron

April (6)
1) The Fall of Dragons by Miles Cameron
2) Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
3) Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood

May (7)
1) The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie

June (10)
1) The Wisdom of Crowds Joe Abercrombie
2) The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
3) The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on January 06, 2022, 05:26:45 pm
I did not read as much as I wanted last year.  Only 21 books, and I didn't hit much of what I expected to read either.  So this year, who knows?
The only sure thing is reading new KJ Parker, certainly a novella or two and a novel.  Aside from that, probably Abercrombie's latter trilogy, Babel books, Tad Williams's new Osten Ard, finishing Ruocchio's series.  All subject to change and be bumped at a whim.  Maybe this time next year I'll be reflecting on my deep dive into Amish romance novels; time will tell, all is in flux.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: MSJ on January 09, 2022, 12:52:28 am
Hey fellow sloggers! So, started off the year with The Wisdom of Crowds, by Joe Abercrombie (1). As always, I really enjoy his books and was a page turner. Highly recommended.

On to, The Hod King, by Josiah Bancroft. Love this series, and have already started on it.

I have so many books to read, and im gonna try and knock a bunch out this year. Miss you guys and hope to stop around a little more often. Cheers!
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on January 11, 2022, 06:00:22 pm
Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey (1)

Hmm...  I was surprised to find myself not excited to read this conclusion to the series.  I liked the previous books pretty well, but maybe it had been too long before this one came out.  It could also be the time jump that occurred at book...7?  The plots and characters got spread out and disparate, and thus less compelling I think.

My biggest problem with this book was its pacing.  The beginning is kind of slow and aimless, then suddenly out of nowhere we are fighting for the very existence of humanity, which I knew was coming.  There is a very clear existential threat that has to be dealt with going into the book, but I just didn't like how the authors got around to dealing with it.  Some story elements got far out there, psychedelic, brief interludes of stream of consciousness kind of, I did not like it.  The Expanse is at its best when it deals with conflict between people, whether on a personal or planetary scale.  Going so far into the trippy mind alien realm just didn't work, it was better in previous books when it was just briefly touched on or alluded to. 

Overall, this is a fine conclusion to an otherwise great modern space epic.  The denouement was probably my favorite part.  I will say, throughout the whole series it is very clear this was lifted from/heavily-inspired by some sci-fi rpg session someone ran, not unlike Dragonlance is for D&D.  Characters have their clear class, traits, and alignments, and I found myself frequently thinking how a gamed session morphed itself into various scenes in the series.  It's still good, worth reading if you want a big sci-fi epic.

MSJ, both those series are on my list for the year.  Just started Senlin Ascends.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on January 20, 2022, 02:37:38 pm
Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft (2)

I really liked this one.  Well done characters, unique setting.  The story is basically this guy trying to find his lost wife in this massive (too big to ever realistically exist) tower.  I was worried it would be a McGuffin story where the missing wife is just there to move the plot, but there is sufficient work done in establishing her character and relationship to the titular Senlin.  A lot is packed into the 300 or so pages, Bancroft doesn't waste time giving wholistic descriptions of what is going on in the tower and how things work.  This is helped by our perspective being tied to the naive and out of his depth main character.  It's hard to believe some of the tower manages to sustain itself by what we see, but there's at least an idea of much more being out there that Senlin just doesn't get to.
I'm excited to read the rest of these, and probably will in short order.  But first a new KJ Parker.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on January 24, 2022, 01:13:45 pm
I enjoyed Senlin Ascends but the subsequent book wasn't enough for me to want to finish.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on January 26, 2022, 03:30:45 pm
A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker (3)

Loved it, of course.  Parker's trilogies are very structurally different from what's typical in the genre.  Each one of these books works well on its own, while also containing an enjoyable through line to tie them all together.  Even this third one is a fully contained narrative arc; someone could pick this up as their first Parker book and have no trouble enjoying it.  That said, there is some greater enjoyment to be found in how it all ties together with the previous two.

This book goes way beyond where I expected it to go after the first two.  It's again a first person account from a character we haven't met before and quite far removed from the setting of the first books.  Parker packs it full of various themes and ideas, some notable ones being, agency, consequences intended vs. unintended, providence.  There is significant riffing on some biblical stories, notably Moses, but also some sprinkling of bits of Jesus, John (the Revelator), and maybe some apostolic bits.  All very wry, sometimes subtle, other times pointedly obvious.

As far as the greater "Parker-verse" is concerned, this book has maybe the most references to other places and events, and maybe the clearest pinning down of anything else in the broader geography and timeline.  (For those who haven't read Parker, he is not a world-builder, although he likely has things concretely pinned down in his head, any references outside of the particular narrative scope are merely easter eggs and may or may not comprise a comprehensive whole, though they seem to.)  We hear about Perimadeia (Fencer trilogy), Vesani (Folding Knife), Mezentia (Engineer trilogy), Sashan (Savages), several other minor recognizable people groups, and a distinct call out to a practice in Sharps.

I thoroughly recommend.  The Siege trilogy will be my go-to Parker recommendation if people want something longer than a novella.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on February 01, 2022, 03:37:07 pm
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by KJ Parker (1)
Hey this was a fun book. My first KJP and well worth it. Light hearted (generally) and funny, KJP spins a nice story without spoiling it by going into too many details. I'll definitely be wanted to read more from him.

The Dread Wyrm by Miles Cameron (2)
I continue to enjoy Cameron. His books feel weighty and crunchy. This can be detrimental at times, when too much time is spent on inconsequential topics/plots, since they quickly feel overbearing and slow. But when Cameron focuses on the things that you care about, it makes an impact. As always the physical conflicts feel powerful - knights dueling, cavalry charges, man at arms taking the hill, the clash of monsters and men. These things have a visceral feel because of Cameron's talent.

The worldbuilding is  nice, driven largely by the plot and revealed at a pace that is acceptable. Enough mystery to go around but with enough explanation to keep the reader up to speed.

Character relationships are a mixed bag. Some feel forced and or contrived, but at the end of the day when someone not wearing plot armor dies horribly you feel sad about it.

The series as a whole is working for me. The path Cameron is taking is circuitous, and mostly this is fun. A few times there is a bog of details that are just not necessary, with characters and plots that end suddenly and/or obviously in a way that makes me wonder why the details were necessary at all. But largely the efforts made to bring the world and its characters to life are well worth the time to read. I feel compelled to read on, and so I will!
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on February 11, 2022, 02:32:38 pm
The Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft (4)

I liked this one, but not as much as the first book.  It expanded the narrative to include the perspective of three other characters, which isn't terrible, but I preferred just getting Senlin's view point in the first book.  I think up until the last quarter of the book there was no need to get out of Senlin's head anyway.  I guess it works better if we needed their povs later that we established them earlier, even if it wasn't necessary.

Still entertaining.  A lot gets revealed about the inner workings and origins of the Tower, and it looks like the greater plot beyond "find my missing wife" is going to be interesting going forward.  Things are very steam-punky, too.  That's not really my thing, but I don't mind something different from time to time.

Next up is a horror/slasher(?) novel as payment for my friend reading TDTCB.  Then probably something else before I start on The Hod King.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on February 15, 2022, 02:30:58 pm
The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (5)

This one was my trade off for a friend reading TDTCB.  It's a pretty quick read.  The premise is there is this group of women who've all survived various slasher murder sprees as teens.  Now they are older and have a therapy group.  The whole book is narrated in present-tense by one of the group members.  The back story of each final girl is mostly slowly dribbled in with "newspaper clippings" or articles at the beginning of each chapter.  It kind of makes for a bit of a confusing start as there are sometimes a lot of names with no context until either the narrator or chapter breaks decide to expound on them.  Pretty early on the narrator concludes someone is trying to kill them all, and the rest is her trying to convince people and figure out who is doing what.

It's mostly entertaining.  It's a nice homage to the genre, and I especially got a lot of Scream sequel vibes in that all these women have either capitalized on or been exploited by their trauma by having movie or book deals.  There is some gender commentary throughout, but it makes its point without belaboring it.  There are some small surprises throughout, but by being a homage to familiar tropes, its beats are fairly predictable.  It's still fun.

I wish it had leaned more into the unreliability of the narrator.  She's relaying things as she sees them, and her perception is filtered by her past trauma.  But for the most part she couches her analysis of events and lets us know she's unsure and maybe wrong.  It makes for an easy read that you don't need to spend much thought on, but it would have been better to lean into her misperception.

He's got other books themed around other tropes of the horror genre.  And I certainly won't mind reading them, especially if they are "trades" for my friend reading more Bakker.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on February 22, 2022, 03:32:41 pm
As a trade for TDTCB, seems fair. I wont be reading it, but good for you for giving it a shot!
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on February 25, 2022, 04:24:53 pm
A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie (6)

Great book.  While he's maybe not in the upper echelon of authors for me, Abercrombie is pretty close.  I like that he doesn't lean on the characters and story from his earlier trilogy.  Some familiar faces are around, or their kids are, but nothing feels rehashed or retread.  It would be pretty easy for him to fall into familiar character tropes, (i.e. Logen or Glokta v.2) even if they are different characters, but he manages to make the new cast wholly unique.  Abercrombie's strength has been his character development, and it remains so.  He takes particular care to make sure his main characters are changed by the events they go through and always in ways that seem real or reasonable.

I can't think of much bad to say about it.  Part of it deals with the plight of the worker in a time akin to the industrial revolution, and that maybe got a little tedious where I thought I was reading a fantasy version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, but really it wasn't that bad and was put to good use in the end.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on March 01, 2022, 10:19:05 pm
I am considering grabbing The Trouble With Peace since its on sale. A Little Hatred did grab me as much as I remember Blade Itself, but that was literally hundreds of books ago. Abercrombie is still very good and, of course, if you're looking for good characters/development then look no further.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on March 09, 2022, 01:22:50 pm
Being and Being Bought by Kajsa Ekman (9) (7) (seven comes after six)

Non-fiction, by way of sciborg.  It was a pretty interesting read, arguing against prostitution and surrogacy with the main argument being that both institutions justify themselves by treating the woman (Self) and her body as separate entities.  But also hits on many other issues with both.  It's not too long, and I would have liked to see the main idea developed more.  A decent amount of it was spent dismantling arguments of proponents of each and underscoring the reality of many women involved in either prostitution or surrogacy.  Sometimes the argument seemed a bit scatter-shot, highlighting class disparity, capitalism, sexism.  Overall, it was worth reading.  Thanks, sci.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on March 10, 2022, 05:05:37 pm
The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie (10) (8 ) (it's eight you fool)

Very good.  Improves upon the first one even.  I have a small suspicion this was the initial start of the story, but in planning (because that's what good authors do), Abercrombie realized he should back it up a bit to establish the characters.  The result it the first book was maybe a little weaker, but this one is tops.  As always the character development is great, I only wish there was a little more time spent on the three second tier PoV characters (Broad, Vick, and Clover for those who've read it). 

This could easily top The First Law trilogy.  It probably will; Abercrombie has improved over the years.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on March 11, 2022, 02:30:53 pm
The Plague of Swords by Miles Cameron (3)
Pretty good. More of what I'd call standard Cameron at this point. The point feels a bit belabored, but the characters are worth reading about and the increase in scope continues to be logical. The tightest book of the series was definitely the first one, but I'm enjoying it enough to really want to finish it out. I dont expect any shocking plot twists or revelations - the destination become clear since around the end of book 2 - but the investment in time is definitely worth it for me.

The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie (10)
This could easily top The First Law trilogy.  It probably will; Abercrombie has improved over the years.
Well its definitely on my list this year, maybe even up next after I finish Traitor Son.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on March 22, 2022, 02:22:37 pm
The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (9)

Great book, great series.  This is definitely worth reading.  I think it is better as a whole than the First Law trilogy, but the first one maybe had the more memorable characters.  Not to say the characters in this were bad, it's just hard to compete with Logen and Glokta.

The only issue I had with this was the pacing.  I flew through the first three quarters of this book.  It's non-stop interesting things happening until the last quarter, then everything slowed down.  I would have been happy if it ended there, but I am still happy.  There was one more conflict of sorts to settle after the main action, but it wasn't really acknowledged and did not serve to drive the narrative at all.  Then suddenly, "oh yeah, this series-spanning issue should probably be addressed before we close things out."  This is a very minor quibble.

One concern I had going in to the series as a whole was how Abercrombie would address the revolution and political turmoil.  I worried things could get heavy-handed or soap-boxy.  Abercrombie did a good job in how he presented both the need/inevitability of revolution and the horror/atrocity of political upheaval.

Abercrombie remains one of my top fantasy authors.  I hear he's done with the First Law world, but I'll read whatever he comes up with next.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on April 07, 2022, 01:02:50 pm
The Fall of Dragons by Miles Cameron (4)

Finished! Feel like it took forever, but despite that I think the series is very good. The plot doesn't devolve too much in the direction I was afraid of (a contest between gods), which kept most of the stories feeling very relevant. There are a few nice emotional high moments throughout, and especially near the end, but it is very predictable. A large part of the final book, and the series, revolves around movements of troops. This creates pacing issues, but I now think its a feature of the story. Things move a lot more slowly when you are attempting to moving 50k troops vs. 500. The entire story really feels like a  vehicle for explaining how troop movement and placement works, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it also holds this story back from being great. Ultimately too much time in later books is spent describing logistics, which makes it feel like a grind. But getting through that, most of the characters are entertaining and the plot is satisfying to resolve.

I'd recommend it, especially to anyone who thinks "I wish someone would write a book about mundane XYZ". Not because there isn't any great evil to vanquish (there is), or because there is an absence of magic (a tremendous amount of the later books revolve around magic), but because none of that stuff supersedes the hours it takes 10k troops to wheel about into a battle formation from a marching line, or a lack of arrows collapsing an army.  If logistics don't sound very interesting, its hard to recommend this too highly as a series, though the first one or two books is probably worth reading. I'm glad I read it, and might seek out some more Cameron in a few years to see how his writing develops.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on April 08, 2022, 12:43:39 pm
The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft (10)

I very much enjoyed this one.  The story lines in this are much more compelling and make some progress.  The last book spent a lot of time languishing and preparing for all the activity of this one.  My one complaint is the structure.  The story is told in three parts, following a different character for each one.  They all start and end at basically the same chronological points.  I don't know what is gained by separating them out instead of alternating the pov chapters.  As it is, things start, build to a climax, then reset with a different character, build, reset, build.  Pacing aside, each story was interesting, cool steampunk stuff goes on, there are some nice swings of emotion and revelations.  I'm excited for the conclusion.

Miles Cameron is one I'll read at some point, no idea when.  The logistics shouldn't bother me, especially if there are wizards.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on April 11, 2022, 01:46:24 pm
The Builders by Daniel Polansky (11)

This is marketed as Redwall for adults, I guess.  Other than a cast of anthropomorphized woodland creatures, there isn't much similar.  It is plenty violent, fast paced, enjoyable.  It starts off feeling like a typical heist plot, with a bunch of old "crew" being gathered.  And maybe it's not much more than that; rather than pulling one more job, they are gathering to right an old wrong.

I do wonder, why animals?  It's not a fantastical setting.  They talk about Mexico and France.  You get the impression they are in the region of the States, but the setting is referred to as the Garden or the Kingdom.  They talk about the "aughts" as being in the past, and there are railroads and guns, so I'm guessing mid-1800s.  But the plot does not reflect any real-world event.  So why not have it all made up since we're going with talking animals?  Why do we have Mexico and France, but no historical basis for the plot?  I dunno.  This is what bugged me about it.

I liked it, it's certainly worth the couple hours it took to read.  There were exciting twists and the writing was good.  I certainly wouldn't have read it if it was marketed as "heist story set in mid-19th century America," so I guess the animal angle worked.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on April 13, 2022, 04:51:01 pm
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (5)
A fun quick read. Weir went back to where he's comfortable - which is writing about a lonely, or at least solitary, male scientist solving problems. While this sounds like a boring plot, as with Martian, Weir does a great job making it fun. While its definitely on the more Fiction side of Science Fiction, the writing and plot are entertaining and focused enough to make it entertaining throughout. Worth the read if you want a light scifi novel.

The Builders by Daniel Polansky (11)
It sounds to me like the author either didn't like, or didn't feel comfortable, writing human characters, but that's just a guess. I dislike fantasy being set in half built worlds with lazy worldbuilding stapled onto real world places/histories. Making up lore is one of the prime factors that set Fantasy apart, so doing a bad job at it ruins the book, at least imo.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on May 05, 2022, 02:43:31 pm
Unspoken Name by A K Larkwood (6)

This book was... not good. My primary dislike is that there's nothing exceptional about it. Its bland and generic throughout, making it difficult to read. All the characters are flat and have little to no growth, the prose style is very bland and uninteresting which makes the book feel like it goes on forever, and there's little to no descriptions of the apparently complex/intricate worlds/religions/gods/politics/etc. so everything feels dead and lifeless (and leaves the impression of being under construction, with strings and scaffolding still visible). Beyond that, the book is split into 3 parts, which combined make the book take much too long, but individually are too short to tell a reasonable story. There's really just no reason to read this.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on May 06, 2022, 02:32:01 pm
The Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft (12)

This was a good conclusion to the series.  Again, the big issue I have is the pacing; starting over with a new perspective of events that have already happened.  I think it would work better with pov chapters alternating in a more linear layout.  But still, I enjoyed it.  Good writing and character development, satisfying climaxes.  Very, very steampunky with lots of hand-wavey anachronistic tech, but it doesn't take itself too seriously, fortunately.

It sounds to me like the author either didn't like, or didn't feel comfortable, writing human characters, but that's just a guess. I dislike fantasy being set in half built worlds with lazy worldbuilding stapled onto real world places/histories. Making up lore is one of the prime factors that set Fantasy apart, so doing a bad job at it ruins the book, at least imo.

Normally this would bother me, but the story is so short, it's a minor quibble.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on May 09, 2022, 01:29:59 pm
Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks (13)

This was quick.  It's basically journal entries and some interviews about this little tech commune that gets stranded when Mount Rainier erupts, then bigfoot attacks.  I never read Brooks' more popular zombie stuff, but he seems to do well in this niche of epistolary, multi-source, faux accounting of terrifying events.  I was surprised at how good the characterization was.  I expected it to be very shock, plot, action focused.  But within all that, Brooks managed to flesh out some nice character arcs.  It's been many years, but I think Crichton did the scary primate assault better.  Congo was certainly better researched and grounded, but I guess a bigfoot story has to be silly if you look too closely.  It was an enjoyable read that didn't require too much brainpower.  Recommended if you want some quick palate-cleanser or something.

The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker (14)

This continues my eternal rereads of TSA in between other books.  I just had from the sranc attack in Cil-Aujas to the end.  Very good, highly recommend.  :)
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on May 13, 2022, 12:12:08 pm
The Trouble with Peace by Joe Abercrombie (7)

Gratifyingly, this was better than A Little Hatred. The trouble with the first book, in comparison to Blade Itself, is that it spent a tremendous amount of time being an introductory novel (which Blade Itself never did). This one felt like it flowed a lot better, and was more of what I expected from Abercrombie. He continues to be a great writer, writing characters that you really want to succeed or fail depending on who they are, and then smacking you in the face with those wants as he turns things upside down. Where I was uninterested in continuing the story after A Little Hatred, here I am definitely excited to start The Wisdom of Crowds right away.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on May 16, 2022, 05:13:00 pm
Faithless by Graham Austin-King (15)

I think this must have been free on Kindle at some point, but I don't remember ordering it.  It's...ok.  There is a good story in there, but there were enough little things to detract from it being great or even good.  Part, I think, comes down to editing.  There were more than a few awkward sentences.  Sometimes a line would say nearly the same thing as one a couple paragraphs before.  Sometimes a sentence would have a description at odds with what had earlier been described.  The biggest issue is how the story was structured.  It is basically told in two parallel stories/povs, which at points are too similar. 
(click to show/hide)

It sounds terrible, but I didn't hate it.  There were some neat ideas in there, and it wasn't too long.  There were occasional glimpses of what could become a good author.  I just think he needs a good editor or better feedback on early drafts.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on May 26, 2022, 12:39:16 pm
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan (16)

I liked this quite a bit.  It has the framing everyone seems to use lately, where we start at the end of the story the bulk of the narration is relating how we get to that point.  Sometimes I find it annoying, but here it works very well.  Possibly aided by the story not taking multiple books to get back to that point.  The author does a good job of knowing what to skip.  Plenty of things happen off-page, and years of the protagonist's life are briefly summed up to keep the narration from bogging down.  I'll definitely read the next two books (it's a trilogy of course), and am interested to see how it's framed, since we caught back up the timeline in this first book.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on May 27, 2022, 12:29:12 pm
The Long Game by K. J. Parker (17)

He keeps churning them out.  This is another novella ~100 pages.  Excellent of course.  I don't think he'd ever write a novella I didn't love.  This one doesn't have any characters in common (I think) with Prosper's Demon or Inside Man, but it also deals with a "demon" and possession.  It's great fun, I laughed a couple times, typical Parker.   I know I've said it before, but I highly recommend any Parker novella.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on June 13, 2022, 07:20:34 pm
The Wisdom of Crowds Joe Abercrombie (8 )

I liked this series. Abercrombie actually did a good job not falling into his own standard format, which was refreshing. Its a fun series, with predictably a bunch of easy to love and hate characters. Overall the story wasn't your typical fantasy revolution story, and the industrialization setting was also pretty unique. As The P mentioned above, the last 10%ish of the book is a bit odd. It just takes way too long to finish after the plot climax. This doesn't ruin the book, but its a clumsy finish.

Overall it was good, but I still enjoyed First Law better.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on June 18, 2022, 08:47:19 pm
Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clark (9)

Surprisingly good. A lot of old scifi seems to miss that having an actual story makes for a better book. It didn't knock my socks off or anything, but it reasonably earn its accolades as a hugo/nebula winner. The characters are mediocre, but the plot is interesting enough and Clark does a good job weaving in past/present/future stories into a cohesive whole.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on June 21, 2022, 02:19:02 pm
Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan ( :( )

DNF about halfway through.  So sad, as Blood Song was enjoyable.  The biggest problem with this was pacing, I think.  It expanded from the one POV in book one to 4 or 5 here.  None of them were developed enough to get me to care about what they are doing or why.  Most side characters just seemed to be there as plot devices to get the main characters to go where they needed to.
This is typical second book syndrome, and I should expect it.  Book one has been worked on for a long time before it gets published.  Book two is pushed out before it is ready.  Or is more concerned with setting the stage for another sequel.  Or the author just can't handle the larger scope of the story/world.

On to better things.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on June 27, 2022, 01:45:00 pm
Always a shame when that happens. It does make me slightly more sympathetic towards publishers wanting/expecting new authors to show up with complete series now, with the drop in quality so apparent for second books I can really see why. I'm sure a better publisher with better editors and support for authors would help workshop a lot of those issues away, but obviously this doesn't happen.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on July 01, 2022, 01:22:25 pm
 The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (10)

Meh. This was recommended along side her more widely read Od Magic, and I am very glad I read Od Magic first. This one didn't have nearly the same spark of wistful fantasy. Largely about a witch who could talk to magical animals, the concept was entertaining but it wasn't enough to make a whole book out of. Despite being pretty short, it still seemed to drag. Honestly the whole thing could have been a short story, maybe a novella, with just the first two chapters, one in the middle, and the last one. Instead it goes on for about 12, and that's just too many to get the point across. Pretty disappointed with this one, considering how whimsical and satisfying Od Magic was. If you want to try McKillip, because she does have great prose, I'd avoid this one.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on July 05, 2022, 12:23:31 pm
The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (18 )

I read this because I intend to read his sequel Osten Ard "trilogy."  It was enjoyable, but not the top form I'm used to getting from Williams.  It's also kind of a coda to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, so the whole book being falling action from the trilogy keeps it from reaching the heights the author usually achieves.  I've been trying to decide why he felt the need to write this bridge book, and I think the main purpose of it is to introduce an inside perspective on the "bad guys" from MS&T (and presumably the following series).  There is also a little appendix here that gives kind of an origin/history of the Sithi/Norns.  I'm not sure if it has any new information (been a while since I read the trilogy), but it was good to get a refresh on the lore.

It was nice to dip my toes back into the world before I dive into the new series.  I will revisit how important I think this book is after I read further.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (10)

That's disappointing.  I feel like I see it on all time great lists, and planned on reading it someday.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on July 06, 2022, 12:09:27 pm
She deserves to be on a great many lists because the prose is interesting to read. Leaning towards purple, but it fits her fantasy settings. Its possible I was just not in the mood for this type of book, because its not substantially different plot-wise than Od Magic, meaning it has a relatively generic plot with predictable outcomes that are not at all the focus of the story. This is definitely something to be aware of when picking up any McKilip, but not necessarily a demerit. Forgotten Beasts specifically didn't do it for me though. It uses a lot of magical/fantasy animals and/or animal tropes, which is also something I've never been too interested in either.

I'd still recommend Od Magic to anyone who reads fantasy. The internet is full of requests for fantasy with "good writing", and while that means a lot of different things to different people Od Magic is probably a good recommendation most of the time.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on August 15, 2022, 02:17:55 pm
Blindsight by Peter Watts (19)

I read this not long ago (2020), but I convinced a friend to read it so I audiobooked it so we could discuss.  Not bad, this was my first audiobook experience.  It was nice being able to listen while I did boring stuff at work or drove, but I don't think I'd want to multitask if it wasn't a book I was already familiar with.  In that case, I'd just read.

The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker (20)

For the slog reread on discord.  Really slowing down my reading of The Last King of Osten Ard "trilogy," which are massive books of course.  I'll get through it when I get through it.  The reread has been enjoyable.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on September 21, 2022, 12:28:13 pm
The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker (21)

Great, of course.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (22)

This is pretty standard Tad Williams fare.  Solid writing, meticulous pacing.  For those who've read MS&T, this sequel series starts slower.  It has a much broader scope than The Dragonbone Chair, which is mostly a singular pov character with occasional chapters of ancillary characters.  This one has something like 15 pov characters, which is maybe a bit much, but I trust Williams's plotting that they'll all be significant, though some don't have much of an arc in this first novel.  Williams does a great job of organically referring back to pertinent events of MS&T.  He also does well at aging up the returning characters and making it feel like they've grown/changed in the intervening 30 years, while still being recognizable to their younger selves.  While a lot happens in this book, it mostly feels like set up and establishing the pieces needed for the greater story.  Things really ramp up in the last 100 pages or so, and I look forward to the next book.

As far as the necessity of the bridging novella I read earlier this year...  probably not required to enjoy this series, but I think it helps connect better with the Norn ("bad guys") povs, which were mostly absent from MS&T.  There are several references to significant events of the novella, but you could get the gist without having read it.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on September 26, 2022, 02:20:41 pm
Among Others by Jo Walton (11)

This book was great, but I didn't actually enjoy it. The writing was easy get lost in, but the story itself just wasn't that appealing. The life and times of a Welsh14 year old in 70's England just never hooked me, but despite that I still wanted to read it to the end. There are some well imagined fantasy elements, including magic and magical creatures, and it is something of a love letter to the genre as a whole as much time is spent discussing many well-known names in the SFF genre at the time.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: The P on September 28, 2022, 12:00:42 pm
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (23)

I liked this one well enough.  It was highly praised by a friend of mine, and they're making a movie sometime next year.  I figured I'd read it to see how much M. Night ends up making it worse.  About 50 pages in, I was worried the book was just going to end up being a 300 page elaborate Trolley Problem.  It ends up being more than that, but really drops the ball on some other more interesting concepts it gets close to but then ignores.  Maybe that was chosen with a view to keeping it short and quick.  What I really think is the author came up with a "wouldn't this be cool/crazy/intense!" scenario and just churned out a story without taking the time to think through some implications.

It was enjoyable to read, plenty of tense moments like any thriller.  And there is some good character work; although every pov, of which there were 7 or so, pretty much spoke with the same voice, so I never really felt like I was seeing through different peoples' eyes.  It's mostly written in present tense, which is fine I guess.  Flashbacks are in past tense.  I always feel there needs to be a good reason to choose a present tense narration, and often times it seems it's chosen just to be "different."  There was an excessive amount of unnecessary positional descriptions, like the author wanted to write a screenplay or stage directions at points.  I don't need to know the detailed layout of the cabin and positioning of everyone in a scene.

That's a lot of criticism for something I ultimately liked.  I read it in about a day.  And it should make a better movie, but....  we've seen what M. Night is capable of.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
Post by: Wilshire on October 11, 2022, 11:16:55 pm
The Torch that Ignites the Stars by Andrew Rowe
An amusing, quick read, but not really something I can recommend. Rowe as some modest talent but is by no stretch a great author. These books are "litrpgs", which basically means they are closer to watching someone play a videogame than reading a a traditional book, while still being full of genre tropes. Despite this, I find them entertaining when I'm in the right mood and this book delivered exactly as expected.