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.

Later:
Well, we're nearly a third of the way through the year and I don't really have a plan on what I want to read. I've read a lot of mediocre books so far this year. Since I was so impressed by Harrow, I might go back and reread the series, as for the rest... maybe:
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K J Parker
Traitor Son Cycle by Miles Cameron
Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey
Dune by Herbert
Empire of Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt 1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders 1) by Robin Hobb

I'm not feeling to confident for any of those though, but I'd still like to try to get to at least 30. That might be a perennial goal. Its something that is achievable without stress, but does require regular reading.


January
n/a - I was busy with a newborn lol.

February (2 total)
1) Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
2) The Merciful Crow by Margaret Owen

March (3 total)
1) To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

April (16 total)
1) The Poppy War by RF Kuang
2) The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang
3) The Burning God by RF Kuang
4) All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
5) The Awakened Kingdom by N K Jemisin
6) Unsouled (Cradle) by Will Wight
7) Soulsmith (Cradle) by Will Wight
8 ) Blackflame (Cradle) by Will Wight
9) Skysworn (Cradle) by Will Wight
10) Ghostwater (Cradle) by Will Wight
11) Underlord (Cradle) by Will Wight
12) Uncrowned (Cradle) by Will Wight
13) Wintersteel (Cradle) by Will Wight

May (19 total)
1) Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip
2) Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
3) Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb

June (22)
1) A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
2) Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
3) Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
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 turn 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/naïve/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.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on April 23, 2021, 12:41:04 pm
The Imago Sequence by Laird Barron (7)

A collection of some short horror stories.  They were pretty good.  I like Barron's writing a lot.  Most of the stories gave me a nice unsettling feeling, and only one really fell flat for me.  After hearing his work compared to the Cthulhu mythos, I was a little worried about it being too close.  I can see the connection, but Barron's work is unique though clearly drawing inspiration from Lovecraft on occasion.  I'll read some more of his stuff at some point.

Dragon Fire by Ricardo Pinto (8)

After four books of increasing quality, this one dipped a little.  I was disappointed that the supernatural aspect had not been emphasized more, and in some ways was even just ignored.  I think part of the problem with this book is it lines up as the first third of the final book in what had been a trilogy.  Even so, the end of this one was really good with the "dragons," and then some further craziness revealed about the Commonwealth to cliffhang into the next.  There is no surprise where this series is going, but how it's going to get there and what will happen when it does promises to be enjoyable.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on April 23, 2021, 02:01:21 pm
I started the Cradle series by Will Wight
Unsouled (7)
Soulsmith (8 )
Blackflame (9)
Skysworn (10)

Each book is a pretty quick read and they all follow a similar pattern. Its a power fantasy (Wuxia?) series that follows a pretty predictable path - in a world where everyone uses magic, a kid of born unable to use magic. Something happens, the hero journy starts, learns he actually can use magic and he's special, gets the call to adventure, finds a master. Each book starts with some calamity he needs to train really hard to overcome, the book ends in a fight and a setup for the next book.

Its entertaining. Mostly just training montages, funny dialogue, and fancy fight scenes. The worldbuilding is done largely with infodumps, but its intriguing enough to want to see how it ends.

Wight seems to write 1 to 2 books a year, with the series currently having 9 books and a 10th coming out later this year. Not sure how long its supposed to go, but with the way Wight has set it up it can go on for a very long time. I'll probably read what's available - the series is currently available for free on audible (at least with my subscription) so its mostly something entertaining and easy to read to occupy my mind while I take care of the baby.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on April 28, 2021, 03:02:03 pm
Cradle series by Will Wight
Ghostwater (11)
Underlord (12)
Uncrowned (13)
Wintersteel (14)

Made it through book 8, and I think I'll probably stop here until the series is finished. It continues to be cheap entertainment. The dialogue is consistently funny, the fights are fun to watch, and the power progression is fun. You're not going to stretch your literary horizons with this series, but as the first 8 books are free on audible, its absolutely worth it.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on April 30, 2021, 02:17:05 pm
The Mirror Breaks by Ricardo Pinto (9)

This one started a little slow but picked up a lot at the end.  Things get really dark and brutal, but Pinto doesn't dwell too much on it.  We get to see some of the oddities that comprise the Commonwealth in greater detail, and learn some more about its history, which is nice.  Pinto has what is basically an appendix to the series (book by book, and even sometimes chapter specific) on his website.  Some of this is almost essential to get a picture of what is going on at times.  I think all of the books so far could benefit from more exposition, but leaving all the finer details out keeps the story moving at a good clip.
Some moments in this book bear similarity to TSA, at least superficially.  Pinto is nowhere near the level of Bakker, though.  And again, I think the series is hurt by its insistence on only one pov character.  And that character is often a side actor to the primary driving force of the plot.  I still like it enough.  One book to go.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on May 04, 2021, 07:24:48 pm
Forgot to mention these two, which I read before starting Cradle.

All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells (15)
This one kept showing up as highly recommended, both for writing and for the audiobook performance. I'd have to say it was just another underwhelming adventure - I have not had great luck with scifi this year. Is it bad? Hmm, no. But its not great either. Scifi Pinocchio story about an android, security robot, who wants to become a real boy. Goes on an adventure, discovers himself in the process, etc. etc. Audiobook performance was passable but nothing to write home about. Honestly I couldn't tell you why this gets so much praise. Its a generic setting with a generic premise, a reused plot, and mediocre writing.

The Awakened Kingdom by N K Jemisin (16)
Jemisin is an interesting writing. She can do impressive thing with prose/voice that surpasses many authors. This book was written from the POV of a newly born god growing up into a god in her own right. Its a novella set in a larger series, which I haven't read. On its own, its executed well but ultimately not something I'd recommend. There's enough talent, and an interesting enough world, to maybe suggest checking one of her The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms books, but I'd pass this particular one as an entrypoint to the greater series.

DNF: Beyond Redemption by Michael Fletcher. Got about 60% through it.
I'm having a bad run here. Another mediocre book. Overly grimdark setting that disappears into its own naval. The setting is a world where clinical insanity leads to magical powers, where the stronger the magician the crazier they are. Eventually their own delusions kill them. The characters are plain paper copies of tropes. The worn-out Veteran gone criminal, the heroic 20-something who sleeps with all bar wenches, the dramatic goth assassin/thief. This merry band of protagonists goes on some misadventures, the classic "one last score" for the Veteran trope, that goes predictably awry.

The bad guys are a group of generically evil scientists and egomaniacs abusing the "perception is reality" delusion to create a god.

The vast majority of the book is spent naval gazing. Page after page discussing meaning in a meaningful world, rehashing characters inner thoughts with their inner selves (sometimes physically manifested, but its still just inner selves), usually circling around their own insanity and how to save themselves.

I found the book tiring and depressing, with too much repetition for me to want to finish it.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on May 05, 2021, 02:40:58 pm
Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip (17)

Finally, a good book. McKillip is a masterful writer. Her prose is whimsical and beautiful, full of magic. Its a simple story, but told beautifully. Highly recommended if you just want some magical magic.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on May 10, 2021, 02:44:51 pm
The Third God by Ricardo Pinto (10)

There were portions of this book that were really good.  The beginning was very slow, and had me questioning the division of the original into 3.  The previous book had a huge, horrible, climactic battle, and the first third of this finale made me think the whole book was going to be aftermath and wrapping things up.  Thankfully things picked up.  There were some intense moments and big events, and the ending did not end up feeling too drawn out.

There were a couple points where we actually got some extended exposition.  This is, strangely, my biggest problem with the series as a whole: there is not enough exposition.  The world and culture Pinto has created is so strange and alien, and many things just get dropped on the reader without giving any ground to the why or how things are happening, it makes it hard to be invested in the story at times.  Pinto has a lot of extra notes he shares on his website, which is helpful, but even that often isn't enough.

This series goes into some dark places.  There is slaughter and atrocity aplenty, but story does not dwell on it or glorify it like a "grimdark" story would.  A number of times, I found myself thinking some scene/theme/idea had been inspired by TSA, only to remind myself that these were initially published in '99, '02, and '09.  I'd be surprised if these in any way inspired Bakker, but there are similarities.

Overall, I liked it.  The writing itself isn't amazing, but the story is good and has a very unique setting.  I'd call it Aztec, pre-historic (dinos included), with a healthy Skeksi vibe (from Dark Crystal).  I wish the gods played into it more; I always like more magic and the mythical, but this series is on the low fantasy side.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on May 12, 2021, 02:38:13 am
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (18)

I struggle to explain why I like this book so much. The dialogue is quirky at best, but is satisfying despite itself. The setting/worldbuilding is honestly a pretty confused mess with a bit of scifi, fantasy, detective/noir/whodunit, horror, yet it somehow manages to mesh together in a way that makes me want more. The plot of Gideon itself is mostly straightforward, but the opening kind of places you somewhere strange and the ending transports you away from the story entire into something new - yet it manages to feel cohesive.

Its weird, but its great, and I had great fun reading it a second time. Muir achieves something fantastic in her first published book, which in itself is impressive, yet her 2nd book manages to outclass and raise up this first one.

... Great things. I expect great things from Tamsyn Muir, and will await her future novels with no small amount of anticipation.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P on May 18, 2021, 12:10:46 pm
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor (11)

This is technically three novellas and a short story, but I won't pad my numbers.  The three novellas were conceived together, and really tell one story in 3 parts.  It's a great sci-fi story grounded in African culture.  It is not action-packed, but it has more action than I expected.  The premise is, girl from insular tribe gets accepted to galactic university and decides to attend.

I enjoyed it.  There are plenty of aliens, outer space, advanced tech, tech so advanced it might as well be magic, and mysticism.  It was refreshing reading a sci-fi from something other than a Western/Anglo-centric perspective.  The only gripe I have is the pacing of the third story.  It starts with the main conflict, then is almost entirely denouement.  It works well enough, but I found my interest waning a little in the end.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on May 26, 2021, 07:54:18 pm
Binti got ALOT of attention when it came out (last year?). I'm glad to heard its good from someone here
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: The P 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.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on June 06, 2021, 07:56:22 pm
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (19)

A conflicted review. I like Hobb's writing a lot, generally speaking, which includes this book. But Ship of Magic seemed to have pacing issues. It just takes too long to get to the end of the book, to the point where the entire thing feels like a prequel. This is in opposition to Assassins Apprentice, where the book feels like something great in-and-of itself while still allowing for a much greater story to unfold. So that's my major complaint. Ship of Magic feels like a book filled with sidequests and finally at the end you get to where you wanted to be all along.

Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on June 08, 2021, 11:06:25 pm
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (20)

Now there's a great book. GGK did something amazing with A Brightness Long Ago. The first book I read by him was Tigana, and while quite good,  it doesn't hold a candle to A Brightness Long ago. The pacing is wonderful, actions and consequences piled up without feeling rushed. The way he tells the story through a series of flashbacks and mixed POVs is crisp, unique, and refreshingly. The whole book feels like a brilliantly connected series of short stories, just long enough to make you feel something profound but not so long as to get mired in the telling. You skip lightly across the surface of the world, catching glimpses of the depths beneath.

The way the story is told, maybe even more so than the story being told, is what turns this book into something magnificent.

And who doesn't love a quote about books inside a book:
Quote
So many stories can be told, in and around and braided through the one we are being given. Don’t we all know that stories can be sparks leaping from the bonfire of an offered tale to become their own fire, if they land on the right ground, if kindling is there and a light breeze but not a hard wind?

Someone is deciding what to tell us. What to add, what not to share at all or when (and how) to reveal a thing. We know this, even as we picture in our minds another young man, a tailor’s son from Seressa, remembering a spring ride, how we used to like to sing…

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of an artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Loved it.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Madness on June 11, 2021, 01:31:19 am
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (20)

Now there's a great book. GGK did something amazing with A Brightness Long Ago. The first book I read by him was Tigana, and while quite good,  it doesn't hold a candle to A Brightness Long ago. The pacing is wonderful, actions and consequences piled up without feeling rushed. The way he tells the story through a series of flashbacks and mixed POVs is crisp, unique, and refreshingly. The whole book feels like a brilliantly connected series of short stories, just long enough to make you feel something profound but not so long as to get mired in the telling. You skip lightly across the surface of the world, catches glimpses of the depths beneath.

The way the story is told, maybe even more so than the story being told, is what turns this book into something magnificent.

And who doesn't love a quote about books inside a book:
Quote
So many stories can be told, in and around and braided through the one we are being given. Don’t we all know that stories can be sparks leaping from the bonfire of an offered tale to become their own fire, if they land on the right ground, if kindling is there and a light breeze but not a hard wind?

Someone is deciding what to tell us. What to add, what not to share at all or when (and how) to reveal a thing. We know this, even as we picture in our minds another young man, a tailor’s son from Seressa, remembering a spring ride, how we used to like to sing…

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of an artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Loved it.

Damn. I suppose I know what I'm reading after Leadership, Strategy, and Tactics.
Title: Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
Post by: Wilshire on June 18, 2021, 03:45:26 pm
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (21)
I'd have to say I was impressed by this one, though admittedly because it was written in '86 which makes it stand out against its peers. Bujold actually wrote and published some scifi in the 80's that wasn't strictly a futurist vision with characters built to explore the setting, though the 80's aren't quite as egregious as earlier decades... There was actual characterization, good prose, amusing dialogue.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (22)
This one was less impressive from a prose standpoint. It was the first book published in the series (Falling Free is first chronological but was written a few years later), and imo it shows.

Overall I was mostly underwhelmed. Bujold is a good writer, and I can see why the Vorkosigan saga was popular at the time and decades later. But today I'd say it falls more toward good than great. I don't see myself reading the other 20ish books in the series - there's just better alternatives now. I got these two for free from audible so no harm done, though I am glad I didn't have to pay for them.