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Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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.

Literature / Yearly Reading Targets 2021
« 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

Yeah, I don't buy into the Consult preparing Esmenet's womb, but I like the idea of gray goo as part of the Tekne, toeing the line between biohorror and advanced technology.

I was thinking about the black semen.  It could just be a gross alien biology thing.  But it could also be something akin to the "gray goo" of science fiction.  Some tiny nano machines at the root of the tekne.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2020
« on: December 31, 2020, 06:02:53 pm »
The Jackal of Nar by John Marco (29)

This was decent.  It's kind of strange it is touted as military fantasy.  The plot deviates enough from standard fantasy to be interesting.  I think the world building was lacking, almost feeling like the world was just built around the story instead of the story fitting in to the world.  It might not be a bad way to go about writing a fantasy novel, but I think it is better the other way around.  There is good potential for the story going forward, I will continue the series.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (30)

Hey, look!  I hit my goal of 30 books right on the nose.  Schwab is a pretty good writer.  I still think my favorite of hers is Vicious.  This one was enjoyable, but really falls well toward Romance rather than SFF.  But it does so without getting too sappy or boring or steamy.  It is a nice representation of the "deal with a devil" trope; there are some fresh twists thrown in, but nothing mind-blowing.  I sometimes jokingly call myself a literary misogynist, but Schwab is one of the female authors I enjoy every time.  It's worth reading any of her books.  I'd place Addie LaRue below Vicious, but above the Shades of Magic trilogy.

General Misc. / Re: Board Games and Miniatures
« on: December 31, 2020, 05:27:58 pm »
My intent is to buy it tonight, H!  Provided I don't forget.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2020
« on: December 04, 2020, 01:27:34 pm »
How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker

Who knew last year's Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City was the first in a trilogy?  It certainly didn't seem like it needed to be followed, not that everything was nicely wrapped up.  This book takes place years later with a nearly entirely new cast of characters.  It is fun getting a completely different perspective on the events of the first book.  Parker is, as always, funny and entertaining to read.  How to Rule, like Sixteen Ways, is on the shorter side and doesn't have the lengthy sections describing mundane processes that sneaks in to many of Parker's works.  I love it of course, and heartily recommend.  These books might be the most approachable Parker, aside from his short fiction.

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