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Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.  :)

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« 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.

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