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Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: December 14, 2021, 08:04:41 pm »
Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio (21)

This series continues to be good.  The Dune influence, which were pretty pronounced early in book one, are very much in the background here.  The series is doing more to stand on its own in the second book (not that I consider the first derivative), though I suspect further influences from Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Russell's The Sparrow, and Reynolds's Revelation Space.  But it is very much its own story, however many inspirations it pulls from.  From the very start of this second book, the plot goes in unanticipated directions and keeps going to interesting places throughout, with a completely wild ending.

If I have a complaint, it's that the narrator often brings up some deep thought, introspection, or philosophy; but those ideas or themes are taken in the moment and not developed or elaborated much beyond their introduction.  Leaving that out keeps the story moving at a good clip, but keeps it on the near side of being a thinky, meaty read worth revisiting.  Nonetheless, I'm enjoying it and look forward to the next.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: November 02, 2021, 01:07:20 pm »
Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio (20)

I really liked this one.  It has some very heavy Dune-inspired world/galaxy building.  Other people say it's like the Kingkiller Chronicle in space.  I haven't read that one, but it has similarities from what I know. It's basically a dude recounting his life and how he got to where he is (infamous, maybe incarcerated, for doing a big bad thing).  There are nice bits of flavor like "everyone tells the story this way, but this is what really happened," or "I didn't know it at the time, but the guy next to me was so-and-so that you know as having done such-and-such."  They aren't frequent, but I like that it reminds you of the frame and that we know where the story is going.
It's good, highly recommend.  Best space epic I've read in a long time (i.e. I like it better than the Expanse).

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: September 27, 2021, 12:25:51 pm »
Mightier than the Sword by K. J. Parker (19)

It's great of course.  Set in the Parker-verse, we get mentions of places and people we've seen before (Saloninus, of course, Permia).  Sometimes I think I want to comb through his work and compile a geography and history of everything he mentions, but worldbuilding isn't what he's about, so maybe it would be a futile exercise.  It at least has the appearance of consistency, and that's probably all Parker is going for.

This one follows the nephew of the Emperor, who's in a bad way while his wife runs the show, sent out to deal with a series of raids on monasteries.  The Empire is the Robur, who figure in the Siege trilogy, this is probably set after those events, but it hardly matters.  It has the typical twists and obfuscations, musings on literature and empire, wry takes on monastic orders, standard Parker fare.  Thoroughly enjoyable, I will never not recommend a Parker novella.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: September 24, 2021, 12:27:34 pm »
Beneath the Twisted Trees by Bradley P. Beaulieu ( :'()

I think I'm giving up on this series.  It's not bad.  I've mostly enjoyed it so far, but....  It just lacks some undefinable quality that would compel me to keep reading.  The writing itself is fine, the story is fine, the characters are fine.  Maybe I'm at the point in life where I really need something special to get me to read in the midst of constant interruptions and chaos (kids), I dunno.  But this series is not it for some reason.  It's like there are great ideas and possibilities lurking on the edges of where the story actually goes.  The whole time I'm waiting for that awesome something to break in and reshape the story, but it inevitably goes somewhere less exciting.  And it's not like nothing happens or the plot doesn't advance, we've come quite a way since the first book.  So a third of the way through book 4 I decided I was tired of it.  Quitting this far in leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but there it is.  I liked Beaulieu's earlier trilogy; he's not a bad writer.

I'm moving on.  Next is a KJP novella that I somehow missed a couple years ago.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: September 07, 2021, 01:08:11 pm »
A Door Behind a Door by Yelena Moskovich (18)

I picked this up on a whim.  It's not sff, but the guy who recommended it said it had some David Lynch vibes, which was enough for me.  I liked it quite a bit.  It has a strange style.  It's almost like very tiny chapters, sometimes only a sentence, with a bold-caps title that sometimes is part of the body itself.  The style makes it feel a little like stream-of-consciousness, but actually readable.  It reads very quick.  Under 200 pages, it could and probably should be read in one sitting.  I understand the Lynch comparison, in things get weird, but where Lynch goes for absurdia with the appearance of meaning, the weirdness here means something (I think, and I'm sure I don't get it all).

It is rare for me to read outside my choice genre(s), but I'm glad I did in this case.  Being short helped its pitch.  Definitely worth the time if you want to try something more capital-L Literature.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: August 30, 2021, 12:34:05 pm »
Miserere by Teresa Frohock (17)

I picked this up on a whim.  I heard it was good, but got bad marketing because the publisher ran out of money and collapsed.  I liked it.  It's pretty short (under 300 pages), has decent writing, good characters, some intense moments.  The setting is kind of a barrier world between hell and earth, with the main characters as the force preventing the fallen/demons from conquering earth and being able to war against heaven.  In this place are supposedly all religions working together, but aside from brief blurbs, the characters are all christian-centric.  Which isn't bad, but I would have liked a more diverse cast, or at least some more detail of the other groups' roles in the world.  As it is, I enjoyed the interesting take on these religious mages using psalms and prayers to channel power, etc.

Reading some author comments online after reading, she said one big problem with the marketing of the book was that they decided to sell it in christian book stores.  I certainly don't blame whoever was in charge for making that mistake, but it surely would have bothered any wholesome parents trying to shelter their kids from secular fiction.  (There's swears, violence, gore, sex, abuse, oh my!)  So I'm not sure the audience for this one, it has enough overt christian religiosity to scare away the non-religious, but is plenty gritty to stand alongside others in the "grimdark" genre.

I'll probably check out some other stuff by Frohock at some point.  She has other unrelated fantasy.  While the ending was satisfying, this book could easily have sequels, but it seems unlikely after 10 years.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: August 11, 2021, 01:48:02 pm »
Inside Man by K. J. Parker (16)

I like just about anything he writes; have I said that before?  This is another novella.  It's kind of a sequel to last year's Prosper's Demon.  This is some time later, now from the demon's perspective.  He's been dubbed "fragile" due to prior events, and assigned to "other work of equal value."  Parker gives a fun depiction of a bureaucratic hell in opposition to, but also in support of the Plan.  There are lots of real-world Judeo-Christian analogues throughout (mostly poked for fun and given a wry take), but it has plenty of Parker-verse connections (Perimadea, Robur, Saloninus, etc.).  Thoroughly enjoyable, it drew an audible chuckle on several occasions.  The next Parker book looks delayed until January, alas.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: August 09, 2021, 05:06:34 pm »
A Veil of Spears by Bradley P. Beaulieu (15)

Each of these has been better than the previous one.  I have minor gripes with some details (where do we get all this wood in the desert?), but nothing to ruin my enjoyment.  Beaulieu continues to shift the stakes, I keep thinking I know what kind of conflict/climax he's building to, but new players and insight keeps me on my toes.  This third book kept mainly to the previously established pov.  There is a new one added in, but only had a handful of chapters.  We also got some very brief povs from a couple different kings.  Thoroughly enjoyable, I look forward to the final three, but maybe a couple short books before I dive back in.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: July 06, 2021, 02:07:49 pm »
With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu (13)

This book improved upon the first in every way, I think.  The good and bad from the first book get more nuanced into grayer shades.  We get more magic going on, and from that there is also a much needed (imo) new pov.  Even with the new one, there are still only five viewpoint characters.  The stakes are raised, and we get a lot more insight into the Kings' origins and their current intrigues.  The two main characters from the first book, who have same goal, find themselves on very different paths in this book, which creates some nice tension when they come together.  Some exciting action sequences and an increase in supernatural occurrences give me further hope that the next four books will keep ramping up.

The Big Score by K. J. Parker (14)

I will read everything K. J. Parker writes (but for some reason not Tom Holt, go figure), and I will enjoy it.  This is another novella, loosely following Blue and Gold and The Devil You Know in the further escapades of notorious felon and polymath genius Saloninus (think Shakespeare mixed with Da Vinci).  It is of course thoroughly enjoyable; I laughed several times, blitzed through the whole thing in an afternooon.  Parker is easily my favorite short-form author.  He has another novella and novel (end of the Siege trilogy, likely his best trilogy) coming out later this year.

Wilshire, I think the Liveship Traders series was my favorite of Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings books.  I read them all together a couple years ago, so the books blur.  Part of my enjoyment might have been getting out of the one pov of the Farseer books.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« on: June 01, 2021, 04:31:44 pm »
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu (12)

This was pretty good.  I enjoyed the desert city setting.  The characters are well drawn, if not particularly original.  There are instances of various magics and supernatural dealings, but their effect on the pov characters is secondary.  It is a good start to a series that promises to open up nicely in future books.

My only issue is that the narrative arc was kind of lacking.  We are given the main character's ultimate goal, but it is presented more as an unattainable pipe dream of hers.  The path she takes through the book seems very disconnected from the goal as such.  Things eventually come together in the end and the narrative looks to be more directed going forward.  So it very much feels like a prologue book, which isn't terrible.  I'll be reading the full series (6 books) unless things take a nose dive.


But they did, it's why they took the Chorae off the Carapace.

They even say as much:
“And you think I’m the missing piece?” Kellhus asked. “The Subject that will revive this ... system?”

Was that why the Chorae had been removed from the Carapace? For him? It seemed to Malowebi that he strangled ...

The nearest of the disfigured Dûnyain, the burnt one, nodded. “The Celmomian Prophecy foretells your coming, Brother.”

Still not convinced.  I will try to put out my thoughts.  I'm erratic and in sore need of a reread.  If the Celmomian Prophesy is the basis for their "knowledge" of needing Kellhus as an insertant, they are making some intense cognitive leaps (which I guess maybe I can't be expected to understand, them being Dunyain and all).  All the prophesy says is an Anasurimbor will return at the end of the world.  I don't think there's any more to it, since we are shown the scene where Celmomas says it to Seswatha.  That's so vague, it could mean any of the many Anasurimbors running around, why decide on the most difficult to grab?  I take the disfigured's nod to be more saying, "well, here you are, so we're going to plug you in and see what happens."

If they really think the Anasurimbor lineage is the key to awakening the No-God, why aren't they plugging in one of their own?  Surely at least one of the disfigured has some Anasurimbor blood in them.  If they knew the original insertant, it seems logical they'd want to try another Anasurimbor, but did the Consult even know who the original insertant was?  My impression was Nau-Cayuti was just another faceless attempt in a long procession of souls (but it's been a while since I read that scene).

It's easier for me to believe the Consult/Dunsult is ignorant of how to start the No-God than it is for me to believe they're just pretending to try to kill Kellhus to lure him in.  All the while ignoring any of his more accessible offspring or ishualian relations for 20 years.

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