The Second Apocalypse

Miscellaneous Chatter => Literature => Topic started by: The P on January 08, 2021, 05:44:03 pm

Title: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on January 08, 2021, 05:44:03 pm
I guess I'll make this since I finished a book.

I'll keep my goal for the year at 30, since it is usually achievable, and I like to be successful.

Some series getting completed which I expect to read in the coming year, in no particular order:
Stone Dance of the Chameleon, 2nd edition (7 books, one I read last year)
Song of the Shattered Sands (6 books and a prequel novella)
Books of Babel (4 books)
The Expanse last book (I really thought it was coming out in 2020)
Last King of Osten Ard (4 including the bridge book)
*Edit* Abercrombie's Age of Madness (3 books)
*Edit* The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison (stand alone sequel of sorts)

Some others either stand alone or older series
John Marco's Tyrants and Kings, two left
Something by Laird Barron, probably a short story collection
Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God
Gemmel's Legend
Stover's Acts of Caine; I read the first a long time ago, but just never got to the rest
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on January 08, 2021, 06:29:40 pm
The Burning God by R. F. Kuang (1)

I was very disappointed with this book.  The first book was decent, the second improved and showed some real promise, but this final was... not good.  I actually liked the ending.  The last chapter, while it didn't make up for the 600 pages that came before it, actually was well done.
The dedication at the front of the book made me wary at the outset; "To my dear readers, who stayed with this series until the end, and came prepared with a bucket for their tears."  I had really no emotional investment in any of the characters or their relationships after two books, so the author presuming she'll make me cry (which isn't an impossible task) did not sit well.
The story itself, even from the first book, is pretty shaky.  People working hand in hand with others who've been trying to kill them without taking a moment to reflect on the matter.  Characters do really stupid things, which is fine if they are a stupid person, but even supposed geniuses or savant constantly make poor decisions.  I only know they are geniuses because the author says they are.
Frequently it seemed like the author didn't know what was going on in her own story.  Some examples (there are many more): A group of refugees flee through abandoned mines; they emerge and we shortly get a description of supply wagons they brought with them, which I find hard to imagine they could bring through.  There are dirigibles from another country;  one crashes (it is noted the balloon is deflated), and a "genius" character looks at it a while, then makes it work; I'm not sure where he found the gas to fill it, there is no mention of it being a heated air situation either.
The whole book seemed slapped together without any real thought.  Things happened because the author wanted/needed them to without any real logic or flow.  It also seemed like before every page break or chapter ending, the author wanted to throw in a really cool, dramatic, poppy (yes), line; but they invariably fell flat for me, and I think I might have physically rolled my eyes a couple times.
Don't read it, unless you though the first two were absolutely amazing.  I thought they were ok.  This book needed a better editor or more authorial diligence.  But the ending (last chapter) was pretty good at least.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on January 10, 2021, 09:19:27 pm
Placeholder for goals. I'm thinking 30, will fill in specifics later.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on January 10, 2021, 09:24:21 pm
I guess I'll make this since I finished a book.

I'll keep my goal for the year at 30, since it is usually achievable, and I like to be successful.

Some series getting completed which I expect to read in the coming year, in no particular order:
Stone Dance of the Chameleon, 2nd edition (7 books, one I read last year)
Song of the Shattered Sands (6 books and a prequel novella)
Books of Babel (4 books)
The Expanse last book (I really thought it was coming out in 2020)
Last King of Osten Ard (4 including the bridge book)

Some others either stand alone or older series
John Marco's Tyrants and Kings, two left
Something by Laird Barron, probably a short story collection
Paul Kearney's Monarchies of God
Gemmel's Legend
Stover's Acts of Caine; I read the first a long time ago, but just never got to the rest

This is a fascinating list.

Stone Dance is one that a long term member really loved but I never managed to get around to it.

Books of Babel I'd love to hear your opinions on as you go. I got through book 2 and decided I didn't like it, but it was an interesting idea/book and it has an interesting publication journey. I hope its better than I think it is.

Expanse I stopped after the first book. Nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really grab me. That said, the story was fun and I wish I had the time to finish it.

Tyrants and Kings, or at least book 2 Grand Design, is Madness' favorite fantasy (TSA aside AFAIK).

Legend is the only Gemmel book I've read, and for what it is I was very impressed.

And finally the Acts of Caine I was gushing about last year. I hope others find interest in it as I did, its a good story but it does take a rather strange after book 2. Kinda disappears into its own naval but still a great read regardless.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Madness on January 11, 2021, 09:47:59 pm
Tyrants and Kings, or at least Jackal of Nar, is Madness' favorite fantasy (TSA aside AFAIK).

Specifically the second book, The Grand Design, though Jackal of Nar is pretty cool too. And I can't say it's my favorite fantasy aside TSA, though that specific book I recommend like Speaker for the Dead (for which you have to at least be familiar with the events of Ender's Game, to the audience ;)).

Legend is the only Gemmel book I've read, and for what it is I was very impressed.

I devoured most of Gemmell when I was like 14. So many great books.

And finally the Acts of Caine I was gushing about last year. I hope others find interest in it as I did, its a good story but it does take a rather strange after book 2. Kinda disappears into its own naval but still a great read regardless.

I liked the first two like I like Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion. Definitely worth the read for Bakker fans.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 11, 2021, 11:17:14 pm
The Trouble with Peace, by Joe Abercrombie (1). Liked it as well as anything by Joe, but i have no clue where he goes with it. Orso has grown a spine....about time.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on January 12, 2021, 02:43:56 am
Oh yeah, I forgot that series is completing this year, too.  Guess that's on my list, too.  I've heard enough to temper my expectations, but I'm glad you say it's as good as any Abercrombie.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 12, 2021, 07:16:58 am
I agree with what Wilshire said, it doesn't have the same feel as the first series. But, Abercrombie is just so easy to read. So, it never feels like a slog. Easy reading.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: H on January 12, 2021, 03:56:58 pm
I agree with what Wilshire said, it doesn't have the same feel as the first series. But, Abercrombie is just so easy to read. So, it never feels like a slog. Easy reading.

An MSJ sighting!   :o
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 12, 2021, 10:12:52 pm
 ;)
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 12, 2021, 11:24:33 pm
I am actually just getting back into the swing of reading again. Alot of personal changes in my life kinda put reading on the back burner.  I have a few books already queued, atm.

Hell's Library Trilogy,  by AJ Hackwith. Two books are out at the moment.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

The Dragon Republic and The Burning God, by R.F. Kuang

The Fires of Vengeance trilogy, by Evan Winters. Which i dont think is completed, but the 1st two are.

The Dark Star Trilogy, by Marlon Jones. Rec'd by The Honorable H.

The Girl and the Stars, by Mark Lawrence. Which i was about half way through when I picked of Abercrombie's latest and put down. Im gonna finish next.

Last book of the Book of Babel is supposed to be released.

So, thats just a few I have in mind or already picked up. If I can do 15 this year I'll be very pleased. We shall see.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: H on January 13, 2021, 03:13:31 pm
Last book of the Book of Babel is supposed to be released.

Indeed and I think Marlon Jones has said the next in the Dark Star Trilogy might be coming out this year too, but who knows now with the Pandemic.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 14, 2021, 01:15:56 am
Quote from:  H
Indeed and I think Marlon Jones has said the next in the Dark Star Trilogy might be coming out this year too, but who knows now with the Pandemic.

H, how have you been? Still delving into the deeps, I see. I have never started that series, and have continually heard good things. I'll add that to the list.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: H on January 14, 2021, 03:59:27 pm
H, how have you been? Still delving into the deeps, I see. I have never started that series, and have continually heard good things. I'll add that to the list.

Alright, hanging on, doing what we can, haha.

I honestly haven't been reading much fiction at all.  In fact, I am not even sure I read a fiction book all of last year (although I probably did and just can't recall).  Pretty much all I read now is philosophy.  I think Red Wolf, Black Leopard is really good but it is nontraditional in several key ways that probably make it not appeal to most readers (both in it's depiction of sexuality and in the structure of the narrative).

Hope you been well yourself!
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on January 15, 2021, 12:04:01 am
Another book coming out this year, which will probably be a prioritized read: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: MSJ on January 15, 2021, 12:28:56 am
Quote from:  The P
Another book coming out this year, which will probably be a prioritized read: The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

I remember seeing The Goblin Emperor/King(?) a few years ago, but not knowing if it was worth the grab. Did you like it?
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on January 17, 2021, 09:14:25 pm
Goblin Emperor consistently gets good reviews and has been on my TBR list for quite some time.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on January 18, 2021, 04:20:34 pm
I liked it a lot.  It is very much a "fantasy of manners."  The prose is really good.  I found the plot of a genuine/na├»ve/good person thrust into a position of power and having to deal with cutthroat politicking to be amusing and enjoyable.
He's also a half breed, which adds another amusing layer.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on February 02, 2021, 07:44:44 pm
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (1)

Brilliant. This book is as fun to read as it is confusing. There's a myriad of timelines, past and present, a narrator who is mad and terribly unreliable. Shifts in POV writing - First, Second, Third, maybe others but I lack the ability to identify them. Tremendous fun, horribly opaque, and a bizarre ending that holds true to form. Tamysn Muir is for me one of the most satisfying authors I've read recently. Though, that's probably a shame for her because I apparently enjoy commercially unsuccessful things with limited mass appeal.

The Locked Tomb series is a resounding must read. I can't wait for more from Muir.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on February 07, 2021, 08:55:39 pm
The Grand Design by John Marco (2)

Parts of this were pretty good, but I could barely stand any of the chapters featuring the main character.  The writing is serviceable, but rarely if ever rises above that level. It has the bones of a good story.  The count is interesting.  The alchemist/scientist could have been, as with the girl experiment, but Marco just uses them as a plot device without fleshing out the most interesting parts.  I was disappointed that the first book barely touched on the religion of Nar, so was excited to learn more in this one.  Even more disappointed that it is basically just a generic Catholic stand-in.  There are some potentially interesting differences mentioned in passing, but seemed mainly just there for the author to say, "see it's not really Catholicism."

I might read the final volume, but I am in no hurry.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on February 15, 2021, 03:38:48 pm
Legend by David Gemmell (3)

Man, what a great book.  I'm not sure why I never read it before.  Maybe when I heard about it I turned up my nose at it being 80s heroic fantasy.  Shame on me, if so.  It is maybe a little dated, but not much.  The world-building is slight, but for the most part it's a very focused setting, so the far details don't matter much.  I expected the main hero to be the drive, of course, the legend, but it seemed like nearly every character had a gut-wrenching heroic moment.  Gemmell achieves a lot in a relatively short book.  Plenty of poignant lines about being a man and doing the right thing, etc.  Teenage me would have called it his favorite book perhaps, adult me still likes it an awful lot.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on February 15, 2021, 08:19:11 pm
Yeah Legend is a fantastic read. I read it within the last few years and was very impressed. Like you said, for a small book it packs a punch. I particularly liked the various aspects of grieving/death that it discusses throughout - what a book!

The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen (2)
It was OK. An interesting magic system wrapped around a less imaginitive cast society with some quasi interesting worldbuilding, wrapped around generic fantasy. I was given the sequel as a gift, but since the books are relatively short I thought I'd just read both. The writing was good, its just that the story is just terribly generic. I still plan on reading the sequel, but I dont expect it to be redeemable enough to upgrade this  series from "pretty good but miss-able" to "must read".
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: mrganondorf on March 18, 2021, 01:32:47 am
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (1)

Brilliant. This book is as fun to read as it is confusing. There's a myriad of timelines, past and present, a narrator who is mad and terribly unreliable. Shifts in POV writing - First, Second, Third, maybe others but I lack the ability to identify them. Tremendous fun, horribly opaque, and a bizarre ending that holds true to form. Tamysn Muir is for me one of the most satisfying authors I've read recently. Though, that's probably a shame for her because I apparently enjoy commercially unsuccessful things with limited mass appeal.

The Locked Tomb series is a resounding must read. I can't wait for more from Muir.

I was wondering about this book--thanks Wilshire!

Finished the Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson.  Supposedly the movie Frozen was supposed to be inspired by it.  I only saw Frozen 1 once and don't remember it very well but the Snow Queen did not seem to be related except that there was cold stuff and magic.

The Snow Queen was very fun and short.  Absolutely great bit about a cursed magic mirror.  C.S. Lewis definitely drew from her to get the White Witch.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on March 18, 2021, 12:59:11 pm
To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini 3

Meh. This book is achingly bland. Nothing is done poorly, but there's also nothing great about it. The plot, worldbuilding, characters, prose ... it all ranges from mildly interesting to a bit overly generic. At no point do you really connect with any of the characters, the setting is typical future scifi space opera, the baddies are dumb generic bad guy alienes, the lore is generic "mysterious advanced lost civ left behind super advanced stuff that other races are now fighting over". There are some acceptable specifics that made me want to finish it, but frankly for a nearly 1000 page book its nowhere near enough.

The best part of the whole book is an insane AI that actually showcases some potential for great writing from Paolini, which he uses to explore different writing styles/prose/allusions/etc. and he does so with great effect. But Gregoravich is a minor side character without enough screen time. Actually, this is kind of the problem with the entire book - the most interesting things are either side items that don't get explored much (Insane AI, Entropists, Missing-Generic-Advanced-Civ), or are integral to the story but still sidelined as supporting cast.

What you are left with is a wholly generic main story with interesting fringe elements.

I can't really recommend anyone read this book. Its not bad, but for such a large book there is just no reason to keep turning pages. Its just a predictable and uninteresting quest for a magical technological mcguffin.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (1)
Brilliant.... I can't wait for more from Muir.
I was wondering about this book--thanks Wilshire!

Buddy, its amazing. You should absolutely try it out.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on March 19, 2021, 12:45:05 pm
The Chosen by Ricardo Pinto (4)

This is the second book in the Stone Dance of the Chameleon (2nd ed).  I am not sure what I think of it.  The first book saw the outsider who grew up away from the center of power journey back for the election of the gods.  This book is mostly the culture shock he experiences, culminating in the election and some other events.  So there isn't a lot that happens, but we get to see all the crazy aspects of life as one of the Chosen.  It is a very unique setting, the prose is evocative, but the plot in this book leaves a lot to be desired.  In the first edition of SDoC, this and The Masters were one book.  I think dividing them up works well; both have reasonable narrative arcs and are thematically and tonally unique.  This is a book that is going to stew in the back of my mind for a while and I will probably come to realize I like it more than I thought initially.  I am intrigued enough to keep going, and it looks like the plot gets moving in the next book.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on March 31, 2021, 05:05:10 pm
The Standing Dead by Ricardo Pinto (5)

This is my favorite of this series so far.  The action does pick up, though it is still rather reserved in its delivery.  I think part of this is the story being told from the perspective of only one character.  A lot of times he isn't sure what is happening around him, or just gets glimpses of the bigger picture.  In the barest of senses, the series has so far been the hero's journey; the protagonist comes from remote isolation, we learn the world as he learns it.  He's kind of destined for greatness, depending on how you look at it; or kind of stumbles into greatness-adjacent.  In this book we get the major road block to the path, and through it get an in depth look at the wider world and how people live there.

The major draw to me so far is the uniqueness of the setting.  It's unlike anything else I've read, which makes it a little challenging as there are very few familiar touchstones.  The prose is nothing special, but it is very tight narrative style.  A lot goes unsaid and is left to the reader to extrapolate.  There is not a lot of exposition on the setting, plot, motivations.  Spans of narrative time pass quickly.  I don't know how much of that is due to it being a second edition.  The author says he cut a lot, but also added portions in.

This book ends abruptly.  Like the first two, books three and four of the second edition were one book in the first edition.  The divide of the first felt natural, but book three ends right in the middle of something.  Not a big deal, since they are all released and I'm going right into the next.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on April 01, 2021, 01:18:19 pm
You're making a very strong argument for me to read Stone Dance of the Chameleon. Sounds very interesting.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on April 07, 2021, 12:09:52 pm
The Darkness Under the Trees by Ricardo Pinto (6)

There has been a decent amount of darkness in these books so far, but this one really leans into it.

My biggest complaint about this series is that we mostly only ever get the point of view from one character.  He's more or less sane/normal and provides a relatable view for the reader in witnessing the insanity around him.  The problem is that he is not a principle agent for a lot of the big events going on.  Keeping such a limited scope makes for a tighter story, but also not as exciting or compelling as it could be.

There has been mention of gods before this book, much like in PoN the gods are assumed to at most be inactive entities if they are even real.  With this fourth book, the idea of the gods as active agents is... possible, hinted at, maybe a thing.  This is where I'd like a broader viewpoint as a reader, and I really hope this potential supernatural aspect is explored more in the coming books.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on April 11, 2021, 01:17:48 pm
The Poppy War, The Dragon Republic, and The Burning God by RF Kuang (4, 5, 6)

Well I finished the series, rereading the first two before reading Burning God. Its a pretty good series, but not a great as I wanted it to be. The first book is fun but a somewhat disjointed mashup between magic-school and war-fantasy. The second book is largely forgettable unfortunately. The third book is much better than book 2, fleshing out the storylines that you care about and giving you more of that sweet drug-fueled-shaman-massacre  that you want. It does drag on a bit, but there was no way to wrap everything up given the way things ended in book 2, and Kuang at least had the talent to pull it off.

The last part of Burning God is where it all comes together. The war ends in the way you would expect, but then there's still about 20% of the book left. What remains is a rare discussion about what happens after a war. Ruling a fractured, failing empire ravaged by years of total civil war. And then after all that, an ending that would do even Bakker himself proud. I have a deep appreciation for authors who stick to the story they are telling, ending it the hard way, and Kuang does just that.

I was pretty on the fence about the whole series but the ending solidified it as a very good series. Its got its flaws, but if you want a Chinese inspired, brutal war fantasy, with crazy magic, this is definitely something you're going to want to read.