Miscellaneous Chatter > Literature

Yearly Reading Targets 2022

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I enjoyed Senlin Ascends but the subsequent book wasn't enough for me to want to finish.

The P:
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.

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!

The P:
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.

The P:
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.


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