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Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: January 11, 2023, 04:26:07 pm »
30 last year for me.  That also seems low from the halcyon days of no kids or other responsibilities, but I'm on the rise.  Does that mean I'm taking less responsibilities?  Maybe the kids are less demanding.

For sure (maybe) reading this coming year:
Reread of TGO and TUC
Last two of the new Osten Ard books
Books 3-5 of Ruocchio's Sun Eater series
KJ Parker short story collection out in spring some time
Muir's Locked Tomb series

But so far
Isolation by various authors (1)

Short story "horror" collection broadly around the theme of isolation.  This was actually pretty good all around.  The last horror anthology I read last year (Howls from the Dark Ages) was... amateurish and often not that good. All the stories here are good.  There is a lot of variation in how each author tackled the theme, whether physical isolation or social, emotional, spiritual (?), etc.  The best story came from Laird Barron (I read some collection of his a while back that was lovecraftian), who had a completely wild far future "true crime" kind of story.  The worst, easily, came from Ken Liu.  Surprising, because he's one of the few authors I'd heard of.  His was kind of a "what if the pandemic was the first of many" kind of thing.  It wasn't very creative or interesting.  It felt like he just wanted to make some commentary about the social and political climate of the past few years, while kind of making it a sci-fi story in the dullest way possible.
That one aside, I fully enjoyed the other stories in this collection.  Worth checking out even if only to read the Laird Barron submission.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: December 21, 2022, 01:25:36 pm »
The White-Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker (29)
Brothers of the Wind by Tad Williams (30)

WLW is great of course.  It makes a good case for being the best of TAE.

Brothers was great.  Another shorter background story of Osten Ard.  Takes place 1k years before MS&T and involves Ineluki (big bad from that story) and his brother hunting a dragon.  It was not the story I expected it to be.  It deals more with surviving trauma and the limits of duty than dragonslaying.  But it was a very good read.  It was fun to get some ancient fleshing out of Osten Ard and what it was like before mankind had really established itself in the area.  I have two books left in the Last King "trilogy."  I might wait a little bit to start the third since the fourth isn't coming until Nov '23.  I'm very much looking forward to it.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: December 06, 2022, 06:09:44 pm »
I keep forgetting about the Goblin Emperor sequels (I think they are only loose sequels).  I'll have to read them before I forget again.

After Tigana, there just doesn't seem to be enough fantasy in GGK's books for me.  Under Heaven might as well have been historical fiction, from what I remember.  I think the "barbarians" had some spirit magic thing going on, but even that was "maybe they have magics."  I read it when it came out 12 years ago, and haven't really desired to read GGK since, despite him being a good writer.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: November 30, 2022, 03:36:56 pm »
Hmm..  I haven't updated in a bit.

The Thousandfold Thought by R. Scott Bakker (24)
The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker (25)
Pulling the Wings Off Angels by K. J. Parker (26)
Empire of Grass by Tad Williams (27)
Howls from the Dark Ages ed. by P. L. McMillan (28)

Bakker doesn't need to be talked about.  The reread on discord is trucking along.  The new KJP novella was, no surprise, great.  It kind of thematically revolves around guilt and judgement, and is quite fun, humorous, and dark.

Book two in the Williams trilogy is very good.  Things are ramping up and coming together for the finale (which is in typical Williams style, so big it's split into two books).  There is a shorter prequel novel I'll read first which is thousands of years in the past starring Ineluki and his brother.  It's probably not necessary for the series, but I enjoyed the other unnecessary prequel "novella" he wrote.

Howls was fine.  It's a short story horror collection vaguely set in the dark ages.  None of the writers stood out, and the only one I'd even heard of before only wrote the introduction (Buehlman).  There were a couple good stories, but most weren't memorable.  I've got another horror anthology, Isolation, which should be better.  There are a number of authors I recognize in the list.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: September 28, 2022, 12:00:42 pm »
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (23)

I liked this one well enough.  It was highly praised by a friend of mine, and they're making a movie sometime next year.  I figured I'd read it to see how much M. Night ends up making it worse.  About 50 pages in, I was worried the book was just going to end up being a 300 page elaborate Trolley Problem.  It ends up being more than that, but really drops the ball on some other more interesting concepts it gets close to but then ignores.  Maybe that was chosen with a view to keeping it short and quick.  What I really think is the author came up with a "wouldn't this be cool/crazy/intense!" scenario and just churned out a story without taking the time to think through some implications.

It was enjoyable to read, plenty of tense moments like any thriller.  And there is some good character work; although every pov, of which there were 7 or so, pretty much spoke with the same voice, so I never really felt like I was seeing through different peoples' eyes.  It's mostly written in present tense, which is fine I guess.  Flashbacks are in past tense.  I always feel there needs to be a good reason to choose a present tense narration, and often times it seems it's chosen just to be "different."  There was an excessive amount of unnecessary positional descriptions, like the author wanted to write a screenplay or stage directions at points.  I don't need to know the detailed layout of the cabin and positioning of everyone in a scene.

That's a lot of criticism for something I ultimately liked.  I read it in about a day.  And it should make a better movie, but....  we've seen what M. Night is capable of.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: September 21, 2022, 12:28:13 pm »
The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker (21)

Great, of course.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (22)

This is pretty standard Tad Williams fare.  Solid writing, meticulous pacing.  For those who've read MS&T, this sequel series starts slower.  It has a much broader scope than The Dragonbone Chair, which is mostly a singular pov character with occasional chapters of ancillary characters.  This one has something like 15 pov characters, which is maybe a bit much, but I trust Williams's plotting that they'll all be significant, though some don't have much of an arc in this first novel.  Williams does a great job of organically referring back to pertinent events of MS&T.  He also does well at aging up the returning characters and making it feel like they've grown/changed in the intervening 30 years, while still being recognizable to their younger selves.  While a lot happens in this book, it mostly feels like set up and establishing the pieces needed for the greater story.  Things really ramp up in the last 100 pages or so, and I look forward to the next book.

As far as the necessity of the bridging novella I read earlier this year...  probably not required to enjoy this series, but I think it helps connect better with the Norn ("bad guys") povs, which were mostly absent from MS&T.  There are several references to significant events of the novella, but you could get the gist without having read it.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: August 15, 2022, 02:17:55 pm »
Blindsight by Peter Watts (19)

I read this not long ago (2020), but I convinced a friend to read it so I audiobooked it so we could discuss.  Not bad, this was my first audiobook experience.  It was nice being able to listen while I did boring stuff at work or drove, but I don't think I'd want to multitask if it wasn't a book I was already familiar with.  In that case, I'd just read.

The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker (20)

For the slog reread on discord.  Really slowing down my reading of The Last King of Osten Ard "trilogy," which are massive books of course.  I'll get through it when I get through it.  The reread has been enjoyable.

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.

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